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!


Monday 30 November 2015

Keep pushing the limits - continuous improvement in another arena

Lee Finney was Production Manager at Batchelors (then still part of Unilever), Ashford, when I first became involved with statistical process control and the exciting discoveries (from a personal level) about the ability that mathematics has to interpret sense from nonsense. "Cusum" analysis of data plus X-bar and range mapping - all in a day's work for this long-haired factory floor operative! Things have moved a long way since those times, yet I remain fascinated by the power of data interpretation and where it can be usefully applied (almost everywhere being the answer in my case)
Lee once said to me "You'll only discover your limitations when you're finally out of your depth!" It was lost on me, at the time, but I now know exactly to what he was inferring. Modern businesses rely on these techniques to remain relevant; read profitable? I was extremely fortunate to have had some inspirational guides, during this period. Professor Yamashina (The Japanese Institute) and Sam Turner (Statistics4industry) being key players (Sam also knew, had worked with, Tony Chester - the one time Tench record holder and fellow Tring Syndicate member, so we had so much more than numbers to talk about)
Now, whilst it would seem that FSIS don't require to utilise my previous experiences with their own onward journey, whatever happened to TIM WOODS? I am still able to use these mathematical tools to aid my own development as I seek to glean the best from my outdoor experiences. My anal desire to record the most insignificant detail of my angling has allowed me to identify trends, notice patterns that could, otherwise, easily be overlooked? It is a very sad reflection on the times in which we live - allowing number crunchers to take the upper hand? Yet I remain a great fan of the use of maths/statistics to show the way forward? It might, now, manifest itself in hook size, bait choice or peak period for success - maths can provide an answer for all these questions, provided adequate data has been analysed? I have used this methodology for our approach to pike fishing at Loch Awe, with great effect - identifying the key factors of our presentation and bait choices under a number of varying weather scenarios.
So here we are, fast approaching December 2015, and I'm on a mission. Before my 60th birthday (04.12.2015) can I capture my December eel? I've studied the water temperatures, looked at previous captures and the various locations where these slimy pests have been active during the winter months.
Not why Lee had introduced me to the concept - but a great way of using my learning to further the chances of a successful conclusion to the, self imposed, challenge I've embarked upon. My data is deeply flawed, thus my conclusions will also be very skewed, as I've omitted many factors that could contribute major influence over these wild creatures and how they behave under differing water temperatures and weather patterns. As my approach to this project was very off the cuff, thus are my basic correlations of similar stamp - they are little more than educated guesses, backed up by a few disjointed diary entries. I'm enjoying myself and if this exercise does little more than keep me motivated, it will have been worth while. The more experience I gain, the more records I have at my disposal, only then will any meaningful conclusions be able to be drawn from my juggling with numbers. Until then, the BBC 5-day forecast is of equal importance to any other reference I have explored!
If I'm totally honest with myself, I'm bloody delighted that the complexities of our natural world can't be unravelled by the mumbo-jumbo of calculus and equations. I seek assistance, not answers, and in as much as I am able - love the process of analysis which, in turn, aids my confidence in any given situation. It would seem that the next three evenings have all the attributes to see my December eel in the net? I have no opportunity to pre-bait, thus am reducing my chances of success, but feel that I have to be in with a shout if I can get out? Sorry if this post has a very industrial feel - it's a manifestation of the "buzz word" culture that now dominates the modern business ethic. A place where I feel completely at home - if you understand, and abide by, the rules, it's a very simple game to play!

Saturday 28 November 2015

Short sessions

With the obvious exception of our annual pilgrimage to Loch Awe and the occasional "over-nighter", at Sandwich Coarse Fishery; my angling is now focused around getting the maximum return from short sessions. I would think that my average session would be around four hours duration, give or take an hour? It doesn't matter as to my target species, if I can't catch one in my allotted time, I'm off home - there's always tomorrow! Let's be clear - my results ain't setting the world alight - but I get by?
I can't ignore the fact that my angling is now very biased towards intimate venues; situations where watercraft and fish location are key factors. The East Kent drains are a fantastic challenge, but not so very different from the Cambridgeshire Fens of my past. The Royal Military Canal is much the same as any other canal, but with bends in it - look for the features and the fish will be there. It might well be the length of Loch Awe, but it's only 20m wide and without the depth variations! The local "carp puddles", where I conduct my experimenting, are also of a size that allow me to be confident of some action within the given time parameters. Ali Hamidi (Korda Tackle) describes it as "un-locking the code" - I prefer to think of it as experience!
I think that the benefit of these short sessions is that I remain focused; if something's not right then I deal with it immediately, not wait until the next bite. If I have a plan, then I'll try to stick to it - there's not much scope for sit and wait when time is of the essence. I'm active, reactive, I'm engaged - always thinking about my next gambit. The slightest niggling doubt and I'm on the case - it might just be to recast, check the rig, or was that exactly where I wanted my bait? If I'm not happy then I do something, rather than do nothing! If I have planned to leap-frog the pike rods along a drain every 20 minutes, then, as best I can, that's what I'll do - it means I'm always thinking about something. I wear a wrist watch, and have always done, specifically for this purpose - I certainly don't require one to know how long until my next tea break?

A very welcome visitor to the landing net - always so much better when the sun shines!
I was out again this morning, for a typical example of this style of approach. Three rods fishing by 06.50 hrs - packed up and headed for home at 10.30 hrs. Only one bite today, however, it was very welcome under the circumstances. The first frosty morning I've encountered this autumn, a nice little double (12 lbs 2 oz) took a fancy to a buoyant 1/2 mackerel - dyed yellow. A Duncan Kay with a Mitchell 300, bite indication provided by an original ET Back-biter alarm - all good stuff. The sun shone brightly, if the wind got a little boisterous before I headed home. Birds provided some added value:- 2 Peregrine, 2 Little Egret, Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Raven and a decent sprinkling of winter thrushes. I'm indebted to Neil for taking the photos, he was out birding and stopped off for a chat - cheers mate!

