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!


Sunday 31 January 2016

Sunday social and a face to a name!

Benno and I spent a few hours, this morning, on The Royal Military Canal beside The Imperial Hotel golf course. I don't mind letting this location be known - we both blanked and it is not a section that I'll be in any hurry to return to. We had a nice session chatting about ideas for future angling challenges and our holiday plans. We've both come to the conclusion that pike angling, at our chosen local venues, is not up to much, at present, and we need other species to provide the spark of inspiration. Ben is taken by the idea of perch, whilst I, on the other hand, still have my eel project to complete and already have a, Mk IV, summer carp challenge in the advanced stages of preparation.
One subject that was broached - "A Mk IV - glass v's split cane challenge on the river!" Could have some potential?

Apologies for the poor quality of these images - it was almost dark! The final photo, of a 1st winter,
with a very strangely deformed upper mandible.

It was a grotty morning, actually getting darker after 09.30 hrs, any attempts at photography required ISO 1600-1/500th sec exposure for anything close to a usable image. I managed to add two more birds, to my year list,now on 82 species, in the shape of Tawny Owl (several individuals calling from the wooded hillsides above the canal) and Mediterranean Gull (difficult to be certain, but a best guess is around 35 birds feeding on the golf course - all three age groups represented, although only two 2nd winters seen together).

Double-striped Pug - potted from the bedroom ceiling
Moths also made themselves obvious - a Double-striped Pug was potted from our bedroom ceiling and several examples of Winter Moth were seen on my drive down to the RMC. The real highlight of the morning was a meeting with Ian Roberts, the guy responsible for Folkestone & Hythe Birding, ( www.freewebs.com/folkestonebirds ) , a proper nice bloke and we spent a good time chatting about the local birding and other stuff relating to the natural history of the area. Always nice to be able to put a face to a name.

Saturday 30 January 2016

A mad half hour!

I'm back home, just in time to hear Wayne Rooney score against Derby County in tonight's FA Cup commentary match on Five Live. I've been out on the marsh eel fishing. I arrived a little after 16.15 hrs and had three rods cast out, over a scattering of freebies (Bluey and Sprat sections), within fifteen minutes. Before I left home Bev had questioned my sanity - "Why would anyone want to go fishing in that?" The howling wind, gusting around the bungalow - Storm Gertrude was announcing her arrival. It is ridiculously mild, the temperature a constant 11C and conditions look good for another session after eels. "I've got to push myself - or I'll learn nothing!" being my response as I was packing my gear into the car.
Two Duncan Kay's with ABU 66X's in a very tight little swim. Angled needles with light weight monkeys
being as simple as I need it - reels set up with open bail arms.
Am I glad I went? You bet - I had a very special learning experience, discovering more about the feeding habits of these fascinating fish during the colder months. I was fishing one of the, three, spots that I'd pre-baited last week. I hadn't introduced any further bait, since last Monday, until I arrived today. Sunset was predicted to be 16.39 hrs - probably was, but it was so grey and overcast, that it simply got darker as the never ending banks of thick clouds scudded across the heavens. Wind driven, light rain, meant that I, and my gear, got soaked as darkness fell. Almost 17.30 hrs and my right-hand rod was away;  a screaming take which resulted in a "bumped" fish. As I was sorting out the re-baiting, my left-hand buzzer announced a bite - resulting in an eel of a pound, or so, visiting the landing net. I had just got both these rods back in the water, when the middle rod was away - an absolutely screaming take which saw me striking into thin air. Quickly re-cast, the same rod was away again within 15 minutes - same result!

A very small eel in my 42" landing net - the Stanley craft knife to give scale (and to cut up dead baits!)
Four bites in, little more than, 30 minutes and then nothing! My February eel seems just a formality; turn up and go through the motions - unless we experience another "Ice Age" I can see nothing, apart from a lack of focus, preventing me capturing my February eel quite early in the month. I packed up just after 19.00 hrs and have spent the majority of time thinking about what had just happened. I'm firmly convinced that these fast takes are those of small eels and my rigs and bait size are not suited to their very small mouths?
I will wait, until the end of the season, before I offer any form of summary of my thoughts and methodology. Off out pike fishing, with Benno, on Sunday morning; back down the RMC. Should be a bit of a social as we've a few things to get sorted out prior to our next adventure.

Monday 25 January 2016

Reality slap - part two

I was back out on the marsh, fishing the drains, yesterday afternoon/evening - full of confidence and very happy with all my preparations. The weather has reverted back to the incredibly mild, as predicted by the BBC forecast, and "everything in the garden is rosy!" Early on Friday morning (22nd January 2016) I had been out and done a bit of pre-baiting. Five kilo's of particle mix, plus some diced Peperami, (for carp) and around a kilo of bluey sections (for eels), in total, had been introduced to three spots along a single drain - what could go wrong?
In all honesty; not a lot! It was a cracking afternoon out there. For the first time, in a long while, I failed to see any owls but there was still loads of stuff to look at. As it got dark, so the wildfowl started to flight over the marshes - there was quite a lot of shooting going on, especially in the direction of that "flight pond" I will be visiting very shortly. I was completely at ease, within my little world, and surely a bite would occur soon? Time simply melted away and, before I knew it, the clock announced that I should be headed for home - a complete and utter blank, not a single bleep!

