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!


Thursday 31 August 2017

Ticking over

It doesn't matter what life throws at you, time continues its' remorseless passage and you deal with whatever situation presents itself - some much better than others! At the moment, Bev and I are struggling to adapt our lives to cope with the limitations imposed by her parents living with us. It's a challenge that we've had to rise to; there are no alternatives up for discussion. Family take priority above all else. It's over three weeks since we had our routine turned on its' head, normality went out the window, and the strain is certainly taking a toll. All of a sudden, going to work is light relief - perish the thought! The Bank Holiday weekend provided some rest bite for all of us as other members of the family were able to share the burden and, thus, I managed a couple of sessions in at the club (carp puddle) lake, although I did spend a large amount of my holiday cleaning up the flat, in Herne Bay, that Ron & Denise call home. The Social Services aren't in too much of a hurry to come to our aid, because Ron & Denise are being cared for, thus not in any immediate need of assistance? It's another manifestation of "care in the community" only it involves Thanet Council liaising with Canterbury Council and a whole lot more red tape/bullshit paperwork. What a shame they have spent their entire lives paying into the system, it would have been so much easier if they'd recently arrived in the UK having stowed away on the back of a lorry - social services would be all over them like a rash! Rant ends here!

Only my second double (10 lbs 8 oz) from the venue
I have been spending quite some time watching the avian activity around the garden and was very fortunate to record a Spotted Flycatcher on Saturday morning, only the fifth patch record. Even better was to follow when, early Monday morning, a Raven was heard, then seen, flying over - a patch and garden tick! Even Bev got excited as it croaked it's way towards Ramsgate and Pegwell Bay, beyond. The sparrow hoards continue to frequent the feeding station and, if anything, numbers are on the rise again. Two Robins, three Magpies, five Dunnocks, a couple of Collared Doves, eleven Feral Pigeons and a lonely Blackbird are the only other visitors, although I am confident this will change as the autumn progresses. Whenever conditions are favourable, e.g. warm and sunny, Common Buzzards continue to pass overhead and Swallows are becoming more regular with the seasonal change. A Common Whitethroat popped into the garden today, although avoiding the long lens treatment!

Common Buzzard passing over the garden

One, of two, Robins around the feeding station

Sparrows on the feeders

My blogging is very much a casualty of this present situation. I am hoping for a return, to something like normality, before too much longer. Keep the faith, that's all I can ask. Oh!, as an afterthought - young Luke has landed his biggest Catfish, to date. Taken from an undisclosed river, at 50 lbs 8 oz, it's certainly an impressive creature.

Luke with his new PB Cat - 50 lbs 8 oz

Saturday 26 August 2017

Simple tactics, stupid carp and a Willow Emerald

Early finish on a Friday and, with Bev taking her parents out shopping, it was an easy decision to grab the gear and revisit the club lake for another spot of floater fishing. What I hadn't foreseen was the presence of twenty-plus other members also taking advantage of the conditions so I started in a very tight swim, on the wrong end of the wind. Not that it makes too much difference on this venue - there are teeming hoards of these small carp. I managed to get a few interested and landed an F1 for my troubles. However, by 17.30 hrs, the majority of members had packed up leaving me with the freedom to have another look around and choose another swim (or swims?)
I was rather amused to note that, almost to a man, the anglers were geared up for carp fishing - their general approach based upon legered luncheon meat or sweetcorn. "We don't want those bivvy boys" comment from a committee member ringing in my ears - carp, and carp angling, are the very basis for UK freshwater fishing, as an industry, in 2017. The club either moves with the times, or goes under? Funnily enough, I hadn't joined for the carp fishing, it was the perch that were responsible for my initial interest and provided the focus for my early efforts. Still, as things have panned out, I'm not too sad about the fact that I have a carp puddle as a club water.

