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 31 December 2016

I finished as I started

2016 has already been covered by my two post review, however, Benno and I have probably spent more sessions fishing together this year, than any of the previous five? We were out again, this morning, and just as had happened on 1st January, blanked. A school boy error costing me the only chance of the morning - I wasn't best pleased with myself after leaving a set of (double) hooks in a fish. We'll go back, as soon as possible, to try to catch this fish and remove my rig. If we fail? Then my error will result in a dead pike - it's already nagging at my conscience, there's no need to comment in a negative way; I'm gutted!
I'm not the only angler ever to have left hooks in a pike (any fish) but am probably more vocal, in my opposition to killing creatures in the name of a hobby: (the pinning of invertebrates, purely for id purposes, being particularly galling), than the vast majority and, as such, feel particularly embarrassed by this stupid error. I could have kept it quiet, but why? I screwed up and willingly hold my hands up - won't stop me offering opinions on other stuff, not a chance!
So what is Dylan hoping for during 2017? Pretty much the same as everyone else, I would think? Happiness, continued good health, for me and my family, and the ability to continue to chase my dreams, unhindered by rules or regulations. Can't see too many other families wanting much different? I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge "thank-you" to everyone who has bothered logging on and making my blog such a success. Let's hope that 2017 is all that we would wish - I still have plenty of dreams and am hopeful that I retain the drive/focus to make them become reality? Quite how external factors will impact on my year, only time will tell? Let's get it on! HAPPY NEW YEAR - Dyl

Thursday 29 December 2016

What're you lookin' at?

There was a time, in my not too distant past, when birds and listing (and that included full-on twitching at a county level) were very much part of my life. However, as with all things obsessional, the novelty wore off and the law of diminishing returns took its' toll. I realized that I was simply going through the motions, seeing, but not learning, the species which fortune allowed to cross my path. It was this utter lunacy which cost me my first marriage - a rather expensive lesson?
When Bev and I got together the birding had become far more relaxed as I sought to become a more competent field birder, not a chaser of other people's endeavors. To this end I studied my field guides, listened to endless recordings of calls and songs, and spent as much time in the field as I could manage in order to become more proficient.

Some who saw it said "tristis" - I didn't like the call and opted for "abietinus"
I have been extremely fortunate to have met with, and enjoyed the company of, many exceptional birders - Kent is well blessed in this respect. Since being with Bev, I have also sampled the incredibly diverse world of Mediterranean birding from Southern France, via Menorca/Mallorca, Greece and Turkey - bloody awesome. What have I seen? I dunno - with the recent DNA stuff, I can't honestly be confident about the id of anything I've seen - I didn't take samples, just photos if I was lucky!

Where is this modern development taking birding and for what purpose? If it is about data integrity - then all previous records need consigning to the bin, we can't be certain, can we? What if it's a manouver, by the educated elite, to disenfranchise the bloke on the street - make it a science that is taught at University, not a skill which has been learned in the field over a lifetime of looking? "Twitching" has provided me with some fantastic memories, I've witnessed some extraordinary birds, within a UK context, yet this facet of the birding spectrum is probably the least useful in terms of contributing to our knowledge. It is purely a demonstration of how quickly you can react to message by RBA (Rare Bird Alert - just in case you're an angler reading this stuff)

Probably the greatest waste of time known to mankind? Harmless and fantastic fun, but contributes
zilch to the understanding of birds or field craft. The sellers of petroleum spirit aren't complaining. 
How will anyone be able to enthuse a child who asks "What are you looking at?" - "A bird!"
"What's it called?" - "Sorry, I don't know any more - it used to be called a Stonechat, but that was before field-guides became obsolete!"

Wednesday 28 December 2016

The undermining of a wonderful hobby

I have made no secret of my dislike of the "establishment" and their "official lists" in whatever arena of natural history they operate. I have no problem with any individual who wishes to push the boundaries of their personal knowledge, I wish that more would do so instead of playing follow the leader, but if it floats your boat - so be it! I am on the outside, an onlooker, who is rather glad that none of this stuff matters?
It has now been decreed, by the high and mighty, that a grey-looking Stonechat present at the Kerton Road Triangle, Dungeness, Kent, between 8th November & 5th December is an example of Stejneger's Stonechat based on DNA analysis, obtained from a dropping! Strange thing is that at no time did any field observer offer this as a potential id - it didn't look like one? More precisely; it didn't look like any of the previously accepted UK records. So it comes to pass that this id was clinched in a test tube, not via a set of binoculars or a digitally captured image.
Sadly, this is another demonstration of how birding has got so far up its' own arse that it can no longer see the light. Birdwatching is a hobby (obsession?) and a bloody good one at that. Ornithology, however, is a science and therein lies the problem. 
When I go fishing I am an angler, not an Ichthyologist, I turn on my 125w MV - I don't morph into a Lepidopterist, I am a moth-er! The natural world exists to enthrall and entertain, it is a playground of massive diversity which has the ability to astound and amaze. Reducing it to this pitiful level is why I jumped ship - surely it's not essential to put a label on it to enjoy the encounter? Leave science to those who care, they'd do well to concentrate their efforts on discovering a cure for Aids and Cancer rather than analysing bird shit! The natural world deserves more respect.