A pairing made in angling heaven? 
Phone conversations, with both Sye and Benno, suggested that I might just have overcooked the pre-baiting? I'd probably fed these fish off? The scale of my introductions being disproportionate to the number of feeding fish present in the drain following such a dramatic fluctuation in the weather patterns. No fool like an old fool? Had I missed the blatantly obvious - overlooked a basic fact of watercraft - air temperatures don't always equate to water temperatures! I have placed too much faith in the forecast and not taken into consideration the time lapse in the associated rise in water temps?
I got some more bait into the swim, before I left, and have the opportunity to get back out there one evening during the week - we'll see.

I'd like to think that Fred (Crouch) would approve of this particular use of his reel?
If everything I did went according to plan, I'd be an expert - never something I have ever aspired to become. I am perfectly happy to be ordinary - it's where, and how, I'm most comfortable, which is very fortunate, therefore! An ordinary bloke, engaged in ordinary employment, in an ordinary place - yet able to marvel at the extraordinary via the simple gift of getting outside and looking. Not such a bad place to be when seen in this context?

How much longer will I have to wait before I am able to realise my dream of a carp on that Mk IV?

Sunday 24 January 2016

A, much needed, reality slap!

I meander along life's pathway fairly oblivious to the rest of the world - what I see, what I do is very much a selfish and individual slant upon the reality that is life in 2016.  Fortunately there are fellow bloggers who have their fingers on the pulse, and are able to attract my attention to some magnificent postings which would, otherwise, have gone un-noticed?
Today I was directed to a post by Lucy (naturalworldnotes.blogspot.co.uk/ ) which makes all my drivel completely irrelevant. For anyone to have laid themselves, so bare, to scrutiny by so many is testament to the character of the individual and the bravery within.
I play games with my mental capacity, take the piss out of those who need to "Man Up!" - yet when confronted with such an open, and honest, insight into the mysterious world of mental illness - I find myself truly humbled. Please visit her blog and read what Lucy has to say about her condition. It was an incredible experience for me - I feel that I could, so easily, have travelled a similar path - but for the grace of God (or whoever else you hold responsible?)

Friday 22 January 2016

I've been here before

My cyber buddy, Derek Faulkner, posted a comment on yesterday's offering with the general vibe being that "anti -hunting/shooting" folk are unaware of (although I think it is more a case of unwilling to accept?) the positive aspects that cultivated game habitat provides our other native wildlife. Very likely true, but not restricted to that single group within modern society.
There are millions of individuals, living in the UK, who have never been fox hunting, pheasant shooting or fishing, never wanted or needed to, yet have an opinion which is extremely negative, on all of these activities, purely because the influence our media providers are able to assert. Never been out on a cold winter morning and seen a "long dog" coursing a hare - but have a firm opinion that it's barbaric and cruel! A David Attenborough T/V program, viewed in the comfort of a warm living room, showing a Cheetah hunting a Thompson's Gazelle - bloody spectacular, nature in the raw!  I sometimes wonder how many of these same people are cat owners? -  "Oh, but it's part of nature!" So is, therefore, a Greyhound chasing hares! Domestic cats kill more native wildlife than cars!!!!! None of this stuff is natural - they're all man-made situations!

It all comes down to perception and personal opinion. I don't shoot, it's not something I wish to do as a hobby, although I would have no qualms about killing in order to feed my family. Luckily, Dewhurst's, and associated butchers, do this on my behalf and I'm able to remain comfortably ignorant of that part of the food chain process. I have, however, no gripe with those who do shoot for sport (?) - it's their conscience, they've got to live with it. Being a totally selfish, and conniving, soul I do try not to make enemies of  other groups who utilise the same countryside that I do. I attempt, for the most part, to live and let live. I try to engage with the majority of those who make an effort to converse and will go that extra mile to ensure that those landowners, whose ground I'm on, are fully aware of my gratitude for being allowed this privilege. So what if I'm a creep? I get to go places that the vast majority of birders and anglers will never be allowed - who's the loser now?

This type of notice is becoming increasingly familiar around our countryside.
Happily, it doesn't apply to me because I find no problem with the guys who are in control.
Instead of griping about how "unfair" it all is and finger pointing - accept the situation and get on
with living your own life - not trying to tell others how to live theirs!
When both my children were growing up I took them on a small syndicated Pheasant shoot, out in the Hertfordshire countryside, near Wheathamstead, purely to allow them to decide for themselves about the cruelty involved in "blood sports". I would like to think that they derived as much wisdom from that experience as any they were taught in school. They now both have opinions based upon knowledge, not hearsay and/or paper talk. They are able to see a bigger picture, understand the wider issues involved with country pursuits, without needing the "smoke and mirrors" of some political spin doctor to steer their thoughts.

