Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition, that was until Covid-19 intervened!. 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!

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Monday, 31 December 2018

Ending with a flourish

I'd been out, on the marsh, yesterday; catching a small jack pike for my troubles, but losing a better fish  when it threw the bait, hooks still attached - oh bother! Or something along those lines. I'd harboured plans to get out on New Year's morning, but Bev had arranged a family lunch so I had to revert to plan B. Thus, at 07.20 hrs this morning I was sat behind three rods, awaiting events. It was a dull, calm and mild dawn, with very little to recommend it until, at 08.05 hrs my left hand rod was away. Another jack was quickly guided to the awaiting net, un-hooked and returned with the minimum of fuss. A new bait was cast and, before I'd got the monkey back on the needle, the line was pulled from my grip! F**K!, the landing net was still over by my un-hooking mat and the resultant pratting about meant that the pike spat the bait. Drat, and double drat!
Within ten minutes I had experienced a dropped take on my right hand rod. Thinking it was eels, I wound my popped-up Sardine in only to have a low double follow it to the edge before spooking away. I examined the sardine, and yes it had pike teeth marks on both flanks. What's going on? Just how cute have these fish become? I'm thinking too much! What happened next is the stuff of angling dreams, straight out of Mr Crabtree! Between 09.05 and 10.30 hrs I had a further six bites, all fish landed. It was the most intense feeding spell I've experienced out on the drains, quite simply a gift from the angling gods. "Happy New Year" - well it will be if this can be continued?  Three pike between 5 & 7 lbs, one of 8 lbs 10 oz, with two doubles, 11 lbs 12 oz & 12 lbs 12 oz. I'd gone back hoping to get even with that fish I'd lost yesterday - this result is off the scale. Self-take photos are always a bit iffy? I was doing OK until I posed with the biggest pike, in that soppy Santa hat. As I chucked the hat away, the pike span on my thumb and did me up real good! It took nearly 30 minutes to stop the bleeding. Shit happens; it's certainly not the pike's fault that a clown was holding it.

11 lbs 12 oz - a stunning wild pike from the flatlands

Only an idiot would put their thumb in the mouth of such a creature - spot the Malaka!
So here we are. No spectacular fireworks to usher in 2019, well not at Wraftie HQ. but I am really looking forward to the new adventures that will unfold as the coming seasons pass. I wish each, and every, visitor to my blog everything that you wish for yourselves and your families. Have a safe, peaceful and happy 2019 - Dyl




Friday, 28 December 2018

Pieces of a puzzle

The perch search continues and I have to admit that I'm really enjoying this voyage of discovery that is unfolding as my quest evolves. Time wasted at Black Dyke is but a memory, a glitch, in a very steep learning curve. I will be the first one to hold my hands up, I know very little about the finer aspects of catching "big" perch and, therefore, am having to adapt my tactics as I go. Today was a prime example of what I mean. Time off for good behaviour, plus Bev had to visit her parents, so I managed another session at the club fishery over at Marshside.
With nine two's already landed, I felt sure that my tactics were pretty much as good as I could manage. The first two bites resulted in lost fish, one a good lump, and meant it was time to have a rethink. My bait choice isn't up for discussion, but my hook pattern certainly is. I also had a tinker with my hook link, reducing it from 20 to about 8 inches and what would you know. All the subsequent bites were converted into fish in the net. I even netted my tenth two, of the campaign, and feel sure that things are moving in the right direction.


I had a conversation with another club member, who told me that his best perch from the venue weighed 3 lbs 10 oz. Bloody great news, then he spoiled it by telling me that he'd taken it on sweetcorn whilst reeling in, the fish, therefore, a freak capture and nothing to shout about, in my opinion. The only positive from the exchange being that I'm at a venue which contains perch of a size that I seek. I have ten more weeks in which to complete this challenge before I set my stall out for a new project. It won't matter if I fail to catch a three, as there's always next year? What's most important is the fact that I continue to learn as a result of my experiences on the bank and continually tweak my tactics to adapt to the conundrum posed by these wonderful fish.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Fishing for a photo

As part of the festive celebrations, I received a very dis-respectful gift from one of the Kefalonia gang. So hurtful, how could anyone do such a thing? (J for joke - please don't think that I'm in any way offended!) A Santa hat with "MALAKA" written on it. Now this is very much, a clique membership thing. Elaini, the owner of Saoulas, has used this (very rude) term to describe our gang since we first assembled there some four years ago. Taken out of context, I feel sure that many would be offended - I think it's brilliant and, as I'm the guy wearing it, hope no-one else has any negative views?


As soon as I opened this present, I knew what I wanted to do - get a photo of me, with a decent fish, whilst wearing said, offensive, headgear. That Boxing Day pike wasn't worthy, so I had a very short, afternoon session, after perch, today, and managed to winkle out a fish of 2 lbs 4 oz (and a bit!) which did the job. I had three perch in little under three hours, and couldn't believe how quickly the temperatures dropped once the sun had set. I packed up at 16.15 hrs and my un-hooking mat was already frozen!

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

2018 - My year (in words and pictures)

So here we are again folks! It's that time of year when we, bloggers, offer a condensed review of the events that have impacted upon our annual cycle. Without question, it has been my least productive blogging year, by quite some margin. I aim to rectify this in 2019, but that's stuff for another day. Quality, not quantity, that would be a superb cop-out, but not true in my situation. I've been lazy but, with the disruption of a complete bungalow interior rebuild, I know why it's not been my best year in that context. The builder had said six to eight weeks! Five months later and we were just finishing off the interior, the garden and conservatory still require major effort in order to get them up to scratch. So 2019 will also feature some level of stress, due to this end project and the disruption it will entail. That's to look forward to, now let's look back.

