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!


Saturday 30 April 2016

Kilchurn 2016

It was Dick Walker, as I recall, who came up with the term "controlled impatience" to describe the angler's approach to speccy hunting. To the casual observer, angling looks a very laid back type of pastime; however, if anyone is serious about their fishing, this facade disguises a very active thought process which each individual will be using to increase their chances of success.

I think it is fair to say that my time at Loch Awe has seen me push myself, and my techniques, to new levels as I have striven to get to grips with the pike of this magnificent fishery. I've learned a great deal, but have never come close to mastering the venue; if such a skill is, indeed, attainable? Benno and Sye have also followed this route as they, too, developed their own pike angling skills - fly rods, lures and float tubes included! Our final trip was one of the best, not because of what we caught, but what we did, how we applied ourselves and ringed the changes as the session progressed. We worked as a team and every aspect of our fishing was talked about as we strove to maximise the effectiveness of our efforts. One of the benefits of being an "old git" is the ability to look back and use past experiences to assist the thought processes as we attempt to move forward. Sye has travelled a very similar path to myself, although he hasn't been side-tracked by birding/mothing or bumble-bees and has been chasing (and catching) big fish regularly since the early 1980's.
He had said, before we left his home in Aston Clinton, that he wanted just one more photo of both of us with Scottish pike - the original was taken at Loch Ascog in May 1982. Benno wanted a "double" on his Bruce & Walker Mk IV and centre-pin whilst I wished to see our doubles total pass the 100 mark - fortunately we all achieved our goals.

Benno with a 14 lbs 0 oz fish on the Mk IV and centre-pin
The photo that Simon wanted.
Me with a 15 lbs 14 oz and Sye with a 14 lbs 4 oz
The final tally was 23 doubles from a total catch of fifty-seven pike - I had five, Benno six and Sye, who fished his socks off, twelve, including the 100th double! Great fun and some more superb memories of time spent on the shores of this wondrous loch. My own experience being further enhanced by the birding side-show. I got sixteen year ticks and also enjoyed prolonged time in the company of several species which, although not year ticks, are rarely encountered around Newland's Farm. As is usual, Ospreys and Black-throated Divers stole the lime-light but it was the chance to get up close, and personal, with Raven, Hooded Crow, Common Sandpiper, Meadow Pipit, Pied, White and Grey Wagtail that made for a memorable trip. Quite what the Common Redstarts, Tree Pipits, Willow Warblers and assorted hirundines made of the weather is anyone's guess - it was a bizarre situation to look out of the bivvy door to see Sand Martins skimming the surface of the loch whilst huge snow flakes fluttered down.

I really don't think that I'll ever return - it's been a fantastic privilege to have spent time on the shoreline of Kilchurn Bay. Alan has now passed over the tenancy to Kenny & Krissy, the site remains in safe hands.

Friday 29 April 2016

Back home - no regrets

I got back home just after 01.15 hrs, this morning, after an epic session on the wondrous Loch Awe. Benno, Sye and I have endured some crazy, although never extreme, weather and have come through the experience, our lives enriched by the time spent in each others company. We left a day early due to a severe weather warning - heavy snow, and did they get some? We departed as the snow arrived and battled into some hefty snow showers as we headed south; road side digital signs warning "Heavy snow forecast". What we'd seen was just the warm up act for a proper onslaught - the constant procession of Snow Ploughs going north, was enough of a compensation for lost a day of our holiday. We'd done everything we could have hoped, and so much more. There will be a proper trip report, at some stage, these images are just to set the scene.

We weren't the only one's up there pike fishing!

Benno doing battle with a Loch Awe pike - centre pin and Mk IV,
can't think where he gets it from?

Wednesday 20 April 2016

That's it - until May!