If you're going to eat meat, hasn't this pheasant had a better life than the chicken that
provides the meat for a KFC?
The birding community are subjected to, and misled by, huge amounts of negative stuff posted by various "conservation" sources. Obviously, some of the stuff is very worrying and of concern to us all, some of the trivia that get dolled out is mind-numbing and belittles much of the good work done by this group of like-minded people. Anglers are no better - the "anti Otter" stuff is, quite simply, bollocks! Otters belong in all our river systems, they are native, indigenous, mammals who have suffered from decades of persecution and pollution. That they are now making a, man assisted, recovery is to be welcomed. Not by barbel anglers it ain't! These fish, as much as I enjoy catching them, are only native to five river systems in the UK, yet present in 82! We, as anglers, are now in much the same situation as the Pheasant shooters are with Common Buzzards. Alien v's Predator - a great title for a film? The crazy thing about both these scenarios is that our natural species are being viewed as the villains!

Me with "The Long Fish" - my PB barbel from The Kentish Stour.
They are not native to the river - I'd get a whole lot more pleasure seeing an Otter in Kent.
Happily, I can sit on the outside, looking in, because I play no active role in either of these pastimes, I just go out and please myself. I am an individual who has made choices which have gotten me to where I am now. An individual, to me a hugely important part of my being - I'm not easily bought or mislead. I see many situations where media hype and political spin have distorted facts to the point that any semblance of reality has been lost. Next time you see an E-petition, have a think about what, and why, you are supporting. Does the loss of a duck pond in Birmingham really impact on your own life - with all this modern technology, how many times can we cry "wolf" before the political goal posts are moved?

Thursday 21 January 2016

Feeling confident

Sunday looks good, Monday even better and I'm on early shift all next week so will be able to take advantage if it feels right! The local, BBC, weather predictions are such that I'm already defrosting blueys and particle mix in order to get some pre-baiting started. I have a cunning plan to use a double pronged approach, which might well include an outing for the Mk IV? I have a couple of swims in mind - both on the same drain system, which should give me a chance of another January eel and also, as a long shot, a wild carp?
There's shed-loads of stuff going on in my little world, at present, but this next fortnight might get quite exciting? Work is hectic - play will be just as intense! I have formulated a loose plan of how I want things to unfold - not always a good strategy; there is so much that can go wrong! However, everything that I will be doing is aimed at culminating over the weekend of 6/7th Feb and my pre-baiting is about getting it right, as best I can. What's so special about those dates? I've got a 48 hour window available to me and I'm going to give it my all - it could see the February part of my eel challenge completed and that would be reward enough! Better still is that I've secured permission for a few sessions on that "flight pond" - proper exciting stuff. I will have just five days, from Monday 1st Feb, to get some particle mix introduced, prior to my first visit. It's a lot of effort, I have to walk, as I don't own a Land Rover, but should be worth it?

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Looking ahead

I don't always see future planning as a good thing, it's like you're wishing your life away. My philosophy is very much biased towards taking each day as it comes - grasp every opportunity as it arises, so to speak. Yet this is not a practical way to live and obviously there has to be a degree of planning to maintain some sort of order amidst the random chaos.
I'm keeping a close eye on the weather predictions for East Kent and, if they are to be trusted, this cold snap ends today and it's all up-hill from here. It looks like Sunday afternoon might just provide an eel angling session, I'll know more closer to the weekend. Plus; given the projected rise in temperatures, there might well be scope for some carp fishing? I've got a cupboard full of dried particles, awaiting preparation, prior to a sustained period of pre-baiting. I have heard rumour of some decent fish being present in a small flight pond, out on the marsh. With the duck shooting season over (away from the foreshore) on Jan 31st, I should be able to tap up the land owner and get a couple of sessions in before the pool needs to be rested for the breeding season (duck's that is - not fish!) It's a situation ideally suited to using the Mk IV - so here's hoping.
One of the consequences of having a larder full of dried seeds is the occurrence of pesky micros who's larva feed on the stored fruits. I got home last night to discover an Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella) flying around the kitchen light. Quickly potted up and placed in the fridge - I grabbed a few shots this morning, the first live one I've seen and number one on the 2016 Dumpton moth list!
The start of another year's mothing!

Monday 18 January 2016

Now there's a challenge?

