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!


Friday 29 May 2015

Why moths?

In the aftermath of the tea room micro-moth capture, Carl (the guy who wanted to call it "The Adidas Moth") asked me how I came to get interested in this group of insects? It set me thinking back to my early days in Kent. I'd moved, with my job and family (Julie, my now ex-wife, Sarah-Jayne & Benno) and had become a regular (daily!) visitor to Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. This was the era of Rab Morton and a time when the original H-Block was purely a BTO ringing centre, not a social centre and coffee club (as it is today with it's SBBOT tag) The modern building is a superb facility yet, somewhere along the way, the soul, and purpose of the "Obs" has been lost?
In 1993, when I made my first visit, it was very apparent that there were some seriously talented naturalists associated with the place. Characters of huge experience and reputation - Dennis Batchelor, "Jolly" John Hollyer and Dr. Mike Sykes. Guys with lists as long as your arm - but real people! People who were only too happy to assist a novice birder, offering advice, pointing me in the direction of new and exciting discoveries and experiences! Then there were the foot soldiers - those folk who taken up the call to arms and manned the Obs, worked the nets and kept the records up-dated. It was these guys who were to play a vital role in my discovery of moths and mothing - Tim Bagworth, Andy Johnson, Paul. A. Brown and Wes Attridge. The moth recording at Sandwich Bay dates back to 1952 and these individuals were responsible for maintaining this proud heritage - armed with a very battered copy of Skinner! It was all about macros! Luckily Tony Harman  and Mr Bradshaw were on hand if anything, considered worthy, was outside of the scope of that reference book! Who knows what was missed/over-looked?

Yellow-barred Brindle - rather worn
It was in the early summer of 1994 that I took Benno (he was 10) over to the Obs to watch Andy Johnson go through the contents of the Robinson Trap. He loved it, examining every egg box that Andy passed over - a Poplar Hawk-moth was the defining moment! Benno was blown away and that particular event was to be the catalyst to us building, and running, a moth trap in our tiny garden in Ash. Just like any new interest, those early years were the most exciting - new species being regularly discovered as the seasons progressed. As Benno grew older, he lost some of the interest - he was a young teenager by then! I kept at it, although not as intently as at the start. In 2000, with my first marriage down the tubes, I was living in a Ramsgate flat - no garden, no mothing. It wasn't until Bev and I moved into the bungalow that I was able to rekindle this interest and, as it were, start from scratch in a new garden.
The Campion
My activity has ebbed and flowed with the passing years, but there have certainly been some excellent captures during this period. The trouble with garden mothing is that it can become rather predictable, the local habitat doesn't alter too dramatically from year to year, thus the moths remain much of a muchness. It is only during those periods of favourable migration conditions, when examining the egg boxes can really match those very early years for anticipation and excitement.
No doubt I'll stick with it, there's not that much to it - you're asleep and the light is doing the attracting - get up in the morning and see what you've got. A very lazy pastime, much the same as "specimen hunting"?

The accompanying photos are of moths which were in the trap, this morning, Knot-grass and The Campion are both new for the year.

Thursday 28 May 2015

Moving on

It is with a heavy heart that I find myself reporting the end of an era; one which will only be remembered with fondness and joy! The Milton Mk VII - 125w MV moth trap has finally given up the ghost. Phil (Milton) built this "Skinner-type" contraption way back in 2001 and it has been the mainstay of my garden mothing ever since. I have enjoyed many happy times as I've examined the contents of the egg boxes within this trap. Some phenomenal species have occurred in my tiny piece of England - one of the very first was a Silver Barred, but there have been so many others! Migrants aplenty have all been discovered within the confines of that wooden box - Scarce Silver Y, Golden Twin-spots, Ni Moth, Bordered Straws, Eastern and Scarce! The first UK Pine Hawk-moth and Shore Wainscot for Franny (!) have also graced the Mk VII - happy times.

The Milton Mk VII, as set up in the garden in 2013
The up-turned plastic table is to prevent the light upsetting the birds in my aviary.
I have now had to resurrect my original "Robinson-type" trap, but with some major adjustments. This particular moth trap was the result of a joint project between Batchelor's (Unilever - Ashford) and my brother Simon. It is a very robust construction of heavy gauge Perspex, Ply-wood and Stainless Steel, originally housing a 250w MV bulb. In that guise it was a distraction to aircraft approaching Gatwick - so I've toned it down - it now houses a 125w MV.

A completely different design, and probably twice the internal capacity of the Mk VII.
This "Old Girl"(complete with generator) has travelled widely around Kent and France with some fantastic results.
What price a decent migrant before the fishing season starts?
I'm going to give it a try tonight, the weather isn't looking all that favourable, but that's never been a concern in the past. Only time will tell? It's June in three more days and the fishing season starts sixteen days later, there's plenty to think about in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Tea time entertainment

Yesterday evening, as I was on my last break of the shift, a micro moth was flying around in the tea room. Much to the amusement of my fellow shift-workers, I potted it up (one of the benefits of having a QC section within our manufacturing area - they use glass vials, ideal moth pots, for Infra - Red colour checks) I knew that it was a new species for me, but that wasn't really what it was about. The four other shift members were also looking at something which they'd never done previously and told them that I would ID it when I got home.