JANUARY

For the most part, angling was a non-starter. I was still a member of Sandwich & District AA, yet couldn't catch a cold in either of their two fisheries. Added to that, a run in with the most odious committee member I've ever encountered, ensured that membership renewal was never up for consideration. I spent most of my time getting a year list up and running. Off to a very good start, birding down in Ramsgate Harbour got me Iceland Gull, Snow Bunting and a C-R 1st yr Shag - all the way from the Isle of May. Happy days!


FEBRUARY

The "Beast from the East" - nuff sed! Fishing wasn't an option and it was left to the local birdlife to provide most of the entertainment. The garden feeding station was heaving, thus central to much of my attention during the month. The building project had not yet started, so the, then, kitchen doorway was scene of many a photography session. It wasn't. however, only birds attracted to the feeders!


MARCH

The weather had started to return to some level of normality. Spring was just around the corner and I could get back out with the rods. The local drains continued to provide excellent pike fishing, whilst I had started to visit the Marshside day-ticket venues in search of some early carp. This was to pay big dividends later. The first butterfly of the year and the start of the Spring Common Buzzard movement - very typical fare for our Thanet garden in March


APRIL

Where else? Scotland and the mighty Loch Awe. No, no, never ...... well OK, just one last trip! I'd just purchased my Nissan NV 200 van, and picked Sye up from Aston Clinton, en route. We travelled up, overnight, enduring an absolute fiasco of roadworks and diversions as we attempted to navigate our way north The loch was as magnificent as it ever is, we struggled - big time! Benno, Luke, Sye and I all caught pike, some of which were very pleasing. However, the weather tested us to beyond breaking point and we headed home, two days early, as a result. I don't see any of us ever returning?


MAY

Back into carp mode, awaiting the 16th June, and a return to my split cane "30" challenge out on the flatlands. Marshside day-ticket fishery and I was having a blast. Mick Jones, the bailiff, was a great help during my early visits, giving some excellent advice as he went about his duties. My use of split canes and centre-pins/Mitchell 300's ensured I got noticed and led to an invitation to join the club. I was very flattered and seized upon the opportunity, particularly because I'd not bothered to rejoin Sandwich & District AA. A new club, a new adventure and this one started with a real bang when I landed a magnificent Mirror Carp (20 lbs 7 oz) from Scroggins Lake.


JUNE

A real roller coaster of a month, as the bungalow refurb stampeded into motion. Absolute chaos ensued as Bev and I attempted to live out our normal lives within a bomb site! The traditional angling season opened and, as a result, I crossed paths with Gareth Craddock. A proper character and superb blogger, we hit it off immediately and embarked on our separate challenges out on these desolate flatlands. So much else was going on, in the background, that focus was a real problem. I didn't catch much, saw even fewer birds, but had a blast along the way.



JULY

The realisation of a long awaited plan. Bev was 60 in March and we'd had decided that a family holiday would be preferable to a party? £2,000 or £4,000 really simple we'll go for the most expensive option! Not quite as black and white, I happily would have paid more just to see the faces of Emily and Harry as they boarded an aircraft for the very first time. Bev's son, Darryl, and his partner Alix, also joined us on Mallorca. Fabulous memories of a, never to be repeated, wonderful family occasion.
In spite of some top notch birding and angling, later in the month, the image that sums up July must be of Emily, Harry and Debbie, their mum, enjoying themselves in the villa pool, during their first excursion abroad. (Although a Black Vulture over the road is a very difficult memory to eclipse)



AUGUST

Back to the grind, an almost seamless transition, the split cane "30" challenge continued to dominate my angling effort, whilst the building project ensured that nothing was ever easy. Carp were caught, although nothing close to the prize I was chasing, however, European Beavers were able to provide a distraction which, despite my angst, were a real privilege to spend time with - all up close and personal.


SEPTEMBER

A crazy month in which I caught my best carp of the season, got a "lifer" in the form of Lanner Falcon, yet everything paled into insignificance during our stay at Saoulas (Kefalonia) - Steve Godden got into the pool! Absolutely unheard of, just like the first moon landing! Brilliant times, spent in exceptional company, friendships such as these are a very precious gift. An absolute shining beacon amidst the nonsense of "Brexit" and our continuing bungalow rebuild! Malaka's ? - yes the whole crowd would happily take Elaini's accolade - fabulous memories of great times, people and places.


OCTOBER

There was no chance that this month could live up to the heights of September, but it still had its' moments. Sadly the one that sticks in my crop is that encounter with a half-wit gamekeeper. Walking with my grand-children, through some superb woodland habitat, exquisitely manicured and maintained, my exchange with that guy was a real kick in the guts - what a, one dimensional, loser!

The old "Ice House" - so much more important than the tosser we encountered along the way? Fairies live in here!

NOVEMBER

What a month? Probably the best of 2018, if such a measure is possible? Three double figure pike, to 18 lbs 4 oz, a perch project that had just kicked off then, to top it all a "lifer"! The White-billed Diver; what an absolute stunner! That I was able to enjoy my sighting alone just gave the encounter additional sparkle - how blessed am I? I missed multiple Pallid Swifts, but had seen loads, earlier in the year, so it didn't cause me any stress.

I have no shame! This was a "lifer" and I enjoyed my time with this Arctic stray.