Benno, Sye & myself are headed back to Loch Awe for our "final" final trip to this magnificent fishery. If Simon hadn't been so ill. last year, I'd not be going back - I've done everything I could have wished. I have caught my twenty and witnessed Benno and Simon catching their's - so this trip is one last hoorah! We're going back for a social - a "Wraftie" bonding session; any pike will be a bonus, although none of us are kidding ourselves that the fishing doesn't matter. We won't have travelled 600 miles to simply open a can of lager!
In 2016 my focus will be directed towards the task of maximising results, due to the technology we now have at our disposal. My tackle will still cause the "fashionista's" to recoil - it being of a vintage that suits the eccentricity of being Dylan - it will not, however, at any point, put the wellbeing of these magnificent fish in any jeopardy. There are a couple of little tweaks, with my bait presentation, that I am wanting to try out and I also want to use Sardines on one rod, for the whole period. Fresh Cornish Sardines are available from the fresh fish counter in Tesco at £2/kilo. They are just about the perfect shape and size for these, narrow-headed, small mouthed, Scottish pike. I will have a freezer full of dyed and flavoured bait ready for our departure.
My kit will consist of my two thirteen footers - a Bruce & Walker HMC (high modular carbon) 2 .75 lbs t/c fast taper broomstick and a Tri-cast 2.25 lbs t/c compound taper "lesser" broomstick. These will be fitted with my two Maximizer 70 "Big Pits" loaded with Berkley Whiplash Crystal braid - at the distances we'll be fishing, this is the only line for the job! I'm  taking the Duncan Kay's just for the short range stuff - I am particularly taken with the idea of close range fishing during the hours of darkness (as suggested by a Scottish guy, "Pike mad", via my comments facility); we'll see what happens? I have three Matt Hayes centre-pins loaded up with braid and three Mitchell 300's with 12 lbs b.s. mono also making the trip but, for the most part, I am planning to fish with just the two thirteen footers. Sardine on one, alternating Bluey and Mackerel on the other.
In an attempt at keeping things a little quirky, I am also taking my Tring tench gear along with a supply of lobworms and prawns. Perch are a favourite prey of the local Ospreys, some of them look quite big, so they will be my target species - although I will have no problems if an eel or wild trout take a fancy to my offerings - just something different to do whilst I await the attentions of a Scottish Esox!


 As this is definitely (if such things can ever be so?) our last visit, we have decided that there might be mileage in some form of family competition - winner buys breakfast on the way home, sort of thing! Benno is taking his Bruce & Walker Mk IV and I, have to admit, was toying with the idea of taking one of mine but Simon, quite rightly, talked me out of it. It would be folly to misuse such iconic rods!  I have three Duncan Kay's, three Mitchell 300's and three Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" centre-pins, the combinations and possibilities, as yet, unexplored. Much conversation on the phones and we're all up for it. We can decide on the rules as we drive up in the van, on Benno's birthday!
The only other target, which we are seeking, is to pass the one hundred Kilchurn Bay "doubles" (since  May 2011)  mark - we require eleven more! Our best year (2013) saw us land 38 - our worst (2011) tally being just seven! We've come an awful long way in six years and I'd like to think that our experiences will stand us in good stead for this forthcoming venture. Benno has been on Facebook and thinks that Davie Robertson might well be up there - it would be a fitting finale if we could meet up one last time! Massive skies, majestic scenery, good company and hard fighting pike - very close to my definition of angler's paradise. The long range forecast is very promising, although predicting chilly nights, there is no sign of the wind and snow that made our 2015 trip such an ordeal.

Friday 15 April 2016

Adventure on the horizon

Early tomorrow morning I have to drive down to Folkestone, to pick up Benno, before heading across the Thames into deepest Essex where we are to collect a new Transit. It is for Ben's work - he's a heating engineer (they used to be called plumbers when I was a boy) but, it's also a fishing wagon! This purchase is extremely timely - we are off on another angling adventure, very soon, and the new van means we don't have to hire one; which is always a lot of, time consuming, fannying about.
So what with all this and my requirement to get my kit sorted, plus spending time with Dad and the grand-kids, fishing is out of the equation over the weekend. It is a little frustrating, because I know that the local carp are very active and some good fish have already been taken by the guys at these venues. My time will surely come?

How I wish that I'd managed to get this shot today!  (Picasa strikes again!)
Newland's birding continues to provide a nice distraction, a couple of Common Buzzards and a Swallow, on my Wednesday walk to work, a female Wheatear and another Ring Ouzel today. The maddest sighting, however, was of a Rose - ringed Parakeet (a male) feeding on my sunflower heart feeder. I haven't been bothered with the moth trap, but still discovered a cracking Double-striped Pug on an IBC, at work, whilst going about my chores. Things are good and "everything in the garden is rosy!" - I need time to take a step back and assess where I'm at. The, upcoming, adventure will provide just that opportunity.

A Thanet garden speciality - entertaining but of no importance.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Dribs and drabs

I have to say that my experiences, of early morning patch activity, mirror that of Jonathan Lethbridge, over in darkest Wanstead; scant return for the early riser. This morning was to follow a similar pattern as I made my way around the circuit. A bunch of twelve Meadow Pipits flushed from some Spring Barley and a few Song Thrushes were scattered about, yet totalled less than double figures. With no sign of yesterday's Wheatears it was left to a group of three Ring Ouzels to provide the morning's highlight. Always flighty, I got reasonable views through my bins - my camera work providing little more than a very distant record shot. Still, they were another year tick and see me on one hundred and one, thus far.