Glory be! I've just been on Birdguides and what would you know? That bloody Stejneger's Stonechat has been relocated, on the Dunge NNR, what a stroke of luck? The masses will now be able to pay homage, gaining the insurance of an "armchair tick" without any requirement to sift through a subtle suite of clues in order to clinch an id - it's in the bag!
Has there ever been a more telling pun? If DNA analysis is to become the way forward with rarity id - then we are headed in a backwards direction. We are now reverting to Victorian methodology, once again adopting the collector's mentality. "Unproven" unless a sample is provided - sure sounds like a fun way of getting kids involved with natural history. "Got your bins? Telescope? Pooper scooper? GUN!"

Tuesday 27 December 2016

2016 - Part two


A very difficult month, Bev and I being totally tied up with looking after Dad, whilst attempting to fulfill our duties as grand-parents and the rest. With absolutely no chance of getting out with the rods, I had to content myself by looking at the moths which were attracted to the porch lights. I really enjoyed these early morning inspections and found myself becoming rather enthused by the situation. The village of Ash, is, after all, where Benno & I started our moth trapping adventure, way back in 1994. I eventually got my arse in gear and ran the 125w MV Robinson Trap and was far more successful. The highlight being the capture of a very localised Pyralid, Pempelia genistella , on the first night I fired the old girl up!

Pempelia genistella
In the background, my father's health was deteriorating rapidly and Fujifilm SIS were superb. I wasn't at my best, yet both HR and my supervision, were able to offer me 100% support throughout the entire period. For that I am truly grateful.


I awoke, on the 2nd, to discover my father had passed away, peacefully, overnight. It is probably the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with - his best mate, Brian, telling me, over the phone, that I should lay him out flat before rigor mortis became a factor - Bev was brilliant and I have no idea how I would have coped without her? Unsurprisingly, birds, bugs and fishing played very little part in the period between Dad's death and the subsequent funeral.

Dad, sat in his chair, one of the lasting memories of a major influence
in my own life. His legacy, beyond the obvious family tree, is  the
existence of St. Faith's at Ash - an independent school which has
an undoubted reputation for educational excellence and individual development.
The Wrathall "logo" will live on thanks to the efforts of Mum and Dad - they
make me very proud.
It was right at the end of the month that I was, once again, back out on the marsh - a chance encounter with another angler (a proper nice guy) alerted me to an alternative carp challenge  - fish up to thirty? Benno and me quickly embraced this situation - it resulting in me landing my fourth "split cane" twenty of the project - quality?

21 lbs 14 oz - the fourth "twenty", of my split cane campaign


I should have seen it coming?  Things were going along too well, when I was to be subjected to such a display of selfish, unthinking, jealousy by a clown; I could name him, but will refrain for the time being! ( a young angler?) That he should think that he had discovered a "new concept" is dubious, keeping it a secret whilst pitching a bivvy beside a National Cycle Route - ludicrous. Playing games with me? He has no idea - 2017 will see if he's up to it - there'll only be be one winner. I walked away from the situation, knowing that my carp campaign had been derailed, by an idiot. Nuff sed!
However, the month was not a write off - Bev and I headed back to Kefalonia for a fortnight in the sun - just "What the doctor ordered" Craig & Carrie-anne, Leon & Pauline, Steve & Sue, Lulu & Dan, Sammi and Mama - it was a time spent in quality surroundings and company. I thank you all. I got some nice additions to the year list, but nothing outrageous, nothing I've not seen in Kent!


It's pike season! So I went out and caught some, nothing outrageous, just low doubles, but it was a very pleasant start to the campaign.

A "scraper" but welcome all the same!

However, it was the birding around Newlands Farm which provided the defining memories of this period. Huge flocks of winter thrushes, accompanied by decent numbers of finches, made for a spectacular display. Patch watching gold - and I was having a bowl full of that!


