Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Thursday 29 January 2015

Deliberate deceit, laziness and does it matter?

Angling has always been synonymous with tales of "the one that got away". Are all anglers liars? Or do all liars fish? - I've lived with this concept of fishermen, by the onlooking general public, since my very first recollections of picking up a rod. The bailiffs and fishery owners with "you should have been here yesterday" or the bloke in the pub who, over hearing your conversation, butts in with a tale of a fish larger than anything you've ever seen. All part and parcel of the tapestry of angling legend. Every now and again, there is a whiff of truth - but for the most part it is just a web of deceit and lies.

An absolute masterpiece of angling research and writing.
That I am owner of both volumes puts me in a very elite group of pike anglers.
I am currently reading the second volume of Graham Booth's "A History of Pike Fishing"  (a masterpiece of angling writing) and have become rather drawn by the role of Dennis Pye in the development of the pike angling on the R. Thurne, and associated Broads, in Norfolk. Catapulted to celebrity status, by The Angling Times, he felt duty bound to live up to this billing and, despite his obvious talent, felt he had to embellish his reputation by making claims of captured pike which were so outrageous as to see him fall from grace when the Norfolk bonanza was cut short by the 1969 Prymnesium outbreak. It resulting in an almost total fish kill throughout the entire river network. He claimed to have captured in excess of twenty twenties per season for a decade or more - the result being he was, at least, ten times more successful than any other angler fishing during that same period. For a season - it might be possible; for a decade - not a chance! Colin Dyson (A guy I met whilst he was the Editor of Angler's Mail) has made the comment "What a shame we can't destroy the record and not the man himself". Dennis was a very talented pike angler who allowed fame to get out of control.
It was whilst on a holiday, in Ireland, that Dennis was to show his true colours when boating a pike and saying that's a 20! It was weighed, without Dennis knowing, at 14 lbs and so began the era of guestimation by celebrity anglers. I watch many Youtube offerings and remain amazed at the regularity with which decent fish are returned to the water without ever having been weighed. Glib (generally carp, but not always) anglers commenting "it's just a low twenty - a scaper thirty!" Unbelievable - these fish are returned to the fisheries, nowhere near the weight that is claimed and, yet, accepted as such by the angling public who, in turn, do the same. No scales and no cameras - yeah I had a twenty yesterday - where will it end?
My only river twenty - 20 lbs 1 oz of River Thames joy
8th January 1987 - 1/2 Herring (tail section) flavoured - Bruce & Walker 1.75 lb T/C rod with
an ABU Cardinal 66X and 20lbs b.s. Marlin Steel trace (green) size 6 Mustad trebles
If it had weighed 19 lbs 15 oz - I'd have been just as delighted by the encounter.
Let's get this right. If someone is prepared to lie to themselves - nothing will stop that. Is it important that a fish gets weighed? Again, very emotive. For me, as an individual; if I've made the effort to catch a fish then the least I can do is pay it the respect to give it a weight. There are obvious exceptions, but for the majority of my captures scales and a camera are of equal importance to the rod and reel?
Away from the commercial trout fisheries, a twenty pound pike remains a very rare animal. For a wild fish to attain such weight requires a very special set of circumstances. Since 1981 - I have captured just eight fish in excess of this weight and witnessed another dozen, or so. They are truly magnificent creatures which deserve the greatest respect. If 19 lbs were  the bench mark? I'd be a champion, (I've had a darn sight more 19's than I have 20's) - I must be one of the greatest exponents of the art, or is it because I weigh all of my fish and have no room for guess work? Jim Gibbinson made similar comment in his 1983 "Modern Specimen Hunting" - he alluding to the fact that guestimation was playing an ever increasing role in fish recording. Quite how many folk would be prepared to guess at a 19lbs 12oz pike is open for debate!  You got it - nobody would because 20 is that magic figure to which the vast majority of pike anglers aspire.
Benno with the first Scottish 20 I'd ever seen.
Already seeing the modern trend to push the fish away from the angler, thus towards
 the camera, in order to make the fish appear larger than reality?
It might simply be an age thing - my insistence for registering an "accurate" weight against my captures. My photos are a relic of times gone by, in as much as I make absolutely no attempt to push the fish towards the camera. If anyone had used that technique in the 80's they'd have been accused of deliberately cheating. Today holding a fish at arms length is all the fashion and no-one bats an eyelid. All of a sudden there are loads of "big fish" photos which, as impressive as they look, are deliberately fraudulent. The true scale of a fish's size is only obtainable when it is photographed in the same plane as the anglers' body. Some of the images in the weekly rags are outrageous - carp can appear to have the body proportions of a rhino - until you realize that no-one has yet evolved with fingers of the same dimension as a rolling pin!

My very great mate, Tom B, showing all the tricks of the trade - a Loch Awe pike 21 lbs 2 oz
He couldn't get it any closer to the lens because his arms wouldn't stretch any further
At a very base level, of course it doesn't matter that an angler chooses to guess the weight of a fish, it doesn't particularly matter that the guess is miles off the truth, and it certainly doesn't make the slightest difference if there's a photo, or not! Well that is, if the same angler is happy to keep this information to themselves? If this stuff enters the public domain then there are all sorts of repercussions! Fishery owners will look to use "big fish" stories as a way of promoting their business (ref: 34 lbs + Pike from Cottington Fishery nr. Deal: mid 20 at the very best - photos on show in Dragoncarp, Ramsgate), the angling media will stoke the flames and create a desire, from a section of their readership, who are prepared to travel in order to achieve similar captures. Very simply, time, effort and hard-earned cash will be spent in pursuit of utter fiction by anglers who are more easily fooled than their quarry.

