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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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Sunday, 29 April 2018

Kilchurn 2018 - the downer

I'll get this started by being totally honest. I've no claim to having been an angel in my angling past and am not looking to single out specific individuals with this post. I write this, blog offering,  purely because I am frustrated by a situation which has no place in pike fishing 2018. English pike anglers travelling up to the Scottish lochs, during the close season, can be traced back to Dick Walker, Fred Buller, the Taylor brothers and probably well before. I have no idea if Alfred Jardine (1828 - 1910) ever ventured north of the border? Yet the agricultural rigs and techniques, still on display in 2018, would not have been out of place during his lifetime, over a century and a half ago. These magnificent pike are still being "stitched up" with hooks and rigs which belong in the history books. What's happened to all that superb work, done by the Pike Anglers Club, to promote the safe return of these apex predators to the Scottish lochs? Have the English pike anglers not been able to pass on the knowledge of developments in tackle and techniques to the locals?

Open bale arm - 50 lbs b.s. braided line and a 95 decibel (ok - it's a bit OTT) back-biter alarm.
The basic bite registration set-up for any, dead bait, pike fishing situation?
I'm totally bemused by the basic approach to pike fishing, with dead baits, as used by the Scottish lads. It appears that carp angling has a far bigger influence on tackle choice, and techniques, than anything pike orientated. Why rod pods, front runner alarms and swingers? Bite indication is pitiful, given this combination. Add to the mix, prehistoric hook sizes, monofilament line, cheap swivels, light leads, single strand wire traces and all the ingredients for a dead pike are present in depressingly copious examples. I've yet to meet a Scottish angler who uses "back-biter" style alarms and very few who choose braid over mono. These are the mainstay of twenty-first century pike angling, within my experience, and are a no-brainer whenever I start out with a pike project. I admit that I'd change over to front runners with monkeys, on needles, if a switch to centre-pins, was considered an option? Up on the banks of Loch Awe it is bait runners all the way. Open bale arms? Not a chance. I didn't record the exact number, but it was a significant percentage, of the pike we caught which required other hooks to be removed from the stomachs of our catches. Not particularly pleasant, but very doable when shown how to perform the task via the very basic effort of joining the Pike Anglers Club. But why should this be? Many of the pike were under six pounds and couldn't have possibly "snapped" the angler's line. Therefore, I assume (the mother of all f*ck ups!) that these pike have been released after the trace has been cut because the captor was incapable of performing the simple unhooking techniques as taught by the PAC. Deep hooked pike being a symptom of pathetic bite indication, and so the cycle goes on. Scottish pike fishing is still in the Stone Age! Please don't get me wrong; there are some exceptionally talented, and forward thinking, pike anglers in Scotland, but they are in a minority, hampered by the burden of those other individuals who care nothing for pike welfare.

"Bonnie Scotland" - I totally concur with that sentiment.
These two guys are symptomatic of the total lack of respect for other anglers. "we've got a boat - go where we like!"
They are not unique - there were plenty of other examples, just the light conditions for photography weren't so good!
So if it's you don't get too offended - I've photos of your faces, you were that close!
Now on to my pet hate! The complete lack of angling etiquette by selfish c*nts in boats! Kilchurn Bay is a private fishery, controlled (owned?) by Kenny & Krissy Gray. That they make their living from the anglers who visit the site is, therefore, why they are so passionate about the state of the banks and the respect of the wildlife that share the environment. As a bank angler, I make a positive contribution, via my wallet, to the success of the bay as a fishery. There is an, unwritten, rule that boats are not allowed into the bay, as they pay zilch for the privilege of being there. Means jack shit to the arrogant wankers who have all the gear - but no idea! With twenty six miles of Loch Awe to fish in, why attempt to cast a bait in an area where there are bank anglers fishing? This is not a recent manifestation, we've had to put up with these antics since returning to the loch in 2011. It'd have been quite something to see how "Cuddles" and "The Mitch's" would have dealt with such situations way back in 1986?