DECEMBER

Work went crazy with, any amount of, overtime available for those of us within "Digital". As a consequence, I didn't get much fishing, or birding, done. I celebrated (no I didn't!) my sixty-third birthday and caught a few perch, including five two's in an hour on the 1st. No great fan of the modern Christmas spending fest, I still want my grandchildren to enjoy their holiday and, therefore, spend far more than intended, as we attempt to fulfil our role of Nanny & Grand-dad. Bev and I are in need of very little, so tell our family to concentrate on ensuring the kids are spoilt, yet my own kids, Sarah-Jayne & Benno, pulled off a masterstroke with their gift. I was absolutely blown away as I gazed down upon a pristine example of an Allcocks Match Aerial (circa 1969) - the real deal, not a Fred Crouch copy.


What we got up to this morning

Boxing Day is traditionally a date which, for an older angler, can only be compared with 16th June. Benno and I were on the Royal Military Canal just after 06.00 hrs and spent a very pleasant morning getting over the madness of yesterday. We both had a pike, for our troubles, mine a modest jack, Benno's tipping the scales at 13 lbs 4 oz. Around 11.30 hrs, we headed home, well I did, Benno went across to Sandwich Coarse Fishery where he added a perch of 1 lbs 14 oz to his day tally. Fabulous morning, out on the banks of this great pike fishery, we'll be back soon, certainly before the holiday period is over.



Monday, 24 December 2018

Old haunts

Early on Sunday, Bev and I endured the nightmare of a M25 journey to deliver Christmas presents to my family up in Hertfordshire & Buckinghamshire. The plan was to have lunch, a bit of a social and get back home later in the evening. Lunch in The White Horse was just the ticket, although the Peroni had already started flowing and ensured that we'd not be going home too early. After we'd eaten; Sye and Yve had to get back to Aston Clinton for some other family stuff, whilst Tim, Julie and the boys were headed off to church for the annual carol service. Did Bev fancy going? They didn't waste their breathe asking me and, any way, I already had other plans. So we headed off in our various directions, planning to be back at Tim's place around 16.00 hrs. You all know what they say about the "best laid plans"?


I had the camera with me and wanted to grab some images of the fishery where I'd caught my first, ever, pike way back in 1970 (71?). Tim has the River Bulbourne flowing through his garden with the Grand Union Canal as his boundary. Just the other side of the canal is Pixies Mere, the site of that very first encounter. Damp and dreary, I didn't care, my walk took me back to some very happy times. A couple of lads were drop-shotting by some moored long boats and a lonely soul was bivvied up on Pixies, which is now a carp puddle, surprise, surprise! I couldn't get into the fishery, so had to content myself just looking over the fence. Nothing like the place I remember, as a youngster, the swims were all tidy and well presented, whilst much of the bank side vegetation had been cleared. I hadn't gone there expecting nothing to have changed, as that would be impossible, but I wasn't particularly impressed by the starkness of the present state. It used to be a jungle, where battles with big tench and occasional pike were conducted amidst, chest high, nettles and brambles, the lily pads and dense weed beds providing sanctuary for many a lost fish. I stopped for a chat with the lads, who'd packed up fishing, asking how they'd fared. "Nothing today!" but still good to be out. I walked back to "Swing Bridge" where the Three Horseshoes was doing a steady trade.


I walked the tow-path from Winkwell to Sharpes Lane, crossing a lock to get some alternative pictures of Pixies Mere, as I did so. I'd caught some fantastic fish in the mere, but had started out as a gudgeon catcher on the banks of the canal, many years before that first pike. Memories came flooding back as I passed various spots where I'd taken a decent bag of roach, a carp here, tench there and those, ever hungry perch hoards which loved the cover of a moored up canal barge. I reached Sharpes Lane and gazed down into the Bulbourne, as is passes under the road. This being the exact spot where I'd got caught poaching, trout, and was given a severe ticking off by the police officer who found me. It must have worked because I never went back, yet still remember it all these years later. I wonder how many other kids also got their collars felt in similar situations?

The beginning of the slippery slope to nowhere!
I was back at Tim's in good time, only to receive a phone call from Bev, who was in The Anchor with Terry Archer and Nicky, old school friends. Tim and Julie also headed there when they'd finished chatting up at the church! I knew that it was going nowhere but horribly "Pete Tong!" from that moment onward. Man it got very messy, Bev and I ended up staying at Tim's because we were in no fit state to walk, let alone drive! We still had our Christmas food shop to do, so this morning our trip home took a detour via Waitrose in St. Albans. From there we took a further detour and ended up in the kitchen of our dear friends, Steve and Anne Baron, at Redbourn. Steve was at work, but Anne and Jack, their son, were home and we spent a very happy forty minutes, or so, just chatting and catching up. It was a brilliant, spur of the moment, happening which had not been planned or expected.






May I finish by wishing everyone who has visited this blog a very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful, safe New Year. Thank you for your support and encouragement - all the very best - Dyl

Friday, 21 December 2018

Where's 50 (63!) years gone?