Quite a nice surprise during a late shift tea break and the cause of much laughter!
Carl Hughes wanted it to be called "The Adidas Moth" for obvious reasons.
It turned out to be an Argyrestia trifasciata; first discovered in the UK, in London, in 1982 - the first Kent record being 8th May 2000. There are previous (back to 2004?) Thanet records thanks to one Francis Solly - who else?
A couple of new species, for 2015, in the trap this morning; Crambus lathoniellus and Spruce Carpet - both of which were co-operative for the camera.

Another pleasant surprise today, was the first fledgling Java Sparrow of the year - a beautiful pied (Grey and Opaline) individual which seems to be doing OK.

Monday 25 May 2015

Garden mothing, a few birds and a sortie to the Stour

The Milton Mk VII, 125w MV moth trap has been the focus of my natural history studies over the bank holiday weekend, some nice moths being recorded - although nothing particularly unusual. A couple of Pug sp. of dubious parentage (very worn) have me stumped, but I'll get over it. Yellow-barred Brindle, Common Marbled Carpet, Small Dusky Wave, Chinese Character and Muslin Moth all appeared on the egg boxes, for the first time in 2015, this morning, so there's variety aplenty when added to the regulation Heart & Darts, SSD's, Setaceous Hebrew Character, BLBE's, Vine's Rustic, Common Swift, Dark Spectacle, etc......! It hasn't taken the local House Sparrows and Great Tits long to discover this potential food source, so it's the alarm set for 04.30hrs - up, out into the garden to switch off the light and cover the trap, thus averting moth trap carnage, before a swift return to the comfort and warmth of the duvet.
This morning's highlight was a rather smart male Pale Tussock, not quite annual in the garden, which provided a nice opportunity to play around with the extension tubes and produced a very pleasing, alternative, image (in my personal opinion).

Common Marbled Carpet
Common Swift

Male Pale Tussock - as depicted in the majority of id literature.
I had a wander around the farm, first thing, and it was obvious that birding was a waste of effort. The two Common Whitethroats, apart, there was nothing to report! Breakfast in "Ship Shape Café" in Ramsgate Harbour was very enjoyable and highly recommended. Bev, her Mum, Dad and brother headed off towards the delights of Rye, I'd other plans - a reckie down to The Stour, near Minster, for a search for carp swims? There was also the added incentive of a couple of year ticks, which were duly added, in the form of Nightingale and Turtle Dove.
I've not been to this particular area for a couple of years and was amazed at how much it has changed. With traffic access removed, it is now a bloody jungle! No fly tipping, no overnight camping by litter happy undesirables, thus the habitat has benefitted from the restrictions. A Lesser Whitethroat sang from a small patch of scrub with Cuckoo, Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff and Reed Bunting providing the backing vocals. All in all, a rather enjoyable weekend. Oh: and I added Orange-tip to the butterfly year list (now on 11)

Let's have it! A Pale Tussock looking angry, if that's possible?

Sunday 24 May 2015

If you really care? - INSPIRE

I make no secret of my total disrespect for the teaching profession - school kids who never had the bollocks to leave education! (and that includes the women!) Fred Dibnah, Professor Brian Cox, the late Patrick Moore, massively enthusiastic about their passions and wonderfully eloquent in their delivery of why it matters to them. If I was in charge, that would be the basic requirement for any individual who wished to enter the teaching profession - not such an outrageous concept? If you are enthused by your subject then, it stands to reason, that you'll be able to create interest simply by the way you go about teaching the subject - even if it's cooking!

Absolutely no point in showing a four-year old the subtlies of moth identification?
An Elephant Hawk-moth does everything required - bloody spectacular.
My time at school wasn't as bad as I make it out to be - there were individuals who made an impression. Sue Llewellyn taught me the basics of understanding the joy of, written and spoken, English (ness) - Mrs Pritchard provided an understanding of geography, and so much more, whilst Peter Payne was the catalyst, via Peter Perfect (I kid you not - my teacher at primary school - Westwick JMI, Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead) who were to give me an insight into the wonders of the natural world that co-exists within the same spaces I inhabit.
There is no way that I've suddenly become an "evangelist" - a harbinger of great tidings - nope! I have simply used my time with Emily, the passed couple of days, to focus my thoughts - for better or worse? Our environment is under, ever increasing, threat - thus it is vital that we, as caring, individuals, who derive great pleasure from these encounters, do our very best to pass on this passion, in whatever guise. Rarity has no part in the equation, oh no! What we need is full-on, in the face, gaudy! The subtleties of plumage variation between pipit species is of absolutely no worth - the initial spark will be ignited by something far more blatant! If we fail in our task, then who will be there to defend our natural world? Those video games are a far more sinister that you first think - virtual reality? A ruse, by which the multi-nationals can deflect attention to their, never ending, rape of our planet.
What purpose showing Emily a Dunnock?
There can be no better ways to introduce a child to birding than a Rose-ringed Parakeet at our garden feeding station?
Possibly I'm deluded? Is our world really under such threat by "big  business"? If I fail in my task, will it really be such a catastrophe? I'll not live long enough to discover that truth but, as a concerned grand-father, I'll do my bit to ensure that the next generation are aware of their natural heritage.

