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 31 July 2015

Swimming against the tide - my carp fishing journey

I think that I would be safe in saying that my first knowledge of carp came via the pages of The Angling Times. Dick Walker's "Clarissa" had been on display, in the aquarium at London Zoo, for nearly twenty years before I became aware of these magnificent fish. In the early 1970's, carp were still a very treasured capture and a lengthy apprenticeship was required before anyone could be considered a proficient carp angler. Par-boiled potatoes, Mk IV rods, Mitchell 300's and Heron bite alarms - these were the tools of the pioneering anglers who were to lay the foundations for today's, carp dominated, angling scene.
My own "specimen hunting" journey can be traced back to around the summer of 1974, Baz Trowbridge, Tony Box, Roy Johnson, Tom Riley and myself, travelling around the various local venues, Tring Reservoirs and the Upper Great Ouse included, seeking anything that would take our baits. I think it was a trip down to a caravan park on Canvey Island which was to see my own carp angling take off - we had sweetcorn! Fuck me, we were good - or so we thought at the time? I don't suppose the largest carp weighed more than six pounds, but we caught loads of 'em and we were on our way. Chub, tench, barbel (the Rose Revived, day ticket, stretch of the R. Windrush) and, in particular, roach followed - we had the brilliant mid-70's roach fishing on Startop's End - 19 two's in an afternoon to a single rod - all on bread! Yeah, they were some very special times and we learned quickly - like sponges soaking up every bit of info that was offered.
Wine, women and song broke up this merry band, but the bug still remained within us all - we went our separate ways. I was to bump into Tom again, when I started working for Kodak - 1979 (?) but it was a short-lived re-acquaintance. The major factor in 1979 was that Kevin Maddocks published his book, Carp Fever, and that was the moment when the blue touch-paper was lit! After this event, there could be no turning back the clock - carp fishing changed from being a secret world of fishy cunning, into a technical pursuit of ruthless efficiency - some legacy? Without this single event, carp fishing would still be a single option within the big fish angling scene - all species being treated as equals - thus the term specimen hunter and the relevance of The National Association of Specialist Anglers (NASA) on which I am very proud to have served as a member of the executive committee, would remain significant. But sadly not to be  - the dominance of carp fishing has been the catalyst for the incredible upsurge of commercial fisheries that are now available and, also, a complete about turn in match angling priorities.
So Kevin had blown the lid off a whole new world - carp fishing, as Dick Walker and Jack Hilton had pioneered, was no longer a factor. Boilies, bolt rigs - cum - hair rigs, heavy duty line - broom handle-type rods and reels that could hold 300m+ line - it was a complete rethink of what had been the accepted practice (Continuous improvement for want a better definition?)
This is where my real journey begins. The Ritchworth guys - Clive and Malcolm - had spotted the opportunity and utilized the VHS video technology to corner the market in Carp Fishing promos! (No Youtube back then!)
Optonics had already replaced Herons, but it was about so much more than that! These guys were taking Kevin's book and replacing words with moving pictures - it went in to hyper -space after this event. If I wanted to know how to tie a rig or make a bait - the Ritchworth videos had it all. It is purely down to this factor that my time at Stanborough was so successful. In a recent Nash TV interview, Kevin (Nash, not Maddocks) describes it as "having an edge" - in 1983 I'd definitely got it!
By this stage, being based in Hemel Hempstead, I used the St. Alban's branch of Leslies of Luton (tackle shop) run by Ian "Creepy" Crawley. I was in pole position - this retail outlet had everything, and more, that I required. It was Ian who put me on to the high modular carbon blanks that he was using to produce custom-built rods for the clientele of this busy shop. The blanks were manufactured by (possibly for?) Bruce and Walker - a top quality rod maker, in their own right, at this time.
Kitted out with a pair of 12' 1.75 lbs T/C fast taper rods, with matching Shimano Carbomatic GT4000 reels and all the other latest gizmos, the carp in Stanborough didn't stand a chance! PVA stringers, braided hook-links with the hair-rig and baits to die for! Semolina and Soya flour base mix, but I had the best dyes, flavours, enhancers and sweeteners that were commercially available at that time - more than compensating for the atrocious nutritional value of the actual bait.

The Bridigo carp - 21 lbs 10 oz taken on floating "Slyme"  5th July 1983
1983 had already seen me pass two milestones, before I set foot on the banks of the Welwyn Garden City municipal fishery. I caught my first ever double, an 11 lbs 4 oz mirror, from the Kodak AC Water End Pit - March 9th then my first twenty , 21 lbs 10 oz, from Bridigo Pond - 5th July (it was off the top on floating "slyme" - a Duncan Kay concoction!) It was on 17th September that I had my first session at "The Cracker Factory" (as named by Rob Maylin) and I got off to a flier! Three bites in a short afternoon session, topped by a mirror of 15 lbs 9 oz - it was 1983 and this was still a very nice fish! I fished the venue whenever I had the opportunity, a November session providing me with three "twenties" in consecutive casts, absolutely outrageous results for the period. I fished the whole winter until 25th February 1984. On this date I landed my PB carp (which it remains to this day) of 23 lbs 14 oz - this event, and those leading up to it, are the pinnacle of my carp angling career. Ever since that date I have been striving to get back to the ethos and romanticism of the Dick Walker era.
In 1984 that carp was a very respectable PB for any specimen hunter and I sought my challenges for other species in other arenas. I went back to Stanborough on a few occasions, catching some more very nice fish but, already there were the tell-tale signs of the impending rise of the "tackle tart" and complete disregard for water craft and angling etiquette! I knew that carp fishing no longer held a mystique and I was happy to walk away with what I'd already achieved, to show for my efforts.
I was obviously aware with what was going on in carp fishing, Vic Gillings and Kevin Maddocks were integral in the Claydon catfishing scene during the late 80's and I'd get to hear all the gossip from the Colne Valley (carp angling central in the 1980's), in a round about way, at the shows and conferences I attended. Ritchie McDonald and Roger Smith, in particular, were stalwarts of these gatherings and we'd always find ourselves in some state of dis-array, talking absolute bollocks, in a bar or pool room late on the Saturday night - proper happy daze! The "Looney Rota" couldn't sup sasperrella - bloody light weights, all of them! (Take drugs like champions - stupid pricks! - and, sadly, all these years later it shows) Any how - I make it to August 1993 before I kick angling (all angling) into touch and embark on an eighteen year long "Kent birding sabbatical".