A lot more years ago; than I care to recall - a small (5 lbs-ish) pike from the Grand Union Canal at Bourne End, HERTS.
This silly blog post will change absolutely nothing - "What do I know?". The modern angling scene is nothing like the one in which my roots are set and my heart still clings to - the modern angler is no more a countryman than the average man on the street. Today; anglers are technicians - purely geared up to do battle with fish, of immense size, in the artificial arenas provided by modern commercial fisheries. I cannot offer any realistic argument against this situation - just lament the passing of time and the role that the generation of angling countryman played in my past and, as such, shaped my future and accept the simple truth they will no longer exert any influence on my "brothers of the angle". This could go on for ever! Perhaps it's best that I quit whilst I'm still able?
Angling and liars = birding and stringers; I'm confident that there are many other interest groups in which this dubious info can cause a major problem - fortunately I'm out of that loop!

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Much ado about piking

Quite why it is, that some individuals take it upon themselves to be the sole owners of the moral high-ground, I have no idea. Obviously, the subject must be close to their hearts for such outpourings of vitriol when they encounter their pet hate(s) - I should heed this statement the next time someone kills an invert in order to add another tick to a list?
January 2012 - my first pike from the Royal Military Canal
Presented in the horizontal pose - one hand in the gill cover the other supporting the body weight
There has recently been a thread on a local chat/forum/thingamy about the handling of pike and their presentation for photography. One guy got very agitated, although it would seem he was not a pike angler of any experience, about the use of the "chinning" technique by which the captor slides his fingers inside the gill flap and uses his thumb to hold the pike's head steady whilst supporting the weight of the body, horizontally, with the other hand, or allowing the pike to be presented in a vertical pose, chin - up with the lower hand supporting the weight of the body. This is the accepted "best practice" as given within the handling guidelines of the Pike Anglers Club of GB. Their code of practice covers all aspects of pike treatment, whilst on the bank, and is there to ensure, as best they can, that these magnificent fish are returned to the water in the same condition as they came out.
One of the best looking pike I've ever captured.
Presented in the typical "chin-up" pose as used by specimen hunters since the
early 1980's - possibly before then.

Now, I'm not so bloody naive as to think that there aren't many individuals, out there, who would offer a much better solution to pike welfare - don't stick hooks in them in the first place! It is an opinion of equal worth to my own but, I'm a pike angler and that's what I do. We disagree about fishing yet both sides of the debate see pike welfare as important - there is common ground. Tackle (more about that in a moment) and techniques have advanced a long way from the 1970's and the majority of anglers now recognise that a healthy fishery (ecosystem) has a niche for both predator and prey. It seems a long time ago when the average club angler's favoured quote was "The only good pike's a dead pike!"
Some time in the mid-80's
That same pose, as I've used 100's of times over the decades, which I consider
to be the best way of presenting a fish, of this body shape, to the camera.
It certainly wouldn't work for carp, bream or tench!

As I gleefully write about my acquisition of Mitchell 300 fixed spool reels or extol the virtues of a Match Ariel centre-pin and Duncan Kay carp rods, these items are still first class examples of the tackle manufacturers art. I use them as a link with my past, times when all sense and logic was lost in the over-riding desire to catch big fish. Stuck in a time warp, I may be, but not so stupid as to continue to use the inferior line and hooks of that period, just to remain authentic. No way - I will only use the best quality gear that I can purchase. What is in the water is far more important than what's on the bank. Lines are now highly abrasion resistant, high knot strength, low diameter and ultra reliable. Hooks are unrecognisable from the products we had to choose from - consistently of a high quality and unbelievably sharp, with a choice of designs that cover any type of situation you can imagine. I, therefore, find myself spoilt by the mix of old and new - I can still remain slightly eccentric with my choice of rods and reels, yet my terminal tackle is as good as any other anglers' who wishes to pursue specimen fish.
I suppose, when all said and done - you don't actually have to photograph the fish you have landed and this debate then becomes obsolete. From my personal perspective, having invested the time and effort in catching a decent pike - I owe it to the pike and myself to get a record of the event. My anal desire for listing bait, venue, rod, reel etc... might be seen as a little OTT, but I only do it for me and it has provided much learning when revisited at a later date.
There are occasions when a photo says so much more than the obvious.
Father and Son with a brace of Loch Awe doubles is what you see - it's "Happy Daze!" from where I'm sitting!