Friday 22 May 2015

Something different

At 02.54 hrs (or some time close?) Bev and I were awoken by the rumbling, and associated ground vibration and ornaments bouncing along bedroom cabinets, caused by an earthquake. In my younger days I might have quipped "did the ground moved for you darling" - but not last night. It was all rather surreal - but never frightening, we went back to sleep without much problem once the lack of sirens had been noted - if that had been an explosion someone would have been in serious shit! The only real sign that something out of the ordinary had ever occurred was the noisy protests, by the local Herring Gulls, as they flew about the darkened skies in a blind panic.

The graphical display of "our" earthquake. As an experience - it was a "lifer" for Bev and myself!
But they soon settled back down and Dumpton returned to a sleepy backwater, within Thanet's hustle and bustle. It was only when I had got up, to go to work, that I became aware of the actual facts of the situation. A weird experience all round!
Because the conditions looked so favourable, I'd fired up the Milton Mk VII 125w MV moth trap for only the second time this year. My resultant, overnight, catch was all to predictable, the only geometer was a Brimstone! However, it wasn't a wasted effort due to the fact that we've got Emily staying with us for the next two nights and she will always gain great experience from encounters with even the most common moth species. When I started mothing, back in the summer of 1994, my guidance came from various individuals who were, at that time, closely linked to Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. My reference material was of very limited stock, Bernard Skinner's masterpiece plus the twin volumes of South, whilst micros - read Pyralids - were covered by the excellent Barry Goater effort.

A White Point - in 2015 a resident breeding species around the Dumpton area.
My original copy of Skinner describes the moth as a "suspected immigrant"
Great times of new discoveries - the Sandwich Bay crowd were a vibrant, heady, mix of seriously talented, yet eccentric, individuals, who took great pleasure in assisting my personal journey of discovery. I'm no longer in contact with Paul A Brown, Wes Attridge or Andy Johnson  but, they played a huge part in my personal development. That Tony Harman - yes the Tony Harman! - was also prepared to assist my efforts speaks volumes to the generosity of the Obs and all the folk who were, at that time, associated with the place. I've done moths - if it wasn't for the fact that I have nephews and grandchildren, I'd probably no longer bother with this particular avenue. But I do, and I still am enthused by the turning of an egg box. This morning it was a "White Point" that brought this all into focus. When I started mothing, even in East Kent, this was an irregular migrant/immigrant which was always a good indicator of the potential for a "rare". How times have changed?

A Shuttle-shaped Dart - as not depicted in the majority of fieldguides!
Seen from the top - they're a gimme, from the side, I'm not so sure?
I also played around with my macro gear and produced an image of a Shuttle-shaped Dart that is almost unrecognisable, due to the unfamiliar angle that I've used.

Surely one day I'll find myself in a position to grab a few images of Common Swift -
until then - this is the best I made of the situation in the garden, yesterday.

Yesterday was to deliver yet another "avian" year tick as a Hobby came speeding low across the rooftops of Vine Close. I saw it, or another, this afternoon, suggesting that the local breeding territory is being used again in 2015 ?

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Best described as changeable

The weather, at present, is all over the place; we've had some glorious sunshine - proper barbeque stuff, experienced howling gales and prolonged periods of steady rain. It's fast approaching June and still we've not had any settled conditions. The two Common Whitethroat territories remain active and Common Swifts seem to have finally arrived, en mass. As I took my walk across to work, at 05.30 hrs this morning, a Kestrel was hunting the embankments around the new school ground works, a less than regular visitor to Newland's these days.

Storm approaching - the view above "Dumpton Manor"
Our frontage is presentable, but not immaculate - there's still plenty of
Red Valerian awaiting the first Humming-bird Hawks of 2015.
It is only fair to our neighbours that we keep the bungalow looking reasonable.
My return walk, some eight and a half hours later, revealed the ploughing up of the last of the cauliflower stubble and, with it, the resultant Herring Gull throng! I'd got a few jobs to get finished around the garden but, had it in my mind to take a wander across to see if I could locate any C-R birds. It didn't happen but, it was their noisy eruption above the field that alerted me to the approach of a splendid "pale morph" Common Buzzard, harassed by a very agitated Carrion Crow. It came straight over the garden and allowed me the chance of a few images. It wasn't long before the clouds started building and the gulls remained edgy - I couldn't locate the cause but feel sure that the buzzard, or some other raptor, was the culprit?