Like peas in a pod - scamp carp come in all guises at the club venue.
The bottom image is not in black & white - it's a "ghostie"
Quite what my fellow members are thinking (?) of when casting a bottom bait out into the pond, when the fish are clearly showing in the upper layers, is beyond my comprehension. You make your bed - you lay in it! I'd changed my reel over to an ABU 66X, purely because I am able to cast further with a fixed spool, but stuck with the Tring Tench rod and free lined bread. But I did have a tweak which provided a spectacular edge! I used wholemeal instead of the regulation Kingsmill white. There are a few issues with the presentation, the bread is not very robust, but the fish love it and I took a succession of carp as the light started to fall away, plus a bonus ide (which I weighed at 2 lbs) that provided a nice comparison to the fish of Wednesday.

A wonderful surprise at the club lake - I can remember "twitching" these
at Marshside not too long ago!
I finished up with fifteen (ish) carp and that bonus ide, so a very good session. However, the highlight had to be my encounter with a Willow Emerald damselfly - this is possibly the first site record? I had seen Steve Gale's recent post and felt it poetic justice when I focused the camera on this wonderful creature. There's an awful lot more to fishing than catching fish!

Thursday 24 August 2017

Stranger on my unhooking mat

It's been a really testing past few weeks as Bev and I attempt to adapt our lives to Ron & Denise (Bev's parents) also living in our bungalow. Never going to be easy for any of us, but needs must and that's all there is to it! As for fishing? Hardly number one priority at present yet, when the opportunity arose, Wednesday afternoon, I went down to the club water armed with just a single rod, landing net, two boxes of dog biscuits, a couple of slices of bread crust and very little else. Conditions were perfect, with heavy cloud and a muggy feel, the carp were easily located swimming around in the upper layers - spot on for surface fishing!
An 11 ft 6 ins, 1 lbs 2 oz t/c Tring Tench Rod, my Match Aerial centre-pin, 5.2 lbs b.s. Drennan line and a barbless size 10 "Animal" hook was all I required. No floats, leads or other such stuff - free lined bread crust (cut into small cubes) being all that was required. I ended the session having landed seven and lost three carp, I missed more than I hooked! Quite simply, I smashed it and enjoyed myself immensely - just what the doctor ordered. I was only there under three hours and have to say the session provided a massive boost to my flagging morale. The lake (rather a grandiose description of a small man-made hole in the ground) is little more than a match angling carp puddle and, as such, the biggest fish I am likely to catch is a low/mid double? With this in my thinking, I didn't carry any scales or weigh sling, with me. Big error, no; I didn't catch a monster carp but, I did land the biggest Ide I've ever seen. If I'd had some scales it would now be my PB - instead it's just a wet fish on my unhooking mat! Happy daze.

A lovely fish which will never make my PB list because guesstimation  has no place in
my angling. If I want a weight, then I use a set of scales. It's not such a difficult concept to grasp?

Thursday 17 August 2017

Absolute, total losers - ISIS scum

ISIS fuckwits thinking that they are furthering their lost cause? Barcelona is bigger than they'll ever be. My heart goes out to those caught up in this latest demonstration of cowardice - Dead Fred has this to say click here 

Sparrow show continues

The garden feeding station continues to be the focus of my attentions, the ravenous hoards of House Sparrows being the main attraction. Never having spent any time looking at the species, until recently, they are providing much more interest than I'd envisaged. It is a long time since I spent extended time watching a single species, even less, concentrating on one so, supposedly, familiar?

Sparrows are fascinating little birds, aren't they? One little aside, that might provide amusement, is that I have been made aware of a company called B&M, they have a store at Westwood Cross, where I can purchase 12.5 kg of wild bird seed for £3.99 and 50 fatballs for even less. All of a sudden, feeding the garden birds becomes an awful lot easier; and cheaper! A new seed feeder, with six feeding ports, is a recent purchase and seems to be doing the business - happy days!

It's not all about sparrows!