I've been doing a lot of writing, just lately. It doesn't require Inspector Morse to deduce, from the lack of posts, it hasn't been aligned to blogging but, fear ye not, the blog remains central to an exchanging of opinions and sharing my spin on events. It's just that I have sought to push myself beyond this comfort zone, attempting to create chapters, assisting the club secretary with a "newsletter" project and there's also some stuff that I'm hoping to get published in the angling press. To be honest, it's been rather good fun, just sitting at the laptop and seeing where a topic leads me. I have no preconceived plans, other than I want to write, and I am happy to wander off at tangents to wherever the subject matter takes me.
One recurring theme, during this exercise, has been my involvement with pike angling and how much it has changed since that first encounter, almost fifty years ago! Holy shit, that's a proper reality slap! - nearly half a century has passed and I was already well into my teens when I caught that first one. Now this's proper scary territory. How is it possible that so much time's elapsed and yet, seemingly, I've achieved so little? I suppose it's "a cup half full or half empty?" sort of issue. What was I mean't to achieve and why? Anyway, who sits in judgement, more importantly, what possible reason would anyone else have in assessing my life when their own would, undoubtedly, be similarly flawed? We're only human after all. So this thought process has to lead back to me, and what I've aspired to, as I meander along life's highway. Three stages of an angler's evolution? No way, my life has been far more skewed than this simplistic analysis, and I find that rather comforting, in a very perverse sort of way. It's a confirmation that I've remained true to my beliefs, never sold out and maintained individuality (as anyone can do) within the constraints of  modern society in the UK.
It was whilst I was working on a manual packing bay, I actually realised that over half of the period, which has been catalyst to these thought processes, have elapsed since I moved to Kent! Utter madness, I still think of myself as a Hemel lad yet the numbers suggest otherwise. Funny thing is that Bev & I have no plans of going anywhere else, hence the bungalow redevelopment project, my kids are both Kent educated and, now adults, happily settled in the county, as is Bev's daughter. All our grand-kids were born in Kent. My rediscovery of the thrills of specimen hunting have been, holidays in Scotland apart, within the county boundaries. In fact, the best bird watching/twitching and most rewarding (although not, necessarily, exciting), big fish, angling I've ever experienced has taken place within a forty mile radius of our present home. How did fate play a role in my relocation from Hertfordshire to Kent? I owe a great debt to Unilever for their support during 1993 and also Maggie Thatcher (for whom I feel nothing) due to the council house tenants "right to buy" policy of her time in government. Working for Brooke Bond Oxo at that time, redundancy was an option, allowing me to remain in Hertfordshire, but off-set by two job transfer offers. The first was to remain within Brooke Bond and move to Manchester, where they had a new factory at Trafford Park, the other was to join Batchelor's at their Ashford factory and, therefore, move to Kent. Crazy as it may seem, today, bird watching was the main consideration for this relocation, thus, "The Garden of England" won hands down and the rest, as they say, is now part of my history. That individual journey - the unique adventure which has delivered me to here and now. There are many thoughts spinning around in my head, some of which might, hopefully, result in further blogging, others destined for oblivion, or beyond? I've just finished for the Christmas break, after a month of 55 hr weeks (5 x 11 hr shifts) - brilliant for the bank balance - shite if you seek big perch (fish) However, such things are for me to judge and of no relevance to others, except Bev, perhaps?
Sixty-three and now in a position where I can go to work because I want to, as opposed to have to, life is great. Money is a tool, not a master or God, which I am able to control rather than the opposite. Before Dad left this mortal coil, he said to me "work for as long as you are able" - he worked until he was 74, Bev's dad worked until he was 78, both happy for the independence and interaction it provided. I'm planning on quitting when I reach 66 - so three years to go. The beauty of my situation is if I wake up, one morning, and think I've had enough then I can walk away - no prob! My notice being two fingers as I walk out the door - what could possibly happen? They'd put me on a disciplinary - a warning? I might get the sack? At sixty-three, am I likely to be bothered? Like I said at the beginning of this post - I've just started writing stuff and seeing where it goes, this post is typical of where it's led me. I suppose I should have attached a pike photo, somewhere, but can't be arsed! There will be more before Christmas - keep the faith.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

We did - I didn't

The out of county trip was always going to be a social, although pike were the reason we travelled to the fishery. The venue has an enviable track record of producing decent pike, therefore receives quite a bit of pressure by anglers, of varying abilities and techniques. One thing's for sure, these fish are well cute and require much more effort than chuck & chance if anyone is to experience consistent success. So, at 06.00 hrs, the two vans were parked up in the car park and four (Skunk had cadged a lift) of us got our kit assembled and headed off into the darkness in readiness for our session. Swim choice was a lottery, the whole area has produced big pike in the recent past.  Luke, Skunk, Benno & me set up stall along the bank, east to west. The dawn was still an hour away and expectations were high.

The business end of Skunk's twelve pounder
It was around 07. 55 hrs (sun rise) that Skunk registered the first bite. He was the only one of us using a float and landed a PB of 14 lbs 4 oz - he's a carp angler! Within 20 minutes he'd added a second fish, to his tally, with a nice pike of 12 lbs. What's going on? A carp maggot giving us a lesson?
The weather wasn't particularly favourable, yet we couldn't deny that the pike were catchable if we placed our baits in the right spot. Luke picked up one of his rods, expecting to re-position his bait, only to discover that a pike had taken it as he did so. Nothing big, but it was number three for the morning.

A PB for Skunk - not too sure about the fashion statement? Then again he is a carp angler!
Benno & Luke took to chucking jig baits and drop-shotting, without result, before, at 10.10 hrs one of Luke's back-biters registered a take! On the rod, within seconds, it was a really finicky bite which took a good while to develop. As soon as Luke stuck I knew it was a decent lump. After a very testing battle, I was the soppy git with (Luke's) a short-handled landing net, attempting to scoop up his prize. What a fish? An absolutely pristine, wild, pike of 20 lbs 2 oz. I really don't know who was most excited?