The Stanborough fish - 23 lbs 14 oz 25th February 1984
It would be farcical to describe that period as anything other than fantastic - I had highs and lows, just as in any other obsessive pursuit, but the good bits far outweigh the bad times - I'm very grateful to all those who assisted my quest - I came out the other side a far better individual than had entered?
2011 - my reluctant return? The Scottish trip re-ignited the desire and, despite being a very different guy, with a whole lot of new priorities, the bug bit hard!
Pike have always played a part in the angling season, as decreed by tradition. Getting back from Scotland and now being allowed to cast a line in all calendar months it was the lure of the commercial "carp puddles" that fanned the flames. I dis-liked, intensely, the commercialism of the whole concept, yet couldn't fault the experience. Long Shaw Farm, in particular, provided me with some of the most enjoyable days of my angling life. It wasn't testing, I didn't require anything special to provide myself with an edge - it was easy, fun fishing. It was a situation that allowed me to re-acquaint myself with the nuances of centre-pin angling, bait presentation and the awesome power of a hooked carp. For that I will remain ever grateful - Tyler Hill and Sandwich Coarse Fishery also had a part in this rediscovery process - fantastic, enjoyable, fun fishing - but not what I was looking for.
Long Shaw was great because I discovered that carp were still able to be captured on floating crust (a method that has now been banned at this fishery) and Sandwich Coarse Fishery provided the facility which allowed me to experiment with particles and centre-pins, it was a blast, best fish going 18 lbs 15 oz (so far!)

On my return - Tyler Hill - 11 lbs 15 oz of commercial fishery fun!
In modern angling  mentality, a double isn't worthy of another glance - I beg to differ!
Obviously it is my problem, and mine alone, that I can't take these fisheries at all seriously - they are "carp puddles" and the fish in them are like "ducks in a barrel" - I am not competing with the fish, but other anglers and their priorities.  I don't want to know that this one's called "Cedric" and came out last Tuesday at 19 lbs 7 oz! My journey has gone far beyond that; so now I seek those same situations as would have been typical to an angler in the "Dick Walker era". I seek isolation, the unknown and the adrenaline rush of the uncaught, wild, fish.

I have nothing more to say about this carp, which I haven't already said!
A magnificent fish from an East Kent drain - way beyond the realms of my dreams?
Brand labels, fashion statements, time bandits and tackle tarts - whatever? I find myself so far removed from this modern carp scene as to be an angling alien! My desire to rediscover the very essence of this pursuit is what drives me to get up at an un-Godly hour to bait up a remote drain. I have, from a very personal perspective, discovered a lost world - a place in which dreams have a chance at becoming reality, but only to those of us who are of a kindred spirit.
Seek and ye shall find - effort equals success! I concur with all that vibe. I will continue to journey back through time in order to relive that  perfect moment when a carp becomes, once again, a creature of mystery and cunning - not a statistic on an Excel Spreadsheet and a photo on a fishery promo ad!

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Not why? But; why not?

The opening slide from the last "show" I did - same old routine. A pissed up hippy with raucous stories and
great photos - I think it went OK? Don't remember!
My head is in the clouds, I've gotten into a campaign that has everything which I hold dear - I'm living in that dream of yesteryear, the secluded fisheries, wondrous wildlife and the chance of hooking a, previously un-caught, fish of unknown proportions. That I am able to back this up by using my ancient tackle just makes the situation more surreal - heaven on earth and all that stuff! I was chatting with one of my work colleagues, today, and he was in disbelief at my new plan of action. "Why are you changing this/that?" He's one of a number of the, very successful, carp anglers with whom I work. It would be pointless attempting to reply with anything which devalues these superb fish, I simply desire to seek new adventures - that "twenty-plus" wild common was so much more than I'd ever  hoped for - time to explore new avenues, my quest for knowledge/ new experiences paralleled by the desire to remain faithful to these intimate venues. (Sorry mate, it's why I haven't published your comment, no can tell - I'll explain why when we next bump in to each other but, a similar story to your owls - I would imagine?)
Without pushing myself, I'll learn very little more about these wild places, or the fish populations which reside in their crystal clear waters. My water craft will be tested, as will my techniques, but I wouldn't wish it any other way. I went to bed, last night, reading Len Head's "Tench" (ISBN 0-946284-72-5) there's stuff inside this, brilliant, 1986 monograph which still has relevance in 2015. Rod Hutchinson's chapter, alone, has enough information to keep me busy for a few more years yet. But, it is the possibilities of a large perch which are too good to ignore, all the ingredients are in place? So in answer to that original question "Why change?" - I'll offer this repost "Why not?" Here we are, back again, within my industrial comfort zone and the concept of "continual improvement" and "sacred" cows!" - I'm still not sure that, within this context, they are happy bed fellows?

Monday 27 July 2015

Chasing dreams

The only time I'm ever consistently close to achieving my dreams is when I'm asleep! The stark reality is that I set my sights very high and come up short at every twist  and turn. It's not a major issue - it's why I'm allowed to dream. The point at which dreams become reality are few and far between -  but on those rare occasions, when they are realised, should be savoured with every bit of pleasure that can be derived from the experience. My first twenty plus pike, since 16th January 1990, a few days after Mum died, is one such event, the Kilchurn Bay 24.10 another milestone moment. Emotional  - these rare occasions are very special, intense and personal - life is, for a very short while, almost perfect?

Pixies Mere, Herts, 16th January 1990 - 22lbs 3oz of pre-historic, looking, esox!

20lbs 9oz of perfection. A few days after my Mum died, fated? I have no such belief, but
it was an intensely emotional experience.
So how does anyone define perfection? - To me it's that gleaming red eye in the olive flanked masterpiece of a big tench, the sun rising over the mountains, of Kilchurn Bay, to illuminate the mist shrouded loch below, or the simple delight in an accurate, first time, cast of a baited hook into the path of a feeding carp, yet it could just as easily be the smile on my grand-children's faces when I appear - priceless and yet free! (I must add that I only get this reaction because I'm a bigger kid than they are and I'm usually bearing "chocky") Our perception of this concept is an incredibly individual thing - guys that I work with can see it in an old motor scoter or VW Camper - wasted on me, but that's of no importance.