Thursday 26 November 2015

Obsessional progression?

Late yesterday evening I received a comment from young Dalrymple in response to my thoughts about the pike in Chew Valley. It would seem that I am not alone in my opinions, although both of us concede that individuals have every right to their choices without the need to explain/defend the decisions to others. It appears that my, arrival at level three of the, angler's progression has been largely responsible for these thought processes.
I will attempt to define these three phases with the assistance of Luke Jennings "Blood Knots" - If you've not read it, go get a copy (ISBN 9-78-1848-87-1335 - my paperback edition) you'll not be disappointed. It is a superb narrative about the journey of a young angler as he hones his skills and learns the value of watercraft as an apprentice to a master fisher and all round countryman!

Level One - the very start of the exploration. The hobby is a new set of experiences - fish are a challenge which you now seek to conquer. This first, entry level, set of encounters is generally rather brief, but is defined by the simple desire to catch whatever is out there. At this point size plays no part - it's all about catching fish. (There are plenty of participants who never get beyond this stage!)

Level One - Benno with a few fish from The Grand Union Canal - 1991?

Level Two - The bug takes hold and things start getting serious. Specialisation - it could manifest itself in many forms. You become a club match angler, join a speccy syndicate or become a carp/pike/catfish addict? It doesn't matter which route you've chosen - you have become a specialist; your angling has now got a focus! This is the period when biggest/heaviest = best. It is also the period which defines the individual as an angler or a wannabe? Lots of individuals jump ship at this juncture (I would have to include myself) and seek adventures in new arenas. Success is everything - failure is another nail in the coffin, leading to a "Complete Carp Kit" for sale advert in the local paper?

In the mid-80's - Biggest was best. I would be hard pushed to calculate how many hours I spent
in pursuit of this fish - utter lunacy!
Level Three - The old codgers! Been there, seen it, caught it, got the "T" shirt! - born some time between 1955 & 1965 and able to recall "the good old days". Grumpy, miserable old gits - to a man - who have been left behind in the whirlwind of technological advance. We've already caught all our PB's and now seek the solitude of unfashionable venues where we can "do our own thing". It's absolute bollocks - we still harbour desires to catch that specimen, but now it has to be on our terms. Long gone is the chasing around after yesterday's news; we view the world through very "Rose-tinted Glasses" - mainly due to dodgy eyesight! It's not where, or how big, it's all about the tackle and methods employed.

A very pleasant little Common from a commercial. It speaks volumes about my current
thinking on anglers and angling. It's supposed to be fun - so bloody well enjoy it!
The rather weird thing about this post is that I could just have easily have applied these thoughts to my development as a birder or moth-er? I'm sure that it says more about obsessive behaviour patterns, than being simply restricted to angling?

Tuesday 24 November 2015

What's wrong with Chew?

Let's get this straight, right from the off, there is nothing wrong with anglers who wish to fish for the pike, trout, or any other species, in Chew or any other similar venue. These following thoughts are my personal opinions, not criticism of the individual choices of others. In my past, I would have been at the front of the queue for tickets when such an opportunity arose - today the desire has moved on. I am no less intent on the mission, yet my direction has somewhat changed. Biggest no longer means the best; I am now in pursuit of very different experiences. It is this single factor that shapes my thoughts on the pike that are inhabitants of the waters of Chew Valley Lake (and similar venues)
Big pike are magnificent creatures, there is no doubt about it? That they grow to such size is the attraction for the majority of us who pursue them yet, for me, it is where I seek my challenges, not how big are the fish, that is just as important.

My rather dog eared copy of Fred Buller's masterpiece. Within the pages of this book are
the tales which inspired me as I started on my pike angling journey.
I will lay my cards on the table here and now; in my eyes Tommy Morgan's 47 lbs 11 oz pike is the UK record. I don't give a toss for the statistic on the "Official List"  Tommy's pike was caught from Loch Lomond - weighed on accurate "Fishmonger's" scales and is the heaviest authenticated pike ever landed on rod and line in the UK - end of! Until a fish in excess of this weight is landed, Tommy is king kiddie! It was the tale of this fish and "The Endrick Head" - Dick Walker estimated 70lbs! - which fired my imagination and captured the very essence of what pike angling is all about. You can read all about these two pike, and so many more, in the magnificent "Doomsday Book of Mammoth Pike" - by Fred Buller (ISBN - 0-09-136170-2)  Wild pike, from wild places, and they don't get much wilder than the Scottish Lochs! I've heard all the arguments about it being taken on a rod lashed to a tree on an island whilst Tommy and a mate were in a boat, nearby, catching perch - it constitutes a dead rod? What, just like the rods cradled on their treble pods, electric bite alarms radio linked to a speaker in a bivvy whilst the angler is sleeping - where's the difference?
So back to the pike of Chew Valley and why they don't fit with my angling expectations. Firstly I don't like the place - my problem, and mine alone, it's surrounded by some stunning countryside and has first class amenities available on the banks. The sprawling, ugly, sailing club compound and unsightly trout cages floating out in front of the main access point are just the start of it. The shore line lacks soul, the whole venue is so man-made, it feels plastic? It's obviously a very personal thing, I could say much the same about Wilstone Res - yet that venue is still my favourite place on earth! So there's more than a hint of hypocrisy involved in my present stance. Sadly, however, I can't see the huge pike as anything more than a reflection of the rest of the place - they are man-made, plastic specimens. When they run out of dead trout, Bristol Water pours a whole load of new ones in!
My apologies to the angler and the photographer - I don't know either.
A simply stunning pike, held by a very happy angler, at Chew Valley Lake.
Magnificent, impressive and as many other superlatives that you wish to choose - it still doesn't work for me.
It was a talk by Ken Crow, at the Canterbury & Thanet PAC, that explained this situation. Ken is the manager at Bough Beech and a Fishery Scientist with many years experience in the field - including the Irish Loughs. He explained that one in three trout released into the modern still-water fisheries, died within a few weeks - due to starvation, they don't know how to feed themselves once the pellets stop being thrown into the pens. Therefore, dead trout play a major role in the production of the massive pike that forage in these conditions. They are overweight and un-fit, for want of a better description. Doesn't stop them looking bloody fantastic when cradled in an anglers arms but, for me, they are far removed from the fish that inspired my own quest - and I have to chase my dreams elsewhere. Of course I would love to catch a pike which would have graced the pages of Fred's book, one in excess of 35 lbs, but if I'm to do this it will be from a naturally stocked water where it has managed to attain this size without man's intervention. It will represent the pinnacle of a very well balanced eco-system - not be a by-product of moaning trout anglers whose catch returns have taken a nose dive. "Get more fish stocked, we can't catch those which have become a bit cute!"