My cyber mate, Steve Gale, has thrown down the gauntlet - a Dylan post on the subject of plants (flowers). I'd posted something on his comments facility, yet viewed his reply as a direct challenge. I'll see what I can come up with? This offering is not it!
I make no secret of the fact that plants don't do it for me. God, if you believe there is one (?), created them so to stop mankind getting their shoes muddy! Top bloke and very considerate. Guys, like Steve & co, who go "botanising", will strongly disagree with my simplistic opinion and offer a well reasoned, and valid, alternative view. I am able to recognise the importance of plants in the overall ecosystem - they provide the oxygen I require to breathe whilst removing/converting the carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. They provide food for caterpillars - therefore I am forever in their debt for the moths that grace my garden MV. Plants make my world a "green and pleasant place" and I'm unable to argue otherwise - they also ensure vegans are not forced to eat bacon, but can't alter the fact that bacon tastes better than lettuce and lentils! Plants provide the very life blood of our existence - hops, grapes and grain! Can't make beer or wine (or bread!) without them, therefore they play a vital, and under-pinning, role in the modern world? So yeah, plants are critical building blocks in all our daily lives - still doesn't make them particularly exciting to me.

Possibly an example of Tall Broomrape ? - I discovered a group of twenty-four spikes
in an overgrown corner of a car parking area, in Ramsgate, last summer.

I am going to deliberately keep a lookout for anything semi-interesting, probably along a water course rather than besides the tracks of Newland's, but you never know? If I find it, then there is a very good chance that it is a common and abundant species - widespread across the whole UK. That won't particularly matter - it will be the first time I've ever looked at it, camera to hand in order to capture the splendour and the moment. You've been warned!

Saturday 16 January 2016

A beautiful day

I had a fantastic morning out on "The Levels" catching a small jack for my troubles but, it was about so much more than fishing today. Despite a steady W-NW breeze, there were three Barn Owls hunting around the marsh and a couple of Marsh Harriers put on a good show; a precursor to setting up territory perhaps? For the first time the water felt cold, handling my dead baits made me realise just how much conditions have changed since last Sunday.
I managed to add two more birds to my annual tally - Stock Dove and Raven made their presence known by flying into my binocular view, the Raven calling loudly as it passed by. Water Rails squealed, Little Grebes "whinnied" and Lapwing cavorted in the skies; I can think of many less desirable ways of spending a Saturday morning. The intense cold didn't spoil the glorious sunshine which is such a welcome change from the dreariness of late. There were a lot of Song Thrushes around the area which is a very welcome sign, plus small groups of Chaffinches were flitting around in the field margins. A few Reed Buntings were feeding in the reeds adjacent to my swim and one deigned to pose long enough for a photo!

Away just after 10.30 hrs - I had to nip in to check up on my Dad, then back home so that Bev could get out with her friends. No great shakes - but it sure beats going to work!

Friday 15 January 2016

This feels right for pike

At last, in our little corner of the UK, we are experiencing some, more typical, seasonal temperatures. The forecast snow failed to materialise, but the thermometer has registered night-time figures around 0C. What with clear skies and a blasting wind; the wind-chill factor has it feeling like -7C; so proper pike fishing weather. I have an idea to fish a very intimate drain, out on The Ash Levels, where I have seen a couple of small pike whilst I've been eel chasing. There are a few isolated reed patches which grow in the margins and look, for all the world, to be classic holding features. The depths don't exceed four feet, the vast majority of the system being under three feet deep. In its' favour is the fact that it is neglected and overgrown - to quote Jim Gibbinson "Pike thrive on neglect!"
It will be proper Marco Polo stuff - but if you don't try you'll never learn, so that's my motivation. There's also a chance of a few new birds, for the 2016 year list, the adjacent farmland habitat being different from that where I've spent the majority of my time recently. My plan is to use the classic "leap frogging" approach which was so successful, when employed, up on the Cambridgeshire Fens during the 1980's. A bait in a swim for 45 mins before moving along the drain and dropping in on another spot. This has a two fold benefit. Firstly I am covering the maximum amount of water, in my given time slot, and secondly, I always have something to do, so should be actively combating the cold.

I'm not expecting to catch anything like this from the local drains.
Any old excuse to use an image from that box of delights!

I am not expecting to encounter any large pike, a double would be a right result. However, in these untapped venues, anything is possible. I should, perhaps, give the Mk IV an outing? Yet have got it in my head that I want to catch a carp first, because that is why Dick designed the rod, before I take that particular project forward.
A pike, tomorrow, will be a result. Whatever the outcome, you can bet you'll see it here first!