Monday 14 August 2017

A morning in the garden

With Bev's parents still sharing our bungalow, awaiting the Canterbury social services to do something - anything? - to find them more suitable accommodation. They presently live in a second storey flat, except they aren't because they're staying with us and therefore their predicament is not much of a priority for the authorities? Not quite the same perspective as Bev and I view it from, only having the one bedroom! Catch twenty-two, if ever there is such a thing, and something which we are going to have to deal with for the next eight to ten weeks! (That's the outcome from the meeting with the council today - bloody brilliant!)
So whilst Bev and parents got themselves ready for the showdown, I had to await my turn for the bathroom, before starting my shift, so the garden seemed the best option. Not a bad choice as it turned out, there being plenty to look at - the feeding station being at the centre of the action, but not a monopoly by any means. A juvenile Robin, just moulting into adult plumage, has taken to feeding under the feeders on scraps from above and provided the first subject for the camera this morning.

Young Robin which has been around for some while now.
House Sparrow numbers remain buoyant, but there seems to have been some dispersion and my guess is a maximum probably closer to sixty than one hundred. It's quite interesting to see the young males starting to display patches of their new plumage, all rich and rufous, rather than dishwater dull brown. Blue Tits have also returned to the garden after an absence of several weeks, two today.

Blue Tit at the feeding station

Young male House Sparrow
Other bits were a bit more interesting. A lone Swift drifted south with a bunch of Black-headed Gulls, there were four yesterday and I don't think I'll see many more in 2017? Best of all were seven Common Buzzards, which drifted south between 11.45 - 12. 05 hrs, six of which were far to the west, but the final bird came straight over the garden, although at quite an altitude, accompanied by several rather agitated Herring Gulls.

Common Buzzard over the garden
The other sighting which, I feel, is worthy of mention was that of a Common Hawker which spent some time around the patio. I managed this image using the 500mm lens at minimum focal distance. Not too shabby?

Saturday 12 August 2017

A proper bad boy?

Quite a shock to find this insect on the egg boxes, as I examined the contents of the MV during the week. I believe it to be an ichneumon wasp, of some description? Certainly very impressive as you can see.

A couple more Willow Warblers around the garden recently and a superb, adult male, Sparrowhawk has taken to hunting the birds using our feeding station - very spectacularly. A Tree Pipit was a nice surprise today, as it flew over calling loudly, and a few Swallows have trickled through in a southerly direction. The most obvious sign of autumn are the numbers of Black - headed Gulls being recorded, along with a rather smart, moulting adult, Med Gull feeding on flying ants during Thursday afternoon. Still haven't yet seen a Wheatear in 2017, although it surely can't be long now? Oh, and a Whinchat would be nice!
It seems that my quest for a split cane thirty may be "on hold" for yet another year? Bev's mum was admitted to hospital during the week, released on Friday after treatment. Her parents are both well into their eighties and, whilst we await further intervention from social services, they are now staying with us and any thoughts of going fishing are pointless. Just as Bev had been at my side, during that final period with Dad, I'm there for her now. Hopefully, the outcome will be positive, a new home with warden assistance, but I cannot expect her to deal with this alone whilst I chase a selfish dream.
We'll know more after Monday - a meeting with Canterbury Social Services and other legal bods.

Thursday 10 August 2017

Traditional angling - not for me thanks!