Chew Valley dawn - it actually looks quite spectacular

Chew might occasionally look good - Loch Awe always does so.
OK; I realise that my opinions are rather simplistic and the reality of catching pike in Chew, or anywhere else, for that matter, involves dedication and skill which has taken time to develop and nurture.
Bottom line is each to their own - my opinions and my journey, will it eventually lead me to a meeting with that "Doomsday" pike? I'll only find out by keep trying. There's an awful lot going on in my little world, at present, yet 2016 could see things change quite dramatically. So whilst I have no desire to wish my life away - future prospects are exciting.

Young Mr Bradbury with a magnificent wild pike from Loch Awe
This fish is probably the same length as that Chew specimen, but weighs less than half as much?
How can that be? Well this fish actually has to work for a living!
It's what a healthy pike looks like.

Sunday 22 November 2015

Chew Valley wandering and wondering!

Bev and I are now back home, having spent a very pleasant couple of days staying with Darryl, her son, in Bath. On Friday evening we went back to The Hop Pole, in Weston, for a superb meal and a couple of "light ales" As was to be expected, the service was first class, as was the food - three of us fed and watered for less than £75 - including tip!
The Bath Christmas Market has been our usual excuse for the, now annual, visit - plus it coincides with Darryl's birthday. This year we were a little premature with our timing, the market still being under construction - shame! Our Saturday plan was very simple; Darryl & Bev went shopping in Bath whilst I took a drive across to Chew Valley Lake (Visitor's Centre) for a spot of birdering.

The view across Chew Valley Lake from the mound on "The Bittern Trail" (21.11.2015)
There can be no getting away from the fact that Chew is now the number one "Big Pike" venue in the UK - it still doesn't work for me? I had my camera slung over my shoulder, my bins around my neck, yet because I had my "Pike Anglers Club of GB" hat on - I didn't get involved in conversation with any of the birders I encountered around the venue. A situation that is no different to my recent birding experiences at Wilstone. Birders adopt a very superior attitude - is there any wonder why they are seen as aloof by other groups who spend their time in similar environments, but for very different reasons? To be perfectly honest, I'm as much to blame as anyone else. If someone doesn't wish to talk - I won't seek to pursue the subject further - I don't give a monkey's toss! I'm no longer a "twitcher" - so seeing someone else's discoveries isn't why I carry my bins!

A very pleasant session at a very ordinary/crap venue - just a personal perspective! I parked in the "Visitor Centre" car park and walked the route, including the Bittern Trail. The Bernard King Hide has been closed, until further notice - Sorry for any inconvenience! - An A4 laminated sign just before you reach your destination. Fuck off - I've just travelled from Ramsgate! I now have to concede that just as Dungeness, Sandwich Bay and Portland - even Newland's Farm - have their own allure - Chew doesn't cut it! It's a flooded valley in some magnificent countryside - but nothing more. The big pike, that inhabit it's murky depths, are nothing more than freaks - bloated, trout fed caricatures - nowhere close to those creatures which fired my youthful dreams.

I had the better part of six hours to waste - no problem! The Bernard King Hide saga, apart, there is plenty of opportunity to do your own thing around the shores and surroundings of Chew Valley Lake.
It was great to spend time in company of Siskin, Bullfinch and Goldcrest. Odd bunches of Goldfinches were encountered along my route. I discovered a group of 4 or 5 Chiffchaffs feeding in the lea of a wind swept hedgerow - none better than nominate "colybita"

1st winter Black-headed Gull
I returned to the "Visitor Centre car park" around noon - keep going! I walked across the dam wall and into the village of Chew Stoke. It was like walking into a time warp! I went for a pint in "The Stoke" - public bar! The land that time forgot - cider fuelled fuck-wits. Bristol City v's Hull City on Sky (It might have been BT?) - an experience that is not one I can recommend. I didn't feel intimidated by anything physical - mentally they orbited a planet that I've yet to visit! Because I was wearing my binoculars - "Have you been watching the hunt? - or you one of them twitching cunts? If I were a shrinking violet; I might have felt offended. Intellectual encounters, at this level, are something which are par for the course in any factory - so what if it's a pub? - I ain't shying away from the challenge. On this occasion my opponent would have had an IQ of 180 if he'd had 179 of his brothers with him! Thatcher's Cider with Orange - he was toast! Surround yourself with idiots - you're bound to shine?

Adult Common Gull

I walked away, un scathed, from the delights of Chew Stoke and headed back to the Visitor Centre, where I spent a while getting some images of the gulls that ply their trade around the cafĂ©. Good numbers of Common Gulls was a pleasant distraction, although a Black-headed Gull in full summer apparel was a surprise.

A proper surprise - an adult summer Black-headed Gull above the visitor centre at Chew Valley Lake (21.11.2015)
The sat-nav delivered me back to Darryl's, well before he and Bev got back from Bath, so I took a wander down to The King's Head, in Weston. Argentina v's the Barbarians on t/v and a nice pint of 1664 in decent company. I was under instruction to get back in plenty of time to make myself presentable - Darryl's girl friend, Alix, was going to accompany us for a meal at the Cote Brasserie in Bath.

