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 May 2016

Starting to make sense

Our carp campaign is gaining momentum as we learn more about the venue and the fish we seek. Benno is already three - one up, the benefit of not working shifts demonstrated by his results all being afternoon captures. I bucked the trend and took a nice fish, just before 07.00 hrs, this morning. Fantastic fun on the split cane Mk IV and Mitchell 300. We've a long way to go, before we can make any claims to having learnt the water, but it is an encouraging start.

Friday 27 May 2016

Limax maximus and a double take!

Another stupid o'clock start, as I continue my split cane quest. I'd seen three foxes before I got out of Ramsgate, and a fourth ran towards me as I walked to my chosen swim, down on the RMC. Both rods out before 04.30 hrs - solid bags ensuring that the rigs were properly presented on the far marginal shelf. The dawn chorus wasn't up to much - a Blackcap and a Cetti's Warbler being the only notable contributors. As I sat back, awaiting events, I became aware of a Leopard Slug in the foliage beside me. I made the effort to place it on the lid of my bait bucket and get a photo - the first time I've ever pointed a camera in the direction of such a creature (that guy in Alice Springs would surely approve? - it's another story!)

I must be loosing the plot? It's a bloody Leopard Slug (Limax maximus)
Benno turned up, just in time to see both rods register bites; a tench on one and a bream on the other, what joy! The tench was a nice fish, weighing 4 lbs 5 oz and the best one from the venue thus far. The less said about the bream, the better. I would have stayed for another hour if it were not for the activities of a twat in a canoe - paddling straight through my swim.

Wilstone it ain't - a lovely little tench from the RMC

Thursday 26 May 2016

A new(ish) toy

My brother Simon has just splashed out on a new camera and I have been given, as a result, his old EOS 350 kit, complete with a nice 70-210 mm Canon lens, which has a macro facility inbuilt. I had a little play around with it, fitted to my EOS 400d and it would seem to be very well suited to butterfly photography - something which will be very useful when we return to Kefalonia later this year?

Not too sad for a first attempt?

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Seeking "close encounters" with a twist?

Len Head once wrote that "you can't catch a big tench if it lives at the other end of the lake" (The Big Fish Scene - 1979) whilst, even before this, Barry Rickards and Ray Webb had gone into extraordinary detail as to the importance of fish location in their joint masterpiece, Fishing for Big Pike - 1971. Location, location, location; the most important single factor in all big fish anglers thoughts if they are anything like serious about their hobby.
I have been going on about Youtube and the superb knowledge that is to be gleaned there (ref: carp fishing) for quite some time now. There is insight into a world of wonder, if you choose to look? On the other hand, there is also a baffling array of brand endorsements which are purely aimed at the angler, and not the fish! I have to accept that market forces drive the desire for progress - carp anglers, it would seem, are insatiable? "Wheat from the chaff" is where I'm at - what will actually assist, as opposed to hamper, my efforts - moving forward?
I admit that I'm fascinated by rig mechanics, for all my fishing projects, whatever the species - choosing a presentation which best suits the situation at the time. By using the advice, obtained from the Youtube offerings (Korda Thinking Tackle in particular), I have expanded my understanding of why and when to use certain bait presentations. Sitting in my study, I have practiced the skills required to tie the rigs and adapt them for my own angling situations. One glaringly obvious difference between my demands, and those shown on the majority of carp video offerings, is that all of my angling takes place in very intimate surroundings. Four rod lengths would be a long chuck at many of my venues, thus hitting the clip at 120 m+ isn't a consideration, so neither is the use of broom handles, 4oz leads and big pit winches - "horses for courses" is the best analogy. There is also another element to my fishing which is unavailable at any tackle shop, or on-line! Watercraft and bankside etiquette, something which is very rarely touched on in any Youtube posting - the Carp Angling Industry portrays their product as a very social pastime, where big fish are regularly landed by "the lads" having a jolly! This is a modern development and not one I am able to fit into my own angling expectations. Even when I am fishing with Benno and/or Luke, we don't spend our time chatting in each others swim (Scotland excepted); no, we are with our gear for the entire session, a walkie talkie being our preferred way of communication should we require assistance when landing a decent fish. I am able to trace this angling approach back to the days, in the early 80's, spent in the company of Lester Strudwick, on The Tring Reservoir complex, and Fred Crouch on The Hampshire Avon - I was an extremely fortunate guy to have such excellent mentors during my formative years.
So getting back to fish location; obviously it would be simple if the water was gin clear with little, or no, weed growth. The reality is very different, murky water with large areas of surface and sub-surface weed growth and a general unwillingness for the fish to show themselves. My task, therefore, is to use my experience to locate areas and features which I associate with my quarry - watercraft! I have, in my early years whilst tench fishing at Wilstone, been along a very similar path to the modern carp anglers. By regularly introducing large amounts of bait into a particular swim, this becomes a feature in its' own right and the fish become conditioned to the situation. It's the ploy of the "time bandit" - those guys with no other commitment away from fishing - my tax paying their benefit hand-outs in some cases! Even the most incompetent goon, on the planet, will get lucky when time is not a consideration.