I have spent a great deal of time, unsuccessfully, attempting to discover how much input Duncan actually had within the design process of the Duncan Kay, 11' 6", 1 lb 10 oz t/c,  compound taper, carp rods that have been my mainstay since I purchased them from the St. Alban's branch of Leslie's of Luton - circa 1983. Built, using a Bruce & Walker HMC blank, by The Chiltern Rod Company, they have proven to be an enduring part of my tackle. I have used these rods for the majority of my angling projects over the years without ever once feeling under gunned. I've had Wels Catfish (25 lbs 2 oz - PB), Carp (21 lbs 9 oz), Pike (23 lbs 5 oz), Zander (9 lbs 8 oz - PB) , Barbel (13 lbs 14 oz - PB), Eel (3 lbs 10 oz) and Tench (8 lbs 13 oz) - no problem, the rods coping with whatever situation I presented them with. When Mark Plank undertook the restoration of my original pair of these "Carp" rods it was because I wanted to extend their usability, not to distort angling history.
Duncan Kay was a folk hero during my youth; a pioneer of commercial bait manufacture and a character of immense stature; he stood head and shoulders above us mere mortals. He was also a bloody fine angler and the complete opposite of Kevin Maddocks with his perceived cynical/clinical lack of enjoyment beyond another wet fish for a photo?
Mark's restoration was very simple. He completely stripped the exposed blank, then put the original Seymo, twin-legged. rod rings back, sticking to the same spacing pattern, but used modern methods rather than traditional whipping. This left the carbon with a waxed, semi-matt, finish, the ring fixings are high gloss black and look just the part. The handles remain as originally fitted with a Fuji reel seat and "Duplon" foam grip - Mark didn't touch them! I am very pleased with the result and will happily continue to use these rods in the knowledge that they are part of my unique angling journey, thus also integral to my approach of catching "big fish". It doesn't matter if they are now tarted up, opposed to flaking varnish and loose whipping, they remain the same pair of rods they've always been - just look different!
I have been made aware of this school of retro angling purists, via the wonders of cyber space, and find myself labelled as such by some disciples of the faith. Why? Because I use old tackle I guess!
This I do for reasons of enjoyment, not because I hanker after some bygone era of blunt hooks and unreliable mono, even less, par-boiled potatoes and balanced crusts. Cork bodied porcupine quill floats, Fishing Gazette pike bungs, gaffs, Arlesey bombs and lead shot, long past their sell by date and happily consigned to the chapters of dusty tomes which reside on the shelves of my bookcase.
I continue to use my old rods and reels because they have never let me down, thus I've not felt the need to change them - a follower of fashion I ain't. That said, I am not an Ostrich either; knowing that modern terminal tackle advances improve my ability to catch fish; I am very willing to embrace the technology and adapt it to suit my own ends. The split canes are just an extension of my pursuit of enjoyment, not a statement about modern angling. Dick Walker is one of my heroes, every bit the equal of Sir Peter Scott and Mohamed Ali in the influence he's had on the direction of my life. A genius who went fishing - not an angling genius, if that makes any sense? He would have used his extraordinary talent to refine golf clubs or gear boxes had that been what floated his boat - he was a supremely gifted engineer. The use of the Mk IV split canes, which he designed and proudly bear his name, is because I wish to experience the thrills of angling as he might have done, using similar reels, but that is where my quest for authenticity ends. There is nothing traditional about my bite indication, rigs or bait choice - they are all based upon the here and now. I want to catch fish so will do whatever, I have to, in order to make it happen. I happily resort to bait boat technology when the need arises, but would use a helicopter if that's where bait presentation technology takes angling in the future.
My use of particles is because I want to have an edge, not due to some sentimental longing for past glories. In 2017, particles are a very logical alternative to commercially produced boilies and pellets. The vast majority of carp, that swim in UK waters, will have come across masses of these food items which have been catapulted, bait boated, spodded or "Spombed" out before the angler casts their boily hook bait over the top. Under no circumstances do carp regard particles as "dangerous" in this situation - hence my edge - fishing at pressured venues with a regularly encountered bait type that the carp don't associate with getting caught. How many kilos of "Party Mix" get introduced into fisheries over the course of a year? It will be measured in tonnes! What percentage of those carp angling clones ever use particles as a hook bait (have even considered them?) in preference to a boily? Very few, is my guess, as they wouldn't want to be seen as a Noddy - sadly; looking the part is far more important than catching fish?
The real test is whether or not you are able to make your hooked particle(s) more attractive than the freebies. If you fail it is "catching a cow on a blade of grass" logic - you must have a tweak to make your bait be the same, but different. It doesn't matter if it's added flavour, colour or buoyancy (or any combination of these factors) you choose but, if you want success, must do something to get your bait to stand out amidst the other offerings. I have recently watched the Korda Underwater 7 & 8 series and found myself totally bewildered by the carp's ability to avoid getting hooked, even when they move the lead - an extraordinary insight into what's going on in your swim every time you cast out. It certainly opened my mind to the problems to overcome, as I seek to outwit these intelligent (capable of learning by association?) fish.
I very rarely use a float these days, my eye-sight not up to the challenge any longer. It's not something I have any regrets about; concentrating on a float means I am unable to look at other inhabitants of the waterside. Even when fishing rivers, my basic approach is to fish a static bait, allied to an audible bite alarm system. The fact that I choose to use centre-pins, in these situations, can be traced back to my time spent under the tuition of Fred Crouch - Mr Barbel! There is absolutely no more enjoyable way to catch fish than by using a centre-pin (or fly reel, if you please?). The rod and reel take on another dimension when there is no gear mechanism involved - again, it is not a quest for a forgotten era but, instead, it's enjoyment that steers my choices. My original Match Aerial (Fred Crouch version) is a wonderful piece of engineering, yet those Chinese built, Matt Hayes reels are very serviceable and compare favourably with my Grice & Young "Big Piker".
Traditional angling - I suppose it's a very broad canvas and will depend upon your individual entry point, to this wondrous hobby, as to what defines "tradition"? To my way of thinking, angling is a journey of discovery. No individual will ever master the complexities of getting a fish to take their bait whatever the situation. Some, however, will be far more able to deal with these conundrums than others and this will be a direct bi-product of an angling apprenticeship. A period of learning, under the guidance of others, the finer points of watercraft and bank side etiquette. I fear that it is this aspect of angling tradition which has been circumnavigated by the wholesale domination of the hobby by the instant carp angler and all that this entails.
So where am I now? The reality is that I don't know - happily embracing change, yet clinging to aspects of angling which are, at best, irrational? Still; it is my journey, and there are no rules. As long as I continue to enjoy the various angling experiences, I'll stick with it. I've only been back fishing for six years! Angling had come an awful long way since 1993, and find myself in a situation where specimen hunting has never been better catered for. Even if carp are removed from the equation, the chances of catching specimen chub, barbel and perch are unrecognizable, double figure tench don't make headlines, there are UK waters which have catfish over 90 lbs and the major river systems are home to substantial zander populations - utter madness and nothing traditional about it, in the least. It's 2017 and I will pick my own route through this angling chaos. Big fish? Yes please - but on my terms if you don't mind.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