I would like to hear the arguments against a Spitfire being close to perfection!
Yeah, perfect - when things can't get any better? If this were so, then my moment has been and gone, yet I remain confident that I can still improve my life, and enjoy more events/experiences which are but a, short-lived, glimpse into Utopian bliss.
For the past three weeks I seem to have got stuck in some kind of mental loop? I want to catch a tench, but caught carp instead, but I still want to catch a tench, yet caught even more carp - and so it goes on. The reality is that I'm now carp fishing, which I probably was from day one, hoping to pick up a tench! However, something else has happened, which might throw a whole new "spanner in the works", as I was pre-baiting a swim a couple (?) of days ago. The un-mistakable spiny dorsal, of a decent sized perch, came scything through a shoal of fry in the near margin - I hadn't even thought about this species until that moment. What if I adopt a different approach - fish two different methods; two different rigs and baits? What else is there to be caught out in these desolate venues? There is only one way to find out and that's by trying it! Eels will definitely be a problem because I'll be using worms as bait but, as I've already decided that I am going to have a crack at them anyway - maybe things will turn out OK?
Simon with the largest perch I've ever seen!

I'm going to revert to single sticks, buzz bars not being suited to the situation, the 10' Bruce & Walker Mk IV is back out, with a Mitchell 300 fitted, so let the fun commence! I should be able to get a session in before the weekend? I'm baiting three different drains, at the moment, surely one of them will deliver the goods?

Sunday 26 July 2015

Still beavering away

Another session out on the marsh was to prove to be one of very mixed fortunes. I was privileged to spend a prolonged period, in very dodgy light, watching a European Beaver going about its' business but, on the down side, lost what could have been a very good fish when a "Kwik-linq" let me down. Lesson immediately learnt and remedial actions put in place - it will never happen again as the remainder have been binned! I was only using them because of an idea, I gleaned, from a Korda video. I'm as much at fault, as the product, I was using it in a manner that it wasn't designed for.

Sorry about the picture quality, but it's the best I could manage under the
circumstances. I feel it does enough to convey the intimacy of the encounter
(somewhere) out there on the East Kent marshlands.
I will be back soon, to continue with my campaign, another piece of the jigsaw now in place. My munger and hook baits were freshly prepared, this morning, and I'm convinced that my particle approach will eventually deliver the result I'm hoping for? As it was getting dark, my first Green Sandpiper, of the autumn, was seen flying overhead, calling loudly - as they do.

A wonderful encounter and, rare, privilege to spend time in the company of such a creature.

Saturday 25 July 2015

No such thing as "A Sacred Cow"

My post title comes from within an industrial context, and is no way meant to be an insult to any religious group who hold these creatures in such high esteem! The phrase is used to encourage individuals to challenge established work practice and methods - only by doing so will things improve? Within my own experiences at Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems and Unilever, previously, the culture of "continuous improvement" is nurtured in order to assist the business to remain competitive in today's marketplace.
Standing still isn't an option - Kodak did that and are now consigned to the scrap heap as a result! I've always been a firm believer in the "do nothing - nothing changes! Do something, and things will change but, not always as you had foreseen?"
It becomes complicated when I use this industrial thinking in my approach to my outdoor activities - if I'm not catching fish, doing nothing won't improve the situation. So I find myself constantly thinking about silly little tweaks, or even more dramatically, new venues or species, in order to put a bend in the rod. It doesn't always work, but I feel I am doing something proactive which will aid my cause. My recent run of success with carp being a great illustration of what I mean - I'd gone tench fishing, but things didn't work out quite as I had planned, but in a very positive way (on this occasion!).
I suppose it is my own acceptance of the concept of continuous improvement that keeps me asking questions of myself and my beliefs. My opinions are not set in stone but, instead, are easily adapted to incorporate new experiences or information that I encounter. Out in "blogland", well the bit with which I am familiar, there are many contributors whose ideas and experiences have caused me to question what I had previously never considered. My questions, I imagine, are sometimes seen as criticism, by those on the receiving end, and I have gotten into plenty of grief because of the manner in which my questions are posed. I'm still here - no-one's died because of anything I've asked and, in reality, it's of no great consequence quite what I think or say!
My open dislike for entomological requirements which entail the killing of specimens is simply my opinion, nothing more. To my way of thinking (the only one that matters to me - I have to live with it!) there has to be a better way. In 2015 bird identification and our willing use of available technology has transformed the understanding of, and the way we go about, a hugely complex subject and revealed massive new areas of discovery. Sonograms, DNA analysis, moult patterns, feather tracts - it goes on and on and with this comes learning. The camera technology has assisted this advancement hugely, we no longer require museum specimens to be taken. So why are the guys, who are so obviously committed to the study of our insect communities still stuck in some form of Victorian time capsule? Their study techniques entrenched in an era which didn't have access to electron microscopes, DNA data banks and digital imagery. Wake up guys - it's the 21st Century - there's an awful lot of technology out there to help you - so bloody embrace it and stop clinging to the same methodology that was practiced when Britannia ruled the waves and Neanderthal game-keepers, employed and instructed by powerful landowners, were persecuting our native raptors in order to provide sport for well-shod punters, who flaunted their wealth and status with complete disregard for the wishes of the masses. What date is it ? Is it destined that some things will never change?