As you can see, the photos were taken and the fish released, back into its' watery domain. That was it - Benno & I didn't register a bite. We both know exactly what Skunk & Luke were doing, so no secrets there. We'd gone there hoping for a result. Luke did the deed and we have to accept that not every one can be a winner. Another day, a different dollar, my turn will surely arrive as there are no secrets, nor petty jealousy, amongst this group of friends.


Thursday, 13 December 2018

Important? - probably not! (an opinion)

With every single, passing, day our political elite demonstrate an ineptitude that beggars belief. The elected MP's, of whatever party, have shown themselves to be totally unworthy of the trust that we, the electorate, have placed in them. The whole "Brexit" fiasco continues to spiral downwards to a point that places our very democracy in jeopardy, the country completely divided as these self serving goons pursue their own agendas. A "people's vote" - are you serious? We've already had one and look at what it's done to our country - utter chaos from top to bottom - we voted out, what's so difficult to grasp, if democracy remains a reality in 2018! I watched the BBC news channel, last night, as the no confidence vote was conducted by the Conservative party.
I'm no Tory, never have been, but still recognise what a good job Mrs May is doing under very difficult circumstances. The "Brexit" negotiations should have been conducted by Nigel Farage, he being the instigator of this whole situation, however, it's not going anywhere - just hind sight. Mrs May is only in her job because David Cameron jumped ship as soon as he realised that he'd lost - a spineless act by a complete coward/fraudster. Prime Ministers should be made of sterner stuff? If public office is what you seek, then a desire to see through your obligations doesn't seem too much of an ask by the voting masses.
The implosion of parliament is now a testament to the sorry state of our "Great Britain" I hope that Corbyn and co can sleep well, they are a bloody disgrace, the whole lot of them. When we're in a situation where party politics are of irrelevance, the national interest is paramount, they persist in point scoring idiocy instead of stepping up to the plate to ensure our Union remains the envy of the world. If this were not a true perception, why would so many migrants attempt their perilous journeys to reach our shores? I don't expect that this opinion will sit well with many others, but, there you go, in a civilised democracy I am still allowed one. For that reason alone, I wear my poppy with pride! Those brave, and selfless, folk didn't lay down their lives for us to now surrender to Germany and the Federal Republic that masquerades as the EU! Leave means leave - a simple concept if you understand one man one vote?

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Monday meandering

The perch project is coming along rather nicely, although not every tweak has proven to be a success. Even failure, however, can have its' benefits if you're able to learn from, recognise, the mistakes? The recent run of good fortune came to an end on Monday, when I was able to get back to Marshside for an afternoon session, into dark. Conditions looked good, although much brighter than my previous visits. I had nearly four hours to play with, but failed to add to my tally, the only fish hooked coming adrift at the net! Bloody barbless hooks! Not to worry, it wasn't the "three pounder" I so desire, thus wasn't left feeling like I'd swallowed an orange when it spat the hook. Various rig adjustments and bait presentations didn't produce, on the day, but I have to remain positive that the basic methodology is sound and will produce the result I seek so long as I can stick to the task.

The perch kit awaiting action. 
All that said, work remains off the scale and time is very much at a premium in the run up to the festive period. My next session will be completely different, as pike are the target species and involve a crossing of the Kent boundary into some dark, and inhospitable, terrain. Benno, Luke and myself are headed off, on an away day, to a venue with a decent track record for big pike, although we'll have to be at the top of our game, as it does see quite a bit of pressure during the season. Are we good enough? Only one way to find out; go there and see how we fare? The boys are far more adventurous with their tactics than me, and the static dead bait approach (even with all my edges). What I find most reassuring is the fact that my tactics are still capable of producing a result, despite changing very little since the mid/late 1980's. Pike really are that predictable/thick! I'm perfectly happy to watch the lads casting lures and whipping the surface to a foam, as long as it's not directly above my baits, whilst I sit back and watch the world go by. The bite alarms being my only requirement to keep me in touch with what's happening beneath the surface. All I have to do is ensure that my bait is the best that I can acquire and positioned in such a place as to be easily discovered by the pike. Location, location, location..............it's the very basis of any successful angling project. You simply can't catch what ain't there.



So nicely back to Monday and me sat out on the marsh awaiting audible alerts whilst watching the birds that were about their daily routine. Winter thrushes are now present in good numbers, both Fieldfare and Redwing conspicuous around the berry laden hedgerows, whilst Blackbirds are also present in higher than normal numbers, thus suggesting a continental influx?  There's a very good candidate for a juv Rough-legged Buzzard, which I've now seen on three occasions, yet still haven't managed clinching views therefore can't claim, but certainly worth further searching. The Cormorant movements, to and from the Stour Valley, continue to provide spectacle, whilst awaiting the alarms. Quite what the true numbers involved are completely beyond me, but a spectacular sight all the same. Best bits on Monday came in the form of a Little Egret which had decided to feed amongst a mixed herd of sheep and ponies, plus a stunning adult male Marsh Harrier which did a nice fly past, although always partly hidden by the fishery hedge! A Kingfisher sped past whilst Reed Buntings, Chaffinches and Linnets were flitting around the field margins and adjacent reed beds. Just to see the session to conclusion, sun-set over the western horizon was stunning. I really don't need to catch fish to enjoy a session at the waterside!