First of the autumn

Out in the garden, early doors, getting the feeders filled ready for another visit from the sparrow hoards when I spotted a yellow flash in the Elder bush/tree in the boundary hedge. Closer inspection confirmed my suspicions. A juvenile Willow Warbler was flicking about in the dappled light of the canopy - time to grab the camera kit.

Not the most cooperative subject, but I managed a few shots which are worth sharing? As I was outside, I also watched a pair of newly fledged Sparrowhawks having a sparring match high overhead. Nice!

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Is it possible?

I learnt, via the KOS website, that a, moulting adult, Long-billed Dowitcher has returned to Oare Marshes KWT Reserve. Seen today, on The East Flood, by many admirers including the "legend" (in his own opinion - so the only one that counts!) that is LGRE.

A juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher, on The East Flood at Oare Marshes - 2006. How long do they live?
Long-billed Dowitcher on The East Flood, now I have some fond memories from just such an occurrence way back in 2006, being very fortunate to get some outstanding images of a juvenile there. Could it possibly be that individual? A Bonaparte's Gull has made a habit of returning (also present today) - I can but wonder about the life expectancy of an American wader on this side of The Atlantic? As with much else to do with wildlife; the answer to my question will remain unanswered, an unknown, and, as such, far more enthralling. It doesn't matter how clever we think we are - humanity doesn't know everything!