Let's get this right - Darryl is a full grown adult, a Maths masters degree and thirty eight years into his journey - quite what Mum thinks she can add, at this stage, is a bit of a mystery? Still I went along with the gig - always another angle?
Alix is a fantastic lady - got Bev's approval instantly. Very intelligent (not always a good thing?), humorous and attractive - couldn't fail in my opinion.

Thursday 19 November 2015

November Eel - dunnit!

Wednesday 18th November 2015 - 18.00 hrs
I've just got back indoors after a fraught journey, out onto the marsh, in order to get some more bait into the swim. It is incredibly windy - SW 40-45mph , but very overcast and mild - 14C. Task completed, I was back home before 18.00 hrs and getting my kit sorted. The BBC 5 - day forecast predicts tomorrow evening to be absolutely perfect - wind's to be a gentle westerly with temps around 11C - a cold snap to follow over the weekend? If ever there were a definition of "spot - on" in respect of my perception of Eel angling conditions; Thursday evening has it all.
I'm reverting back to my Duncan Kay's and the Mitchell 300's; bait will be squid, sprat and/or bluey fished on a combi-rig. I have no more than a five hour window - if I've not had any indication by 20.30 hrs I'm heading for home - even if I do get a result I will still be packing up by 21.30 hrs as I've got to be at work for 06.00 hrs Friday.
There are two swims that I've pre-baited - one is very tight, two rods max, the other might allow three but, I'm not sure that I want to chance the "Eel knitting" scenario just to get that extra rod out? I couldn't cope with a repeat of Sunday's result! Single sticks or bars? I'll make that call when I get there.

Thursday 19th November 2015 - 14.50 hrs

Well my gear is ready and I'm just about to get going. It's a rather dank, dark sort of afternoon, yet extremely mild. I have the feeling that it might just be the night? I'll know more when I get back some time around 22.00 hrs. Any eel in November will be a result - that big fish is out there. Has it got my name on it?

Well I can say that my efforts were not in vain; I had three eels from five bites - so another part of my challenge completed. Sadly, however, that big fish remains but a wish, the best I could manage this evening was a meagre 1 lbs 10 oz.                                                                                                     

My Left Hand & Middle Rods - my Right Hand Rod was a couple of metres away, fished on single sticks
My diary reads as follows:-
Fishing with three rods - all out by 16.20 hrs
16.40 hrs - Middle rod Eel (1 lbs 6 oz) Sprat head section/combi rig
17.10 hrs - missed a screamer on the LHR - squid/combi rig
17.15 hrs - RHR away Eel (1 lbs 4 oz) - squid/combi rig
18.30 hrs - Middle rod Eel (1 lbs 10 oz) - Sprat head section/combi rig
19. 10 hrs - Middle rod - missed an absolute screaming run (a carp would have been proud of) - didn't touch it
20 .00 hrs - packed up and headed home

The 1 lbs 10 oz fish on my landing net
I rather enjoyed myself this evening. I still have a long way to go in gaining an understanding of this fascinating species. What I am finding rather puzzling is the different bites. I'm having no issues with the slow, steady pulls - the bites that are registered as blistering runs haven't produced a fish yet? I think that one other positive I can take from the session is the benefits to be had from a bit of pre-baiting. Five bites in a short session can't be bad, especially in November, and makes my effort of yesterday so much more justified.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Totally disillusioned - why should I give a fuck?

At 13.00 hrs,on Tuesday 17th November 2015, my experience of being an employee was taken to the lowest extreme in the 41 years I have been employed. My 60th birthday is less than two weeks away - not an  excuse, a fact! In the last few weeks I have had to visit a doctor, then a hospital X-ray facility, in order to discover that I've arthritis! Not something that is worth celebrating, but also a condition that is not too unusual in a person of my age?
I have been subjected to a humiliating, and insulting, process of questioning which was justified by the medical restrictions that my condition now impact on my ability to fulfil my duties as an employee  within the digital dept. of FSIS. Not such a big issue until I realised that I was on the list before any medical diagnosis had been reached - quality = World Class!
That book which I keep alluding to is taking shape quite nicely - it seems that this episode will provide the defining chapter! Why the fuck should anyone care when the systems are so unable to differentiate between the honest and those who are taking the piss? I have given the company all my effort in attempting to get the transition from analogue, to digital, technology. If this is their best effort as repayment - I'm at a loss to know why I, or anyone else, should bother?
My last round of one to ones - I was asked what I wanted from my supervision (Those guys who I'd nominated for the "Manufacturing Champions Awards") my reply being "support" If this is support, I'm better off without it. There is something very wrong within the organisation - with so much to celebrate why create this situation?

Tuesday 17 November 2015

The right thing to do? Never in doubt!

There's a "friendly" game of football tonight, England v's France - the result of which matters not a jot! It's not a testimonial, as such, it means so much more than that. Solidarity with Parisians and The French nation, as a whole, against the poison of Jihadist Islam extremism. A coach load of guys from Fuji SIS have gone up to add their voice to the singing of the French National Anthem.

Wembley Way tonight - respect!
Sorry I am unable to give credit for this image - I took it from social media - hope you don't object?

Not too shabby?

As an angler I'd like to think that, even in these modern times, my PB list remains a viable testament to my commitment and ability. Don't get over excited - I'm not about to publish a list by which I can be compared, although regular visitors will have some idea of these figures for a few of the species involved. It's my hobby, I'm in competition with no-one but myself (and probably Benno?) - these statistics are, therefore, a collection of numbers of no relevance, at all, beyond my personal interest.