One interesting sighting, just beyond my Eastern boundary involved a pair of displaying Sparrowhawks - somewhere in the vicinity of Broadstairs Cricket Ground. I'll keep an eye on the area as they are, potentially, a third local pair? Off to work in a minute, so something is bound to happen as I make my way there. I might well take my camera, today, just in case.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

At last!

Another stroll around Newland's Farm, early doors, was rather a struggle. There were a few decked Song Thrushes and an odd flurry of Meadow Pipits overhead, but not quite what I'd expected after the apparently perfect overnight conditions. Surely a Ring Ouzel or Willow Warbler was on the cards? Zilch ! Standing in the garden, later in the morning, I could hear a Blackcap singing from a garden further south and a slight reaction from the gulls revealed a Sparrowhawk, flying deliberately northwards - so probably a migrant.
It wasn't until I made my way across to work (13.30 hrs) that anything happened. Two male Wheatears were flitting around, one by the Scaffolder's Yard, the other by The Old Rose Garden - both posing beautifully, thus taking the piss as I didn't have my camera gear! As I approached the end of the footpath, directly opposite Bookers, the gulls went up as a superb adult Red Kite flew over, headed south-west. After these encounters work was a doddle!

Unable to record an image this afternoon - this one from 2010 will have to suffice! They really are splendid little birds.

Monday 11 April 2016

Patch birding

I am sure that there are many birders who don't share my passion for "patch watching" - each to their own, as long as we are enjoying the birds we see, there can be no right, or wrong, way of doing so. I find myself in the sixteenth year of watching Newland's Farm and still get excited by species which are, at best, very ordinary. The beauty of my situation is that I actually live within the patch, my boundaries are of my own definition and the requirement for any "official" intervention in my records is non-existent.
I've been out, again, this morning and it came as no surprise that there is very little happening. A Chiffchaff has set up (temporary ?) residence at the end of Vine Close and is advertising it's presence by continuous bouts of song. There are two Song Thrushes doing the same - one over in the main farm complex and another over in the gardens of Park Avenue; things are looking up. Still no sign of a Wheatear, or Swallow, as yet but I did manage a little bit of "patch magic" when, yesterday morning provided a flyover Yellowhammer - the first record since autumn 2007. It is amazing how such a simple experience can elevate a day into something special - I was buzzing!

Linnets are now back around the farm, in decent numbers, and I was able to get a half-decent image, of a male perched in the main hedgerow, whilst it's mate was prospecting for a nest site below. An ordinary farm in the middle of Thanet - I live on the eastern edge and work on the western one, what more could I wish for from a patch?

It was always going to happen! Just as I was feeding my birds, prior to leaving for work, the gulls went up and a Red Kite drifted over the garden. I rushed indoors and grabbed my camera, but the bird was already circling over the fields beyond Vine Close, by the time I  got back outside - probably 300m away? I rattled off a series of shots - more in hope than expectation. This is the best I managed and is a very heavy crop.

Saturday 9 April 2016

A scamp and Swallows

My life, at present, is akin to an out of body experience - weird and crazy things occurring beyond anything I could've imagined and way outside my comprehension. Lawyers and solicitors - money and banks - situations which I have avoided, like the plague, are now a reality and conspiring to change my life forever (for the better!) With all this going on, I headed off for a short afternoon session at Sandwich Coarse Fishery. Kevin wasn't too hopeful about my prospects. "Very quiet" being his verdict; still, I'd rather be outside than indoors! I payed my dough and went off to set up my kit. The best swim, on the fishery, (in my opinion) being unoccupied? So a no brainer - I'm having some of that thank-you!

It is a cozy little swim, situated in the NE corner of the venue, thus recipient of the benefits of the regular SW winds that are a feature of our climate. Depths, along the reedy margins, are little more than four feet - Coots can be a real pest when they discover an area of particles; they love chick peas! There are two, very obvious, spots in which to present your baits - then just sit back and await events. That's exactly what I did. Mk IV's, Mitchell 300's and all the other stuff which goes with my current project - at 16.00 hrs my right hand rod is away and I find myself attached to very lively little "scamp" - around 6 lbs and a superb little carp.