Friday 4 August 2017

Random bits and bobs

August, the schools have broken up and so the weather takes a nosedive into mediocrity, at best. It's certainly not the scorching 36C that the scandal rags had predicted just a few weeks ago. I've been keeping up to date with the natural world via my regular circle of blogs and websites (what have they done to Birdguides?) and there can be no getting away from the fact that autumn is already upon us.

Andrena haemorrhoa - at a guess

Haven't got a clue - in the garden this morning
It's an exciting time of year when the natural world can provide surprises almost anywhere and I've experienced more than my fair share over the years. Birds are the most obvious subjects for my attentions, but it could easily be insects or fish which provide the interest. I could say flowers (plants?) but I'd be stretching it beyond credibility, although deciduous woodland can be very special as the leaves start to turn.

Wader passage is always an early indication of the seasonal change with an increase in passerine activity around the garden, and further afield, providing some great entertainment, even if I'm sat by the rods!

Any excuse to use some old photos - happy days.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Club water scamping

I've not been feeling that sparkling, just lately -  a problem with my left calf/Achilles which has taken far longer to clear up than in my youth. Don't I just love getting old? The direct consequence of this problem has been that I am unable to undertake the trek to my regular marshland drains and have had to cast a line in less distant venues.

Dusk out on the banks of the tidal Stour
A trip down to the tidal reaches of The Stour was a complete blank, yet enjoyable none the less. Marsh Harrier, Hobby and two Common Buzzards provided the spectacle although it was the number of Yellowhammers which was the greatest surprise - easily 20+; with several family parties present.

Darkness falls along the tidal river - my rod
 poking out from a small gap in the reeds

Benno and I joined our local club because we'd heard rumours about the Perch they contained. However, the fact that these venues also contain decent populations of carp, tench, bream and ide has allowed us to provide my grandson, Bryn, with some fantastic learning opportunities. So, as I'm struggling to walk far (catch fish - period!) I thought it might be prudent to have a bash after the scamps which inhabit a small "Reedy Pond" Tackle choice was simple - split canes and centre-pins; the bait was also straight forward. Particles from the Pigeon Tonic mix as the club rules forbid the use of boilies, nuts and pellets over 12 mm. A comment from one of the committee stating "We don't want them bivvy boys!" - strange attitude, although the club is very match biased. Still, you don't have to join, so must accept the terms and conditions when you pay your fees?

Fortunately, for me, these restrictions have no effect on the way I approach this venue and I am confident that I can bend a rod there with some regularity. The fish aren't big, I've only seen one that looked to be a double, but they are in fantastic condition and give a great account of themselves when hooked. I also have another ruse which assists my cause and allows supreme accuracy at intimate range. I call it a poor mans bait boat (something else which the club forbids) - I use a pole cup to place my bait and rig right into small gaps in the marginal reeds or under over hanging bushes. I was first made aware of this technique when I watched Cliff "Bunny" Bunyan successfully use it for barbel on The Stour. I have to say that it is very effective and I took a succession of scamps which fell to my double maize/IB pop-up or maize/maple/pink squid sweetcorn combos. Great fun and something which I will be able to show Bryn when we next get out.

An 11 metre pole and baiting spoon - very effective in the right circumstances
A split cane Mk IV, Matt Hayes centre-pin and a scamp - great fun
As I was sat there, enjoying the sunshine and a cold 1664, a few Swifts drifted past, high overhead. Despite the date, a sure sign that Autumn is fast approaching and time for me to get my arse in gear and focus on the split cane thirty project. Out in the garden, early this morning, filling the feeders for the ever hungry hoards when I spotted a Humming-bird Hawk Moth feeding on a buddliea by the decking. A couple of  shots using the EOS/Sigma kit resulted in this rather pleasing image.

Garden Hummer