Monday 26 January 2015

An extended period of late shifts

FSIS is buzzing, work is steady and the business is in great shape, so much so, that there is recruitment in progress. My boss has asked if I'd be prepared to cover a week of "lates", on the other shift, whilst this process is ongoing. No big deal, I agreed - thus will be able to get out and about, during the mornings, for the next three weeks before I am expected to be in the factory at 14.00 hrs. Shame it's neither peak Spring or Autumn migration, but it will still allow me to fill in a few easy ticks on the birding year list?
So what am I hoping to add during this unexpected window of opportunity? A walk down to the Western Undercliff, via King George VI Park and the harbour has potential to add another dozen, or so, species without too much trouble. Firecrest, Rock Pipit,Turnstone, Purple, Grey and Ringed Plover, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Dunlin, Knot, Sanderling, Gannet and Common Scoter should be fairly straight forward with a chance of Bar-tailed Godwit and Black Redstart not an unrealistic expectation. Some time down at Stodder's should allow Bittern, Hen Harrier and Bearded Tit to make it onto the list and there's always something to surprise you at this gem of a reserve.
The Canterbury "ring woods" offer a challenge, but the rewards are there for those who seek them. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Woodcock are my targets, but who knows? I might bump into a Hawfinch or a Crossbill. I've got Deal Pier to the south and the twin points of Foreness and North Foreland to the north (unsurprisingly) so Red-throated Diver, Guillemot, Razorbill and Mediterranean Gull should all be in the bag. A peruse of Seaton GP's and the Ash Levels might allow me a sighting of a Smew, one of the scarce grebes or some wild swans or geese? So, as you see, the world's my oyster - birds are all around me, awaiting my discovery. I have absolutely no intention of "twitching anything" although will not refuse to look should I stumble upon a huddle of birders pointing their optics in a unified direction. Bullfinch, Brambling, Siskin, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting and Stock Dove all await their turn for my attentions - so I can't complain that I've nothing to do! I'll probably have my camera in tow, so there should be a photo, or two, to accompany my efforts.
One of the finest sights in birding, a grey male Hen Harrier gliding over the reedbeds, at Stodmarsh NNR.
If this ever becomes boring, then I know it's my time to lay down and die!
As I type this - my list total for 2015 stands at, a rather modest, 76 species.

Benno, Will and myself spent an enjoyable, yet rather uneventful, morning at Long Shaw Farm. Benno taking a small (6 lbs-ish) "Ghostie", on his perch set-up - a match rod, centre-pin and float fished lob worm, but that was it! Still a nice social session as I've not fished in company for quite a while. Birds were all very predictable; my only year tick being Lesser Redpoll. Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Great Spotted & Green Woodpecker, Kestrel plus a Common Buzzard -  an ever more regular occurrence - perched beside the Thanet Way on my journey home.

Saturday 24 January 2015

The metamorphosis continues

I'm gradually becoming a carp angling clone (tackle tart) - not something which sits comfortably with my past, yet the dominance of this form of angling has been a phenomenon of the new decade and the meteoric development of commercial day-ticket fishery availability. To ignore it is an act of gross stupidity, there is an awful lot of good angling opportunity at such venues. I think my reservations are based upon the fact that many of the larger fish have been captured on numerous occasions and have become so well known as to have been given names! I have great difficulty accepting that "Yeah, that's Harry - I took him at blah-blah pounds, last Wednesday" is a normal part of the process. Strangely this similar conversation, whenever a decent fish was landed, surely must have been going on at Stanborough Lake in 1983/4 - just I don't remember it?
Benno and I are back at Long Shaw Farm tomorrow, just by way of a change from the monotonous pike angling inactivity at the chosen sections of our beloved RMC.  I've been fannying about with rigs and the like. There is a two rod limit at this fishery, so attention to detail has been very much the priority. Two Duncan Kay's and two Mitchell 300's on an original Kevin Maddocks rod-pod, Gardner rod rests, buzzer bars, open bale arms and line clips - should be worth a few photos, of this gear, even if I can't catch a carp. Benno has plans to go perch fishing - we'll see?
I'm sat in my study, surrounded by angling paraphernalia, some of very dubious vintage - attempting to get the rigs assembled for the session. I'm still in the planning stage for the Heron Bite Alarm rejuvenation (there is no way that I can return it to the original state due to the design of the 4.5v battery - long since obsolete) - but I have a few ideas and a couple of the guys, at FSIS, are also involved in the project. I would love to be able to catch a carp using this particular piece of historical angling hardware.

I don't think that I'm likely to find another one of these - not that it matters!
This was the power unit that was inside that Heron Bite Alarm - 32p - that's 6s 6d (almost) in old money!
My first ABU Cardinal 44X cost me 22s 6d in 1970 (£1.12/5) - almost a day's wages!
My thinking, for this project, is to use 9v batteries and LED technology to recreate the "feel" of one of these alarms.
Don't suppose, for one minute, that it is of any importance - yet I will be be very happy.

I have been looking at some of the recent Youtube carp angling offerings - there is some fantastic learning to be had from this medium if you are as far out of the loop as I? I remain, however, rather dubious of much of the, fashion lead, crazy - must have - accessories that are deemed to be vital to any successful carp angler, but still am able to discover aspects of the current scene that are of use in my own approach to local carp fishing.
Tomorrow I am planning to use the "maggot" approach - a winter tactic which I've gleaned from the internet. Do I have the knowledge to make the best use of this technique? I'll discover an answer during the session - water temperature is around 5C, so not particularly favourable.