More "scraper double" pike and the chance to exchange opinions upon the downfall of "The mighty USA" as they use their democratic process to elect the most powerful individual in the free world - a total clown! One that, even. Disney would have been hard pressed to conceive? "Brexit" had featured in my earlier blogging, but this stuff is seriously stupid! The future of life on earth in the hands of a character out of "The Simpsons" - it would be funny if only it were not true?

Image result for simpsons donald trump image


I make it to sixty-one; so that's a positive? Benno catches his PB pike, from an English venue and I'm there, to slip the landing net underneath her - the stuff of dreams, for a father! When viewed in such light, it doesn't seem so bad. 2016 has not been a disaster for Dylan, or his immediate family?

However, I still hurt from the loss of my father, the divisive fall-out from the "Brexit" referendum and the implied stupidity of the USA - all because an educated elite are unable to see why democracy is so essential, when it doesn't go their way? If the democratic process is so flawed, then why were my forefathers so willing to lay down their lives to defend it? My carp campaign was fucked up by a silly kid with too much bait - it now seems, to me, that the world got screwed because of a. knee-jerk, reaction to similar display by an elitist group with too much money and no grasp of reality?

Gutted - Turn a different corner?

As if the passing of Rick Parfitt wasn't bad enough, George Michael also leaves this earthly treadmill, to seek his destiny in another, time, dimension! In my opinion - he is the writer of the most incredible pop lyric during my lifetime. How anyone, aged seventeen, could write "Turn a different corner" is beyond my comprehension - musical genius; sadly missed.

Friday 23 December 2016

2016 - A roller coaster ride :- Part one

I think it is true to say that this past twelve months has been rather testing. I have achieved some angling targets and seen Benno do the same, enjoyed a fabulous holiday in Kefalonia, but they all have to be taken in context because of the death of my father, in August. A tough period which has done nothing but strengthen the family unit. I will do my best to summarize my own 2016 by recalling the monthly highlights as the year unfolded.


The eel project, that I'd embarked upon in October, of 2015, was given a massive boost when, on the evening of the 10th, I landed my second three pounder of the campaign. Things were going well and life was good. A few days later and a chance encounter with one of my neighbours alerted me to the presence of a very confiding Great Northern Diver, in Ramsgate Harbour. It took me two attempts, but on the 14th I got some very pleasing images of the bird as it went about it's feeding routine right behind the Maritime Museum.

3 lbs 2 oz

Very pleased with this one!


The eel project continued to be a success, with some smaller examples finding themselves in my landing net and I had a couple of low double-figure pike, for my troubles, whilst out and about the marsh. Birding was restricted to the garden - and that's about all there was to it!


If ever there was a project which took me by surprise, then it has to be this eel challenge. I've despised these slimy, tackle tangling, pike bait munching, pests for as long as I can remember, now there I am getting all excited about fulfilling my ambition at the first time of trying. With the weather conspiring to scupper my plans, I ventured out on the 12th and was to realize my dream with the heaviest fish (3 lbs 10 oz) of the whole winter! Praise be to Izaak (Walton) - what a way to finish!

The rest of the month was about garden birding and planning my next challenge, with the B. James & Sons, Dick Walker Mk IV split canes.


What else did you expect? Our sixth, consecutive, annual pilgrimage to Kilchurn Bay, on Loch Awe. This time, possibly our last, it was just the three Wrathalls - Sye, Benno and me. We all had plans. we all had ambitions which, happily, came true. We took our joint tally of doubles, from the loch, over the one hundred mark, Benno caught a "double" on a centrepin and his Bruce & Walker Mk IV (glass fibre) and Sye used all his technology to see him finish the trip on twelve doubles for the week and get a photo of the two of us with Scottish pike  - just like we'd done on our first trip in 1982.


I embark on the start of a new project, one that I'd been directed towards since my 60th birthday and that, family, gift of a split cane Dick Walker Mk IV. I'd subsequently purchased a second rod, of similar vintage, although not an identitical twin copy, so was now equipped to do battle. Carp were the quarry and a "thirty" the quest, so all the ingredients for some exciting adventures. Benno and I were keen to steer clear of the masses and do it our way. The Royal Military Canal offered us the best chance of doing just that - so off we went. 

The two Mk IV's on duty at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, complete with Mitchell 300's.
This combination might look "old fashioned" yet all the rest of the kit is as good as I can purchase, except the bait! I still
have every faith in the particle approach, so remain confident with  my curried chick-peas and IB maize pop-ups.