One of the best all-round anglers ever - this book is testimony to his
skills and achievements, and an excellent read, to boot!
I would imagine that, for the vast majority of anglers of my generation, Dick Walker is the stand out character during that embryonic period of "Speccy Hunting". However, as much as I admire what Dick had done to sow the seeds; my own angling hero is Jim Gibbinson, although Pete Stone, Peter Drennan, Fred J and Ivan Marks are right up there with him! It was Jim, however, more than anyone else, who demonstrated, to me, that big fish could be targeted, and caught, by thinking anglers. An angler who's time on the bank had limitations because, as a responsible member of society, there were another commitments in his life (wife, kids, mortgage and job - he was a teacher!). His 1983 "Modern Specimen Hunting" is one of my most visited books - his writing style exudes enthusiasm and captures the excitement of that moment a fish is hooked, a rare gift. If I am looking for a spark of inspiration, Jim's writing is generally my first port of call - he is an extremely talented, and successful, all-rounder with huge experience of a variety of species and venues. Despite this tome being over thirty years old; many of Jim's ideas remain viable in 2016, although the quality of terminal tackle, now available, is way beyond the scope of anything written about back then. Fortunately, I am not seeking rig advice when I peruse the various chapters of this book. What I seek is the spark of an idea, something that I might use as a starting point for another strategy during a project. However, even back in 1983, the writing was already on the wall - to paraphrase George Orwell's "Animal Farm" quote - "All fish are equal but, some are more equal than others!"  The rise to dominance of carp fishing, over all other branches of freshwater angling, was already well underway - the catalyst being Kevin Maddocks' 1979 publication "Carp Fever" and the subsequent VHS video offerings of Clive & Malcolm - the Richworth originators! Jim's chapter on Carp is thirty pages long, ten more than the second longest, which is based on advice of how to go about catching a twenty pound Pike!

Dick with "Clarrisa" September 13th 1952
Chris Yates is, without doubt, a very fine angler - he is also one of life's great eccentrics and this can been seen no more clearly than during the filming of Hugh Miles "Passion for Angling" series. He comes across as a huge character, full of enthusiasm and energy, waxing lyrical about whimsical concepts and ideas. His 1986 book, Casting at the Sun, does nothing to dispel this aura; madcap recollections of time spent in pursuit of carp. It is Chris's tales of time spent in the company of fellow members of "The Golden Scale Club" which I am most taken by. Sneaking into Winchester Cathedral in order to secrete a "golden hook" within the light coming through the Izaak Walton, commemorative, stained glass window, along with stories of creaking cane, angling enjoyment, and like-minded company. I have no feelings of envy towards anything Chris has achieved - during that same period I was also enjoying myself, catching fish, playing football, getting married and bringing up kids - not necessarily in that order?
Therefore, it must be an age thing that has gotten me to my present stance? I will never be able to hold a candle to any of those anglers that I've mentioned in this rambling nonsense, however, it is a desire to explore, not copy, their exploits which provides the inspiration for my (our) current challenge. Bev has been a diamond in supporting these efforts. Although never at her best at 03.00 hrs - she always offers "tight lines", as I leave to go fishing, and has pulled off an absolute blinder to assist my personal project, via the wonders of e-bay. More to follow, of that I'm sure. A split cane, Mk IV, caught 30 - is it possible? I am forever hopeful, although we have a long way to go until September.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Difficult choices