Thursday 22 January 2015

The search for enjoyment

At 16.10 hrs, 20.01.2015, my daughter, Sarah-Jayne, gave birth to our grandchild number five (her third); a little boy, Rowan Peter. Mother and baby are doing fine; Bev, Dad and myself are headed off to pay homage on Friday afternoon. All the usual cooing and cuddling that's part of the ritual on these occasions - babies are the most photographed subject on planet earth - fact! He is not a Wrathall, by name, but very much part of me and my reason for being. Bryn, Emily, Harry and Evelyn Seren (Rowan's sister un-surprisingly) are the very essence of my being - they provide the spark that ensures I remain focussed on, and committed to, the future prosperity, health and happiness of my family. I can't see that this is a particularly radical stance - just something that becomes more prevalent with the ageing process?
(Derek I can't see this as a crisis - mid-life or otherwise? - just a realisation of the role that responsibility will play in my latter years; not a concept I'm fully at ease with!)
I had a chat with Benno - "are we fishing over the weekend?" It seems that I'm not alone in the desire to seek adventures new. "It should be about enjoyment; not going through the motions" was a quote from Ben - "I fancy a trip to Long Shaw?" The weather forecast is awful, our chances of catching are rather slim, yet at least we will be at a venue where the ambience is good and the fish are there for the taking if our technique is up to scratch. A carp rod, allowed to fish itself, and a float set-up, with bread/maggot or lob worm, to keep us occupied; surely one of us will see some action at this carp puddle haven? Benno hankers after a decent perch, I would love to catch a carp using a Mitchell 300 - all the ingredients for a very enjoyable session, if the elements are in our favour and the angling gods are smiling!
Kent ornithological "gold" - a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in an
East Kent woodland - May 2010
Emily and I took a wander along the Pegwell cliff-top, on Tuesday, and I was able to add Oystercatcher and Fulmar to my yearlist. I've given serious thought to my 2015 birding effort, 200 species is so easily attainable, given that I have no boundaries, yet if I decide to restrict myself to the UK then I'm going to have to put in a little effort. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was a "gimme" as a child in Hemel Hempstead - they used to nest in the trees around Cavendish Grammar School's rugby ground - less than 400m from our front door! Tree Sparrows were just that - Sparrows that could be found near trees. Tree Pipits, Crossbills, Willow Tits - all species which accompanied me as I grew up in, and around, the Hertfordhire countryside. How much harder will I have to work to ensure a sighting in 2015? What about the flip side? Little Egret, Cetti's Warbler, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and Raven - classed as "rocking horse manure" as I grew up, yet now I can deliberately seek them and expect to get a result?
I remember twitching my first Penduline Tit (there were two) at Farlington Marshes
in Hampshire. Since moving to Kent, I've found three - including a singing male!
Another sign that our avifauna is changing in line with our climate.
Evolution, the process by which things change - a situation with which I'm totally comfortable, purely because my being on the planet is contributing to the cause. Somehow, there is a major problem with the custodians of our natural heritage to accommodate this phenomenon - they just don't get it! Less than a decade ago the moth, Tree Lichen Beauty, was still a major rarity - it is now annual in our Thanet garden; such is the amazing ability for lifeforms to adjust and adapt to the rapidly changing climate and environment. Just £3/month could help save Polar Bears - bollocks; not driving a car or flying off on foreign holidays, reducing your carbon footprint - that's what will save Polar Bears. Are the human race prepared to forgo all these things, just so that we can save the polar ice cap - not a chance (sadly) The selfish, greed driven, culture of the entire world economy will ensure that, in the end, man will be master of his own demise. Earth will survive, and with it the dawn another era. Dyl; this is all rather cheerful - not! Stop now, I'm looking for enjoyment, supposedly?
Emily has still to see a Fox - I've promised to show her one this year.
If I am able to achieve this - I will derive immense satisfaction.
Firing up the 125w MV moth trap has vast potential to induce enjoyment? Geographically:- Thanet is in prime position to intercept wandering species (bird, moth or other invertebrate) from the near continent and further afield. I had lost interest, over the past couple of years, yet am rather looking forward to the season with refreshed enthusiasm. I'd always been rather lax with "micros" but, now having the photographic ability to secure usable images, I might develop a greater interest in this group? Moths are one aspect of my interest in our natural world which haven't succumbed to statistics - my original copy of "Skinner" has more ticks than not, yet the "Bradley & Fletcher" index has massive gaps? I have seen and caught some very good stuff - although not all in my garden(s). I've travelled around Kent and across to France - generator and traps in tow. Yet with all this effort, I've no formal listings for my troubles. It is the same with my European butterfly records - a Mitchell Beazley pocket guide with ticks aplenty - doesn't add up - African Ringlet isn't even depicted, but I've photographed it in Turkey! Numbers - they're not as important as the events themself. I simply want to enjoy, whatever it is, the moment. Grandchildren, birds, moths, fish, time with Bev, my family and friends - priceless and irreplaceable - seems that getting old means getting sensible - not too sure that I'll be able to cope?

Monday 19 January 2015

What's the plan - Stan?

There is a part of me which would love to be able make some type of formal definitions to my future progress - all very work like and professional. Then there's the reality of being Dylan - I'm 100% committed to looking after Bev, savouring time with my kids and grand-kids, ensuring that Dad's OK, the usual stuff that any decent human would hold dear - then there's the rest of my "head-fucked" journey! Chasing big fish, looking at birds, catching moths and with an opinion on all aspects of these pastimes - it seems conflict comes with the territory?
I can't see any point in my existence if it is purely to follow what's gone before - there's no progress if there's no challenge. I take great heart from the fact that I've remained true to myself, despite criticism (some of which bordered on hatred!) and continue to push my quest for knowledge beyond what is comfortable.
Blogging is a fantastic release for me - I offer my opinions to the cyber system; my audience completely unrestricted, thus unknown? I've made friends (and enemies) with total strangers - crazy stuff.
Where is all this headed? I've no idea, but I know that my life would be poorer should I pack it in. Technology is an arena in which I'm totally out of my depth - my laptop is a mysterious beast which gives the ability to communicate with the whole of humanity - HOW? Obviously it isn't that important - just so long as I know how to make a post, Blogger and Google = the clever stuff, can be taken care of by my computer.
No pretty photos today - just my thoughts as to where I'm at in mid-January 2015. Take care and enjoy life to the full - it has very defined limits!