We both got away to a flier - Benno landing his first twenty, quickly followed by a second, and I was to get in on the action with my first "split cane" twenty just days later. I had made some comment about what the projected target would be - forty doubles, including four twenties and a thirty, before the start of October. (Although I did go on to say that beating my 23 lbs 14 oz PB would be a very acceptable outcome for the first season)

My first split cane "twenty" -  an experience which still gives me goose bumps every time I look at the photos.
It was everything I'd hoped for, and more, playing a decent carp on those ancient relics - just brilliant!

Although "close season" angling is now the norm, I have my roots way back in a time when June 16th meant the start of a new beginning. The pent up excitement in anticipation of the stroke of mid-night and that very first cast of the new season. Maybe it's now just an age thing? But I did make the effort to be out there, in order to pay homage to those angling ancestors and this ritual new dawn. Of course; I blanked! However, June was very kind to me and I had another two, split cane, "twenties" and a nineteen before Dad's failing health became an overriding priority. Fishing was very unimportant, all of a sudden, as my world got turned upside down. I had made a promise that he would die at home, just as Mum had - under no other circumstances, than medical necessity, would Dad be taken out of the house, he called home, against his will. With Bev at my side, we moved in with him and did our best to provide the comfort that he wanted.

I came bloody close to a new PB with this "football" fish - 23 lbs 10 oz
And that's the first half of my year, in a nut shell! May I just say a massive thank-you to everyone who has visited my blog, especially those who've been kind enough to offer their comments. I am truly humbled by this reaction, and my stats! My next post (Part two) won't be until Christmas is over, so I would like to wish everyone, who has taken the trouble to visit, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Take care and stay safe - Dyl

Wednesday 21 December 2016

£200 - nice touch

Fujifilm Specialty Ink Systems, that's the full title of my employer, run a very nice reward and recognition scheme based around our continuous improvement ethic. As part of this suggestions system plays a role in the calculation of the yearly bonus figure, all the guys on the shop floor are "engaged" in a positive manner. I made a suggestion, during November, which has resulted in me getting an award of £200 for idea of the month - bacon rolls all round for the digital guys in the New Year. I realize that this type of scheme really irritates certain members of the workforce, but they are fast becoming an alienated minority and Fujifilm will continue to prosper as the business of digital ink develops into new markets.

My supervisor, and good mate, Eric,The Chin, Hitch presenting me with an envelope worth  £200.
It's money for old rope - play the game and it's an easy life!
Ponytail is for Health & Safety reasons - wouldn't want my thatch dropping in a  batch of ink or getting caught
in any machinery - I can live with that.
I enjoy my job, so it isn't difficult for me to get involved in projects, or offer an idea or suggestion, which might assist the business moving forward, improving efficiency or simply making a task less complicated, by asking two very simple questions - why/why not? That £200 isn't the end of it. If I get idea of the quarter, then another £500 is up for grabs and if that's the case - I go forward to idea of the year, which is awarded a further £1,000 - bacon rolls for the whole factory if that comes to fruition!

Tuesday 20 December 2016


Eleven hour shifts are great for the bank balance, yet do nothing for the soul - especially when you leave and return home in darkness. This current bonanza comes to an end on Wednesday, so Thursday will be a normal late shift and Friday a nice little 06.00 - 09.30 hrs affair before we break up for the holiday period.

A  Wilstone seven plus - taken during my "hit & run" sessions. Happy days and well worth revisiting if they
are able to assist my angling as I move forward.
Working in the factory is a fairly mundane routine, once mastered, and allows plenty of thinking time for your mind to meander off down various avenues of thought. I have been working on one of the manual packing bays, alone, and have been wandering down Memory Lane reliving some of those times which, on looking back, were so much more than enjoyable; they were pivotal in shaping the development of specimen hunting and, as such, modern carp fishing. The venues were a magnet for some of the most characterful anglers to have cast a line and it is their company, as well as the magnificent fish that were caught, which sets that period of my life on such a pedestal.
I had the great good fortune to spend time with Fred Crouch, both on The Royalty Compound and in a punt, chained in King's Weir, and it was "normal" at the time - looking back I realize what a special time it really was. To have been taught the basics by Mr Barbel, himself, is an honour and privilege indeed!
A Brogborough "double" Bream. If modern carp anglers knew of the lengths that I went to. in order to achieve
my ambition, they might be a little more respectful of a species which was "nigh on impossible" during
the period - certainly not nuisance fish, and that's for sure!
To be able to call Alan Wilson and Eddie Turner (plus many other successful anglers) friends, not acquaintances, is also symbolic of the period. Those characters were at the top of their game, yet still had time to, happily, share advice and opinions with any angler who sought it. When Kevin Maddocks and Bob Baldock set the basis for the Catfish Conservation Group in motion our paths crossed immediately. Can't honestly say that we got on, but there was mutual respect/dislike and a great deal of idea swapping. I wrote some of my best articles for those early editions of the CCG "Silurus" magazine.