My gardening efforts were brought to an abrupt halt as the rain started, however I did manage to get a record image of the Ladybird - Thea 22-punctata (I think?) which was discovered as I went about my chores.
My Ladybird
Now, I have no desire to kick a hornet's nest, but feel that this needs an airing? Young Bill Dykes has posted criticism about someone mowing a small section of grass, within an urban setting somewhere close to where he is at college/university? I'd thought about making a comment directly on his blog, but feel that it would have been seen as disproportionate to the sentiment, also it would possibly have been a red rag! So by posting my views, on my own blog, should negate much of the potential nonsense that could have occurred? Someone mowing a strip of grassland within a housing complex, of whatever make up, might just be a simple result of a tenancy agreement. It isn't akin to "fracking" nor the ridiculous persecution of Hen Harriers in Lancashire - nope, just someone cutting the grass, as I have also done today! For someone, so young, with no responsibilities, no home, no mortgage or job, to make such a comment is why tree-hugging will never achieve anything - absolutely no concept of reality! Cutting the grass isn't ecological vandalism - it's part of being a responsible adult householder! But on the other hand, I don't kill moths in order to climb meaningless league tables - so how could I possibly know?

Tuesday 19 May 2015

That's a bite?

Inside the walls of the digital ink manufacturing department, of FSIS, the wind-up is an accepted, nay expected, part of the working day, and I wouldn't want it any different. Factory life is not, as the majority envisage, life spent in the doldrums. My, forty-odd, years inside various of these industrial environs has been extremely enjoyable (although I readily admit that it is not a place for the timid, nor precious - it's cruel, almost brutal, at times!). It builds character, develops individuals and hones life skills - you live by your wits, get in first or be got! The first lesson is to always be on your guard and think carefully about what you say - truth has never got in the way of a, far better, distorted interpretation of any conversation. Great times, great memories and great banter with a bunch of equally silly workmates. My present employment within the Fujifilm empire is up there with anything that I've previously been part of. None of us will ever be overly rich, financially, but we have so much more to celebrate. We are not paid to worry about business strategies, or the like yet, we get paid sick leave, nearly six weeks holidays, two annual bonuses (Christmas and mid-May) and so, so much more! Getting the piss taken out of you is simply "par for the course" during any working day. I'm as likely to encounter flack from my supervision as any other of my peers - it's simply our way of making the day pass by. There is nothing that I can't call my supervisor that he hasn't already called me (believe me!) - it's the factory floor not a monastery!
I'm, therefore, gutted that I got taken in yesterday when Benno told about the conversation with the owner of Long Shaw. Those two jealous anglers have done something which no-one, at work, has managed in a long time. I "bit" - why?  Possibly my guard was down but, in all honesty, they've done me up like a kipper! I won't be going back to Long Shaw - but it's because of them, not my decision - gutted that I've been had right over! If they worked at FSIS, they could rightly expect some form of retribution - and I'd willingly engage in some form of campaign. They don't - and they've won?

Monday 18 May 2015

Jealousy - a powerful poison

I'm rather saddened to make this post; it marks the end of a very enjoyable period at a wonderful fishery. Long Shaw Farm is a fabulous place to go fishing - no question. That the owners should have a set of rules, by which they see best they look after the fish stocks in their control, is perfectly within their rights and I have absolutely no objections to anything that they do - after all it is their own property!
As of 1st January 2015, there has been a new rule introduced - no fishing with floating bread. Pretty straight forward, but - and here's the crux, they still allow floater fishing and sell floating pellets in their shop. The fish stocks are also fed with floaters as part of the management strategy - can't quite understand why the carp should be so easy to catch when surface fishing?

My first double-figure carp in over twenty-five years!
Long Shaw Farm - June 2011
So with all this going on, I wrote a post about our successes at the venue, showing Luke and Benno using fly rods and zig-bugs. Crazy, enjoyable, fun fishing - at a venue which exists to provide just that. There is, however, a massive conflict of interests going on? The various pools, of which there are four to choose from, are home to myriad Mallard/Mallard hybrid ducks whose sole purpose in life is to eat anything which anglers introduce as floating hook-baits or freebies. The floating bread rule wasn't introduced to aid the fishing, or fish welfare but, instead, protect the ducks? Two questions - why allow any type of floater fishing? And, more importantly, is this a fishery or a duck sanctuary? Neither questions need to be answered, I won't be spending any more of my cash in order to visit the site.
Benno and Luke returned yesterday, to be confronted by the owner, complaining about the amount of cat biscuits they had used, the previous week, and saying that they weren't really fly fishing! Benno attempted to diffuse the situation, only to discover that two other anglers had complained that they couldn't catch carp off the bottom due to the amount of floaters they had been using? Fucking genius - they were fishing on another lake!