Thursday 23 July 2015

Hypocrisy abounds

UKIP's Nigel Farage lost the South Thanet, 2015, General Election to Craig Mackinlay (Conservative) by a very narrow margin. I fully understand that it's our democratic process but, also realise that the voice of the populous is not represented by this, first past the post, system. Less than half of those of us, who took the trouble to vote, selected Mr Mackinlay - so he's not representative of the majority of the South Thanet electorate but, instead, the largest chunk in this pie chart democrasy. Electoral reform is not my purpose - although I wouldn't argue against it!
Fox hunting has once again entered the political spotlight - our elected MP is supporting the cause, quoting, if you please, the plight of highland sheep farmers! You what? He was elected to fight the cause for reinstating Manston Airport and promote Thanet throughout the UK - highland farmers and hunting with dogs didn't enter into it when those shiny, pre-election, leaflets were regularly thrust into my letterbox! I shouldn't be in the least bit surprised, after all he's a politician and lying/cheating/mis-leading is what they do as a profession! Farage would have been no different? Fox hunting is not about vermin control, let's get this very clear! It is about an elitist bunch of horsey people (Conservative voters at a guess?) who like blood sports - chasing around the countryside in their hunting pink, shouting "view halloo", whilst aboard some very highly strung equine transport. Strangely, I haven't got a problem with this if the politicians came straight out with their stance on such subjects. Country (Field) sports are always going to be a very emotive subject, which will divide opinions, however they are presented.
If a guy is hungry, I have no objection to him shooting a bird/animal or taking a fish, if the purpose is to feed himself and/or his family. It's called the food chain - not Tesco's sanitized version of pre-packaged wholesale slaughter. My issue is, and always has been, with industrial scale massacre, conducted under the banner of "country pursuits" and the multi national businesses that purport to support tradition, whilst deliberately flaunting their power, by the complete disregard of UK and EU statutes! Hen Harrier persecution is totally unacceptable in 2015, yet it is more prevalent today than ever? Why? Because our political system is rotten to the core - fuelled by greed and self aggrandisement. The multi - million pound industry, that is Grouse shooting, seems to be bomb proof, having surrounded itself with such corrupt and self-serving political allies (Very much like Mr Blatter within a totally screwed up FIFA?)
What the fuck has highland fox control got to do with Craig Mackinlay's election to the position of MP for South Thanet?  Correct - absolutely nothing! But before we all get too animated let's think about our own opinions and how we have adapted them to suit our own interests? As far as I can gather, the whole of the UK is unanimous in its' opposition to the hunting of whales, pretty similar to the reaction against the Canadian fishermen clubbing seal pups, out on the Arctic ice flows. I'm no different - it is abhorrent to my way of thinking. But let's take this a stage further.
How do we feel about the use of "Larson Traps" to remove troublesome corvids from game shooting estates - we don't like it because we're anti-shooting! So what is your stance when the RSPB use the same methods to protect ground nesting waders in some of their reserves - well that's OK?
The debate surrounding Hare coursing is, to say the least, heated - I don't support the practice but, having witnessed the spectacle (Jan 2013 - so it was definitely illegal) on an RSPB controlled area, think that interaction between dog (single) and hare is fantastic to behold - no less wondrous than a Peregrine stooping on Wood Pigeons or Lapwings. The wholesale slaughter of Badgers, by DEFRA supported science, is ludicrous - it's the bloody cows infecting the Badgers, that's why it's called "Bovine TB" I would like to think that, so far, the majority of visitors to this blog are still on-board. Nothing I have written is too contentious?
We've already established that re-instating Fox hunting is a no no! We simply don't like it. I don't personally think that there is an issue with farmers protecting their livestock, but hunting with dogs isn't acceptable in 2015. If the Fox is a problem - shoot it; very much in line with my approach to a Brown Rat in my aviary! Red Squirrels are cute, Grey ones ain't, but the removal of squirrels from any situation will arouse protest. What about pigeons? I don't mean Wood Pigeons and Stock Doves, I'm thinking about those feral street urchins which shit on our buildings and are seen as a general nuisance in the majority of our urban habitats. On Thanet, Herring Gulls would also fit a very similar profile, despite the fact that we live on "The Isle" - the clue should be in the title, one would have thought?
Now we are, as individuals, starting to play God - we like whales (we've never seen one!), but we don't like messy street pigeons (we've seen loads of those). What makes one creature more worthy than another? I'll continue my thoughts with these observations (purely from a personal perspective) It is Hen Harrier Day (9th August 2015) when a great many folk, fully committed to the cause will make their thoughts known to the politicians, and businesses involved, that Hen Harrier persecution is unacceptable in this day and age. It will make the news headlines, fill a few column inches in the National Dailies, no doubt? But will it change anything?
My own thoughts are directed towards that group of protesters who claim to be "naturalists", appalled by this slaughter, this abuse of power, utter contempt for laws and statutes, yet within their own little worlds happily continue to take token samples of insects because, if they don't get genitalia details, they won't be able to add another sad number to their list?
We don't like killing whales, dolphins, foxes, badgers, hen harriers and squirrels - but, I'm OK it's only a moth, fly, bee, wasp and I'm adding valuable (?) data to our records! Bollocks - what makes one creature more important than another and who do you think you are to make that call?  Before you dive for the comment facility - I'm as guilty as charged! I stick hooks in live fish, and call it sport, as I said at the very start - "Hypocrisy abounds"

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Making hay

I managed to grab another session, on Sunday evening, as Bev was busy sorting out her crafting stuff - so it seemed foolish not to seize the opportunity. I had bait and munger already waiting, all my gear was as it had been left from Saturday night; so just stuck it back in the car and off I went. I know that in the back of my mind was a hope to get a photo of a beaver! However, I also knew that I'd put a lot of bait in this particular swim and, if I've got my thinking correct, the fish will be drawn into the area purely due to my regular bait introductions. The fact that I am also introducing bait, even when I can't actually fish, should encourage confident feeding amongst the wily denizens of this watery domain. The weather was fair and conditions, on my arrival, looked spot on!

I had the camera poised, ready focused, just in case I got another sighting of that beaver.
I went through the ritual of laying down two beds of particles, before scattering a couple of handfuls of loose offerings, of my hook baits, over the top. Almost immediately there were signs of fish activity in my chosen spots; patches of fizzing bubbles and, twice, carp rolled on the surface - it was looking good. Within an hour my left hand rod was away and I found myself attached to a rather angry Common of 12/14 lbs - I'll never know the exact weight as the hook pulled after a couple of minutes while I was struggling to keep it moving amidst a rather dense lily-pad. There was a time when such an occurrence would have ruined my day - not anymore. Shit happens; move on! I'm not the only angler to have ever lost a fish, it's not the end of the world.
I checked the hook, everything seemed OK - it stuck in my finger nail as I dragged it across - the hook-link wasn't tangled, nor anything else untoward - so, just one of those things, I guess? My confidence remained high, despite of this set back, and little more than an hour later, my right hand alarm signalled a bite and over went the rod. Quite an interesting scrap, considering the carp was less than 8lbs, enjoyable none the less. I carried on for another 90 minutes, or so, without further action (and no beaver sighting!)