Joey D'arville, Vic Gillings and Shaun Harrison all part of the Claydon scene during
the mid - 80's. Crazy times when speccy hunters were much like twitchers,
we all sought the same fish!
Once again, it is the powerful memories, invoked by looking at old slides which set in motion this latest offering. I owe so much, to so many others, for making my life such a great adventure, an exploration of what can be achieved by a very ordinary person, but this one prepared to get off their arse and go question for themselves.

Saturday 17 December 2016

Luke's birthday social

Luke was thirty, earlier this week, and it was his idea to have a social session to celebrate this momentous event. Little could he have known just how it would pan out. We arrived at the chosen venue, one that I've never previously seen, and were fishing before 07.00 hrs. Benno, Luke, Skunk (he doesn't smell - it's due to bad habits, of his youth, that he's obtained this particular pseudonym) and I traveled down in convoy, Tom and Rob meeting up with us there.
Benno's bait couldn't have settled on the bottom when his back-biter sounded. False alarm? He re-set the indicator and had just sat back down when the same rod was away, this time no messing; line trickling from the spool at a steady rate. As soon as he hit it, it was apparent that it was no jack. The battle was a decent scrap, but steady pressure from his 1.5 lbs t/c barbel rods soon took its' toll and a nice fish was dragged over the rim of the waiting net; yours truly on the other end. We all knew it was a good fish; just how good was revealed by the trusty Ruben Heatons - 22 lbs 8 oz! A new PB and his first English twenty. He was ready to pack up, there and then, and go on the piss! I taught him well? However, it was Luke's gig and we remained at the water. Luke soon enjoying some action when first he landed an 11 lbs 4 oz pike quickly followed by a fine specimen of 16 lbs 9 oz - happy birthday! It was then Skunk's turn to bend a rod, a scraper double, possibly? He didn't weigh it - he's a carp angler, at heart, and they don't stoop to weighing fish, unless they're mid-thirties!
I'd seen enough and recast my rods, the right hander going away almost immediately and I found myself attached to a spirited pike of little more than 9 lbs - but, at least, I had avoided the dreaded blank.
I'll show my fish, first, so not to look silly when compared to those which the boys took
We fished on, a small pikelet to Rob and a lost fish for me, but that was it and all before 08.30 hrs. I stayed until 16.30 hrs because Bev had gone on a coach trip to Romford Market with her mate and wasn't due home till after 18.00 hrs - just in time for "Strictly" (it's the final don't you know?) The boys disappeared to go lure fishing at another venue and I spent the rest of the session alone - a cracking way to waste a day until the fog descended and made the drive back home an absolute nightmare. I've seen enough to know that I'll be going back there very soon - the Christmas holidays look favorite.
Luke's brace

Benno's new PB - 22 lbs 8 oz and his first English "twenty"

Thursday 15 December 2016

Right things - wrong reasons?

I took Emily and Harry down to the RMC, on Sunday, where Benno and Bryn were fishing for pike, so we could spend time in the wooden playground, at Seabrook, and feed the ducks.
Two of the most precious parts of my world - feeding the ducks at Seabrook
The playground was central to the adventure, but the feeding of the ducks did provide entertainment, whilst the bread lasted! Emily quickly discovered that throwing a handful of bread pieces into the air resulted in mayhem as squadrons of Black - headed Gulls went crazy as they attempted to get their fair share. She was in hysterics - her innocence being a genuine thrill for me - the cacophony of gull activity due to the simple actions of a child. Priceless!

Friday 9 December 2016

A pre - Christmas recce

Benno and I are off pike fishing in the morning. Really? How unusual is that? Well, were headed back to a venue where we enjoyed some spectacular results in 2013. We're not too bothered about success tomorrow, although we'd obviously like to avoid a blank if at all possible. What we're hoping is to find some fish and make plans for the coming holiday break, when we should have plenty of time to embark on a serious campaign.

Benno and I going pike fishing - it's been going on for over thirty years!
Although we've enjoyed some fabulous sessions, taking pike to just over 20 lbs, I don't feel that we've really got to grips with the place and there is so much more to discover. I will keep to my "big bait = big pike" theory, at this venue, because I have absolute faith in my baits. They are as attractive as I know how to present them; confidence is 90% of my approach, the roll of the dice providing the remainder. We will be there well before light and fish a fairly typical dawn to mid-morning session, in line with our previous experiences. However, I am not so convinced that fishing an afternoon session, into dark, might not offer us a better chance of getting to grips with some of these pike. Gavin Haig's recent exploits have provided much food for thought along these lines. Catching pike during the hours of darkness cannot always be accidental?