Thursday 14 January 2016

Back for more

Another short session at Ramsgate Harbour in the company of the immature Great Northern Diver provided me with much better photo opportunities, although the light remained grey and flat. The bird was frequenting the area directly behind the Maritime Museum and seemed very much at ease with my presence. I watched it catch a couple of crabs - all very pleasant as I clicked away merrily. The Steve Ashton's of this world would be able to capture some fantastic detail, although I'm not unhappy with my own results. The list crept up to 70 with the addition of Dark-bellied Brent Goose - a skein of 40 - ish flying past Ramsgate Main Beach en route to their roost in Pegwell Bay to the west. There was a biting W-SW wind, gusting over 40 mph at times - man that felt cold. Just goes to show how mild we've had it, the car display registered 5C and didn't I know it - the first time I've got really cold all winter.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

A fringe birder

My bird watching has taken, very much, the back seat since 2011 and a return to speccy hunting. It's not that birds have become less important - just fish have become more so and there is only so much time in a week/ month/ year to go round. I've some sort of plan to level the playing field, in 2016, and have made a deliberate attempt at a return to year-listing as a way of keeping my eye in.
Quite obviously my Newland's patch remains central to my avian observations, yet I hanker after something more. I can't ever see a return to the lunacy that was Kent "twitching" in the late 1990's - but cannot deny the great excitement that period provided. I am looking for the middle ground, a space where birds provide interest without obsession. Is it possible such a place exists? Surely; it's all down to me!

13.01.2016 - An after work stroll, down to Ramsgate Harbour, produced some superb views of  the
immature Great Northern Diver which has been present for a couple of weeks now.
Hardly "twitching" - yet by definition; exactly what it was!
It's January 13th 2016, I've added five new species today, and yet still my list total only stands at a paltry 69. I need to get a grip and focus some effort into my birding - or do I? The year is 366 days (it's a Leap Year!) and the list is a marathon, not a sprint. I have plenty of time - it will be all about how I use this precious commodity to best effect. I've caught my January eel, the local pike fishing is pants and I have no other angling targets - maybe I'll go birding, not fishing, this weekend?
Living in East Kent allows a great deal of scope for birding and potential target species - it shouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility for me to get my list to 105 on Saturday morning - given a little good fortune. It probably won't happen - 105 by the end of February will be fine. Let's not forget that my list is a year list - not a Kent, UK or Newland's effort - it will consist of what species I have confidently id'd in 2016 - wherever I have been.

Garden Warbler along the Nature Trail at Stodmarsh NNR. The only way I'm going to see one in 2016
is by deliberately getting off my arse and going birding.
So  what if I screw up an id? The only one to be affected is me - so it matters not a jot! If I can lie to myself - the problem is mine, and mine alone; it will require a doctor, not a rarities committee, to sort that type of issue out. Purity listing is now where my birding has gotten to - what species I can find and identify for myself. In 1999 I managed 223, in Kent, out of a county year total of 263 - manic and obsessional times. If, in 2016, I can discover somewhere around 200 species (on my travels around the UK and Europe) for myself, I'll be very satisfied.

I couldn't give a monkey's toss if there was a Hoopoe in Ramsgate Cemetery tomorrow - I
wouldn't be concerned about rushing over to see it. Bev and I are already booked to return to
Kefalonia, later in the year, and I know that I'll have plenty of opportunities to see
these superb creatures then. If I'd never seen one previously - the reaction might be a little different?
Just as I require a bait in the water to stand any chance of catching my desired fish, I need to get outside with my binoculars around my neck in order to maximise my birding opportunities. Will I have the resolve to focus my efforts toward specific targets or, as is my usual failing, become distracted by some other projects?

Sunday 10 January 2016

This'll take some beating

I have just got back home after a short, evening, session after eels. I was out, on The Levels, yesterday morning and had a pick-up on a whole Sardine which, on retrieval showed all the signs of eel activity - the guts were cleaned out. A small jack saved the blank and I scattered a few chopped bluey sections around the general area, prior to leaving, knowing that the predicted forecast is for a dramatic change in conditions - we might get snow by Wednesday! I had a two day window in which to complete my January eel challenge - Bev agreed that a Sunday session would be OK, so that's what I did.

A sure sign that eel's are on the munch! A dyed Sardine with the stomach chewed out - 9th Jan 2016
I arrived at the drain, this afternoon, in plenty of time, it was around 14.30 hrs and already a Barn Owl was hunting over the adjacent marshes. Only two rods (Duncan Kay's with ABU 66X's) were cast out, with a few scattered bluey sections strewn around the swim. It was overcast and generally quite mild, but a bout of hailstones was a reminder, if one were needed, that this is January.
As dusk descended, I was on the phone with my brother Simon, my right hand rod was away and I found myself attached to the smallest pike ever taken on rod and line! Not quite how I'd planned it, but a blank had been avoided!

I have only ever seen one smaller pike taken on rod and line - Benno took an embryo pike from the RMC on
some fancy lure contraption
A new bait (bluey section) was cast back out into the increasing gloom and I sat back awaiting further action. Darkness fell and the drain was deathly still; there was an awesome thunderstorm moving northwards above The English Channel and I spent a while mesmerised by the stunning light show it produced. I was brought back to reality by a fast take on the right hand rod. Grabbing the landing net, I engaged the pick-up and "fish on!". A dour struggle resulted in an eel of 3 lbs 2 oz gracing the landing net and, as such, my January challenge has been realised. I am overjoyed by this result; something which I had thought about, long and hard, has come to fruition - I don't suppose there was another angler, in the whole UK, fishing deliberately for eels tonight?