I am confident that the vast majority of visitors, to this blog, will recognise that I am of strongly held opinions - on many subjects. Whilst I retain the right to these thoughts, they appear in my writings only when I have the requirement to support an idea or issue. Since the demise of the old "Nonconformist" blog I have deliberately attempted to steer clear of subjects which I know will cause others to be offended - I'm tired of the fight. "Of Esox" was started because I wished to share my experiences of a simple life, the majority spent with family, my passion for the outdoors and the wildlife which I encounter along the way.

That same photo as accompanied yesterdays offering - African Blue Tit
Politics, religion and science have no real place in this blog's scope?
At present there are events conspiring to disrupt this situation, no-one's fault, just how things are panning out; I will have to deal with them as they arise. So I apologize for that removed post of yesterday. I wrote it, late last night and, after an uneasy sleep, removed it first thing this morning. I just knew that people would be offended - no longer my purpose! Politics, science and religion; we can't avoid them in any aspect of our daily lives - just I don't need to get involved, within a blogging context, and should have known better. So to all those who've recently made the effort to comment - I ain't packing it in, any time soon. Living life in a goldfish bowl ain't always easy - blogging is just that and I will continue to offer my slant on the world as, and when, the situation allows. Life on "Easy Street" hasn't quite delivered what I was expecting!

Saturday 14 May 2016

Straws and clutching!

I'm struggling for inspiration - this blogging caper is becoming rather a chore, just phasing; not a precursor to me chucking it in! I've got quite a lengthy, and semi-serious, post pending in my draft folder - it's all about carp anglers and fashion statements. I'm not happy with my word choices, although my sentiments are unchanged - it's a work in progress and coming to blogger soon.
So, by way of a fill in, and using the Steve Gale Design Ltd template, here is another top ten offering. This one is my personal highlights of fish landed, by myself, since May 2011. I am very conscious of a Bureboy post which included the phrase "Nothing more depressing than the photo album of a single species angler!" (4th December 2015) I do hope that this post doesn't cause a similar reaction although I realise I won't please everyone.

No. 10 Common Carp 18 lbs 2 oz - Long Shaw Farm

This old warrior was taken on a small cube of floating bread fished under the rod tip. The breeze was pushing into my swim and this fish was feeding on scraps that were building up in the surface scum. It was simply a matter of scattering a few cat biscuits then wait. I actually watched the fish take my bait. Tring Tench rod and my Match Aerial centre-pin - great memories of my time spent at Long Shaw Farm.

No. 9 Pike 19 lbs 4 oz - Royal Military Canal

This fish was taken during a short spell, when Benno and I were to enjoy the best pike fishing we've experienced in England. Generally one bite per session, but three different 19's and a 20 - not too shabby for a canal?

No. 8 Chub 5 lbs 2 oz - River Stour, Canterbury

My first "five" and a PB. Taken from a tiny free stretch between two bridges on the Sturry Road, right opposite Viking Mercedes Garage. A Robin Red pellet accounted for the savage bite and tremendous scrap that ensued. They are quite magnificent fish which I don't spend enough time with.

No. 7 Pike 19 lbs 5 oz - East Kent Marshes

The culmination of my original pike project - I was after a twenty from the local drains. I experienced some fantastic pike fishing out on the marshes but, sadly, that target fish eluded me. I took this particular individual three times during the 2011-12 season and had to conclude that I had nothing more to fish for; my twenty would, therefore, have to be sought in pastures new!

No. 6 Barbel 13 lbs 5oz - River Stour, Canterbury

August 17th 2013 and my world went into meltdown as the barbel challenge developed into a fairytale. I'd caught my first ever double, a couple of weeks previous at 11 lbs 9 oz,, so this fish was to blow my PB out of sight. It's pointless attempting to describe the intensity of the experience, I lack the eloquence, and ability, to write such stuff. Benno was with me and added to the moment - he also took the photos. Even now, when looking back, they were magical times where reality became a blur of the surreal.