This little chap is a bit of a puzzle! Certainly not of the same strain as my earlier carp, it's almost bream-like.
 Fin and scale perfect - where has it come from?
I'm now on a week of late-shifts, so my angling time will be very restricted, but I feel that there is still plenty of scope to refine my approach to these intimate venues. There is something very satisfying when a fish is taken on bait that you have prepared yourself, particle fishing is, to me, the very essence of my methodology. It suits my tackle choice and these un-complicated fish populations in such a way that I'm back at the beginning; embarked on a journey of discovery and thrills as each individual fish is encountered. Even if I do say it myself, I'm fishing rather well at present - the whole confidence thing is building as I make ideas become reality and regularly put fish on the bank. It is very true that my tench ambitions have yet to be realised but only a fool would be unhappy, with my results, of late?
In Rod Hutchinson's 1983 book "The Carp Strikes Back" (ISBN 0-9508865-2-1) he invited Dick Caldwell to write a piece on his approach to particle fishing - called "The Kent Angle" It remains a great source of advice and inspiration, despite being written over thirty years ago. Rod was no slouch with his own use of particle baits - he gave the Redmire carp some hammer during his time in that elite syndicate; hemp and tares being highly effective, as I recall. Thankfully the boillie revolution took place and today's carp anglers are so convinced by the slick marketing as to be unable/un-willing to deviate from this angling template. My slant on this situation is that the anglers, and not the fish, are the ones being caught? There can be absolutely no room for compromise with bait presentation and terminal tackle, you have to present the most effective that you are able? Rods, reels, bivvies, rod-pods, and myriad other sundry items are all gimmick driven in these modern times and it would seem to me that the carp angling crowd have an insatiable appetite for this hype.
It's very easy for me to sit here, smug in the knowledge that only experience brings. It might even be directly proportionate to age, there are a number of other bloggers, of similar vintage, who hold these same opinions about other aspects of outdoor hobbies - birding, dare I say "twitching", and camera wielding newbies being a particularly sore point.
Was it really that much better in "our day"? Or will this current crop also be able to look back with fondness on their own formative period and frown upon the antics of the next generation - I'm guessing that the answer to this will be yes, as John Hollyer once said to me, "Every generation feels the need to reinvent the wheel!" - with the speed at which technology is advancing someone probably will! In the mean time, I will continue to go it my way - a bucket of black-eyed suzies, a bent rod, spinning centre-pin and a wet landing net - angling paradise for this grumpy old git.

Monday 20 July 2015

Still haven't found what I'm looking for!

It seems to me that my, decidedly limited, ability, to see the obvious, is getting worse with the aging process? My efforts to identify some of the "micro-moths" that have been discovered, within the confines of my MV, are proving more than a little testing! I'll be the first to admit that I'm not fully committed to the venture - at the moment - there are so many other thing going on in my little world.
I can't be doing with the scientific nomenclature - get an English name and I'm far more likely to connect two and two?

Emily chose this Dot Moth, over a Privet Hawk!
I cannot deny the fascination that this group are providing - diversity beyond anything I've previously bothered to explore. Fascinating, frustrating and totally enjoyable - just how all natural history encounters should be and that's the key for me! A journey of discovery, pushing myself beyond my current limitations, but not to the extent that I loose track of why I'm looking in the first place. The purchase of Micro Moths of Great Britain and Ireland has created more questions than answers - bloody brilliant!

I have the option to acquire a set of four volumes of Moths of Britain & Western Europe - good old Dad! I'll have trouble finding space on the shelves of my over-stocked library - hey-ho! There are far bigger problems in the world? Will they make moth id any easier? I have no idea, but everything that might assist my efforts is more than welcomed. Franny dropped off a bunch of egg boxes this morning - he didn't knock the door (why?) cheers mate, many thanks, just what the doctor ordered!

Paraswammerdamia nebulella - common
Argyresthia retinella - a common species apparently?
I bet there aren't too many Thanet residents that have ever seen one!

Sunday 19 July 2015

Lead-core leaders & a live beaver!

I don't do chemistry - couldn't give a monkey's about the metals involved in the sinking core of any of the commercially available leader materials. I've been using the Taska 800 mm  lead-core leader, because, at the time, that is what I could readily purchase. Absolutely no doubts as to the effectiveness of the product, in conjunction with my terminal rig. After all it is the presentation of my hook bait that is of paramount concern, and this material does nothing but assist my efforts.
I know that Simon stongly disagrees with my methods, but I have to go with my heart and will continue to pursue my dreams, using methods in which I have 100% confidence. I have absolutely no problems with the lead-core concept, although fully understand that in some circumstances it can potentially become a "death rig". This, however, is not the fault of the material but, as is usual, individual anglers using it incorrectly.

I should get commission for these product endorsements?
For the money, I couldn't fault it and it does everything I require
I called into Ramsgate Dragon Carp, during the week, and came out £9.99 lighter but with a 25m spool of lead-free sinking core leader material. It came with a "free" splicing tool, but this gift is next to bloody useless, so don't expect miracles! Pay proper money for a decent splicing needle and away you go! With so many fisheries now banning the use of lead-core, Dragon Carp are to be commended in their marketing/development of a "lead free" alternative.  All very well until you realise that it is not the lead, in the lead-core, that is the issue here. It is the incorrect use/application of this sinking leader technology and the banning of lead-core is extended to encompass any other form, or derivative, of this material. But that's another issue; this leader material is pretty good and I'm now using it in preference to the Taska leaders. The fact that I'm able to custom produce a leader, in excess of 1m is why I'm so complimentary - I'd have been just the same if I'd encountered a similar product, with a different brand label, elsewhere. This has now given me the ability to create leaders that are specific to my angling situation, providing me with the option to cease with back-leading; at these short ranges I am currently exploring; especially if I can also incorporate the additional benefits of a sinking Flouro-carbon/ Korda Sub-line on my spools.

An eccentric tackle tart's definition of "cool"? There isn't a bait-runner system that
offers less resistance than a centre-pin. When viewed by the carp angling ultra-cult? -
everything points towards "Noddy" - result!
My deliberate flaunting of "Dragon Carp" products has the desired effect - the "fashionistas" give me a wide berth and everything, in my world, is good. Apart from the rods, swing-arm indicators (home made) and the Spider Wire braid - everything you can see has been purchased from the carp angler version of "Hell" Stainless steel rod rests (£1.49 each), buzzer bars, by Diem, £29.98/pair, Redmire bite alarms 3/£5 - so unbelievably good that I've got four!, Taska "snag ears" and the two, of my three, Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" centre-pins  (three cost me £165!) It is not my mission to expose the crazy deceit that exists within the angling market place, just to make other, working guys, aware of the alternatives. Dragon Carp is way off the perfect antidote, some of their products are absolutely useless - but it does offer a very realistic alternative to ordinary anglers, those of us to whom brand labels are simply that and not a badge of honour, a statement of angling ability or spending power.
My terminal tackle is as good as I know how to make it, some of the components unavailable in Dragon Carp (especially hooks!) - the two Duncan Kay's would cost somewhere in the region of £500/700 in todays market - if there is anyone out there to build them? Based on a Bruce & Walker "high modular carbon" blank with twin-legged Seymo rings and a Fuji reel fitting - they remain an enduring link back to my crazy past. Benno constantly takes the piss, even Bev pours scorn on these angling relics -  but they keep bending and I enjoy myself whenever I use them.