January 26th 1989 - 23 lbs 4 oz (Lynch Hill - Oxfordshire)
My PB pike on a centre-pin, from a boat!
However, there are a number of angling blogs, which I regularly peruse, whose authors are happy to post these statistics. I have no problem with this demonstration of personal choice. I find it quite amusing to see modern anglers publishing figures for carp which are PB Mirror, PB Common, PB Leather, UK PB and French PB, etc. They're all bloody carp - you can only have one PB, the others are just interesting asides. When Dick Walker took Clarissa from Redmire - the angling press didn't go crazy because he'd landed "The record Common" - He'd caught the UK record carp. Similarly, when Lee Jackson took his Conningbrooke fish, it wasn't hailed as "The UK record Mirror" - again, it was the record carp! Of course they are your lists and you can record whatever you like - it's just an observation, not criticism. I would imagine that the majority of modern anglers fish for this single species and these statistics are simply a manifestation of this culture. The all rounder is very much an out-dated concept. "You actually want to catch bream/tench/roach?"

This won't be the last time I'll use this image in 2015.
My 24 lbs 10 oz pike from Loch Awe - on a centre-pin,
thus, my new PB on that particular listing, but it was from the bank.
Yet another new list?
I'm sitting here at my soap box (lap-top); pontificating upon individual choice and the absurdity of using the results of others as a measure to judge your own achievements. Yet I still get drawn into the plot - yep, my PB Bream is bigger, Carp - you're having a laugh - Catfish - Oh fuck off - that's, originally, from Poland! What is even more worrying is the data that I do choose to list. My pike records are a perfect example; I'd even made mention of one such project in an early post. My anal desire to record all aspects of my angling (I even have lists of what reels were used) has resulted in a crazy jumble of data - assembled to allow me to compile meaningless lists, made up of meaningless data, from a lifetime spent enjoying the simple pleasure of being outdoors.

My PB pike - 2nd October 1986 (Wilstone Reservoir, Tring)
I don't do it to show off or in a hope of finding any inner truth, any deep meaning in my pursuit of enjoyment, just out of habit. I'm an obsessive and that's, sadly, what we do!

Monday 16 November 2015

Eels again

I didn't sleep particularly soundly over the weekend. Understandably, the events in Paris have been a major factor in this disruption but, I have to admit, loosing that eel on Sunday morning has played on my mind ever since. I spent the majority of my shift, today, weighing up photo initiators for some large batches of ink. This I do alone, so am very much at liberty to have my mind go wandering - as long as I concentrate on the formulas to ensure the correct ingredients have been used.
That eel has really got me thinking about these fish and how it is very much a now or never situation for me.

An eel of 2lbs14oz taken on a 14mm halibut pellet/flouro pop-up combi.
I was tench fishing at the time - March 14th 2015
Looking back over the past few outings, I have missed a few bites without ever feeling a fish - weird when you consider the closeness of the bait and the fact that I'm using doubles (not trebles) as my hook choice. I am now convinced that the culprits were, as suspected, eels and the hooks were never in their mouth. You may also rest assured that the "Big Pits" and the CK broomsticks will not be making another appearance at any of my local drains or The RMC. The Duncan Kay's and Mitchell 300's will, once again, take centre stage in my efforts for both eels and pike. I feel sure using this new, and unfamiliar, kit did, in some small way, contribute to the loss?
I do, however, remain confident in myself and feel sure that an eel in every month of the winter is an achievable target in East Kent. One thing that I find rather strange is how gutted I am at the loss of this fish? Normally, as I was not targeting the species, it wouldn't be of any consequence. I certainly wouldn't have been able to take much credit for the capture if I'd have landed it. So why has that event made such an impact when I've lost many other fish - be they barbel, carp, perch, tench or pike and simply moved on - let's get another one! My early efforts after the carp in Stanborough were forever resulting in lost fish. I didn't despair but, instead, used the experiences to push myself harder, to look for ways of combatting whatever I perceived as the cause of my failure.
I suppose it's because I saw it and had it to the net, before my misfortune. It was big and I think, at the back of my mind, there was a desire to know how heavy. I haven't enough experience to offer an educated guess where eels are concerned. Pike and carp I might have a chance - eels, no chance what so ever!
The best eel I've landed in 2015 - 3 lbs 6 oz
Again an accidental capture on a halibut pellet whilst carp fishing!
There will be another session, one evening, this week and I'm hopeful of getting some more pre-baiting done beforehand. The BBC 5 day forecast is looking good with temperatures remaining in double figures right through till Friday. Do I have a date with destiny? Is there a "big" eel with my name on it? The only way to find out is to get back outside and put a bait in the water.

Sunday 15 November 2015

The one that got away!

I went piking this morning. I was on a drain, out on the marsh, and have to make a very sad admission. I was using the, recently acquired "Big Pits" on two of my shiny new 2 1/2 lbs t/c broomsticks. I know what I said, and promise not to use this combo again in such a situation. Basically I just wanted to try the reels out and have to say that first impressions aren't too bad.
I was fishing by 06.30 hrs, a bite on my left-hand rod (Bluey dyed yellow - isn't that a Greenie?) some fifteen minutes later resulted in a small jack of 4 lbs-ish. There was a ferocious SW gale howling across the mashes and my rods were fished using my back-biters to eliminate false bleeps; which occur when using monkeys and front runners in these conditions.
At 07.30 hrs I had another bite on the same rod/bait which resulted in my hooking and loosing the biggest eel I've ever seen in Kent! Now I know that I wasn't fishing for eels, so the capture wouldn't have been deliberate, but having got this fish to the net before it did me in the adjacent reed bed, I'll readily admit that I was gutted. It was a very big three, if not a four! At 08.45 hrs I bumped a small pike on my right hand rod - this time on a 1/2 Mackerel dyed red; I wasn't having a very good day up to this point. With the wind intensifying, I was treated to a display of aerial mastery by an adult male Peregrine. I have no idea for what purpose, the bird almost looked like it was playing, although some type of territorial display would probably be the ornithological explanation. It was scattering birds - mainly ducks and pigeons, as it marauded across the skies. Twice I watched it chase pairs of Mallards, in level flight, passing them with ease before banking away sharply and careering off back over the marsh. At no time did I witness any attempt at hunting; it certainly lifted my spirits and just before I was due to pack up, so my left hand rod registered another bite, this time on 1/2 Mackerel dyed yellow.
A rather chunky little fish, for the time of year. Just what I needed after loosing that eel.
As soon as I hit it, I knew this was an all together better fish. A spirited battle, even on that seriously over gunned kit, resulted in my first double of the campaign. A scraper, of 10 lbs 3 oz, graced the mesh of my landing net. Nicely hooked, right in the scissors, I grabbed a quick record shot before getting her back into the water. So it all ended up rather nicely. Before I left I cut up, what bait I had in my cooler bag, into small cubes and introduced it to two adjacent swims. If all is well, I will be back in the week for a deliberate attempt at that bloody eel - the unseasonably mild weather doesn't look set to end just yet and I still need a November eel for my challenge.