Sunday, 2 December 2018

Eight in Ten

No surprise that I returned to Marshside for another session, into dark, this afternoon. After yesterday's result, it was a no brainer in reality. Conditions were much brighter, although the wind was still a boisterous SW and played havoc with my light weight swingers. So much so that I switched over to Sid & Jasper, my, wind beating, carp hangers, for a spell. Mick, the bailiff, turned up before I'd even cast a bait and we had a nice chat about the perch and the forthcoming "newsletter" for which I have offered my services to assist the club secretary. It's Robbie's first effort and, as a new member, I am happy to attempt to put something back into the club that was so generous to offer me, a very sought after, membership. Mick is always good value, and cheerily said his good-byes as he continued his round of the fishery to grab day ticket money off two other guys on the opposite bank.
I got the rods out, same little and often baiting strategy as yesterday, and sat back to await events. It wasn't ten minutes before the right hand rod was in action. A cracking perch of around a pound came splashing to the net - blank avoided! Within half an hour I had a second fish, this one weighed at 1 lb 3 oz, to the same rod. I got destroyed by a carp, on the left hand set-up, and had to re-tackle after getting snagged in the reeds. It remained fairly quiet for the next hour. Odd bleeps from the alarms, but nothing to strike at until a stuttering take saw me attached to a very strange creature. Straight away I knew it wasn't a perch, but it wasn't a carp either. Bream couldn't possibly fight this hard and it didn't have the power of a tench, but it was very dogged and stubbornly came toward the waiting net. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn't this! A bloody wild Fan-tailed Goldfish-type thingy. I grabbed a photo, as it lay on the unhooking mat, just for the record. Very weird.


Bait back out, the sun already below the horizon, and the clock is ticking steadily towards home time. With the light fading fast, another bite on the right hand kit saw me attached to a much better perch which tipped the scales at 2 lbs 4 oz and represents my eighth, over two pounds, from the venue. It's been a superb weekend and I now have to get back into the groove with a 54 hour week, before Bev and I are off on an adventure. It will probably be in the run up to Christmas before I cast another bait. With these fish now under my belt, it will be far easier to do other stuff. Will this fishery provide me with a three? I'm happy to keep looking whilst the back up fish are of such high average weight.

The eighth two of the campaign - most enjoyable angling

Saturday, 1 December 2018

An hour to savour

Back over to Marshside, this afternoon, for another into dark session after perch. I had every intention of using a float, for the first time in "yonks!", but the stiff SW breeze, and accompanying rain, put that idea to bed as soon as I got out of the van. So it was two split cane Mk IV's, ABU Cardinal 44X & 55, on very simple set-ups, with the Siren R3's providing the audio and a couple of home made hangers the visual indication.


I had the first rod out, just before 13.30 hrs, but didn't manage to get the second one in play until well after 14.15 hrs, such was the hectic feeding spell that I'd dropped in on. I was using prawns, with a Krill & Tuna method mix as ground bait. Little and often being the chosen tactic and, boy, did it seem to do the trick? Between 13.45 and 14.45 hrs I had five perch over two pounds to the landing net. Four came to the right hand rod, purely because I couldn't get the left hander in the water! 2.04, 2.04, 2.07. 2.02 & 2.05 in that order - simply the best perch fishing experience of my life.

A selfie of the 2.07, and yes, it was windy.

I fished on until 16.50 hrs, missing a further three bites, bumping two others before hooking a most spirited adversary - a small common carp of around 4 lbs (shame it wasn't a perch!) A truly wonderful session out on the marsh and a real confidence boost. At long last I am starting to see a return on the tactics that I've chosen to use. All week, at work, I have been thinking through what presentations to use, the hook patterns, & sizes, and other such tweaks. For that magical hour, everything fell into place, I was truly living the dream. To be continued ......... I hope!


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Nanny State greed

Now it might surprise many of my visitors, but I do enjoy a light ale; on occasion - surely not? Yep, never smoked, nor set foot inside a betting shop, wouldn't have the first idea how to fill in a betting slip, but have to admit that a beer is a weakness, although never been a fan of spirits. At my age, surely I should be entrusted to make decisions for my self? Well, apparently not!

From left to right. What it is, what it was and what it should be
I used to love a Stella Artois, or two, but despite the "reassuringly expensive" advertising campaign, the UK brewers took the piss by lowering the alcohol content from 5.2% to 4.8% yet failed to consult the consumers or pass on any cost saving. I voted with my wallet and took my custom elsewhere. Holidays around the Med. have allowed me to sample many of the brews from this fantastic region and I have to admit that I'm rather fond of San Miguel, as purveyed in the bars of Mallorca and Menorca. Lovely stuff, at 5.4% ABV. In the UK,  this same brand has been marketed, by whoever, as a 5.0% beverage, along with all the drink sensibly bull-shit that our government insist upon. Imagine my horror when I went into our local shop to grab a couple of tinnies, to discover that my beverage, of choice, has been reduced to 4.5% ABV, but remains at the same price. Yet another demonstration of contempt, by an elitist culture, who know better than me, but have no issues with ripping the arse out of it. FFS I'm an adult, I'll make my own decisions about what, and how much, I can or can't drink. Looks like I'm searching for a new "favourite"? It's a hard life!