Like bees to honey - surface fishing for carp at Long Shaw Farm is some of the best fun you can have with a fishing rod!
I can't say that I enjoy not catching fish but, to think that someone else is catching, thus causing you to fail, stinks of jealousy! You're not catching because the tactics you're using, on the day, aren't suited to the conditions. If you can't catch at Long Shaw then you are a very poor angler or employing some very poor tactics - indeed! With this level of nonsense getting in the way of enjoyment, I've had it - fortunately there are many other similar venues where I can go to wet a line and catch a carp, or two. Many thanks Long Shaw, it's been great entertainment, but I ain't putting up with any more of that stuff.
Please let me make it very clear that I've no gripes with the owners of this fishery, it is a fantastic place, with some superb angling on offer. The wildlife is magnificent, as are the surroundings, I'm simply unable to enjoy my time when hampered by so many rules, regulations and attitudes!

Thursday 14 May 2015

Catching up

Wednesday dawned bright and still; the forecast was for clear blue skies and warm sunshine, perfect for a Spring Honey Buzzard - thinks I. Nowhere close to my raptor prediction, but a flock of 14, 1st summer, Black-headed Gulls was a very strange sighting. Common Swifts are seen occasionally over Dumpton, yet they seem to remain loyal to the airspace above St. Lukes for the most part.
A Speckled Wood, in the garden, was another addition to my butterfly year-list, which has now just crept into double figures - I should get out more!

This morning is a complete contrast. Grey skies and a brisk easterly are a precursor to impending rain, so I went out early in an attempt at getting a photo of one, of the two, Common Whitethroats which have taken up territory around Newlands Farm.

Mission accomplished, I was back indoors by 07.30 hrs - plenty of time to get Bev a cup of tea before she heads off to work.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Doing the Newland's stomp

The BBC weather forecast predicted early morning sunshine before the onset of cloudier conditions - I was out of the bungalow just after 06.00 hrs in order to make the most of it. Surprisingly enough, for once, they have got it spot on; looking out of my study window is a very gloomy view!
My quick jaunt around the patch revealed little that I wasn't already aware of. Two, very camera shy, Common Whitethroats have set up territory and Swallows continue to trickle through. I managed to get a shot of a Painted Lady, there being at least three this morning, but no other butterflies were noted.

The most obvious species were Greenfinches, singing males "wheezing" from various points around the area. Strangely, perhaps?, they were singing from static positions rather than the, far more dramatic, song flight displays. Is this an indicator of the progression of the seasons, or just the conditions this morning? Something to keep an eye on.

Monday 11 May 2015

A garden "mega"

Bev has changed her working hours and, today, with me on late shift, we were able to take a drive across to Deal to have breakfast on the pier (there's a café on the end! - we didn't take a picnic). It was a lovely morning and I had high hopes for a year tick, or two, as I enjoyed my brekkie. No chance, the sea was dead - two Turnstones, two Shelduck and a Carrion Crow, all south, was the sum total of my sightings.
Back home before mid-day, via Dad's and the recycling yard, I was out in the garden, enjoying a pre-work cuppa, when I heard the unmistakable "rattle" of a singing Lesser Whitethroat. It was in a large Cherry Tree, two gardens to the south but, by the time I'd grabbed the camera from indoors, it was in the Elder above the garden shed. I didn't get a chance of a record shot before it moved on - no big deal but the record is exceptional. Only my third Lesser Whitethroat for the patch, and the first for the garden, the other two being Autumn sightings. There was quite a bit of gull activity due to the harrowing of the field directly beyond our hedge. Herring Gulls dominated, but there were also a few Lesser Black-backs (almost certainly adults from the Pyson's Road colony) and, best of all, a 1st summer Black-headed Gull. May records of this species are very uncommon here. Fortunately I was able to grab a few shots of this individual as it drifted about above the garden.

A 1st Summer Black-headed Gull.
Yet another manifestation of the simple joy of "patch watching"
An extremely familiar species, yet a very exceptional date ensures it
is a sighting worthy of merit.
The walk to work was made so much more pleasurable by the recording of a Yellow Wagtail out in the potato crop, a Common Whitethroat in the remnants of the Old Rose Garden and my first Painted Lady butterfly of 2015 - good stuff and excuse enough to go patch watching tomorrow morning.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Smashing 'em up at Long Shaw

It was never going to be anything more than a social! Benno, Luke, Skunk (a new member of the gang) and myself rendezvousing at Long Shaw Farm for an afternoon's fun fishing. Since the start of 2015 there has been a new fishery rule introduced - no fishing with floating bread. (My favoured method!!!) But we'll just have to work around it - no big deal?
After arriving at the venue; I had a quick chat with one of the fishery owners, purely to establish what type of floating baits remained acceptable. Once that had been sorted, and I'd parted with my day-ticket money, it was action stations all the way. Benno and Luke are obsessed with fly rods and all things associated. They absolutely emptied the place today! Using zig-bugs as flies, they were constantly in action for the entire period we were at the venue.  The secret being to scatter a few cat biscuits on the surface and fish the zig amidst the floating feast. I employed similar tactics, but used very different tackle. A Diawa Harrier "Amorphous" 13' match rod, fitted with my Match Aerial Centre-pin, 7lbs b.s. line and a size 11 barbless Kamatsu Barbel Maxx hook - with a piece of soaked yellow foam (cut from Emily's bath toys!) as bait.