You'd think he'd be happier with such a nice Scottish pike. My job is now done and
it's now Ben's responsibility to introduce Bryn to the joys of angling. 
I also have a couple of tweaked-up presentations which I would like to try out, the Christmas period should allow me ample opportunity to give them a fair trial, fished alongside my regular offerings. The results will be interesting, of that I'm sure, given that I catch a few? My use of dyes and flavours goes right back to the mid-80's and time spent with Eddie Turner, Vic Gibson and Bill Hancock (The original ET team) on the banks at Tring. They were always tinkering with some aspect, or other, of bait presentation or rig performance and this had a lasting effect on the way I looked at my pike angling. "Do something different!" was the general vibe and the lessons of the past have yielded some wondrous results in the intervening years. I have done just that, yet feel that as time progresses it should have gotten more difficult to find an edge? Sadly this is not so and I have another post, in mind, based upon this worrying situation.

Garden Sprawk

I'm working eleven hour shifts in the run up to the Christmas break. Not ideal, but the extra money is very welcome during this over-hyped period of consumerism. As I was standing in the kitchen, just prior to leaving for work, Bev commented on the bird on the aviary? Looking through the double-glazed, back door, I could see a female Sparrowhawk chasing across the mesh; my male Canary happily taking the piss from within the safety of the flight. I quickly grabbed the camera gear and grabbed a few images before "You'll be late for work" rang out.

A couple of seconds later the hawk, tired of the game, departed to the north - never to be seen again?

Thursday 8 December 2016

Is luck a factor?

The late Gary Player once famously replied, to a question; about being "lucky to win a major",  with this brilliant answer. "The more I practice, the luckier I get!" He was an outstanding golfer and a huge personality, thus able to carry off such a witty "one liner" with suitable aplomb. In angling circles, jealousy plays a big part of the "he's a lucky fisherman" when, in the vast majority of cases, it's the application of logical thought, allied to specialist techniques,which  have been the overriding factor in any individuals' successes. During the formative stages of my life I have to admit to being on that negative side of the fence. It's easier to explain to yourself, a lack of results, when using that lucky tag to describe the successes of others. Much more palatable than to admit that you just aren't good/skilled enough to measure up?

I have, however, now reached this stage in my life with opinions firmly embedded in the "you make your own luck" camp. I should have recognized this understanding of hard work and logic being a far more rewarding (literally) path than the simple "chuck and chance", of my youth, many years ago - but was completely unreceptive to that thought process. It was our (Benno and I) carp exploits on The RMC, that were to bring this into focus. One of Ben's mates is an incredibly successful angler along this venue and had explained that if we hadn't seen any signs, in a couple of hours, move! The "time bandit" approach blown away by this advice. It was, however, already in my repertoire, the earliest experience being my reading of Jim Gibbinson's 1983 "Modern Specimen Hunting" and, as such, allowing an insight into the approach, and thinking processes, of an incredibly talented angler, a guy with other pressures on his time. His fishing being a precious window of escape and relaxation - it follows, therefore, that he did his best to make the most of it. I was suitably impressed and without realizing it, at the time, adapted my approach to the tench of Wilstone Reservoir, with a complete change of tactic. I abandoned the long stay, sit and wait, technique and, instead, adopted a hit and run strategy. I was obviously in a very fortunate situation, my home was less than ten miles away, I worked shifts and could go there whenever I wanted.

Travelling light, remaining mobile and flexible, I smashed the place up. Over a hundred tench in excess of 7 lbs in thirteen years - all of a sudden, when broken down like that, it doesn't seem quite so impressive? But during that period, it really was exceptional angling. The bare facts are that I only managed two eights and a nine during the entire period. I witnessed loads of big fish, many doubles, yet it was not my destiny to put a net under one for myself. So is there a role for luck in angling?  I can certainly state, without reservation , that I was extremely lucky to have been part of that incredibly exciting time and part of the whole experience of Tring tench fishing during its' absolute peak. I could, however, turn it on its' head and bemoan how unlucky I was not to have taken a "double" - shit happens! My brother, Sye, has a better PB than I, but didn't get 15 tench over 7 lbs during the same period - how is that possible, how is that fair?