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Perch 2018 - it's a start

The Black Dyke has led me a merry dance and I have to admit that I'm a beaten man. The perch that Nick, the gamekeeper, had offered tantalising glimpses of, just one year previously, remain figments of a longing imagination. I am absolutely certain that they did exist, yet can't bring myself to believe that they haven't succumbed to some disaster, natural or otherwise. Whilst I readily admit that perch are not a species with which I have much experience, my angling hasn't become so poor that I would expect to continually blank when using a lob worm where these ferocious predators exist in viable numbers? I've waved the white flag and am seeking adventure in pastures new.
At silly o'clock, on Thursday morning, I headed over to Marshside for my first bash at a new venue. I blanked, so consistency isn't proving to be a problem, wherever I go! It was a half-hearted session, setting up blind, in the dark, and having just three hours available. I got what I deserved, in that respect. One thing that I will mention, again, is the huge numbers of Cormorants leaving the Stour Valley at first light. I estimated 1,350 N in the first two waves which came directly overhead, there were many others moving in the same direction further east, towards Sarre and St. Nicholas at Wade. The first birds had passed at 07.16 hrs and it was all over, bar the stragglers, by 07.27 hrs. Bloody impressive stuff. The first returning bird (single) was at 08.20 hrs. Between then and 09.30 hrs, when I packed up, 574 Cormorants had flown back towards Stodmarsh/Grove.

Iconic reels, made in Sweden, from an era when tackle was built to last.
Back out there this afternoon, for an into darkness session, the first thing I saw on arrival at my chosen swim was a flock of 40+ Pink-footed Geese dropping down onto some arable ground, just west of the fishery. This is the biggest flock of "pinks" I've ever seen in Kent; so a good start! With more time to play with, I was able to get myself prepared and fishing without any issues. Two split cane Mk IV's, one with an ABU Cardinal 44X, the other an ABU Cardinal 55. Proper retro kit and an absolute joy to use. Mick, the bailiff, turned up for a chat, which is always nice, and we both agreed that the dank conditions bode well for my chances. I told him of my plans to fish into darkness, just so there was no chance of me, inadvertently, breaking club rules - he assured me that it was OK and bade me tight lines as he left.


What a result! I'm still not too sure that my tactics are as fine tuned as they could be but, one thing's for sure, they're getting better. I had numerous tugs and touches, as indicated by the Siren R3's, which resulted in two perch being hooked and landed. Like peas in a pod, at 2 lbs 5 oz & 2 lbs 4 oz, they represent my best brace, although my self-take efforts fail to do true justice to the occasion.
Work will prevent me getting back out until next weekend, so I have plenty of time to mull over some ideas that I'm hoping will provide that edge which will see continued improvement with this current project.

Two two's - shame that the image lets the moment down, somewhat!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Sunshine pike fishing

Van loaded and on my way before 05.00 hrs, headed back to the drain for another session after pike. The weather has definitely turned colder and this is just the start if the forecasters are to be believed. It was a chilly dawn, with a brisk easterly blowing straight off the sea, but the sun rose in a cloudless sky and it was bearable, with the right choice of clothing. I was wrapped in plenty of layers and, hands apart, stayed warm for the entire time I was outside.
All three rods were fishing by 06.15 hrs, but it wasn't until well after sunrise that the first bite was registered. A very spirited tussle resulted in a nice, clean pike gracing the landing net, weighing in at 12 lbs 2 oz. A very pleasing way to start. I placed her in an ET Pike Tube, so I would be able to get my photos later, when the light had picked up. At 08.00 hrs an eel took a liking to my sardine and, while I was sorting out the mess, my mackerel rod was away. Jack attack, a fish of around 4 lbs quickly dealt with and I was just returning it when the herring rod registered a bite. A little better, this one, at around 7 lbs. I had to go through the ritual of recasting all three rods, two with new baits, then settled down to await further action.

Always better when the sun's shining. Another beautiful, wild, pike from the East Kent flatland drains.
With the sun shining brightly and the clock ticking steadily towards 09.00 hrs, I started to go through the motions in preparation for a few self-takes when, out of nowhere, came my mate Neil, the birdwatcher. Blinding good fortune, he seems to make a habit of turning up when I need a photo and he didn't let me down - top bloke. He stayed around for quite a while, chatting about this and that. The White-billed Diver got a good airing, as did the recent multiple Pallid Swift sightings and then, just as he was bidding farewell, the herring rod was away again and he hung on to watch me land my fourth pike of the morning, all 9 lbs 8 oz of her. Job done, he wandered off into yonder whilst I started a slow pack down. Well pleased with my morning's effort, I walked back to the van with thoughts of big perch niggling in the background. I really must get back on track and concentrate on the original project, if I can? Some information received, whilst on a club work party, yesterday morning has got me looking at new venues, but still with a big perch as the target. With a week of lates looming, there's a chance I might get a morning session in to do a bit of prep work.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Using time

It's been a very weird week for me. Politics and opinions are just like death and taxes, you simply can't avoid them. Can't ignore them either if you have been blessed with a brain between your ears and heart within your chest? The pantomime that has been Westminster, this past week, would be hilarious if it weren't so important. A vote of no confidence in Mrs May? I feel sure that the nation would have a vote of no confidence in any of them, at present.
Work remains hectic, despite the scare mongering of the "remoaners", and doesn't appear to be suffering because of uncertainty due to the "Brexit" situation. I managed just one session during the week, a short afternoon sortie to a local drain. One that I had always felt sure would produce a pike, or two, yet hadn't cast a bait until then. It proved to be a good decision, four bites in little over two and a half hours. However, nothing was going to be that easy! The first bite came within 45 minutes and resulted in a clean break, I didn't feel a thing. "What the f*ck?". Two more takes, in the next twenty minutes saw me missing a take, then bumping a very small jack. It seemed as though I was destined for a blank. It was already well after 17.00 hrs when the alarm sounded again and, this time, I found myself attached to a very spirited pike which enjoyed tail-walking along the drain at any opportunity. When I eventually got it in the net, I was delighted to discover my earlier lost trace protruding from its' stomach. Thanks to unhooking techniques, taught me by The Pike Anglers Club of GB, I managed to remove both sets of hooks without any drama and allowed the fish to recover in a retention sling whilst I set about getting the scales and camera stuff sorted. It was dark and the drizzle was in the air, soaking everything it touched, so I didn't have much time to get my photos. I managed just one before the red battery light came on and I lost power. I quickly weighed her - 11 lbs 8 oz, nice! If she'd have been bigger I would have gone through the ritual of changing batteries/cameras, but I'd got my trophy shot and that was enough. Back into the drain she went and I headed homeward well pleased with my result.