 Alan Gray, second left, enjoying a social "light ale" during our 2011 visit - happy days!
To get myself back onto a more even keel, I feel that I should make comment about the passing of Alan Gray, Kenny's uncle, who was such a key part of our early sessions at Kilchurn. When I spoke with Krissy, it was about the good times, the laughter and stories from a man who didn't drink! Soon got the hang of it when he wasn't paying - fantastic memories - sleep well old mate!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Kilchurn 2018 - the good bit

Whenever we make plans for a fishing holiday, the one factor that can't be guaranteed is the weather. Since 2011, I have fished Kilchurn Bay on seven, week long, sessions around the April/May bank holiday period, and have experienced some phenomenal pike fishing, yet endured some horrendous weather conditions. Why should we expect anything else? It's the bloody Scottish Highlands and, what us southern softies perceive as extreme, is part and parcel of this magnificent, rugged, landscape. This year was to see us tested by driving rain and powerful squalls, winds regularly reaching 60 mph. I suppose we were fortunate that temperatures remained well above freezing and there was neither snow, sleet or hail to contend with. As I stated in my original post, our gear was well able to cope with these conditions, The bivvies remained a dry haven in a sea of soaking bankside terrain, the two vans providing safe, dry, storage for all our back-up clothing and supplies.

Dawn on Sunday morning - it went downhill. rapidly, from here.
So why did we cut short our trip? In all honesty, we'd only gone back up to Loch Awe for a social. We are confident that our tackle and methods will catch pike from the fishery and so it proved. We ended our trip with thirty-nine pike (thirteen doubles to 19 lbs) and every one of us enjoyed the experience of doing battle with these hard fighting fish. What we weren't able to enjoy was each others company, stuck, as we were, in our bivvies; sheltering from the driving rain for the majority of our stay. Only one evening had the conditions abated, allowing us to light a fire, have a few beers and banter whilst listening to the Liverpool v's Roma game. The decision to pack it in wasn't all that difficult. Benno and Luke getting away very early on Thursday morning, Sye and I much more relaxed and getting thoroughly soaked because of it; leaving just after 10.15 hrs and not before thanking Kenny (& Krissy) Gray for their hospitality and the wonderful fishing they provide as custodians of Kilchurn Bay.




Obviously it didn't rain 24/7 for the entire period of our stay and I did manage to get quite a few additions to my year list as our stay progressed. The vast majority were as I'd expected, although a pair of Pink-footed Geese was a bit of a surprise when they pitched down onto the loch with a party of four Greylags. The undoubted highlight was an overflying adult Golden Eagle, as I was playing my largest pike of the trip. Alas no photos, but the others were able to enjoy prolonged views through their binoculars as the eagle flew across the bay and into Glen Orchy before spiralling up into the skies and disappearing over the horizon. This is only the third time I've seen Golden Eagle whilst at Loch Awe - a magical moment which was shared with the gang.





So that's the good bit out of the way! The next offering about the trip is a proper whinge, so watch this space.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Stodmarsh morning

Drawing heavily upon the influence of Neil Diamond's "Chelsea Morning" lyric, I have to state that I didn't really wake up! Despite the 600 miles driven, on Thursday, I couldn't sleep due to the four "jumbo" cans of Red Bull that I consumed during the journey. Home a day early, no work and Bev not getting back from Gran Canaria until late tonight, it seemed a good plan to have a wander around the Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry NNR in order to tick a few more boxes on the 2018 year list. At least I might wear off the effects of the Red Bull and manage a few hours kip in the afternoon?
I had a brilliant time walking the full circuit, bumping into Sue Morton and Steve Ashton as I made my way round. It really was nice to see these birders again and spend some time conversing about this and that. Seven more year ticks, taking this week's total to twenty-one, yet so many ridiculously common species still to be added. Quite a few subjects to point the long lens at - so here are some samples.




Only the Cuckoo was a "tick" today. My others were Corn Bunting, Common
Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Greenshank, Wheatear and Common Swift.

Knowing how much stuff needs attending to before the carp fishing can get underway, I feel sure that a few sites will be targetted in order to address this situation and fill in some embarrassing gaps. I've not seen a Dunlin yet! The year total standing at a, rather pleasing, 133 species - oh yeah, there were a few good bits added in Scotland. More about them later.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Savage

Just back after a, six day, session in a car wash! Utter madness - our kit was up to the challenge, our aging bodies let us down. Full report to follow; so just a couple of photos to set the scene.