A lovely little "scamp" - the first carp on my new(est) Mk IV
No other action - if I ignore the c**ts (what else did you think I meant?) - Coots were a real problem!
Two more additions to my birding 2016 list in the form of Swallow (several small groups passing westward over the fishery, in the company of Sand Martins) and a singing Blackcap - it was a very enjoyable afternoon session.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Revised targets - slow progress

My adventure into carp angling is slowly taking shape as I seek to achieve another angling target. To this end I have been an avid viewer of Youtube and the limitless, carp related, offerings that are to be found there. My problem is gleaning the information which suits my purpose and, yet, avoiding the gimmicks/fads which are aimed at anglers, not fish! "Tackle Tart"- a phrase spawned in the aftermath of the rise to domination, of UK freshwater angling, by the pursuit of carp and the "Ultra-cult" followers of these fabulous fish. This is a challenge in it's own right. The highly professional offerings, of the major players (Nash, Korda, Fox, et al.), are a carp angling overdose of big fish and how to do it. Modern carp angling is a results orientated pursuit where the big names are expected to deliver at every opportunity. To this end they have developed some awesome techniques and are keeping one step ahead of their competition. How often does a featured angler say "this is still a trial/prototype which we will be introducing next year"? Of course they'll be introducing it next year - they've already skimmed the cream off the top of it's potential at all the venues they've been to. Carp are the fishy version of crows - they have a limited ability to learn and that is what sets them apart from most other species in the UK.

A "scraper" double, from Tyler Hill - I'll happily catch fish like this whilst awaiting the bite from
a bigger carp! If I caught forty of these - I will have had a great season!
These modern anglers are not only competing with the learning abilities of these fish, but also those other devoted souls who are chasing the same quarry - down to the individual fish in many situations! As much as I would enjoy the "split cane" anarchy involved in such folly - I haven't got the time to engage in such activity. Those guys are able to spend weeks at a time - Simon Crowe (Nash TV) stating he "only does one hundred nights a year!" because of other commitments - really? The top guns are in bivvies, generally in France, longer than they are at home (if they have one) Fish ain't that important to me - anymore! Enjoyment, however, is!!

My first ever twenty - Bridigo Pond 5th July 1983 - 21 lbs 10 oz
On floating "slyme" - a Duncan Kay concoction
So here's a slightly revised project - looking forwards. I still desire to land a thirty on the Mk IV's - using particles, if at all possible. I would love to land four fish in excess of twenty pounds during this period, my PB is currently 23 lbs 14 oz - so very beatable! A new PB would be a great result - a thirty just keeping my dreams alive and providing a focus. I fancy my chances of forty doubles in six months - so that is my amended target. I don't have the time to sit it out at the "in vogue" venues - but there are still plenty of other fisheries which offer me the chance of a thirty. On the periphery is the scenario of a twenty off the top or a decent double on float fished sweetcorn. Forty doubles in six months - I didn't achieve that, combined, total in thirteen years during my first speccy hunting period (1980 - 93) and have only just exceeded it since my return (May 2011). I have to admit that I'm really enthused by this challenge and feel that I've set a target that is realistic, and achievable, because of where I live and the venues at my disposal. I think that "living the dream" is an apt description of what I wish for? I will not make the final venue choices until early May - the RMC will certainly have a part to play, the others are less certain, at present. I'm hopeful that I can replicate the success of my eel campaign - only time will tell?

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Always a pleasure

I had to take my Mazda 5 (MPV) into Canterbury for a bit of TLC and an MOT - as we are now, once again, a two car household, it didn't make any difference that we dropped it off yesterday and picked it back up again today. The experience made us £145 lighter, but the car remains roadworthy and legal, very important when it provides my transport for fishing and a taxi for the grand-kids! So a big up for Canterbury Mazda!

Just to make it clear - I didn't capture any of these images, from my car, today!
They were recorded during the last two years at Loch Awe
As I was driving back home, there was an Osprey flying above the A28, close to Hersden Industrial Est. It had, no doubt, been fishing the lakes of the Stour Valley, feeding up in preparation for it's final push North. They are one of my favourite birds. I suppose this has its' roots in my childhood and of a time when Ospreys were incredibly scarce breeding birds in the UK. During my childhood Loch Garten RSPB Res. was probably the only place anyone had access to, and any realistic chance of seeing, these magnificent fish hunters. I couldn't hazzard a guess at the number of Ospreys I've seen in the UK - I saw a few at Tring during my time there and have seen many more since moving to Kent (1993) - I've even seen one from my garden! They are a conservation success story and the subsequent reintroduction program, centred around Rutland Water, has been a flagship project for all that is good within this movement to re-establish our lost wildlife species. (Mirroring that of the English Red Kite program)

The day that I don't get excited by seeing an Osprey is the one when
I throw away my binoculars.
They are magnificent birds which are a joy to behold - even when I'm driving!