In spite of it's modest size, this fish is right up there with the best specimens I've ever been privileged to catch. Bev simply doesn't get it - she hates eels; they remind her of snakes and worms, yet I feel like I've just run the 4 minute mile or conquered Everest - such is the significance of what I've achieved. Deluded? I couldn't give a toss - I have done something very few others can claim, and that'll do for me! Roll on February!

Saturday 9 January 2016

I've started; so I'll finish - Claydon and beyond

As if I require an excuse? Now I've lifted the lid off that box of memories - can there be any reason why I shouldn't use the resultant images to provide inspiration for my blogging? My time spent around the concrete banks of the Tring Reservoirs were some of the happiest of my angling journey. The period that surrounds my pursuit of Wels Catfish was as crazy as it could ever get, Cuddles, the two Mitch's, Vic Gillings, Stuart Martin, Joey Darville and Shaun Harrison all converged on that muddy puddle that is Claydon Middle Lake - home of some of the largest, and most accessible, catfish in the UK (in the mid-80's)

Benno with one, of two twenties, he caught in September 1991 - he was seven

Carp were a nice distraction for a youngster awaiting the bite from a cat.
The banter was ruthless, the fishing excellent, as was time in the nearby pub - there was a night fishing ban at the venue, so we kipped in our vans in the car park, climbing over the style bang on the time (as set out in The Leighton Buzzard AC membership book) which we were allowed back on. When Kevin Maddocks got involved, anarchy ensued, we didn't always see things from the same view point and disagreements were not uncommon, often spilling over into the Catfish Conservation Group meetings and publications (I got called Zeberdee in one such altercation - how hurtful?)
We got noticed because we were loud, generally pissed up and incredibly successful - people either loved us or hated us, but no-one could ignore us. I would think that the majority of our detractors were jealous of the fact that we were able to make the experience of fishing a muddy puddle so much fun - some of the guys were deadly serious and spent their days looking like they were still at work. Claydon didn't require any particular skills for fish location, yet bait and rigs were critical for consistent results and we worked tirelessly on ensuring our terminal set ups were as good as we knew how. Vic Gillings was a great thinker and many hours of discussion took place on the bank as we played around with ideas for baits and hook-link materials. Great times and very happy memories of a wonderful place frequented by some of the largest characters involved in speccy hunting of that period.

Trees, one of the hardest fighting catfish in Claydon - I never caught it any heavier than 15 lbs

An 18 lbs 10 oz cat from the dam end of the Middle Lake

One of the Claydon "originals" stocked by Leighton Buzzard AC from
a Woburn netting session. 25 lbs 2 oz

The late Vic Gillings does battle with one of the Claydon cats
Our move on to Tiddenfoot Pit was a completely different challenge and required a very much more focussed effort in order to be successful. We cracked it, but much of the fun went missing as this venue allowed night fishing and lacked the ambience, and intimacy, of Claydon - we became rather serious and the social side of angling got overlooked as we strove to become better catfish anglers.

Sye with the largest Cat from Tiddenfoot Pit - 23 lbs 14 oz
The same individual as landed by a certain Gavin Haig a few years later

Thursday 7 January 2016

One for Gavin

Way back, in April of 2013, I posted about my time spent angling around the reservoir complex at Tring. ( http://dylan-wrathall.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/tring-times-more-nostalgia-whilst-i.html ) I was wallowing in a nostalgia gig, brought on by the dreary weather and a box full of old slides. So as I sit here today it seems that very little has changed? It's still pissing down with rain and, once again, I have spent more time looking through images of the Tring days - as a direct consequence of my post of yesterday. In his last comment Gavin asked for "more please" - easily done and great for the stats?
I caught my first Tench from Wilstone Res. during the "great drought" of 1976. Roy Johnson and myself gaining access to the "middle bank" and fishing back towards "Cyanide Strait". That first fish would have struggled to top 4 lbs, but it was start. Pixie's Mere, at Bourne End, was producing fish to over six pounds (my best 5lbs 12oz at that time) - so what was so special about Tring? There must have been something because Dick Walker, Fred J & co were also fishing off the middle bank - not that we crossed paths.
It was June 1981 that I joined the Tring Syndicate, already aware of the Roy Ecob fish of 1980, so not a total surprise when Tony Chester broke the UK Tench record. However, from my own perspective, it was about beating my 5 lbs 12 oz PB, rather than chasing records. One thing is for certain - I was way out of my depth. The other guys fishing the reservoirs were already at the top of their game - I was an imposter. I didn't lack confidence, I lacked the basic angling skills! It is only because the other members of "The Syndicate" were so generous with their knowledge and advice, that my own results were achieved. In my thirteen years of membership I managed to capture, in excess of, a hundred Tench over 7 lbs and also good numbers of specimen Bream, Roach and Pike. The memories I  accrued, during this period, are some of the happiest of my entire life - it was a privilege to be part of such an historic period of the development of big fish angling. No more words - just a few photos!