Look how far I've come in a very short while.
Mis-matched centre-pins and "hangers" and decidedly shabby Gardner buzzer bars.
I've smartened myself up and now present a far more professional approach to my angling!
Funny thing is that the terminal tackle hasn't changed - it has to be, and always will, the best I can acquire.
I had a four hour, evening, session during the week and I got "done over" twice. I can't be sure as to the species involved, but I did get indication of aborted takes! I obviously need to look at the rig effectiveness but I am also thinking that the particle mix might have some part to play? Both my munger and my hook baits had been thawed and refrozen, three times. I am in no doubt that it was still capable of attracting feeding fish, but think it might have been too soft, thus unable to withstand the attentions of the smaller species? I'm getting some more prepared, in readiness for another session, tonight. I really don't know what I'm fishing for - these East Kent drains are a wonderful conundrum. What I am fairly sure of is the fact that I haven't had the best of it yet - there is a whacker, somewhere out there, awaiting my acquaintance! My diary is a great source of information - I will write something down as an idea, or situation, arises and only remember my thinking when looking back at a later date. This particular project is a fantastic experience and, I'm sure, will be up there with my 2011/12 pike fishing exploits when I look back on it at the end of the season.
I'm due a date with a barbel, very shortly, so my efforts tonight might be the last, for while, out there in the wilderness. The Stour barbel remain as enigmatic as ever - it will, however, only take one bite to see me back out on the drains, mission accomplished - a barbel photo in 2015; my main objective remains the capture a tench from these waters.

Back again for another try - matching hangers, instead of swingers, for visual bite indication
I'm just back home after another session, I did manage to winkle out a small common, around 8lbs, but this trip will remain forever in my mind for the crazy encounter with a European Beaver. It swam straight through my swim, I had to do a double take in the half light of dusk. I was thinking Coypu, but knew something was amiss! Only when I stood up did the creature dive and, in the process, smash the surface with that wonderful flattened tail. I know that there are/were captive European Beavers at Ham Fen KWT Reserve and that Mark Chidwick had photographed one on the River Stour at Westbere a couple of years ago - so they are not quite as securely enclosed as the Kent Wildlife Trust would have us believe. I don't care as to where this animal originates; it was a "lifer" for me and I enjoyed every second of the experience.

A rather strange looking little Common that fell to the, old faithful, chick peas.

Monday 13 July 2015

Carp and Eels

I feel that there are very few anglers who can connect carp and eels with the common denominator of nuisance fish! My latest project has been shaped, and dominated, by the capture of both these species. Tench fishing out on the East Kent marshes is a situation where both species are "nuisance fish". Strangely, however, I am perfectly happy to accept the interference from carp, yet not eels?
So here's the plan - I'm going to go eel fishing! I'm deliberately going out to catch a decent specimen. I'm not going to start until October, but it might provide a focus between the end of my barbel/carp/tench challenges and the start of another pike campaign.
I am incredibly privileged to have spent some, a very little, time in the company of, the late, John Sidley. He was the most obsessive eel angler of his generation, his enthusiasm infectious, a heart attack taking him from us prematurely  - we'd meet, occasionally, at various conferences and tackle shows - he was a 100% great character and a true angling legend. The strange thing that connected us was the fact that we both shared an eel PB of 7lbs 1oz! John's caught by design, after many years of hard work, mine by pure fluke, and I still take no credit for it to this day.

My current PB carp - taken in February 1984, thus before Benno was born!
If a nuisance fish, of these dimensions, turns up - I'll find it in my soul
to cope with the situation.
Darren Roberts' comment about my recent 3 lbs 6 oz eel, was catalyst to this decision making process, further assisted by the Youtube "My Life in Angling" contribution of Martyn Bowler. If eels really are this numerous, within The Stour catchment, then it should be "fill your boots time"?  So I now have a project "D", to pursue, before the pike fishing, once again, takes centre stage. I think it will be a journey of exploration, rather than a target driven challenge. I have a number of ideas, stemming back to my lunatic past, John Sidley and Micky Bowles (a Gillingham lad and one of the funniest speakers I've ever seen at an angling conference!) providing much thought provoking advice, at that time, which I feel might still be relevant in 2015?
Benno's up for it, after first enquiring if I'd been taking drugs? I've already got an idea of the starting venue, we should have a crack at, and I'm sure that we'll come up with a few others before the end of September? Catching an eel by design, rather than accident, will be a novelty and just might provide an alternative to pike angling until after the first frosts of the late-autumn. Watch this space! However, between now and then, eels remain as slimy, nuisance, scum-bags; very unfairly judged against the carp that have, and will continue to be, encountered during my quest for a specimen tench (or barbel?) - such is life!
Other recent news revolves around the birdlife that I've encountered on my travels. A female-type (it could have been an eclipse male or a juvvy, I didn't have my bins to hand) Red-crested Pochard was seen, in the company of Tufted Ducks on a drain within the SBBOT recording area, and I've also, recently, seen an imm Red Kite in the same vicinity! On Sunday afternoon, Emily, Harry and myself were at the playground, in Staple, when another, this time adult, Red Kite flew over, giving magnificent views. Today, my early morning walk, to work, was enlivened by the fly over of a flock of nine adult Mediterranean Gulls - pure patch-watching gold. Garden mothing is mundane, if not boring? It would seem that, for the time being, my tench quest dominates the useable brain cells between my ears? I would also like to point out that anyone, considering an eel quest, won't have too many of these left functioning!

Sunday 12 July 2015

All in the detail

I must first acknowledge the role that Benno and Luke have played in my recent successes. If it wasn't for the conversation with Benno, last Sunday, and the news of upstream weed cutting, I wouldn't have gone off "tench fishing" in the first place! My new "anti-eel" munger is based upon an idea, that Luke came up with; a, previously untried, cereal mix which was central to him capturing his "thirty" in early June. As I've stated, many times previously, we don't have secrets, nor is there any jealousy, between us. If one of us is successful, we all know why, how and where - there is a shared pleasure from the landing of any decent fish; no matter by whom. Sadly this is a situation, which is, not replicated by the majority of others and why I am always rather vague about the location of the venues I fish, away from the commercials; obviously!

How close to disaster? The lower rig is the one on which I landed the twenty!
The hook has opened out, slightly, under the pressure of the extended battle. The experiment ends
there - no more Barbel Maxx for me, I'm afraid. It's back to Korda Wide Gapes
My little flirtation with Kamasan Barbel Maxx hooks has come to an abrupt end. As you can see from the photo, above, the hook had started to open out, although not causing me to lose the fish on this occasion. There is no way that I could remain confident that my tackle wouldn't let me down at some point in the future if I stubbornly persisted with these hooks.
Benno, Chris ( a newbie to the gang ) and myself were out yesterday evening. A quick word in the ear of the local landowner allowed us to drive an isolated farm track and park within a reasonable distance, a few hundred yards, of our chosen venue, one that I'd baited on Friday morning. Benno and Chris went fishless, my run of luck continues as, just as we were counting down to our leaving time, my right hand rod rattled away and I found myself playing a feisty 16 lbs 12 oz Common Carp, on the centre-pin - absolute joy! Benno doing the gillie work and subsequent photos. This might have been the only fish on the bank but, Chris and I saw a large tench in the water, so my quest will continue along this new drain.