I don't believe that there is a word in the Scottish vocabulary that equates to "drought"? (Unless they run out of Whisky! -  they ain't ever gonna run out of water)

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Sirens at the ready

April 3rd, 2018, was to see me pass the twelve year mark, as a permanent employee of Fujifilm (although I have actually been working for 14 years 6 months on site). The outcome of this milestone date was an "award" of £250 (after tax) as a thank-you gesture. Bloody great! I knew exactly what I was going to do with this timely windfall - a pair of Nash Siren R3's being top of the agenda. Why only two? Well, I only have two split cane Mk IV's and can't ever see myself needing a third. These modern bite alarms have state of the art circuitry which is akin to the technology used by the speed cameras that now police our roadsides. Proper cutting edge stuff and exactly why I've purchased them. Hopefully, they will assist my cause and are not just to be flaunted alongside other brand labelled paraphernalia associated with modern carp fashionistas.

Promo image taken from the Nash website - a Siren R3
Worth a day's wages? Not too sure - just the job when someone else is paying!
Friday will see me headed off on a mega-trip, rods to the fore, and it is highly probable that the first time one of the Siren R3's registers a bite it won't be a carp? It won't be a Mk IV/Mitchell 300 combo either, I'm buzzing. Sye, Benno & Luke are also right up for it. If I don't post again; then it will be May before normal (?) blogland service is resumed. Man, this is going to be something else. Excited? What do you think?

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Not how I'd do business

On the 10th April I sent an email to a bait company, asking for some advice on their products, as advertised on the internet. I'd seen a Youtube offering, of guys successfully using their bait at Crete Lakes and felt that it might provide an edge when I start on the RMC, in early May. With Mainline launching "The Link" and already having Cell and Essential Cell well established in the market place, whilst Nash Baits have Key Cray as their top seller, most modern carp anglers are spoilt for choice and look no further for their bait supply. My email was purely to explore the potential of getting an alternative in order to be confident that my baits would only be used by me, thus not likely to be copied, accidently, by other carp anglers on the venue.
A week later and I've had no response. Either the business has no desire to assist my quest or has possibly gone bust? Either way, I'd made my approach because they were Kent based and I thought they were worth supporting - established in 2011 so it states on the website. I wasn't begging for freebies, just a bit of information about a flavour combination - wanting to know if it was winter biased? I won't name them, but it shouldn't be too difficult (if you so desire?) to find out who they are if you follow the clues. I am now exploring other possibilities - fed up with waiting. We have a saying at Fuji - "You only get one chance to make a first impression" - this company has done nothing to instill confidence in their products by this shoddy display of customer care. Which is a shame, I would have enjoyed promoting their company development, via my blogging.
Back to everyday life, work is a brilliant way of keeping me focussed, allowing the reality of what's important kick in; thus an email reply isn't anywhere close to the top of the list! Friday will see me off on another adventure, the year list, no doubt, considerably enhanced because of a result of these travels. Loads to look forward to. shame it's the "piss poor" customer service, of a Kent bait supplier, that proved the catalyst for this post. Bev experienced a similar response from the staff at Wickes, Broadstairs, and we took our money (£6K) elsewhere as a result. Crazy, when you think that it's customer service that makes any businesses a success.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Kite time

Life is very much a whirlwind, at present, fishing and my blogging have been a casualty of the situation. This weekend has seen Bev and I travel up to meet with my family to have a rather low key celebration of Tim's 60th birthday. There are plans for a proper do, when Tim's house refurb has been completed, and we can get out into the garden. We had arranged to watch the Grand National at Tim's, but were to spend the mid-day period, and have a bite to eat, at Simon's house in Aston Clinton, Bucks before we got the gig started. The forecast had been very favorable, so I had taken my camera gear along in the hope of getting some images of the Red Kites that are now a constant feature of this village. One of Sye's neighbours feeds them in the back garden and it is a fantastic experience to watch these magnificent birds, just skimming the roof-tops as they patrol the gardens on the lookout for scraps. For a resident of Thanet, this spectacle is completely outside my "normal" garden birding and to hear the whistling contact calls a fantastic change from the yelping Herring Gulls of our bungalow. I took loads of photos, whilst standing in Sye's garden and also got three butterfly year-ticks in the form of Brimstone, Small White and Small Tortoiseshell.