Benno and Luke in a double "hook-up" situation. A very familiar scene during the afternoon.
There is absolutely no point in taking this fishery seriously - it is all about pleasure angling,the enjoyment of bending a rod and being at the waterside. Skunk was quiver-tipping, with luncheon meat, taking a succession of Bream, Roach, a few Carp and a Chub! The rest of us were surface fishing for the carp!
If this were a pike I'd think that it'd been "stiched up"
An incredibly long fish which tipped the scales at just 12lbs 6 oz.
It wouldn't have been a good barbel in that shape?

By the time we packed up, you've got to be off the venue by 19.00 hrs, at least 30 carp had fallen to our joint efforts - they really are that easy! I took the best fish of the day, but Benno kicked my arse in the numbers game - it was great fun in superb company.

The final view

I am going to draw a line under the Kilchurn Bay sessions with this, my final post on the subject. I am in no doubt that I will have need to reference my experiences of this magnificent place, in future posts but, for now, this will be it!

Every dawn is different
As images are able to say so much more than words - it will be very photo biased. The memories that we have accrued whilst on and around the shores of Kilchurn Bay are forever etched in our minds; they will be relived on numerous occasions whenever we gather as a group.

We have caught some magnificent pike, we have also caught a very large number of fish and I can't recall a single individual which didn't give a good account of itself. Our time has been further enhanced by the chance meeting with Davie Robertson (Central Scotland Pike Anglers) and the company of Alan Gray (the land owner) - wonderful experiences.
Benno christened this opportunist bird - Charlize (you work it out?)
Not, for her, long hours stalking the margins for wary perch - discarded dead baits were far
easier fare and she knew exactly where to find them.

The magnificent Emperor Moth -  a female resting on my camera case
For me it has also been about a rediscovery of a hobby and spending extended time with my son. My personal experiences have been as much about the opportunities to encounter unfamiliar wildlife, as it goes about its daily routine, as the fishing itself.

Benno doing battle with a Kilchurn Bay pike using a 10' Bruce & Walker
Mk IV glass fibre rod.

Yet another one comes grudgingly to the waiting net

We've had some fantastic times but, as is the case, all good things must come to an end. I sincerely hope that 2015 isn't my final trip to the loch, yet there is so much more we want to do and, as Benno has said, "let's go somewhere warm, so it feels like a holiday!" Where will this take us - who knows?

If 2105 is to prove my final sojourn - this photo says it all."Thanks very much - I've had a blast!"

Friday 8 May 2015

Kilchurn Bay Pike fishing - my way!

Way back in the mid - 80's, I made my first visit to the shores of Kilchurn Bay, Loch Awe. Inspired by the Beekay Publication, Pike Fishing in the 80's by Neville Fickling (ISBN 0-9507598-3-X) we, the motley crew from Hemel Hempstead, fished the small rocky hillock on the southern side of the bay, slightly to the west of Kilchurn Castle. Immediately Cuddles christened it "Fraggle Rock" and has been known to us by this name ever since. In Neville's book there is a photo of Trevor Moss with three nice pike, topped by a twenty, taken from the very swim we first settled on. Our results were patchy although, between us, we did rack up a few doubles - so we were well pleased.

Cuddles with our first decent pike from Kilchurn Bay - May 1988
In the water, directly behind him, is a keep-net full of livebaits which we'd brought with us. All very much part of the
pike angling scene during this era, yet totally illegal today!
In 1988 we decided to try another area of the bay, this time directly opposite the castle. Water levels were low and the majority of fish we landed were small jacks, but action was enjoyed by us all and Cuddles managed to bag himself a nice upper double; things were looking up? I continued to visit the loch, annually, up until the May of 1992 with much the same sought of success, odd mid-doubles but nothing to get over excited about.