No. 5 Pike 20 lbs 9 oz - Royal Military Canal

Just a few days after the passing of my mother, this fish ended up in my landing net. A fish that I'd targeted since my return to the hobby; it was an intensely emotional experience, given the timing and circumstances. I'd arranged to meet up with the boys - they'd been on the piss in Folkestone the previous night and failed to show up. Therefore, I was alone, with my thoughts, when this fish was deceived by my "Red Herring". I still look at those images with a great deal of nostalgic feelings, there was more going on than simply fishing during that period?

No. 4 Eel 3 lbs 10 oz - East Kent Marshes

March 12th 2016 - the realisation of another challenge. By setting targets I now feel that my angling has greater focus. "No shit!" That eel project was as mad as any I've been on yet, as it turned out, fulfilled a great many things I'd previously not explored. I pushed myself, but also pushed the thinking of others, by delivering my results. Me being happy about catching an eel - that's something in itself!

No. 3 Barbel 13 lbs 14 oz - River Stour, Canterbury

21st August 2013 - just five days after capturing my first "thirteen" this fish adds another 9 oz to my PB statistics. A barbel known as "The Long Fish" was taken from the same swim as my previous fish and is the pinnacle of my barbel angling. A PB which would, surely, make Fred Crouch very happy, I think? I fished well, but am not too sure that I deserved such a fish, so early in the campaign? Looking back, I'm very happy with my results and can now go off chasing other dreams without any regrets.

No. 2 Common Carp 20 lbs 10 oz East Kent Marshes

10th July 2015 - at 02.00 hrs I'm out pre-baiting three swims on the marshes. I'd put my gear in the car, just because I knew Bev would have the "raving hump" should I return too early and disturb her sleep for a second time. That third swim had signs of fish activity and this magnificent wild Common Carp was my reward for my efforts. The first "twenty", to my rods, since Feb 1984 - what a fantastic fish and probably never been caught before?

No. 1 Pike 24 lbs 10 oz Loch Awe

At 05.50 hrs, on 26th April 2015, my "Optonic" bite alarm sounded as the monkey rose up the needle, and then dropped free, allowing the centre-pin to trickle the braid off almost resistance free. Somewhere, out in the loch, 120m away, a pike had picked up my bait and what a pike it proved to be. Thirty three years after my first visit and I finally get my first Scottish "twenty" - without any doubt my finest hour - ever! I've caught bigger yet never has a pike impacted upon my emotions like this one did. Memories of time spent at this magnificent venue with Cuddles, and the Mitch's, during the late-80's, were in the mix as I savoured that moment. Alan Gray came down to witness the fish, only four of us saw it - Luke, Benno, Alan and myself - but within five days this fish had metamorphosed into a "Thirty-two" such is the power of social media.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Benno's off the mark

Some time around 18.00 hrs, this evening, Benno phoned me with news that he'd just taken his first carp from the RMC. From his tone, I could tell that he was excited - having just landed a superb 17 lbs 4 oz Common Carp. Not a fish to fire the imagination of the "ultra-cult" - it remains a great achievement within the confines of an individual challenge. Just like that first "double figure" barbel, from the Stour, this carp is a milestone fish which should help push us on to further successes. Work commitments ensured I had no chance of seeing it, but I had been down there this morning and had a fishless, though not un-eventful, session. We've an awful lot of learning, ahead of us, before the end of September?

All the tricks of the trade - to make this fish look as big as possible! Camera phone and arm extensions?
Whatever the combination - it is a fabulous carp and one worthy of, adrenaline-induced, shaking.

Monday 9 May 2016

Little Tincas

An early morning session on The Royal Military was an enjoyable experience. I arrived just after 04.30 hrs and fished through till 07.45 hrs taking two small tench for my troubles. I also missed a screamer and pulled the hook on another fish, but am not too worried as I believe they were also tench and not the carp that I so desire.

