Who am I?

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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!


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!


  1. I sure didn't get anywhere near the number of 7lb Tench as you did Dyl. I did however sneak out in 1985, 3 over 8lb's in the space of four hours, of which Sye witnessed and took pictures of one or the other.
    The issue of the capture of a giant tench is mentioned in Bob Churches excellent book Catch More Tench (1974). The pattern he describes was that the average size Tench are caught in the initial skirmishes of action. Only after the masses have been dealt with does the biggest fish arrive.
    To prove this point in the most dramatic fashion we have the example of Alan Wilson and the 12lb 8oz record.
    The scene is this: Ian Owers and myself take up residence on the Wilstone Pier on the Thursday evening. I fish without result until I'm forced by a prior engagement to leave on the Saturday morning. Literally as I am moving my gear, the fish come on feed!
    In my absence, Ian catches - wait for it - 4 x 6lb's, 4 x 7lb's, 3 x 8lb's and a 9lb.
    On Sunday morning, Ian vacates the pitch to go home and to go to work.
    Alan having done his homework and research moves into the swim as Ian leaves.
    Monday morning he lifts a 12lb Tench.
    Needless to say, I'm totally fucking delighted by all of this. But it proved the pattern mentioned by Bob C.

    1. The "Little Richie" that I recall would have been chewing fence posts, as I remember him back then. Surely you must have a wry smile, looking back at those times? Both of my 8's and the 9 came from bivvy sessions, as did my biggest hit of 20-odd tench over a five day - three night session in September 85. An incredible 15 over 7 lbs - Joe Taylor (The tackle dealer from Oxfordshire) and Merv Wilkinson witnessed some of the action and reckoned it to be one of the biggest specimen tench hauls ever (well up to that date!) However, this result does sort of conform with the thoughts of Bob Church? At that time I sincerely believe that the sevens were merely the shoal fish and I was mopping up the average fish of the venue. Absolutely fantastic fun and I really believed I was a good angler (now that will make you smile!) when in all honesty I was, at best, very average and had simply hit upon a period when everything clicked.
      My mobile approach was far more suited to not getting that big girl, because it was short session angling for showing fish. Those monsters are rarely taken to a display of rolling or fizzing? There have been numerous occasions when I've turned up at Wilstone with a pint of maggots, some "Mother's Pride" and a bucket of stodge and taken two or three fish before 10.00 and then packed up and gone to work - repeated again tomorrow, because that's how easy it became and how irresponsible, as a husband/father, I was!
      That old adage "Make hay while the sun shines" is never more pertinent than when describing my time on Wilstone - I had it right off. And with that safely tucked under my belt can honestly say that I am one very lucky angler! - Dyl

  2. Indeed Dyl, I'm glad to say, the fence post chewing version of myself is no more. The final line of my last comment; language accepted, was intended to reveal exactly how I felt at that moment. I'm glad to say I'm smiling now. It's the bigger picture view I now have. A few (or many) years down the line, I can look back at some of the antics of the day and wonder; certainly in my case, if I was alright in the head.
    One incident on Wilstone in 1984 stands out as a situation where another angler stopped going there on account of the aggro. For me it served as a wake up call.
    What happened was that for the last two weeks in August 1984, the weather had been still and broiling. I went to Wilstone for a look on one Thursday evening just as the conditions changed. The wind was now blasting into the steps closest to the pier.
    An angler (Nick Dodge) was on the car park bank catching nothing. I reckoned the bottom steps was the place, and that was my chosen pitch (area) for the next night.
    I turned up the next evening and came across two piles of tackle on the carpark bank but no Nick. I could see someone down the bottom steps so carrying my gear set off down there.
    Dumping my stuff on the middle steps. I wandered down to see what what going on, only to meet Kelvin Palmer and Steve Brown rushing back towards the car park. They asked where I was going and I replied, the bottom steps. Nothing said they simply raced off. I had no idea why the hurry. I soon found out.
    Down on the bottom steps was Nick using barely any tackle at all. Caught anything I asked? he looked astonished. Didn't they (Palmer and Brown) tell you?
    Er no! He'd caught from the morning on, 12 Bream over 8lb's or which 8 were doubles.
    I asked if he was staying the night to which he said he wasn't but that the other's were going to fish in the spot when he left. That's when my prior plan to fish the bottom steps kicked me into gear. "Not if I'm here first, they're not" I said.
    I sprinted back to my pile of gear. Grabbed it and literally beat Palmer and Brown to the spot. Horrible.
    In a sulk they turned around and went back to the carpark wall. A stupid decision as the whole bank was in play.
    Nick left. I fished. Had to use one rod as two was one too many. In 24 hours I caught 17 bream over 8lb's, six doubles to 11lb's 4oz.
    But Nick never came back. His reason; which I found out about later, made me question my actions.
    However, it was only Kelvin. So to me it didn't matter. His attitude was questionable at best in my eyes.

    1. Now, now Rich - none of us were angels back then? Kelvin, Ken (Brown), Tony Ward, Dave Osbourn, et al were all at the complex in order to chase a dream. The antics and skulduggery are no less a part of my memories than the fishing. I've made comment on many occasions about the mind-set of an obsessive and the total lack of reason employed as they chase their prize. It has manifested itself in both my angling and twitching - so I have experienced the effect first hand. Happily age has calmed me down and I am able to laugh at my past and the current generation, who are doing nothing which we haven't already done.
      I do remember that, original, Bream catch, although I didn't realize that you had slid in there after Nick left. I never did get a double figure bream from Tring - I had to travel to Brogborough in order to achieve that ambition.

  3. Dyl, it was my suggestion to Nick which led to him fishing the area in the first place. I mean, I said to him that if I was going to fish an area right that minute (Thursday evening) then I'd fish the bottom steps. I'm glad he did. His success proved my hunch was correct.
    If Kelvin and Steve had already planned as I had already done -to fish the bottom steps- then they would have been in place before me. After all, they had arrived before me. That's why all their tackle was already piled up on the bank, while they went looking for someone catching fish.
    They were lucky. Nowadays doing that would have ensured they would have lost a mass of kit. There was no one else about that day on the car park wall.
    The main issue was that I didn't fish the area because someone else had already caught from it. The situation was that if I had been fishing from Thursday night. I would have had the whole shoal to myself. I didn't. I gave the game away to someone else first.
    I reckoned if there was any justice, I deserved a go myself.
    Following other anglers about never was, is or ever will be, my way of finding fish to catch.
    That's the main reason I fished Startops alone when the masses fished Wilstone.
    Or just being a miserable sod! ;)