Kilchurn Bay - as seen on Google Maps.
I apologise for the poor quality of the image (I photographed the screen of my lap-top) and lack of
any additional labelling. Fraggle Rock is that tree covered appendage on the southern shore.
Our original efforts were casting east from Fraggle Rock, into the adjacent bay. Since May 2011, all
of our sessions have been concentrated along the shoreline, west of Fraggle Rock, directly opposite the
My return, in May 2011, was to be a complete revelation - it was like someone turning on a light in a dimly lit room! Right from the off it was obvious that we had started to unravel some of the mysteries of Kilchurn Bay and the pike which inhabited the peat stained waters of this superb venue.
So it is here that I'll start my story:-

The planning leading up to that first trip was as thorough as we were able to be. As there had been such a long gap since our previous experiences, a lot of advances had been made in tackle technology. Although I still wanted to use the gear (rods, reels, alarms, etc.) that had been hidden away in the attic during my birding sabbatical, there was no getting away from the requirement to use the best available terminal tackle that we were able to purchase. Japanese hook technology was amazing, as was the modern mono-filament line and American trace wire. Don't forget that, although I hadn't been fishing for eighteen years, Simon and Benno were both heavily involved in the specimen hunting side of angling! We now knew that live-bait transportation was a non starter, the use of live bait let alone bringing it to the loch, from Kent, being illegal in Scotland, we did, however, have access to some of the finest frozen sea baits available anywhere. These were to prove to be a major asset, and still are to this day. What we lacked, on our first couple of trips, was the ability to keep these baits frozen for more than a few days, after which they started to lose their attractiveness, almost to the point where they were virtually useless after a week. Our catch rates certainly took a dive towards the final days of those particular trips.

Benno and I with a double apiece, from that first trip back in May 2011
Braided line was a step too far, for me, during the first three outings, I stubbornly stuck to my guns and continued to fish with mono (12 lbs b.s. Diawa Sensor) and experienced little problem, until I finally changed over to braid and realised what I'd been missing.
I think that it is still fair to say that our early successes were still attributable to the quality of our bait and little more? We were restricted to bait presentation within the casting range of our rods; and chest waders - so there was more than a little of the "chuck and chance" involved?

Simon with the second largest pike of the 2013 trip - 19 lbs 12 oz
 In 2013 all of this changed! This trip was a pivotal experience, between us we captured 48 pike, 38 of which were doubles! There is absolutely no getting away from the fact that water levels and seasonal conditions played a major role in our incredible success, but we did also have another piece in the jig-saw - a bait boat which incorporated a "smart-cast type" echo sounder unit. For the very first time we were able to actually pinpoint those areas of deeper water and associated drop-offs, placing our baits exactly where we wanted them. This piece of kit was custom-built, by Simon, and has been the proto-type of several similar examples, each one better than the last!

Luke and Benno with a brace of doubles, something which has been repeated many times during
the passed couple of trips!
2014 - this was to confirm that, by our standards, we were now beginning to get to grips with the complexities of pike fishing this tiny area of the mighty Loch Awe? Another 25 doubles to our landing nets, yet no twenty this trip - Luke taking the best fish, his first, at 19 lbs 7 oz! - sometimes it's just not fair? Simon had added yet another item to our armoury - he'd purchased a "Dometic" gas freezer system, something akin to those used by campers and caravanners. What a result? With a single gas cylinder we were now able to keep all of our bait frozen until we needed it - the result being regular action for the entire holiday. By this point in our journey, Simon, Luke and Benno had developed some form of disease? They wanted to catch pike using artificial lures and flies! Whatever next? Off they all went, leaving me to soldier on with my static dead bait approach - no worries, we're all up there on holiday. Luke had also introduced another concept - pike angling from a kayak!

The two boys with another brace, Kilchurn Castle as the back-drop, from our latest outing 
2015 - and just the three of us made the journey. For me it was the final part of my quest - I caught that fish which I'd so longed for! We, as a team, caught a good number of pike, using a wide variety of methods, but were to ultimately be beaten by the severity of the extreme weather. So, in order to ensure that my thoughts get recorded, I'll try to categorise the important factors which have contributed to my successes. I'm well aware of a few tweaks that Simon and Benno have used but, as they are not mine, I will stick to my original brief and simple tell of the methodology which has been used by myself during the past five years.

Rods & Reels - use whatever you want! The pike have no idea as to the stoutness of the rod, nor smoothness of the reel? These items should be capable of handling decent fish, yet the requirement to catch sharks is not part of the equation. Use tackle that promotes enjoyment, but without jeopardising pike safety.

Line - the minimum breaking strain should be 12 lbs! My recent flirtation with braid suggests that this is the way forward. Yes, I agree it is expensive, but it doesn't degrade under the UV rays of the sun and, at long range, there is no perceivable stretch. Braid might not make you a better angler, but it will add to the experience of playing a pike at long range.

Indicator systems - If you are a fixed spool angler then an open bale arm and the back-biter is the only way to go! If, however, you are a seeker of adrenaline rushes and hanker for a return to the Alfred Jardine era, there can be no more fun than a centre-pin, pike monkey/needle and a front-runner alarm. There is, of course, a third option - you could always stare at a float!

Bait - I can only give advice on a very specialist area of this massive subject. I have been a static dead bait angler since the late 1980's. I've been very fortunate to have had the company of Eddie Turner for much of my early years. Through this friendship, I'd always been aware of how effective bait enhancement can be. I've played around with buoyancy, flavour and colour (and any variation on this theme) since the late 1980's. It has served me well in Kilchurn Bay.
The one thing about our baits, in this specific venue, is that they are most effective when they are small! I'd always been an advocate of big baits = big fish! Benno and Simon both offered an alternative theory - simply by looking at the shape of the pike we were catching, they are incapable of taking large (wide?) baits.