It's a start!

Sunday 8 May 2016

It's coming together

Benno and I spent a couple of hours down on The Royal Military Canal, on Thursday evening. Nothing doing for me, a small bream to Ben but, it wasn't about what we caught, as much, as what we saw. Carp were rolling, in the general area, with one adjacent swim appearing to be a place worthy of future effort. I am hoping to get a couple of early morning sessions in next week, work dictating the time restraints as I'm on "lates" - 14.00 hrs - 22.00 hrs. Everything we have gleaned from the local carp anglers would suggest that dawn and dusk offer the best chance of success. Night fishing is not allowed, although quite how the controlling club can enforce this, on a 27 mile long venue, is a mystery. For the time being I am happy to remain within the rules - if, however, I find myself in a situation where fishing in darkness will offer me a better chance of success, I'll make my choices accordingly. After all I'm only fishing for carp not robbing banks or assaulting young kids!

I feel that this image might well be replicated many times,over the next few months, as my
"split cane" adventure unfolds?

I watch loads of stuff on Youtube and have been studiously attempting to get my head around some of the finer points of rig presentation - not that there's much about particle fishing to be discovered! It appears, that within modern carping, particles are great for "munga" but not as hook bait? Still, this is of no consequence; I already have a basic grasp of where my project is headed and what will be required to ensure a modicum of success. I look at this material as a source of inspiration, opposed to education, as my thought process evolves. I keep going back to the early Korda underwater stuff - fantastic, thought provoking, images which demonstrate, without doubt, the carps' ability to learn in the highly pressured venues that exist on the modern circuit. There's also a lot of fantastic learning to be had from the Free Spirit and Nash offerings - new ideas relayed via new technology.

There is one aspect of modern carp (specimen?) angling with which I am unable to align myself - guesstimation! If I can take the time to catch a fish, then I can also make the effort to weigh it, should I feel it worthy. I am not talking about scamps - I refer to the modern situation revolving around "it's a double, a twenty, a mid thirty?" You what? I have witnessed some outrageous claims - get a set of scales and no-one can be in any doubt. Celebrity anglers and their glib attitude towards  quality fish has resulted in a culture where word of mouth is dominant over fact. I have no problem with guys lying to themselves, but can't find any reason to support this hype when it results in other anglers attempting to catch fish which don't exist. (There are many obvious parallels to "stringing" within a birding context here)

I am totally aware that weight statistics are an egotistical nonsense - we go fishing to catch fish! However, as I deliberately seek big fish, I want to record their weights (for my own records) whenever I'm lucky enough to catch one.

One of the male Common Whitethroats present around the farm
Other stuff worthy of note over the past few days includes a pair of Grey Partridges flushed from beside the Scaffolder's Yard, a decked Skylark and a frustrating brief, flight view, of a probable Corn Bunting, whilst Lesser Whitethroat, Swift and Yellow Wagtail being added to my year list - all from my "patch". There was a Greenland Wheatear bouncing around the potato field on Saturday morning and three male Common Whitethroats have set up territories around the farm - Spring has certainly now sprung! I fired up the moth trap last night and had a fair haul of the usual culprits. A Least Black Arches was a nice bonus, as was a splendid little Phyllonorycter messaniella ( a new species for me) plus a couple of Eudonia angustea. I should make more effort to run the trap on a regular basis - I'll add it to my "to do" list!

Least Black Arches

Phyllonorycter messaniella

Eudonia angustea

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Getting back on track

What with our Scottish social and the associated lunacy surrounding becoming the beneficiary of a very large inheritance, I've somehow taken my eye off the ball, so to speak! My "split cane challenge" remains my objective over the next few months - forty doubles, including four twenties (and a thirty?) - although a new PB will be happily accepted as a successful campaign. All highly ambitious and way outside the usual parameters when setting out on a new angling project. My first love, when it comes to carp, is particle fishing - but I'll happily employ any bait and/or technique (except boily fishing) in the quest of my target.