Sunday 18 January 2015

Distraction and a conspiracy?

This morning, I recorded another three bird species, taking my total to 72 in 2015, whilst fishing the Little Stour. Barn Owl, Tawny Owl and Sparrowhawk were all new for the year list and I also enjoyed some spectacular views of Little Grebe and Grey Heron as I was quietly sat on the bank. Sadly, I still await that moment when a bite alarm signals a take whilst using a Mitchell 300 - surely it won't be too long? My logic, for being on the Little Stour, being based upon past experiences of The Thames - when the main river was carrying extra water, the quiet backwaters of the Mapledurham mill pool (so very similar to the confluence  of the Stour/Little Stour?) became a sanctuary for the pike. There was less suspended silt in the water and, obviously, the flow was very much reduced. Coloured and flavoured dead baits were always a good bet - so that's what I was using today! Didn't make the slightest difference, the river wasn't as swollen as I'd envisaged  - I didn't get a bite; my recent pike angling consistency is beyond question, therefore? Am I thinking too much and not focussing on the basics?  I didn't actually make up my mind to fish this venue until I'd loaded the car, the RMC being my only other option.

Not quite Mark Chidwick standard - a Barn Owl photographed along the R. Stour at Minster (2010)
The low temperature, constant drizzle and being alone did nothing to aid my enthusiasm, so at 10.30 hrs I was very happy to call it a day and head back home. I haven't given up hope of a pike or two from this venue; but will have to monitor the river levels more closely before I make any effort to return. The Steve Gale v's Stewart Sexton challenge has tip-toed into mid January, certainly not the full on charge I was expecting. However, just to ensure my Ladbrokes punt isn't a waste of £1k, I've decided to intervene and aid my southern brother's cause by sending a Mitchell 324 fixed spool reel to young Mr Sexton. If you ever bother to read his personal profile you'll see that a certain Chris Yates (him of record carp fame!) features in his favoured reading - and a recent e-mail exchange exhorted the prose of David Carl Forbes in a tome about chasing wild trout from small running waters. What else could I do? I just had to offer him a distraction, another outdoor pursuit which might take his eye off the prize, so Steve is victorious in the pan-listing challenge and my money is in the bank!

I've only got to get off my arse and get across to Reculver/Sandwich Bay in order to see a Snow Bunting
Strangely, if you remove plants from the equation, I am hoping to embark on a similar project for 2015. Moths will again feature in my plans, as the 125w MV is dusted down and prepared for another season in the garden. Birding has always been a key part of my outdoor enjoyment and I'm hoping to make more effort to get out to deliberately watch birds during the Spring and Autumn migration periods. I can see no reason why a target of 200 species shouldn't be a realistic goal?

A Dartford Warbler is a very realistic prospect if I bother visiting the coastal fringe during the Autumn.
Birding and angling, for me, have always been very compatible hobbies - it is impossible for me to go fishing without seeing birds. Kingfishers and Water Rails are standard fare for a winter pike session on the RMC - and then there's the unknown of "patch watching" - just about anything is possible if you give a site enough attention. Newland's Farm is little more than a cauliflower field, yet has produced some outstanding records over the past 14 years. For as long as I draw breath, I will continue to be amazed and amused by the wild creatures that share my space.
A Lapland Bunting on the footpath between home and work - one of two that spent time
around the Newland's Farm area in 2010/11

Thursday 15 January 2015

Like a Cheshire cat!

I find myself in ridiculously good humour; the reason for this being the two Mitchell 300's - I really am easily pleased? At work, yesterday evening, I was involved in the manufacture of an experimental batch of magenta ink for a new customer. I was being monitored by a Japanese guy called Ritchie (nice bloke!) who made comment upon my happy disposition. His English and my Japanese didn't allow a proper explanation - he has probably gone away thinking that I'm happy in my work? Not untrue, but certainly not the case yesterday - I was like a silly school kid, grinning from ear to ear.
I went to bed and dreamt of the moment when the line starts to trickle from the open spool of one of these reels - my heart beat increasing as the bale arm snaps shut and the line begins to tighten. The tap on the rod tip indicating it's time to strike and I'm living the dream - recreating a scene from my youth. Will it really be so poetic, will reality allow me to take a step back in time? I can't predict the future (otherwise I'd be winning the Lottery every week!) but do know that the first fish to be captured using one of these reels will have a very special place in my angling journey, no matter what size it is!
Gadget popped in this morning, he's doing OK, although is still suffering side-effects from some of his medication. We chatted about "this and that" - so very much the usual routine. Work beckons and there is a batch of cyan to be made for Ritchie - let's hope my good humour remains?