Saturday 14 November 2015

For the Love of God

Probably not the best choice for the title of a blog post? I've spent the majority of my day watching the BBC News Channel. The more that becomes known simply reinforces the fact that my head can't cope with this nonsensical situation. I've listened to politicians, anti-terrorism experts, church leaders and devout Muslims - none of whom are able to sympathise with the ISIS ideology that under-pinned these atrocities.
So, once again, I find myself drawn to the power of music to clear my mind - listen to this Steve Vai track.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiTXGswyAls
It might not make things any better, but you will have witnessed musical genius and have a clearer vision of why, I believe, we should all be allowed to live life as individuals!

Friday 13 November 2015


How brave are these lame brained goons? My thoughts, and prayers, are with those innocent souls, in central Paris, who have been caught up in this mental act of terrorism.

Peace for Paris - Jean Jullien

Ten months after the Charlie Hebdo attack - Suicide bombers, co-ordinated gun attacks, extraordinary similarities to the Mumbai situation - ISIS will get all they deserve. Live by the sword - die by the sword. Islam is one of the world's great religions - it doesn't require this extremist demonstration of intolerance to other religious and racial groups, to promote further anti-Islam fervour. Things will never get better whilst this crazy bunch of fanatics try to destabilize our civilisation. Why are these nutters still given any credence by any political party - of what ever allegiance? They no more represent Islam than I am an advert for Burton's tailors! Like fleas on a cat - get rid of them!

Thursday 12 November 2015

Big Pit reels, bait boats and other stuff

I work with a number of carp anglers; the majority of whom do very little fishing in the UK preferring, instead, the holiday carp angling available just across The Channel. Between them they have caught an impressive amount of very large carp to well in excess of 60 lbs. Young Gaz is an analogue Assistant Supervisor, who only fishes in France. He dabbles in the delights of e-bay, but also seeks out other investment opportunities in the "for sale" columns of his local papers (He lives in Chatham/Rochester?) Carp angling has produced a never ending procession of "complete carp kit" for sale adverts - as disillusioned souls seek to recoup some of the expenditure involved in being drawn into the big fish scene without having gone through any type of apprenticeship. You can buy all the gear you could ever wish for, straight off the shelf - experience and watercraft, however, isn't something that comes pre-packaged! So Gary buys this kit at knock down cost, takes his pick of the best bits before attempting to get his money back via the e-bay route. I'd told him that I was on the look out for some "Big Pit" reels - "I might have just the thing?" being his response. So on Monday, I took delivery of a couple of Wychwood MAXimiser Big Pit 70 reels - two for £30! Seemed like a deal?

I've not fitted them to a rod, as yet, but they appear to be well built, robust - type, reels which might well suit my purpose. I've had a little play around and the line lay seems very good and the retrieve speed is much better than anything I own already. I had a quick scan of Anglers Forum to discover that the major complaint was how heavy they are? Get real - they spend 95%+ of their time cradled on rod rests, I don't care who, or how successful, you are. It's not like they're designed for use at the all action, "carp puddle", commercials or dropping baits into the margins of the RMC. No; they were built with a specific purpose in mind - getting bait and terminal tackle further than ever before. Some of the ultra-cult guys, as seen on You-tube, are casting rigs in excess of 140m! They wouldn't be doing that using a Mitchell 300! These modern reels are designed and engineered for a specialist role - it's highly successful, slick, marketing campaigns that results in these reels appearing on the banks of Long Shaw Farm and Sandwich Coarse Fishery, where they are seen as status symbols/indicators of ability! However, that's by the by, I now own two and, if things pan out as hoped, they may well be seeing some action next year. (If not, I'm reasonably confident I'll get my thirty quid back - on e-bay?)

It doesn't matter if  I go back to Tring, Stanborough or Claydon - two rods were always the limit.
There is no way I feel disadvantaged by such restrictions even in 2015
I have a venue, in mind, where bait boats are not allowed and the controlling club has a two rod limit, although I am not entirely sure why? However, as it's their fishery - they make the rules - if I don't like it, I don't have to join. It's a very simple decision to make. A two rod limit? Whatever next? Well, if I'm completely honest, two rods, fished well, are enough for any angler; particularly one such as I who has very limited time. In my past, I had the benefit of being a time bandit - what I lacked in ability was easily disguised by the extended periods I spent at the venue. Even a complete numpty will get a result eventually? In all my time at Tring, Claydon, Stanborough and Woburn - two rods were all we expected to deploy. It had to be pike, and not carp, anglers who were the first to push this limit? Fred Wagstaff was using four rods, pike fishing in Ireland, in the 70's - I think it was Paul Elborn who was with me when we got "bailiffed", on the Fens, December 30th 1986, using six each. It was when The Great Ouse River Authority issued their own license (as did all the other river authorities) and we both had two, thus could fish four rods, in theory. Still short of the actual number we were using. This poor soul came along the bank, having spotted us from the road bridge at Three Holes, purely to remind us that our licenses ran out at mid-night on December 31st and we'd need to renew them for next year. He told us we were not allowed to fish four rods each , because that's how many he had walked past; the rest were spread out beyond our umbrellas - I asked why I was allowed to purchase two licenses? It degenerated into abuse shortly after, my parting shot being "You'd best go get a Policeman!" Nothing happened, although we did reel a few in, just in case!