I don't know what the camera setting was, but auto it wasn't! My only picture is OK, but no better than that. I think it shows enough to allow an appreciation of the superb condition of this wild fish. No beavers seen, although plenty of signs, I had to content myself with a few Cetti's Warblers, a Water Pipit and a Green Sandpiper for filling a few column inches in the notebook. Most enjoyable, I will be back, soon!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

100 years - Never Forget

If there's one thing us Brits do well then it's a bit of pomp and circumstance. Yesterday evening the Royal British Legion held their annual remembrance service, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Charles, Camilla, William, Kate, Harry and Megan, plus many other dignitaries and political figures. All assembled under the same roof to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended the Great War and offer thanks and respect to those brave service and civilian personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice which allows the rest of us to live in the freedom we take for granted.

Taken from the internet - copyright details unknown, but thank you for allowing me to share the image.

Last Sunday, Camo and I were in the shop, drinking coffee and chatting when a, medal clad, Gurkha walked in and, incredibly politely, asked if he could swap a tenner for some change for the parking meter? It turned out that he, and a friend (who had even more medals) were assisting the cause by selling poppies in Ramsgate High Street. Both of us chucked a few bob in the collecting tin and Camo asked if they would pose for a photo; which they happily did - as you can see.


With my family's military links, and understanding the role that many other nations military service personnel have played in securing our freedoms, I find it unbelievable that our political leaders can't set aside their differences and concentrate on securing the best deal for the UK in our Brexit negotiations. If so many have been prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, surely these, self-serving, political muppets, could see their way clear to deliver on the wishes of the people and get on with making Britain great again? A land fit for heroes wouldn't be a bad thing for a start. At Eleven o'clock this morning, the nation spent two minutes in silent contemplation. Symbolic gesture or a realistic period of reflecting on the efforts of those who are now no longer with us because they thought our way of life worthy of fighting for. If they had known how elitist, unfair and utterly shambolic our political system would become, I wonder if they would have been so keen to defend it?

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Thanet Pike, Cormorants and "official lists"

On a whim, I had a session on the club stretch of The River Wantsum, first thing this morning. I left home before 05.30 hrs and was getting the kit out of the van within twenty minutes. If I'd have known how much surface "duck weed" was present, I definitely wouldn't have bothered but, I've been doing quite a bite of writing, of late, and one particular thread had taken me down the path of where I'd managed to catch pike since 2011. It's been quite enjoyable going back through my records, helping me realise just how productive the Kent fisheries, that I've visited, have been. The one, glaring, omission gleaned from this data correlation exercise is the realisation that I've never caught a pike whilst fishing within the Thanet boundaries. No great shakes; Thanet is hardly pike central, there being just a couple of still waters (syndicated or club controlled) plus the obvious boundary rivers, The Stour and The Wantsum, where this species exists.  I've actually caught pike from The Stour, but was fishing from the wrong bank! I was on the Kent mainland looking across the river to the halo'ed soil of Thanet.


Dawn over the Reculver Marshes this morning. The top image showing
the Thanet Earth greenhouse complex, as viewed from Chamber's Wall

So, this morning, I was deliberately attempting to rectify this "glitch" in my records and, wouldn't you know, I only bloody did it. A small jack, around four pounds, took a fancy to my popped-up Mackerel tail section and rectified a small blemish in my angling story. All this background drivel - hardly worthy of a post? You're absolutely bang on - it's mundane at very best! So what's this all about Dyl?

An awful image - taken using a Fuji Finepix 3200 - at first light.
You'll only record these movements if you're out and about at these times.
The alternative is didn't see them, thus it didn't happen, doesn't matter?

I'm fishing The River Wantsum, right in the centre of one of Kent's best worked "Local Patches" - records going back to 1963 and it has an "Official List"! Because I'm not party to this record gathering, I guess what I saw, this morning is un-official? Didn't stop me seeing it, just like it didn't prevent me catching a pike. I've already mentioned that I was on the bank before 06.00 hrs, sun-rise was at 06.57 (ish) and the Stour Valley Cormorant roost had already started to flight over the marshes. The first two waves numbered in excess of 1,550 birds, followed by the stragglers which would have easily added another 1,300 to the total. The crazy bit is that before the birds had finished passing overhead to the north, there were already others moving in the opposite direction, plus good numbers flighting out eastwards, over the Chislet Marshes. Absolutely no idea how many birds were involved, can't say that I'm all that bothered, just there were bloody loads of Cormorants around today. I also added "ring-tailed" Hen Harrier, two Merlin - one stunning adult male, two Marsh Harrier and several hundred Chaffinches (although I failed to pick out a Brambling), 14 Skylarks and a couple of Goldcrests, all written down in the "Perch Diary". I accept that what I am doing is "listing" but under no circumstances is it "Official" and, by definition, nor is any other - they're simply lists maintained by whoever, for whatever reason. If you can miss 3,000 cormorants, how accurate are the other stats that you choose to maintain?