Wednesday 14 January 2015

A wonderful surprise

Wayne is a guy who works in the purchasing department of FSIS, he is also a very successful carp angler. One of his neighbours had asked if he would "have a look at" some old tackle that was in her possession - it was her husbands? I'm not exactly sure of the circumstances, but it is something along these lines. Wayne, being a modern carp angler, wouldn't be seen dead with ancient tackle, but knew a man who would - ME! He asked if I'd take a look and see if any of it was worth keeping? This was well before Christmas, yet it was yesterday that I finally got to see what he was on about!
Surprises, of this magnitude, don't occur very often?
Angling history - so far in my past that I'd almost forgotten about it. Brought back
to life by a casual comment by a guy at work - bloody brilliant!
I immediately rang Simon and Benno - "I think I've died and gone to heaven"  - There, amidst the angling debris of an unknown angler's tackle, were two Mitchell 300's (with spare spools) and a boxed "Heron" bite alarm, as designed by Dick Walker! Nostalgia to match any of my old photos, but this time three dimensional and in my hands. We haven't sorted out the financial side of the transaction but, it now seems certain that the 2015 Loch Awe trip will see me fishing with three Mitchell 300's - an old man's dream come true!
The Heron bite alarm is unusable in it's present state - the battery terminals have corroded beyond repair, yet I haven't given up hope of being able to get it back to working order - just for one chance to go carping with it. Most of the other gear that Wayne has allowed me to peruse, is of little worth - although a collector of such things might disagree? Strange how things pan out - I'd been looking on e-bay for another Mitchell 300A to go with the one that Simon had given me at Christmas. Sandwich Coarse Fishery will now be the scene of a "Dick Walker-esque" carp quest come April. However, before then I've the rest of the English pike season to enjoy - three 300's on three Duncan Kay's is the only way forward!

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Playing catch-up

Almost half-way through January! Where does time go? Blogging has taken very much, the back seat, as you will be, no doubt, aware - there's so much going on in our/my world that makes this stuff totally insignificant. Yesterday Bev and I, along with Benno, my two brothers and their wives met up at the Shamblehurst Barn PH for a bite to eat before travelling the short distance to Wessex Vale Crematorium, Southampton, for the memorial service for David Dredge, our cousin, Jaqui's, husband.
As is usual, at these gatherings, we all spoke about how we should all make an effort to see each other on a more regular, and less formal, basis. Funerals and weddings being the general rule. Benno reminded me of a phrase I had used at Mum's service - "every one you attend takes you one step closer to the front of the queue!" Something to think about next time you find yourself involved in petty squabbles - time on earth is a limited resource, so enjoy it as fully as is possible; don't waste it with stupid rows and emotions. Time wasted in such activity can never be replaced! End of sermon ..... !
Fishing has been a struggle, so nothing new there then? The Worth Marshes venue, delightful as it is, has proven to be a project too soon - the pike population has been decimated and will require a while longer to re-establish itself. All was not lost, however, as the birding out on these wild and desolate marshes has been rather good.
Not an image from a recent outing - a Fieldfare which was photographed in "The Old Rose Garden"
a couple of winters ago. My camera has been about as active as my bite alarms!
I've a couple of ideas for new challenges - one involving tench as a very viable alternative to the Stour barbel for the coming summer. Plans are already well advanced for our next, and final (?), Scotland trip - four of us going back to Loch Awe - Davie Robertson (Central Scotland Pike Anglers) agreeing to join us for a few days, should be rather good fun?
I couldn't help but smile, at the superb irony of, Steve Gale (a Dungeness devotee) being struck down by a bout of "shingles". Not a particularly pleasant experience, as I recall - my father suffering a debilitating attack when I was a young boy. Get well soon Steve, you've missed nothing! The North v's South pan-listing battle has gotten off to a very low key start, but I am following developments with interest, so much so, that I am also keeping a list of the birds that I encounter whilst about my other activities. So far, in 2015, I've confidently identified 68 species and I've not yet visited the coast (less than a mile from home!) - it will be quite interesting to see how my efforts compare with Stewart and Steve, as I have no plans beyond enjoyment, but I am going to make an effort to run the 125w MV in the garden this year.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Jihadist - my arse!

I've spent my afternoon (yesterday) watching the unfolding drama of the French terrorist attacks. Why are our news agencies giving these criminals any credibility by using Islam (one of the world's great religions - hijacked by a gang of extremist nut - nuts!) to describe these individuals as "Jihadists"? Absolutely nothing to do with religion - these terrorists are a nothing more than an insult to the religion they claim to follow!
The more I read about these individuals, the more angry I become - radicalised idealism based upon pure hatred. These bile-filled preachers are a complete sham - quite why my "hard earned" taxes are used to allow such as Anjem Choudary to remain within the civilised safety of our democracy - whilst our NHS hospitals are in melt down; you tell me? I can't wait for the next political hopeful to set foot on my doorstep - they'd better be good!
I haven't any right to use this artwork - but feel that I'm very unlikely to be sued.
17 innocent people have paid the ultimate price because some crazy cult
have taken offence to a drawing - beyond comprehension?
I didn't start blogging because I wanted to be confrontational - I just saw it as a way of expressing myself. That the events in France have caused me to focus on "what's important" has led to this recent series of musings. Freedom of speech, thought and opinion is the very foundation of what I hold dearest to my heart. Perfectly able to see another viewpoint, without any desire to go to war should I disagree - I remain committed to the fundamental right of these rules - the very rules which underpin our society. To have some "pretend Muslim" assert their fucked up ideals upon another culture is unacceptable - in the extreme.
When mum died, I spent a while perusing the varied religious writings that were out there - The Koran being a wondrous document. Nothing that I read, or understood, to be the preaching of the prophet Mohammed aligns itself with the actions of these extremist groups. Maybe I'm just too simple to see it? Love, peace and adherence to family values - the very basis for all of the religions of the modern world?