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Yet there might be something in it?

Richie Francis (Ric F of my comments correspondence) was a fellow member of The Tring Syndicate during the 80's and early 90's, a very successful one at that. It was only complete honesty that stopped him holding the UK Tench record. Just days after Tony Chester had landed the first Wilstone double (June 1981) Richie foul hooked the same tench, a few drams heavier, yet returned the fish, unclaimed, because it had been captured "un-fairly". I wonder how many other anglers would have done the same thing? It was his exploits with the Roach of Startops End, however, which were really to set him apart from the rest of us mere mortals - he took the place to pieces with huge catches of 2lbs plus fish. One, very high profile, "Travelling Angler", was so jealous of this success that he pounced upon Richie's landing net and examined his rig whilst Rich was weighing a fish - no offers of assistance! (I would have posted an image of Richie with a "big" Roach from Tring, but don't have any, so this will have to do!)
As successful as Richie was, he couldn't compete with the original
"Time Bandit" - The one and only Alan Wilson.
This is the guy who re-wrote the Specimen Hunters year book - The Tring King!
 The weight of this Roach? - 3 lbs 12 oz from Startops End Res.
For all those modern day, publicity conscious, "big fish anglers" - take a look at how Alan is presenting this
 fish for the camera. Close to his body so not to distort the proportions - in the 1980's/90's any
other, arms length-type, photos were regarded as deliberately fraudulent

Anyway, that's enough of "bigging him up" - his latest comment was met with my usual derision. "Go sea fishing" (see my reply on the previous post) - had he finally taken leave of his senses? I went to bed, smug with my contemptuous dismissal of such folly yet, awoke, next morning, to find myself exploring an avenue of thought which might well provide a future challenge?  Drat and double drat! And this idea being conveyed all the way from New Zealand, doesn't help.
Standing on Deal Pier with a broom stick and boat rope doesn't do it for me, never will. Yet there is one species, readily available in the local area, the tidal reaches of The Stour, particularly, which might pose a decent angling conundrum - Grey Mullet. They venture into the river, during the warmer months. I have seen them feeding in culverts between Pluck's Gutter and the old power station; best of all they require a high level of finesse in both bait presentation and tackle, in order to be successful. So they possess all the characteristics I seek when looking for new adventures. Not quite what Rich had envisaged, I'm sure, but it might be something worth exploring later in the year? One thing's for sure, I won't have any competition for swims - no one else is silly enough to be trying it!

Grey Mullet - these being photographed in Wellington Dock at Dover.

Monday 4 January 2016

Avoiding familiarity - why I keep pushing?

I mentioned, yesterday, about the local pike fishing being "mediocre", yet what is my measure? I have already taken four (small) doubles from a very limited number, and single type, of venues yet I find myself able to bemoan the situation and my results. Crazy, I only landed one double during the entire winter of 2014/15! I have to admit, to myself, that it's all relative to experience and expectations. When young Tom Spence came along, with Benno and I, and captured his first pike (around 6 or 7 lbs) he was over the moon - it was a new species and an exciting event for a guy with an enviable list of big carp to his name. This being the same type of reaction as when I landed the 3 lbs 1 oz eel, it was a new and very enjoyable experience.

Bread and butter to a Scottish loch angler - magic for a guy from Kent?
So, to my way of thinking, it is the desire to seek new challenges which drives me to push the boundaries of my personal knowledge and encounters. I know what I know, but it's the realisation of how much more there is to see and do that keeps me seeking new avenues of exploration. I've probably ticked as many boxes on my UK & Kent bird lists as I am likely to do. Today my birding revolves around a small area of Thanet - my Newland's patch, what I see whilst I am fishing and what I can find when I am away on holiday - wherever that may be. Moths are very much the same, although the recent flirtation with "micros" has led to a whole new arena of discovery becoming available -without me having to do anything different in terms of effort. I simply look at everything in the MV instead of the obvious "macros".

Swammerdamia caesiella - a common and abundant species across the entire UK.
 How many residents of the UK have ever taken the trouble and  looked at one?
I'd never seen one until 24.08.2015 - although it was November before I had any idea what it was called!
My fishing exploits have now to be, very much, governed by how I did it, rather than "how big?". I cannot deny my desire to chase that dream moment, but it will happen (if the angling gods decree) on my terms. There are only so many species available to me, as a resident of Kent, it is how I go about my angling, my targeting of specific fish, which will ensure I gain the maximum from any successful encounters. As a youngster, the grass was always greener somewhere else, today, I have to conclude, it is not about the colour of the grass but, instead, the realisation that realistic challenges can be found in the most unexpected places, the majority of them very close to home.