The presence of these magnificent scavengers, low over the rooftops of Aston Clinton, is a real
thrill for Bev and I - everyday occurrence for the residents of this Buckinghamshire village. 
We had a great time and the low key celebration was just the right atmosphere for Benno to introduce "Treese" to the Wrafties. I hope she felt welcome. I also managed to add Swallow to the year list, whilst Sye was cheering on Tiger Roll in the "National" at a "fiver" each way. Result!

Friday, 6 April 2018

Off at a tangent

I managed a short, afternoon/evening, session on Wednesday and winkled out a small linear mirror for my troubles. I didn't fish well, missing an absolute "stone waller" of a take - never felt a thing as the rod passed over my shoulder! However, despite my shortcomings as a carp angler, I did see some fishy signs that had all the hallmarks of perch activity. I'm only able to get out for a morning session, on Saturday, and feel that these perch might provide a better chance of success than the carp, at present. Still using the split cane Mk IV's, I'm swapping over the reels to ABU Cardinal 44 X's and have chosen to use prawns and lob worms as a starting gambit; basically because they've worked wherever else I've used them. In my heart, I feel sure that the RMC will be the venue to produce that carp I so desire and, as such, know that current weather conditions aren't conducive to my short session tactics. If I can catch a decent perch, by design, as a side project, then so be it. April 2018 is going to be a bit of a roller-coaster journey, there are so many influences in the mix. If it is May before the RMC carp project gets underway, then it will be because other projects got in my way. The next three weeks have the potential for some interesting fishing challenges. I'll happily dip my toe in the water and make decisions on the course of my journey, rods to hand, before the May Day weekend and a headlong dive into carp fishing for a "thirty"

A double from Brogborough - circa Sept 1992
If someone offered me a chance at another "big bream"  I'd bite their arm off!
Maggot/flake cocktails on 4 lbs hooklinks and a size 14 Drennan Super Specialist hook - happy days!
The van's already loaded, awaiting an early morning start - let's see what happens? If I don't make a post tomorrow then you'll know my efforts were to no avail!

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Another bout of Carp Fever

"Carp Fever" - I suffered from a severe dose of this OCD behaviour way back in 1983/4 when, still wet behind the ears, I was chasing around the big fish circuit like a bull in a china shop. With a twenty already on my PB list, the Stanborough winter campaign was a brilliant experience and one that I recall with many fond memories of both fishing and the friendships that developed as a result of the time spent on the banks of this municipal park lake. Four twenties, including three in successive casts (November 9th 1983) and a string of back up doubles ensured that when I landed my PB (23 lbs 14 oz) I walked away happy in the knowledge that my efforts had been worthwhile. In 1984 that fish was still a very respectable weight on any specimen angler's PB list and I was free to chase new targets, a burden lifted from my shoulders. Was it fate, or just a lucky coincidence? Whatever the answer, I got out of carp fishing before the utter madness took over and the meteoric rise of the carp angling industry saw the pursuit of this single, alien, species shape the direction of modern UK freshwater fishing.

11 lbs 4 oz - 9th March 1983
My first ever double-figure carp, taken from the Kodak "Water End Fishery" just outside Hemel Hempstead.
The diary entry reads "hair rig, size 6 Au Lion D'or (hook), 8 lbs b.s. Sylcast. Rod Hutchinson "Mingle Fruit" boily
using a Gerry Savage S/U (stepped up) carp rod" 
I have to admit that I'm really looking forward to the coming months, as I resume my quest for that split cane thirty. I cannot begin to calculate how many hours I've spent looking at stuff on Youtube, reading back through my, aging, library stock, in the hope of a spark of an idea. Kevin Nash speaks of "finding an edge", there is a fabulous moment in a Carl and Alex offering when their, non angler, father made the observation (Reservoir Diaries - I think?) "why think you should catch more fish when you're doing the same as everyone else?"  What possible edge can I discover, when the majority of modern anglers have access to exactly the same information resource as me? One thing I don't have is time, that great leveller, but what I might just be able to draw on is experience and watercraft. I suppose another edge might be that I prepare all my particles and party mixes myself, thus am able to tweak the hemp/corn/maples/maize ratios, plus additional flavourings, thus avoiding the, off the shelf, conformity of shop bought items. If I've picked up on anything, at all, then modern-day carp anglers are lazy, happy to allow others to do the bait preparation and simply use it straight out of the packet, plus or minus the commercial glugs, dips or "Goo". However, only a complete idiot would ignore these commercially produced baits, they are wonderfully effective and have resulted in some magnificent carp being landed. My problem is, therefore, do I have the angling techniques to present my hookbaits in a better way than the other anglers on my chosen venues?