Thursday 8 January 2015

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Thinking (carp) anglers or sheep?

It was a very long time ago when, in conversation with a game fisherman, I was made aware that "a poor man can't afford to use cheap tackle". The concept seemed a little weird, until explained. His reasoning based upon the the theory that any individual, of ordinary means, is very unlikely to spend lengthy periods at the top beats on any of the premier rivers of the UK. So, in consequence, chances of a good fish (read Salmon) were few and far between - it therefore, followed, that tackle failure has no place when chances are at such a premium. Thus, a poor man needs to buy the best quality tackle, that they can afford, being the conclusion; there being so many other human factors involved, in a successful encounter, without having to worry about tackle failure getting involved in the equation.
Taken literally, all serious anglers have to start with ensuring the rod and reel are of top quality - rod rests and bite alarms play no part in this, neither do bivvies, un-hooking mats or designer clothing. No, the rod and reel need to be the very best that you can afford. On an equal footing has to be the requirement for a reputable and reliable line; so no place for the cheap "mile of line!" for a few quid. Terminal tackle has to be the very best that can be acquired - hooks have to be a quality product (there are many top quality manufacturers out there), hook link material is equally varied, but dominated by a couple of superb brands who's reputations are based upon quality and reliability. A lead is a lead; but a swivel can play a major part, so no room for compromise. When analysed, in this manner, it is easy to see where that game angler was coming from!
A fairly typical "Common" carp from a local day ticket venue.
Fantastic fun, on the right gear - but do these fish justify the massive expense involved in
some visitors investment?
Modern-day carp anglers (as seen at commercial/day ticket fisheries) seem to view the whole concept from the opposite stance - a poor man can't afford to be seen in a cheap bivvy, with cheap alarms, etc..  who cares what's in the water - I've got all the gear on show and that is important? Victims of the, brand driven, fashion statements by the major manufacturers - Nash, Korda, Fox, etc...There might well be a direct correlation between the requirement to feed a family (the poor game angler) and the un-important whim to catch a fish (the modern-day pleasure carp fisherman)?
The meteoric rise in the dominance of carp, therefore carp fishing, as the main target species for freshwater anglers, is directly responsible for this attitude - exactly why Dragoncarp, as a brand and discount tackle outlet, came into existence and is now seen, by the mainstream carp angling fraternity, to be the symbol of the devil because it dares to challenge the dominance of the major players in this marketing fiasco!(It's not Dragonpike or Dragonroach, etc..; purely because these species are unable to attract the same level of, un-thinking, hysteria) Cheap bivvies, un-hooking mats, bite alarms, bedchairs, well, if you name it they sell it - absolutely none of this gear will aid an angler in their angling successes. In an industrial parlance - they are "A nice to have, not a must have!"
I'll come clean, right from the very start, I love Dragoncarp but will also be the first to admit that they do sell some horrendously crap tackle - stuff that even a child would find difficulty in deriving any pleasure in its' use. However, there are a lot of mediocre items that, for any pleasure angler, are perfectly capable of doing a job. I've got rod-rests, landing net (mesh only for my pike angling & frame only for barbel), a bivvy, a brolly, rod holdall, bed chair, sleeping bag and a seat - all at a fraction of the price that the top brands are demanding! None of these items has made me a better, or worse, angler - the fish have no concept of brand labelling and the corresponding snob value that it is capable of inducing.
My CK "Bunka" bivvy - Loch Awe May 2014
70 mph winds, sleet, snow, hail and torrential rain - it remained intact and 100% waterproof!
Pretty good for a £35 bivvy?
I think that it is very important for me to make clear, I am no longer a session angler, thus the requirement for my gear to be able to function reliably for extended periods is a not a concern. My bite alarms need to be able to get wet, but they aren't required to be bomb-proof - if the weather gets that bad I'm off home! Similarly, my bivvy gets used once a year - Scotland for a week - and has come through far more testing conditions than experienced at the average carp fishery with flying colours. It might well be found wanting in 2015? If that's the case, I'll chuck it away and get another one - at £35 it is hardly a major investment. My question " is a £500 bivvy 14 times better than mine?" because that's how many of my CK Bunka's I could purchase for the same money!
This is all hypothetical - each angler having differing expectations of their gear, so my thoughts are purely from a personal perspective. Fortunately, in my current position, I am not a poor man (although I'm by no means wealthy) and can afford to indulge my hobbies, should I choose. Therefore, my opening gambit is a bit misleading, in as much as, although I'm committed to my enjoyment of angling and consider myself to be serious in the pursuit of my quarry,  my tackle is not the best I can afford, but it is of a very good quality - and has, more importantly, stood the test of time! Modern equipment is designed as a consumable commodity, not a piece of engineering craftsmanship. Each and every year new models appear on scene - be they rods, reels, bivvies, rod-pods, bite alarms, throwing sticks and/or bivvy tables (you'd better believe it!) amongst countless other accessories which are deemed a "must have" by any serious carp angler. Some of these guys change their reels more frequently than they change their socks!
An ABU Cardinal 66X reel - built in Sweden during the 1970's
Still a great piece of tackle, engineered to an incredibly high standard - hence
the reason it is still perfectly usable in 2015.
The rod is a Duncan Kay carp rod - built, using a Bruce and Walker high modular carbon
blank, by Leslie's of Luton some time around 1984.
Such is the craftmanship and materials used, all three of these rods remain
my favoured choice for the majority of my pike and carp angling.
Their test curve is 1 lb 10 oz - plenty heavy enough for the local venues I frequent.
I'm not quite sure how this post has made it to here? I certainly hadn't intended to have a "pop" at carp anglers - you pay your money and make your choice! I actually think that there is more to it than that - I'm frustrated that I missed the boat - I was out of the loop when all this, carp-based, lunacy first started to dominate the UK angling scene. Oh yes, I'd been there at the very beginning, but had chucked it in -  birding and a move to Kent, ensuring that there was an 18 year gap in my angling journey. Neither of these influences being negative experiences; I discovered many other aspects about the wonders of our natural world and, after a failed marriage, found Bev - clouds and silver linings? I say frustrated, I think it would be better if I'd used saddened?
A double figure bream. A species which required many long hours of frustration
before finally getting the pieces of the puzzle to make sense.
Today, such fish are sneered upon, relegated to nuisance status by guys using tackle on
which I have landed sharks!
As I grew up, my angling awareness was dominated by the writings of Dick Walker, Bernard Venables, Fred J Taylor, Fred Buller, Jack Hilton and Peter Stone, et al. Anglers who placed great importance on water-craft and the developed skills of tackle control and use.I don't recall any of them endorsing a product which they wouldn't have used themselves, thus very unlike today's advertising! Pay someone enough money and they will say anything? So it is the, instant, off the shelf-type, angler who has been targeted by this approach. Spend your money and off you go - so very quickly developing into disillusionment and another "complete carp set-up" ad in the for sale section of the angling press or the local paper. There is no requirement to have learned any type of water-craft or skills, no need for a period of apprenticeship as you progress through the species. No, it's carp, carp and more carp - big tench and bream classed as nuisance fish by guys using 3.5 lb t/c rods on small pools which you could cast a swimfeeder across. Why are they using 3.5 lb t/c rods - because they are the only ones, as recommended  by the bloke in the tackle shop, they own, due all the top carp anglers who are endorsing them whilst sunning themselves at Gigantica in France, or somewhere similar.
Carp are a magnificent fish, big carp are every bit as impressive as any other species. The mystique which surrounded these creatures, as I grew up, has long been removed. Clinical technicians replacing the angling countrymen of my youth. Modern tackle and technology is ruthlessly efficient, in competent hands, and has resulted in a never-ending demand for carp fisheries. I haven't even mentioned bait - an industry in its' own right. Some astounding products, available at a price, to all who wish to use them.
DIY tackle and stuff.
Home-made back biter alarms, slider floats, assorted monkeys, a rig bin made from an old cd holder
and drop off indicators. Nothing remotely similar available at most tackle outlets due to
pike anglers being very rare in these modern times - thus there is no commercial benefit to
manufacturing/stocking such items.
Anyone who seeks the thrill of carp angling, within the UK, has never had it so good! Barbel apart, I don't think that any other freshwater species can generate enough interest to keep tackle dealers in business. If I require specialist pike tackle the only place to look is on the internet - or I have to make it myself? Now there's a concept which is completely lost on modern carp anglers. How many would dare to be seen with home-made items of tackle? How many would be prepared to use monkey-climbers on needles, open bale arms, line clips and non-baitrunner reels? To this modern breed, I might as well be talking Swahili!
I didn't want this to be seen as a dig at the modern angling scene (although it undoubtedly is) - just a viewpoint of an individual whose angling journey was far more complex than a Youtube induced carp fever.
Since my return, I have had chance to chat with many anglers - mostly intrigued by the strange old tackle that I'm using. The vast majority are decent people who wish for nothing more than to enjoy their hobby in the best way they know how - and I'm all for that.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Nice way to start