This time, last year, the heaviest carp I'd landed since 1984!
I've settled on my venue choices, although I have still to visit two of them! On Sunday morning I received news I'd been hoping for - Benno has found some carp in The Royal Military Canal. Nothing too outstanding, as an event, but it was from a very unpopular stretch of water - so will allow me a little freedom to explore the situation without any prying eyes or competition? As things stand, I am hoping to get down for a short session on the RMC and have a look at the two other venues by next weekend. Exciting times ahead - only by getting out on the bank will I discover any answers.
In the mean time, I am looking to reduce my tackle to the bare minimum, in order to allow mobility and choice. To this end I am getting the vast majority of my gear back up into the loft, so to avoid the usual distraction of other species. Unless I achieve my goals before the end of September, I have no desire to become side-tracked.Those same two rods and reels, plus associated end tackle, should see me through to the culmination of my challenge? October 2016 - I'm back on an eel quest, and this time for a "big-un"!

Sunday 1 May 2016

Photos - my legacy and archive

I am now in my forty-second year of full-time employment and, apart from a mistaken attempt at career building within The Medical Research Council, as a qualified scientific technician, my work has been factory/warehouse based. My introduction to this vocation being via the delights of Kodak Ltd's Distribution - Southern Region warehouse in Swallowdale Lane, Hemel Hempstead (1979 - 85)
Now I ask myself, "was this coincidence, or was it fate?"

I don't know how many times I've used this image? November 16th 1982
It was taken at stage when Kodak ruled the photographic empire - Ektachrome 200 1/125th sec - very blue biased?
Working for Kodak Ltd, during that time, meant that I was able to use the knowledge of some of the best photographic brains - remember this was pre-digital - as to how best to go about getting images of wet fish recorded onto negative and positive film mediums. I was in a unique position, within the speccy hunting fraternity, and as such, became an "expert" fish photographer without ever doing much more than walking up the stairs from the warehouse into our technical support office and asking my questions. Our cameras were relatively cheap Zenith, Olympus (OM 10's), Pentax and Canon (AE 1's) SLR's - the film used being either Ektachrome (ISO 100 or 200) or Kodachrome (ISO 64), hence the huge collection of slides amassed. Shutter speeds never exceeded 1/125th sec and all focussing was done manually using very basic, yet incredibly effective, split screen technology.

That original photo that Sye wanted to recapture - Loch Ascog May 1982
And so it is I have continued to use photography as a means of recording my adventures throughout my natural history journey. The advent of digital technology being a very timely occurrence. Again, I have made no serious effort to learn the skills required to master the technology - I remain blissfully ignorant of the finer points - I just want to get a record of what happens to be important at a particular moment. Digi-scoping was a godsend - a tiny Nikon Coolpix compact camera perched upon the eye-piece of a Kowa TSN 3, then a TSN 823, was my entry into this new world. Progression came via several "bridge cameras" before ending up with my current ensemble - a, now, very tired combination of an EOS 400d and a Sigma 170 - 500 mm. I am not a photographer - the capture of an image isn't anywhere close to the importance of  the actual experience of any encounter, but I do enjoy the ability to relive these moments at a later stage.  In an industrial parlance "They are a nice to have - not a must have!" The crazy fact that I now work for Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems, within their digital ink manufacturing facility, is a weird one? I got there, via Brooke Bond PG Tips tea bags and Batchelor's "Cuppa - soups", and remain eternally grateful for that Unilever experience, but wouldn't change my present job for any other. I now find myself, once again, at the cutting edge of image capture - Fujifilm cameras are right up there with the very best, and our ink is capable of print quality that Kodak couldn't have envisaged when they dominated the photographic scene. Once again, all I have to do is walk into our R&D department in order to learn about the latest techniques to get the best from the digital image revolution. I might not be much cop - but I know a man who is!

For no other reason than the fact that my Grandchildren might never have the chance to see one of these
splendid birds in the UK - digital image capture has opened up a whole new world of opportunity to
everyone with a desire to open their eyes and look!
Benno took this superb panoramic image using a bloody i-phone! Where will it end?
Yes, that is a Bruce & Walker Mk IV in the centre of the picture!