Luke doing battle from the kayak - 2015
Bait boats - what do you do? You can turn your nose up and offer the purist spiel or, being realistic, embrace this advancement and use it to enhance your experiences? Dick Walker had no access to this type of technology but, aware as I am of his quest for advancement (he invented the bite alarm and designed the first purpose built carp rod!) remain convinced that he'd approve of where this use of modern technology is taking the sport of angling?

Location - if you simply want bites, then it's a no brainer - cast your bait anywhere in Kilchurn Bay.
There is, however, another approach which may well provide a better return for the effort? Fraggle Rock has a lot of potential; fishing out towards the castle, could  see your bait into 25' of water, an area the boat anglers have constantly targeted. The shoreline that has played such a key part in our recent successes has a channel of 12' , running parallel to the bank, at a range of 80m+ (bait boat territory?) From the castle bank this feature is also reachable, but you require chest waders, it is possible to wade out over 50m. Any effort to cast from the shore will see your bait in less than 3' and a potential target for the local gulls (always a fun time encounter)

How many seasons can you fit in ten minutes?
Kilchurn Bay will offer all the challenges any angler could wish to confront.
Have I an overall summary of our tactics? No, I don't think I have. We've been incredibly fortunate to have experienced some fantastic sessions at this wondrous fishery. Do we (I) have any great wisdom which will assist others? I, sadly, am not the judge of such things. Kilchurn Bay is a wondrous piece of water, home to some huge pike given the right conditions. Going up there for a week at a time (always around the same period) is hardly likely to give a greater insight into what is required to master the place. However, if pike are your thing, forget those obese fraudsters of Chew Valley and seek a wild pike from the peat stained wilderness that is Kilchurn Bay. If you catch a big-un you wont be in any doubt as to was that journey worth while. The wild pike of Kilchurn Bay are the fish of legend - and long may it remain so.

Kilchurn Bay - looking north-east up Glen Orchy (April 2015)
If you have any questions about these pike, and my approach to catching them, please feel free to leave a question and I will attempt to answer it. Clowns and trolls should get a life?

Thursday 7 May 2015

Part two

Having established that I am not a lone soul, crying out in the wilderness, there is a great deal of comfort to be found out there in "blogland". Kindred spirits who have also become disillusioned with modern angling and seek to rekindle the magic of a by-gone era. Floats and centre-pins, twitching lily-pads and crucian carp, tench on the lift-method - hugely enjoyable; completely lost on the vast majority of anglers fishing today. I have always believed that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and, as such, have a similar understanding of enjoyment. Just because it doesn't work for me, is no reason why others can't gain huge satisfaction from the experience? Modern angling - I have to accept that it's each to their own!

Am I in a nice place? My first consideration when seeking an angling challenge.
So whilst I might not be a prolific catcher of fish, I can still confidently say that my time spent angling is immensely enjoyable. Of course I get frustrated by my lack of success, but the underlying emotion is a good one and I am unable to see my time as wasted. My return to carp fishing has been a hard lesson to take. I don't fit in with the modern scene, my approach and deliberate flaunting of the CK logo establishes that I'm not a member of the clique. When I display a pair of Mitchell 300's or ABU Cardinal 66X's - I am obviously setting myself up for ridicule. Not a boilly on show, just a bucket full of munger and some chick-peas; what is this bloke about?

It's not only fellow anglers that are intrigued by my ancient tackle!
A Whinchat taking a close look at one of my ABU 66X fixed spool reels.
My binoculars are constantly hanging around my neck and frequently raised towards subjects that are nowhere close to the water. I'm bird watching, looking at a butterfly or dragonfly that happens to be in the vicinity, I ain't, generally, looking at fish, although I do if the opportunity arises. I've got electronic alarms to indicate any action on my rods, so why shouldn't I indulge myself by exploring the other natural history which inhabits the same venue? I haven't yet gone back to float fishing, when my attention will be required to be focussed 100% on the float, and will stay away from that particular format until such time that Emily, Bryn & co are ready to accompany me to the waterside.
My angling revolves around two very simple concepts, am I in a nice place and am I using the tackle which will ensure the maximum enjoyment should I get a bite?

A "Greenland" Wheatear posing on my landing net pole.
A 1980's Alan Brown's of Hitchin original.
I often find myself in conversation with complete strangers who, on noticing my gear, ask about my catches and seem genuinely interested in the vintage tackle I use. Strangely, the vast majority don't know who Kevin Maddocks is let alone Dick Walker and Mr Crabtree, yet there is an undeniable common interest in getting the maximum pleasure from each session spent at the waterside.

My first Blue-tailed Damselfly of 2015 - on the landing net float at Sandwich on Bank Holiday Monday morning.