Didn't bother staying up to see in the New Year, although the fireworks duly sounded the arrival of 2015 and ensured I was well aware of the situation, I had plans to be out on Worth Marshes early doors. This morning I'd left home just before 06.00 hrs, stopping quickly for petrol and some mints at St. Lawrence, parking the car by 06.20 hrs, finally arriving at my destination shortly before 07.00 hrs (after the long hike with all my gear).
Hedging my bets, so to speak, I'd chosen this venue, in preference to the RMC, because the birding, not pike fishing, potential is superior and bank side disturbance is almost zero - I can fail to catch pike anywhere, so I might as well go to a venue that can provide some decent birds by way of a distraction. Still unsure about the number of fish I'm chasing; even if there are any sizeable pike remaining in the fishery?
Thankfully I didn't have to wait more than fifty minutes before a bite alarm rattled away as a fish picked up my Bluey tail. A spirited battle followed before I lifted the net under an immaculate, looking scraper double (10 lbs 10 oz). I had no option but to photograph the fish laying on my weighing sling; my woolly hat providing a sense of scale. Birding was all rather predictable, but none the less enjoyable for that - the wind increased to gale force, before I left, and produced fantastic views of an adult male Marsh Harrier hunting the adjacent fields, coming within 30m at one point.
A handsome little pike - absolutely pristine.
I probably should have made a few measurements (I had a tape measure in my bag!)
A very welcome visitor to my landing net.
Well pleased with the session and the fact that I confirmed that, at least one, decent pike remains in the venue - as Arnie once said "I'll be back!"