One of the bait boats built by my brother, Simon, which is specifically designed for pike angling.
It incorporates "Smart Cast-type" technology, thus relaying depths and water temperature back to the
bank as it goes. This 1/2 Mackerel is on Benno's rig - it has gaudy red trebles attached!
So what about bait boats? Cheating or utilisation of technology? There are arguments for both sides but, in my eyes, technology wins hands down. I already rely on electronic bite indication, and have done since the early 1980's, use carbon fibre, not split cane, rods, am totally sold on the modern hook and monofilament quality - why shouldn't I use a bait boat, if the rules allow, technology has advanced all other aspects of my life, why should my angling not also benefit? I have a brain, therefore I'm not forced to use something, just because it's new. Fads and fashion play no part in my approach - yet I happily encompass advances if they suit my purpose. The vast majority of my angling is now done using braid on the reel, this modern material is nothing like the "Dacron" that was available in days gone by. Ultra thin, abrasion resistant and incredibly strong, what's not to like? I've heard/read all sorts of anti-braid rants, nothing has changed my opinion. Braid is no more likely to cause fin/scale damage than mono in the same situations, although I accept that the fine diameters might have some part to play and I've not been using this stuff for more than a couple of years, so lack experience? I think what I should also make very clear is I haven't used it for any type of distance carp fishing - and that might just be where the real issues are? If ever I do succumb to the lure of long distance carp angling; I will reappraise my stance when that time arrives.

Special delivery for Mr Pike!
So, at present, my plan is to continue with my exploits on the RMC and East Kent marshes. Joining clubs, with a selection of big pits and lakes, will be something which can wait until next "close season" when I will have a much clearer picture of how my life (read finances) is panning out.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

We will remember them

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

These haunting words from Lawrence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen" have focussed my thoughts on each occasion I've heard them. Previous generations of my family, on both Mum and Dad's side, have strong links with the military and the two "Great Wars". In these modern times I have many friends and colleagues who were once themselves in the armed services, The Falkland's, or now have loved ones (usually children) actively involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would seem that, as a species, we've learnt nothing from these individual sacrifices?

I am the proud keeper of my Great Uncle Joe Lawrence's WW1 medals. Affectionately known as "Pip, Squeak & Wilfred" they have no monetary value but, instead, are priceless family links with our past. I have recently started to research Joe's service history, not particularly successful as yet. My sister-in-law Yve has joined in and is using the British Legion as a resource (she's a member of some web group?)

Joe served as part of The Royal Field Artillery - 137th Battery (according to his "Active Service" book). I have one photo of him, with his fellow soldiers, at Kilworth Camp in 1917. I don't know which of the guys is him, or where, indeed, Kilworth Camp is (SW Ireland - County Cork according to Google!). As best I can decipher - the inscription along the base of the image reads "C sub, 3rd sec, 65th DAC, Kilworth Camp 1917"

The reverse side of Joe's medals. Even with his service number and regiment, I haven't been
able to discover much about his military career.
At 11.00 hrs today, there will be a minute's silence. The guys with whom I work observe this ritual immaculately, as have the majority of football crowds over the weekend. A minute of your year isn't too much of an effort in order to pay respect to those who've made the ultimate sacrifice so that our own lives are as they are today? I know what I'll be doing.

Monday 9 November 2015

A static approach

I had the good fortune to spend some time, Saturday morning, in conversation with one of the local birders, who's "patch" includes one of the drains I have been fishing this year. The last time we met was in March - so there was quite a bit of catching up to do.

He happily recalled the many highlights that he'd experienced during the recent autumn period and readily agreed with my thoughts on how localised some of the avian movements can be, especially finches. I couldn't match the majority of his records but I did out score him on one particular group - owls! Not much of a surprise given that I am at large when the vast majority of birders are back indoors with their feet up. My binoculars, a rather battered pair of Bausch & Lomb 8 x 42 "Elites", are as important as any other item of tackle that I carry, as is my notebook and pen.

Because my enjoyment, of being outdoors, is derived from so much more than a bent fishing rod; I am totally at ease with my reliance on electronic bite indication. It is this technology that allows me to explore the other wildlife opportunities, safe in the knowledge that fish (pike in particular) welfare is not put in jeopardy.

I probably see more Kingfishers than the average birder, purely because I spend more time in suitable
habitat than they do? (Digi-scoped from The David Feast Hide - Grove Ferry 10.04.2007)
So my bite alarm technology does allow a degree of freedom, but I still can't go wandering off, leaving the gear unattended. So I am, for want of a better description, engaged in some form of "Big Sit" - the birds, and other creatures, have to come to me. By sitting quietly, on the banks of an isolated fishery has, over the years, provided some superb encounters with our native fauna. I will not accrue lengthy lists of species, but might just get a better insight into the day to day behaviour of my subjects than the traditional approach allows? There's no way, for instance, I would have discovered that Beaver if I'd been simply wandering about.
Make no mistake, I still seek "above average" specimens but, as I have made mention many times, size is not everything. My venues are chosen as much for their isolated location and wildlife potential as for the fish themselves. With this simplistic format it's hard not to derive enjoyment from every outing.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Pike fishing - more thoughts

When Gadget, Benno, and I, went to Essex for an Eddie Turner talk at a PAC do (Braintree as I remember?) we were treated to an extraordinary evening of, pike related, entertainment. Eddie and I go back a long way and spent a while chewing the fat about "the good old days" One memory that sticks, from that night, is Eddie's endorsement of "Fishing for Big Pike" (Published by A & C Black 1976. ISBN - 0713616482) by Barry Rickards and Ray Webb as the best pike fishing advice ever written. I've given my copy to Benno, but there is no way that I could find fault with Eddie's opinion - it has all the information that any pike angler could ever wish for. Pike, very unlike carp, are an easy species to understand. Primitive -  and prone to instinctive feeding response - they will never be described as tackle shy? If you are willing to follow their lead, Barry and Ray provide all the basics required for locating and catching this wonderful species.