Another lovely dark carp - the reddening on the lower belly and vent almost certainly due to recent spawning activity.
I'm having fun with my bait preparation, maples and black-eyed suzies have been added to the equation and I've been introducing them in my munger. They take the same sort of preparation as chick peas, but I'm using another flavour and adding colour for this part of my experiment. I'm on earlies next week, so should get a chance to get out to bait up a couple of times before actually casting a line? These really are exciting times and I'm loving it!

Friday 10 July 2015

Getting it right

The first part of this is a post that I'd kept in my draft folder, because it got superseded by the arrival of my Micro Moths book. It was written as a follow up to my previous effort - "Doing it right"
PART I (Wednesday 8th July 2015)

Time has come to focus my thoughts - if I am really serious about this tench challenge? I've spent quite a lot of time speaking with Benno and Simon about my ideas, they've offered a few suggestions but, if I'm honest, they're not what I'm comfortable with. Method feeders/rigs are undeniably effective, but way outside my scope and as for using plastic sweetcorn, never in my thinking . If this project is to work, then the tactics I use must be those with which I am familiar. It is very true that I've adapted my angling, since my return, to embrace much of the terminal tackle advancements that are now available. However, since I seek fulfilment before any other consideration, I will continue to pursue my targets in a manner which will deliver maximum enjoyment. Not, for me, the ruthless efficiency of a "Maddock-esque" technician, but instead, a Fred J. Taylor/Dick Walker countryman's appreciation of the finer aspects of the gentle art.
Am I kidding myself, harking back to a romantic idyll that is now long past? No, I don't think so; right from the very off, there is absolutely no way that I'm spending time (I never have) watching a red-tipped, porcupine quill dithering about above patches of frothy bubbles before it sails off beneath the oily surface of some tranquil backwater. My tench fishing background, was fired by such tales but, is based around my experiences just before and beyond the first double figure fish from Wilstone Res. Float fishing is for purists, not romantics, I will happily await the call an electronic alarm to indicate a bite - just as I did all those years ago!

These memories are the driving force for my tench quest - is it possible for me to recreate this image?
 Granted; the background will be totally different - but the species remain as impressive as ever.
 As a kid, I remember my envy when I discovered that a guy had caught an eel (a couple of pounds at best!) from the Grand Union Canal, just opposite "Rose's Lime Juice" - there won't be many reading this stuff who'll have any idea where this was? It was in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, the Watford side of Two Waters  - eels were scarce, if not incredibly rare, in the waters of that county - this was back in 1970. I have never heard of a single specimen being taken from the Tring complex? In East Kent 2015, eels play a central role in all my angling, I detest the bloody things - but they are an indication of the superb water treatment standards that Southern Water PLC are delivering to the region. It doesn't matter if I'm barbel fishing the Stour or piking on the RMC - all year round, eels are a bloody pain! In order to combat these slimy pests, I've had to completely rethink my strategies. Bread/maggot cocktails or lobworms are completely out of the equation, along with halibut pellets, shredded tuna and luncheon meat. These, good for nothing, bait munching, pests have dictated my approach, yet again. It's vegetables or nothing, if I'm not to be continually bothered by slimy interlopers. Fortunately, I do have a plan - the basis for which is due to my library containing so many old books. Fred J. Taylor (Fishing for Tench - ISBN 0-09-138691-8) has steered my thought process and I might just have a key to unlock this angling puzzle? Benno is also enthused by this project and we should get out, over the weekend, for another session. I have a couple of venues that I'd like to try, out on The Ash Levels - let's wait and see how this develops.
I've already decided that centre-pins will replace the Mitchells and have made some very major changes to my "munger" which, hopefully, will further improve my chances. Our kitchen is full of the aroma of curried chick peas, and the hemp awaits similar treatment. With a little luck, I should be able to get out and bait up a couple of drains, on Friday morning? Terminal rigs, bait and hook sizes are, very much, an integral, evolutionary, process within the project. I'll happily refine each and every aspect as the learning process unfolds. My landing net choice is now my 42 inch carp net and Alan Brown handle, complete with float, not that silly 24 inch oval barbel lark and 10 ft Boss "Weight Lifter". The enjoyment is driven by the fact that I've absolutely no idea what I'm fishing for? When allied with the barbel and carp challenges, in The Stour, I am hopeful that 2015/16 season will prove to be a memorable one?

PART II (Friday 10th July 2015)
It was around 02.00 hrs that I left the bungalow and made my way into the darkness, headed for a baiting up session at a couple of venues. I got two, likely looking, spots sorted before moving on to another drain. The light was beginning to show, in the eastern sky, and there was quite a lot of fish activity in my selected swim, so I decided to have a couple of hours "dangling", as there was no point going back home - Bev wouldn't thank me for causing further interruption to her beauty sleep!
What a great decision? At 04.40 hrs I had a screaming take on my left hand rod (chick peas) and, after an epic scrap, slid my 42" net under a magnificent old warrior, of a Common Carp, which span the needle, of the Avon dial, around to 20 lbs 10 oz. The first twenty to grace my landing net since Feb 1984 - was I happy? Delirious might be a better summary of my emotional state.

Quite simply the most beautiful carp I've ever caught - truly magnificent!
I thought about ringing Benno, but knew he had a heavy work schedule and wouldn't be able to get across to witness the fish. So I basked in the early morning sunshine - reliving every nerve tingling "twang" as the line pinged off of the numerous lily-pads that the carp visited. I scribbled copious notes in my diary and kept a regular trickle of bait going into the swim. I had already decided that 06.15 hrs was when I would pack up and attempt to get some selfie's, with the carp, when the other rod was away (06.05 hrs) This time it was a far more routine affair, as I battled with another carp which lacked the brute power of my previous capture. At 12 lbs 6 oz, it was a beautiful "fully scaled" mirror - although I initially thought it might be a tench, such was the difference in the bite and the fight!
What a stunning looking fish. It might only be small, but who cares?
I wouldn't mind betting that it had never seen a camera before then!
These drains are completely un-tapped, quite what else awaits my discovery is unknown - just how I like it. Still no sign of a tench, but there wasn't really any sign of a carp - just fishy activity in the swim. It can't be too long before it all comes together.