Watercraft, experience and application; it is now the underlying driver for everything I attempt, angling wise. I know that I will get results if I work hard, I also realize that life's not always fair - you can't cherry pick the bits you like and discard the rest. It's a lottery and, if you believe the hype, you've gotta be in it to win it? When viewed in this light, my tench returns are easily explainable - I matched three numbers (7 lbs +) on a regular basis, because I was constant player. I had a couple of five number results (8 lbs 6 oz & 8 lbs 14 oz)  and even came close with five and the bonus ball (9 lbs 2 oz) - just never got that jackpot. That's not luck, that's the law of averages and why the bookies are so much richer than than the punters!

With that gift of hindsight, I have a number of (very plausible) theories as to why I didn't get the tench of my dreams from that magnificent fishery, but that's all by the by. I now have to use those experiences to ensure that my time on the bank is as productive as I can make it. With the very obvious exception of my holidays at Loch Awe, my usual sessions last around four hours - six and I'm pushing it! If I manage an overnighter, then Bev must be visiting friends?

I've used all these images (some from bivvy sessions, others from hit and run tactics) of Wilstone tench, because I have been playing with my slide thingamabob and have been basking in the former glories of a very special time and place! I recall that period of my life through very rose-tinted eyes and am sure that it wasn't all posing with with tench on sunny mornings. I don't care that much for the exact details; it's the lasting emotions, the memories and the lessons which are so cherished. To be able to use experiences from this period to assist my angling today is what makes me tick, not the chance capture of a big fish because I am able to spend unlimited time waiting for a bite. I'm as far removed from "time bandit angling", as is possible, and this is why I don't fit in with the crowd in the local tackle shops - I'm not just nipping in for supplies before returning to my bivvy! In that respect, yes I am a very lucky angler, I suppose!

Monday 5 December 2016

I should make more effort

Yesterday morning,  in glorious sunshine, I went out for a stroll. In itself, nothing too different from any other nice day spent in the outdoors but, I was at Grove Ferry! The first time I've set foot on this magnificent reserve in a couple of years. The place has many special memories for me and I have been extremely fortunate to have seen and found many fantastic birds within the boundaries of the Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry Reserve.

It was very pleasant, although I could have written a list of what I would see without leaving home, such is the predictable nature of this extensive reed-bed habitat. Snipe flushed from soggy fields, Marsh Harriers floated gracefully as they patrolled the skies, ever watchful. A Peregrine scythed through a huge flock of swirling Lapwings, away beyond the Grove Ferry Inn and a Stonechat flicked along Harrison's Drove, advancing as I approached. Bearded Tits were present, but very uncooperative when I pointed the long lens in their direction. Plenty of Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbirds feeding on the profusion of Hawthorn berries around the place and star billing went to the party of six Bullfinches feeding quietly in the paddock along the entrance track. A cracking way to spend a couple of hours - I should do it more often.

Out in the garden, this morning, a stunning adult male Sparrowhawk spent a few moments perched on the aviary before flying off across the farm.  A flock of eleven Long-tailed Tits paraded along the boundary hedgerow, allowing a quick record image before continuing on their way. Off to work in a couple of hours but, hey-ho, soon be Christmas!

Sunday 4 December 2016

A fishy tale

I recall this story in order to remain within the "gang" so to speak. It is about an incident which changed the way I looked at things - a wake up call for an obsessed half-wit! It occurred in August 1987 whilst fishing on The Sixteen Foot Drain, just above Three Holes Bridge. It was a period when Zander were high on my list of priorities. I desperately needed to catch a "double" to ensure my PB list was able to be compared favourably with those of my peers - how sad was that? I was serving on the National Executive Committee of The National Association of Specialist Anglers and Regional Coordinator for the Chilterns, therefore, very much a part of this circus and living the dream.

9 lbs 8 oz of Fenland Zed (Oct '85)
Being a fully paid up member of this "big fish" scene, it was thought that we had some kind of magic wand that allowed us to consistently be seen posing with specimen fish. Nothing could be further from the truth, the number of good fish was in direct correlation to the amount of time spent on the bank - it was the start of the era of "the time bandits!"; the late Alan Wilson right at the forefront of this particular revolution. One of life's true gentlemen, he would have been the very first to admit time was his greatest asset, being an ordinary angler in terms of technical skills. Specimen hunters had elevated the status of homeless tramp (no disrespect implied or intended) into hero, a legend of angling folklore - the next generation carp anglers have turned bivvy life into an art form!

