Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Sunday 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?


  1. Don't think there are many zander in the 16 Foot now Dylan. Working that way now so I had better find out for myself...

  2. Man, they were some crazy times - pike to 25lbs + and eels (fucking millions of the things!) Happy Daze - Dyl

  3. Great post Dyl. Now, where's that book of yours...?

  4. Dyl, time based angling was never my strong point. Only once did I fish beyond the 'Friday night to Sunday morning' time frame. My specialty was a hyper intensive match-angling based attack.
    In the days when I was trying to catch a 3lb Roach (1983 onwards) every bite could have been 'the one'. I'd had about 25 over 2lb's before I felt the '3' was on. It took me another sixty two pounders before I finally got a '3' (one bite job 21/12/1984). Funny enough it was the same area which produced masses of '3's a few years later. But I got the first one. But the issue was that I was ok with Roach, and even the odd Tench (never a Bream), but if a roach/bream hybrid ever crossed my path. Bad! really bad!
    My fishing stopped stone dead in about 1986 when I was delivered an ultimatum. Basically it was stop wasting time fishing son and sort yourself out. Hmm!
    It was around the time your brother Sye and me had got talking about Mahseer fishing. I didn't call the deal off in a mature fashion for which I belatedly apologise.
    On the time based angling v success at Tring. I think I might have averaged at least one 2lb Roach, 2lb perch, 6lb Tench, 8lb Bream for each day I fished the place.

    1. Rich, what sticks in my memory is the attention to detail that you employed, plus that fancy XR2 Fiesta thing - how did you get all your gear in it? I was driving a battered old HA Viva van - ex-GPO. Far better suited to smelly fishing tackle, but not particularly fast!
      As for the "time bandit" tactics - these were used by us less talented guys to even the playing field. What we lacked in angling ability/technique we made up for with extended time on the bank. It is only now that I realize how good Jim Gibbinson and others of that ilk really were. Today. if I have a session longer than four hours it is an exception. I have developed a mind-set which is geared to concentrated effort over a focused and defined period. I make a plan and do my best to stick to it - right or wrong? The barbel of The Kentish Stour apart, it is a tactic which has delivered some stunning results over the last six years. I am now about bites per rod hour, no longer intent on an ordeal of endurance.

  5. Dyl, I kept that XR2 as my everyday car for 21 years. The car which replaced it is a MK2 Nissan Micra -which I'm driving still. I can get all my fishing or gardening gear in that. Two cars only used for fishing in 34 years. Value!
    I realised a long time back, that the only part of our angling the fish sees, is the end rig. The rest doesn't really matter too much. Though to some, that's all that matters.
    I remember with some amusement the scorn imparted by a couple of lads after some success (from someone else). "Can you believe it? he's using old Optonics!" - "Yea, some people get away with using any old crap!".