April 4th 2018 - my current carp set-up at Marshside Fishery. 
It was whilst watching a Jerry Bridger's "Bull Cam Diary" offering that I found the spark of an idea I needed. It's not that critical how I present my bait as where I do so! Team Tracker were fishing The Blue Pool, in Essex, and had employed some fairly basic snag fishing techniques. Jerry was fishing a single rod! How very carpy? It was the use of  Cygnet "Baiting Poles" to accurately position his bait and rig that instantly drew me to think about how this approach could be adapted to enhance my efforts on the RMC and the East Kent drains. I have no problems sharing this thought process, as with my slant on bait preparation, very few, if any, carp anglers will be moved to use this technique based upon the opinions of a soppy old git with a PB of just 23 lbs 14 oz!

10 lbs 14 oz - 19th December 1988
British Aerospace Pit, London Colney, Hertfordshire.
My twenty-sixth carp over ten pounds, there was one more to come before I packed it in. (March 1993)
I've now had well in excess of 100 doubles, and six more twenties, in the period June 2011 to today.
This is a direct result of the meteoric rise in the dominance of carp, as a species, within the stocking
policies of the clubs and commercial fisheries. That I hanker after some, long forgotten, experience which
is nothing more than a "bucket list" dream is why the split cane thirty remains at the centre of this latest
bout of "Carp Fever"
Just reading through my old diary notes doesn't really capture the feel of those crazy days, when carp, and all things carpy, were the focus of my angling. To get things into some type of perspective, I've caught far more carp, since returning to the hobby, than I ever did in the 1974 - 93 period when angling was the sole purpose of my existence.  Carp fishing, in 2018, is a completely different challenge and the ability to stay one step ahead of other anglers is now just as important as being on the right venue. There will never be a substitute for watercraft, or the ability to locate the fish before setting your traps, but understanding the impact of angling pressure makes these aspects that little bit more straightforward when there's been an awful lot of water flowed under that bridge! There can't, and never will, be any substitute for experience learned over a lifetime of looking at the water and listening to your angling peers.




Sunday, 1 April 2018

An enjoyable "Fool's errand"

An afternoon walk was just the ticket, after a busy morning. Breakfast in The Norman Wisdom, in Deal, was, in reality, brunch and we'd returned home, chores done, at 13.00 hrs fully replete. Bev had no further desire to leave the settee, with the t/v on, and spend an afternoon chilling. I was keen to get back out in search of more year ticks, a Wheatear would be nice! I'd planned to visit the Foreness area, but ended up walking the cliff-top path between Pegwell village and Cliffs End before dropping down onto the beach beside the old hoverpad. Absolutely no Wheatear action, although it wasn't surprising as SBBOT only recorded their first, of 2018, this morning. Didn't prevent the stroll being very worthwhile. Being Easter Sunday, it was hardly surprising that folk were out in numbers, making the most of the post-lunch period. Conditions were rather subdued, although the sun did make a brief appearance whilst I was down on the beach, thus images are of very varied quality as light levels rose and fell with the constantly changing cloud cover. My camera skills are of no merit. It isn't a problem, the modern camera/computer combination can produce usable images, no matter how poor the original. A pleasing image is a "nice to" but not "must" have result of my birding encounters. Just as well, because I rattled off a load of shots on my wandering and my subjects were less than co-operative to my cause and the computer editing facility has allowed me to produce theses images.






What did I record? A couple of Chiffchaff, a pair of Goosander in Pegwell Bay were a surprise, plenty of Linnets and Goldfinch along the clifftop hedgerows, even a Greenfinch perched up on a fenceline. I'd scanned the horse paddocks on my outward journey, for no reward, the return allowed me to catch up with a Black Redstart on the fence posts around the fields. Had I overlooked it or was it newly arrived?  No big deal - just a very enjoyable afternoon walk with some nice birds seen; the year list untroubled by my effort.