Cuddles, a founder member of the TOTW (The Top of the World) Speccy Hunters, with a Fenland Zed - 1984

The late, and awesomely great, Alan Wilson
The original "time bandit" and all round top bloke - the King of Tring!
I embraced this, time compensating for ability, mind-set and happily spent extended periods on the bank, whilst awaiting my target species to play ball. It speaks volumes about commitment as a husband/father that I could justify such effort in pursuit of a fish, thus, on to this particular event. The regular bunch of social misfits and total lunatics had driven up to the venue in order to spend the Bank Holiday weekend fishing for these introduced alien predators. We had no problems with getting Zander to take our baits, our issue was with sorting out the bigger fish - wheat from the chaff? The Sixteen Foot Drain had a decent history of producing fish into double figures, so it made sense, at the time, to concentrate our efforts there. What we didn't realize was how localized the captures had been and that we might as well have been fishing the Grand Union Canal - we were miles off the mark!
We'd set up camp on the bank and had got our rods out, I can't recall who was present during this session, but do know I was not alone - alcoholic haze being a recurring theme during this period of my life, so not much change then? I am unable to say if the live-bait I used was captured from the drain, or we'd brought it with us - those were the days! I had a small bream, lip-hooked, fished on a Dyson rig close to a marginal lily pad. It was at 03.15 hrs on the morning of 31st August 1987 that my ET Backbiter signalled the take. Picking the rod from the rests, there was a decent moon and I didn't require a head torch (just as well - I didn't own one!) - I tightened into a fish before setting the hook and "let battle commence" Bloody Hell! This has to be the one? I found myself playing a fish which had no intention of waving a surrender flag - it surged up and down the drain with powerful determination. Thinking that this was the Zander I so desired, I happily went along with the ruse and treated it like I was connected to a bar of gold! I have no accurate recollection of the period that the battle lasted, just the absolute dismay I felt as I drew the fish over the net - it had a pike's head on it!
It was obviously a good one, but I just couldn't allow myself to be happy - I was fishing, in the dark, for Zander. I went through the ritual of placing the pike into an ET tube then returned to the comfort of my sleeping bag, totally gutted!

17 lbs 1 oz of Fenland pike - probably never seen a hook previously?
What was my problem? It wasn't a Zed - wake up and smell the flowers you prick!
I have no idea as to when my slumbers ended, but it was already well light and I was able to reflect on the events of the previous night. Sure enough, securely pegged in the margins, was my ET tube containing the culprit of my broken dreams. As I lifted the fish from the water I knew it was a decent lump. the scales recording a weight of 17 lbs 1 oz - in the light of the dawn I realized what a complete twat I'd been. It was a, scale perfect, superb pike - probably never seen a hook before? How could I have been disappointed by such a fish? There is no method, known to man, that allows a "Zander only" tag be attached to a bait and, as such, I should be happy with whatever happens. Whilst I was playing the fish, adrenaline levels were at 100%, it was only the realization that I playing a pike which caused a problem - surely the enjoyment was key, not the outcome? Obviously, at that time, not so. It was a major kick up the arse for me - I needed to regain focus, get back to the basics of what angling was all about? If I couldn't enjoy the experience of a night time pike - why bother continuing? The reality slap was a hard one - happily I learnt the lesson and carried on - never did get that double figure Zed - still got plenty of time?

Saturday 3 December 2016

Jobs a good'n

So there we were, all assembled on the banks of the drain, awaiting the alarms signalling the interest of a hungry pike. Sadly, they hadn't read the script and the fish had switched right off since the rapid fall in temperatures during the previous week. Neither Luke or myself, had a sniff, Benno saved the day with a bite, on a Bluey tail section, and this allowed Bryn a chance to realize a dream. With Benno at the net and Luke providing the coaching, Bryn successfully landed his first ever pike. He'd never seen a live (or dead) one until that moment; his beaming smile speaking volumes about how he felt. He had told his Uncle Ben that he felt cold, not another word after the fish was on the bank.
With advice from Luke and a practical demonstration from Ben, he was ready to pose with his prize, for the ritual photos.

What a way to start your pike angling journey - at 9 lbs 8 oz it is the biggest fish Bryn has ever seen!
It was a cracking morning, despite of the lack of action to my rods. Birding very enjoyable; loads of Fieldfare and other thrushes had roosted overnight in the adjacent hawthorns, there was a female Merlin hunting the rough grassland beyond the drain, at first light. I recorded my first Mistle Thrush, for ages, three Little Egret, three Marsh Harriers (ad male, ad female and sub-ad male) Gadwall, Teal, Water Rail, Common Snipe, Kingfisher, Cetti's Warbler plus a decent northerly movement of Lapwing. I should make more of an effort to carry the big lens, but can't be arsed to lug that extra weight just in case I get a chance photo opportunity.  However, the day was not about birds or me, it belonged to an eight year old, just starting out on his personal exploration of the joys of angling. "Touch me, Perce!" (You've go to be a Wraftie to understand this?)