The best book ever written on pike fishing in the UK?

So my advice, if you seek to put a decent pike on the bank, is firstly join the Pike Angler's Club of Great Britain and then, get a copy of Fishing for Big Pike. (£4.50 + postage on e-bay) Sure, there have been a few modern tweaks which have assisted anglers in this contest, but the bottom line is that Barry and Ray would still be very successful anglers in 2015 using their methods.

Grebe Lake at Emberton Park, Northamptonshire. (1992?)
This book is the first one that, in my experience, placed such importance on location, on feature finding and why the pike would be in the vicinity. Bait and rigs are, also, well covered, but already recognised that they mean very little if not presented in the right place. In the time that I've been involved in pike angling, there have been some massive changes in the type of venue available to the modern pike angler - trout fisheries have distorted the picture beyond anything I could have imagined. Rickards and Webb were anglers who sought their quarry from wilderness venues - wild pike and not the obese caricatures that inhabit the modern trout fisheries of southern/ south-western England. I can make no assumptions, on their behalf, that they wouldn't have offered useful advice about these modern fisheries - but their experiences were before this development. I'm confident that any advice would have been simple and basic - pike are not a MENSA conundrum!
I'm enjoying my dalliance with these old images - there is a lot of stuff, from my crazy past, recorded in these photos which  remains, as yet, unexplored. Steve has commented about "that book" -  I can confirm that it's progressing, but in a direction I'd not envisaged. Completed by Christmas? It's a target that I'm aiming for.

London Colney - The British Aerospace pit - not a water on the "big fish" map.
I have always been drawn by the adventure of new discoveries. Size is great - but not the only consideration.
If I remove the pursuit of Tench and Wels Catfish; from the equation - I've always been a seeker of discovery, as opposed to a follower of established routine. There are so many scenarios where I'm way off the mark - I've got to be doing it my way, or not at all? By looking backwards, I am able to gather my thoughts on subjects many and various, and then move on.

Pike fishing simplicity - Loch Awe (April 2015)
Bait boat technology ensuring my rigs are fished efficiently - 120m+

Pike monkey/needle - a front runner alarm and a wooden centre-pin (circa 1920)
If it works on an East Kent drain - why shouldn't it work in Scotland?

Pike are an easy species to understand, although they do have their nuances from venue to venue. I have been extremely fortunate to have pursued these fish in myriad different arenas - I would like to think of it as "experience?" that keeps the bites coming.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Mission accomplished and more memories

I met up with Benno and Tom Spence, at our pre-arranged venue - the simple plan being to get Tom a pike. However, the brisk SW wind and the, still luxuriant bank side vegetation, meant that we were a little fragmented in our coverage. Tom bumped a fish early doors - he feels that he didn't give it enough "Wellie" Around 07.45 hrs, I had a take which resulted in a small jack gracing the landing net, I missed two more bites  - jack attacks or eels? - before 10.15 hrs; I'm confident that they weren't big pike! We'd already decided that 11.15 hrs would be when we packed up, when Tom had a take on a 1/2 Mackerel which resulted in him landing his first ever pike. We have to see this as a successful conclusion to a plan which was conceived a few weeks previously; Tom was rather pleased with this outcome.

Tom poses, in the mid-morning sunshine, with his first pike. Happy daze!
Birding was rather ordinary, although I did record my first Hen Harrier (a ring-tail) of 2015, watched as it hunted over the adjacent marshes, and a pair of adult Peregrines were hunting in tandem - although we didn't see a successful conclusion.

These two slides are from a period right at the start of my "speccy hunting".
Cardboard mounted slides - as processed by Kodak Ltd, were up-dated to plastic mounts
some time in the mid/late 80's
Kodachrome was processed paid - Ektachrome was not, and was rather blue biased in my opinion.

So back to that box full of slides. Steve Gale has set the bench mark, with his "top ten" blogging posts. I happily embraced this template and have many offerings which are a direct spin-off of Steve's original concept. A comment he posted, on one of these efforts, suggested that I should try a "Top Ten" Angling venues. Looking at these nostalgic images; there is plenty of scope to get that gig together? I've actually already drawn up a list. I am now, therefore, searching through that massive collection for some images to accompany my choices. You've been warned.

The "Road Bank" of Wilstone Res. Brolly Camp bivvies strewn along
the concrete bank during the "opening week" 1987

My PB - 9lbs 2oz
If Wilstone is at the pinnacle - and I don't think that it could be up for debate? - the other nine venues are, however, by very definition, diverse in their make-up and, as yet, not in a definitive sequence. I will continue to search through the library in the hope of getting some photos to accompany my choices.  In the mean time, I will take the liberty of posting some more images that have been picked out from amidst the dross. In no way do they impact on the order in which my favourites will be chosen.

Sye with a 19lbs+ Wels from Claydon Middle Lake. The upper image is of him
doing battle - using my kit, Duncan Kay and an ABU Cardinal 66X - with Vic Gillings looking on.
Leighton Buzzard AC's Middle Lake, Claydon, Bucks.


Tiddenfoot Pit - mid 1980s?
I've not been back in over 25 years
So once again I find my head filled with the memories of some mad times. Quite how I've managed to survive, intact, is testament to the rigorous health kick that I employ during my day to day existence - TOTAL BOLLOCKS! I have been incredibly lucky whilst other, very good men, have fallen by the wayside.

Fenland dawn

Cuddles with an early Fenland zed
It goes without saying, very few others will be able to align their thoughts with mine - it has been a rather deviant pathway that has gotten me to where I am today. However, old photos always have an endearing quality that can raise a smile to even the most cynical within our midst!

Sye and Benno in Kilchurn Bay - May 1992