Thursday 9 July 2015

I'm going to have some fun with this?

Just as I was leaving for work, yesterday afternoon, the postman knocked on the door and handed me my, much awaited, package. Within the cardboard carton was my copy of Micro moths of Great Britain & Ireland - whoopee!

I'm getting quite a collection of images of the smaller visitors to the MV trap, so with a little bit of luck, and much required assistance, I may just start to unravel some of the mysteries posed by this highly varied bunch of insects? The accompanying photos are of moths which turned up last night.

Coleophora sp. (trifolii ?)
I'm not too sure that my quest for knowledge will get me far; already I'm discovering that the requirement for gen. det. data in order to clinch the id remains the preferred option to this group.
What century are we living in? I still have the opportunity to push myself into new areas of discovery, even though I'm unwilling to use this id methodology. A greater understanding of the family group characteristics will be a good first step!

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Doing it right

I'm still "buzzing" after the capture of that magnificent carp on Sunday evening. So, OK, it's not the biggest carp I've ever caught, or even the biggest carp I've landed in 2015 - but it means so much more than that. To have captured such a beautiful wild carp, in the circumstances I did, is why I go fishing. The only thing that would have put the cherry on the cake is if I'd have done it using a centre-pin!
Oh! Go on then, just one more. As if I need to apologise for using another image?
But I do have one observation which I missed when making my post, yesterday morning. I had stated that I'd gone tench fishing. Reading back through my post and looking at my bait choices it is obvious that it was carp which were my target, yet knowing that tench will respond to these methods and tactics. I have become, without realising it, a carp angler - my mentality fully geared up to the demands of these fantastic fish. Darren Roberts posted a very nice comment, to which I have responded, basically stating that the eel I landed would make his season. Bizarre, they just ruin mine; whatever the size (just kidding!). I spent yesterday afternoon/evening on a manual packing bay, filling 1 ltr bottles with flushing solvent (printers stuff?) - therefore I had plenty of time to think about what I'd written and what I need to change to get back to the purpose of my project; to catch a tench from the drains of the East Kent Marshes. I am in a very fortunate position in having contact with many of the land owners around the area and, as such, permission to go birding/fishing along many miles of these untapped venues. True Marco Polo stuff, which brings its' own reward. Yes, I am fishing blind for the most part, but I have freedom of choice with my swim selection and every fish that graces my net will be unknown to me, it's photo isn't adorning the wall in Dragon Carp - well not until after I've landed it?

Yet another seven from tench angling "Mecca"
There is absolutely no way that I'm able to turn back time and relive the Wilstone years. True, I can continue to seek enjoyment by using the rods and reels of that era, but it will never be the same for umpteen reasons. The role that modern terminal tackle plays in todays angling is monumental, the quality and reliability of the latest manufacturing processes ensuring quality that was unachievable in the 1980/90's. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and have come to the conclusion that if tench really are my target, then I will need to refine my approach? Under no circumstances can I use the Wilstone tactics - eels would think I'd opened a McDonald's swim-through. Worms and maggots would be a recipe for disaster in these venues, so particles it will be - get rid of the pellets also, Tuna flakes are completely out of the equation, although I might just be able to get away with casters? Something for me to experiment with over the next few weeks.

There are mile upon mile of these drains out on the marshes - none of them see an angler from one year to the next!
The carp will never make 30 lbs, the tench will probably be small and they don't contain any barbel - so they're
not worth the attention of the vast majority of angling clones?  Long may it continue!
I've been reading up about our old particle choices and think that there could be some mileage in these long forgotten baits? Black-eyed peas, maples and haricot beans would all be suited to the challenge ahead, modern flavour/colour enhancement providing limitless combinations - and they're cheap! I've got several drains within 15 minutes drive, which I can pre-bait on a regular basis - who knows what might happen?

Monday 6 July 2015

A wet net

I'd every intention to get back to the river, this evening, but a call from Benno, who was lure fishing with Luke and Chris, in Canterbury, warned me of some up-stream weed cutting and the resultant debris that was flowing downstream. A good enough excuse, if one were needed, to resort to my plan C - tench fishing on the East Kent Marshes.

My bait was already prepared and stored in the garden (my) freezer; left over from my recent trip down to the river. All it required was to remove it and allow to defrost - not a problem in the current conditions! I left home around 17.30 hrs but, due to access restrictions, did not arrive at my chosen swim much before 19.00 hrs - that's some walk. The drain hasn't seen any angling activity, which was obvious by the luxuriant bankside vegetation. Lily pads and extensive aquatic weed beds, in crystal clear water, made it a very picturesque scene, although finding and preparing a swim was a little problematic.

I eventually settled on a swim, casting a small lead around to establish the condition of the bottom and the extent of the weed growth. Once done, I proceeded to go through the routine of introducing my "munger" which consisted of nothing more than hemp and sweetcorn! Two Duncan Kay's, fitted out with Mitchell 300's were assembled and baits cast out onto my spots. Curried chick peas on the left hand rod, a neutral buoyancy 14 mm halibut pellet/flouro pop-up combi on the right. I've purchased some new buzzer bars, my aging Gardner ones being well past their sell-by date. I set about getting a few shots of my gear, but got distracted by several small patches of bubbles appearing over my baited areas. Some time after 20.00 hrs I was on the phone to Benno, talking about this and that when the left hand alarm screamed into action as the indicator smashed up to the rod. "I'm in - ring you back in a minute!" as I threw my phone down and grabbed the rod. The fish went nuts, careering through lily-pads, the line cutting through the stems of these wild plants, like cheese wire. It took three attempts to get the fish into my waiting net - wrong choice? A stunning Common Carp which tipped the scales at 18 lbs 2 oz! It had probably never seen a hook, it was absolutely pristine, beautifully dark, almost like it had been carved out of wood - a sensational creature. I did my best to get a record shot, but failed to do the fish true justice, my auto focus isn't much cop on timer delay.

A stunning fish which has probably never seen a hook before?
Just a little disappointed that my photos don't do the carp full justice - it was immaculate.
I continued to fish through to 23.30 hrs with just one more bite, this time on the pellet. A nice slow lift on the indicator, my strike being met by firm resistance - a sodding eel of 3 lbs 6 oz being my reward. I have to admit that it was quite an impressive creature and I did get a quick shot as it lay on my weigh sling. Still don't like the bloody things!

Well that was it; a superb first session after tench! I still haven't seen one, but I went through the ritual of depositing the remainder of my bait into my swim before I departed. I will be back there very shortly, for another bash, that's for sure.