Now I am a cynical old git and wonder just how well this Osprey success story would be going if the species ate Grouse, instead of fish? The Red Kite success, north of the Tartan border, is not going at all well. Mystery nest failures, poisoning and shooting - all occurring regularly in, blatant, disregard to any wildlife laws and/or EU statutes. Why? Because, ill-informed, morons - funded by the ludicrously wealthy (Greed is God! - nice tie in with my previous offering?), see Red Kites as predators of Red Grouse. Shooting Red Grouse = mega bucks, the fine for killing a Red Kite = peanuts (let some poor sap take the wrap and the "gentry" pay the fine - every one's a winner, except the Kites! or the Hen Harriers, Buzzards and Eagles.) It seems crazy that so much conservation effort, and funding resource, is providing the basis for these two programmes yet one is falling victim to the, steam-rollering, power of wealth over law. A very worrying sign of the times - how many of the PS3/Nintendo generation care about what's happening to our natural world once we've moved on?

Monday 4 April 2016

When the fun stops - stop!

A catchy little phrase which the gambling industry has come up with, to ease its' conscience, whilst fleecing the punters! I am quite fortunate, in as much, that I have managed to get through life without ever smoking or setting foot inside a bookies! Of course I've played the Lottery, I have had some fantastic nights out at Henlow Greyhound Track - using the Tote system to pick three dogs, but I have never been excited by the thrill of winning, it was the atmosphere and spectacle that drew me back for more; and the fact that my best mate's mum had greyhounds racing there! Don't smoke, don't gamble but I am rather partial to a small "light ale" - I'm no saint - can't live a full life without some vices?
Benno and I had an afternoon/evening carp session on The Royal Military Canal and it was a complete blank, although a nice social. We fished blind, fishing to features and not located fish - there was a raw Easterly blowing straight off the sea and it was raining! We'd planned to fish through till 22.00 hrs; by 20.45 hrs we'd had enough. "When the fun stops - stop!" and so we packed up. It was the 2nd April, quite why we expected anything different is all about enthusiasm over common sense. The RMC does hold a good head of carp, including some very big individuals, and is one of the venues which I am hoping to spend some time at during the next six months. We both agreed that a program of pre-baiting will be our best option, we'll just have to see how things progress.
There's so much stuff going on in the background, my life, at present, is a whirlwind of "what if's?" and "can we really do that?" In the next two weeks my world will be changed forever - in three weeks time there's another adventure planned. For a simple soul these are, indeed, exciting times and, as I've mentioned previously, "Easy Street" beckons! All of a sudden I will be able to experience the benefits of a substantial amount of money and how it will impact on my day to day life. It's a bit of a weird one, for me. I have never been driven by money - I know how to earn it and, in a similar vein, know how to spend it. It doesn't mean anything - I work hard and I play hard. To, suddenly, find myself in a situation where I don't have to think about "Direct Debits" or bank charges is a very strange concept. I detest what money can do. The greed and unethical practices of the banks is the most obvious yet, I have experienced, first hand, how this commodity can rip families apart. I hate the bloody stuff, not because of what it is, but what it does to rational thinking! Greed; we live in a world driven by the greed culture - "greed is good"  a quote from Danny Fairbrass, in an angling context, (I'd change that to "Greed is God!" in modern society)
An adventure on the horizon and a "mammoth" pay day looming - there's plenty to be positive about in Dumpton Manor at present. Conditions look good for firing up the garden moth trap tonight - I added my fourth, trapped, species on 29th March with a single example of  E. monodactylla.

Sunday 3 April 2016

A heron, BoP's & sprogs - another garden session.

It's been rather quiet around Newland's Farm - so nothing new there then? My search for a wheatear remains fruitless and the only obvious signs of Spring migration is the trickle of Chiffchaffs passing through the garden plus the continuing passage of Common Buzzards in the skies above.
It's been a glorious day; Bev & I went across to The Coach & Horses (Deal - Sandwich road) for lunch - quality! The rest of my day has been spent listening to Radio 5 and watching the comings and goings around the garden.

Sparrowhawks have established a new territory, over by the main farm compound, so there are now two pairs (the other one in Ramsgate Cemetery) locally. Today was to see me witnessing displaying pairs above both nest sites plus several other migrants moving north. Only three Common Buzzards were spotted, but I feel sure there were more that I missed. The biggest reaction of the day occurred when a Grey Heron flew over; even the Parakeets getting in on the protest!

It's great to be able to spend time out in the garden, House Sparrows remain numerous and dominant around the feeding station - happy days!