Sunday 3 January 2016

An open reply

My mate Mr Faulkner, who is author of the excellent http://lettersfromsheppey.blogspot.com/ ; and I have never met yet frequently converse about subjects, many and varied, via the comments facilities on a small circle of like-minded blogs. Derek doesn't appear to suffer fools (at all) and tends to say it as it is, or how he sees it. Might be why we share a lot of the same thoughts and opinions?
After my offering of yesterday, I awoke this morning to find this comment awaiting my approval. After reading it I thought "there's a post in this!" so cheers Derek for igniting the spark. I hope my explanation doesn't disappoint?
His comment reads as follows:- "I'm fascinated by the fact that you now appear to have become an avid eel fisher after slagging them off so much in the past"

Sorry chaps - I've used this image again, so soon, but I don't have too many to chose from!
My response - Up until October, of 2015, I had never intentionally sought to catch an eel by design, therefore all of my encounters were accidental captures whilst targeting other species. The fact that I have a PB of 7 lbs 1 oz (taken from a Somerset drain in the late 80's) and have been plagued by these slimy, tackle tangling "vermin" is all a side show from what I was doing at the time. Until early in 2015, I didn't realise the Red Data Book Status of the species - critically endangered. It was at that moment I thought about deliberately setting out to catch eels in the drains of East Kent and The Royal Military Canal. I hadn't got a clue how to go about my project, beyond a few dusty chapters in my ancient angling library. So to plan B - use the Internet and bingo! The National Anguilla Club has a fantastic website, full of up to date advice on the art of eel fishing. I remain slightly confused by the critically endangered banner -  they are still ridiculously plentiful in all the venues I have targeted. If, however, there is a change in water quality, this could easily impact, dramatically, on the situation and my chance would be lost.
So my desire to target the species is what has fuelled my quest for knowledge and, hence, seen a rise in the number of eel related posts on this blog. Just as with any other project I set my heart on, it's all or nothing. I have become fascinated by these fish and some of the myths surrounding their behaviour during the winter months. Correspondence with fellow anglers, who live in the northern counties, suggesting a very different scenario to the one I am faced with. Having been constantly troubled by the eels' unerring ability to home in on any soft fleshed baits (sardine and bluey being particularly so) whilst pike fishing, during the past five winters, leads me to push myself with a project to capture this species in every month of the pike season (October - March). With the local pike fishing being so mediocre, this particular challenge has all the ingredients to keep me motivated until I have reason to claim success or failure, and look for some other angling project. It is the learning process which I find most attractive - I certainly haven't developed a love for the eel, but have to admit that I am becoming increasingly intrigued by the techniques involved in their capture. Bait presentation and rig mechanics have always been central to all aspects of my big fish angling; this species deserves no less an approach and I'm loving it. - Dyl

Saturday 2 January 2016

Success despite failure

A contradiction in terms if ever there was one - yet that is how my first morning of 2016 panned out. I deliberately avoided the mid-night ritual, what with the fireworks and accompanying "light ales", in order to be at my chosen swim by 06.30 hrs. This coincided with the first real cold night of this winter period and the car display registered 1C all the way from Thanet to the marsh. As I made my way, from the car, I crunched through ice covered puddles, along the farm track and, as the light intensified, there was a spectacular frost. I was glad of my extra layers of thermals, that's for sure.
I fished three rods - my Mk IV was set up for pike (1/2 a yellow dyed Whiting) and two Duncan Kay's were kitted out for eels (Bluey sections)! I would imagine I was the only angler in the entire UK who was deliberately targeting this species on this date? I failed to register a bite in the entire period, although a couple of single bleeps on the pike gear suggested that eels were still active in the drain. It didn't really matter as it was January 1st - so the start of my 2016 list for birds seen. I recorded 48 species whilst sat/stood by my rods and a further four as I drove home. Barn Owl, Merlin, Stonechat, Water Rail, Common Buzzard and (sub-adult male) Marsh Harrier providing some splendid views as I awaited fishy activity. A Fox was watched hunting in an adjacent meadow and I had a couple of nice encounters with local birders who were also out doing their January 1st ritual listing.
My January eel target remains a realistic goal, given the current weather patterns, although I feel that it will be a session into darkness which will provide my fish. That combi-rig, using a four-turn water knot as opposed to the Albright Knot, seems to be better suited to the task, given the two materials I am using. As for the birds - let's see where they take me? I have no plans, nor expectations, although I might keep a better record of the list than I did in 2015.  What about moths, butterflies and other assorted bugs? I'll simply keep looking at anything which attracts my attention - those bloody micros are already starting to cause me much head scratching; can't see 2016 doing anything to change this - I've been lured into their grip! However it turns out, wherever it leads me, I look forward to sharing the experiences via the pages of this blog - Happy New Year to one and all - Dyl