Who am I?

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


Sunday, 19 August 2018

Centerpins - why?

It has been quite an eventful week, here in the darkest depths of our Dumpton abode. The bungalow refurb is gathering pace and there's definitely "light at the end of the tunnel". Finished before September? I/we can but hope. My new study is up, the plasterer is in on Monday to do his thing and, with luck plus a following wind, I might be in there by Bank Holiday weekend?
On Wednesday, around mid-day, I received a phone call from Tom Lane, he'd just taken his first twenty from the East Kent drains and was absolutely buzzing. He tried to make sense, but adrenaline had turned him into a gibbering wreck; I was absolutely thrilled for him. Every single fish is a battle won and much deserved. 22 lbs 9 oz - of wild common carp, they don't get much better!

Tom poses with his first "flatlands" twenty - well done mate! Absolutely magnificent.
It didn't end there, however, as I accidentally stumbled across a website Fred Crouch Reels and I found myself engaged in an e-mail exchange with a guy called Paul Whiteing. The outcome of our correspondence is that I might just be able to get my Match Aerial (Fred Crouch copy) a complete service and some, much needed, TLC. It turns out that Paul, and a friend Roger Keys, still produce these iconic reels, although not as a business, just a hobby. Paul is an admin member of BFW (Barbel Fishing World) and has posted loads of articles on this website. I found myself reading one of his offerings about why go (barbel) fishing with a centrepin. I found myself in total agreeance with all he had to say on this subject, although I had to remove myself from this single species perspective. Fred Crouch had introduced me to the joys of using these reels, way back in the early/mid 1980's and yes, at that time, barbel were the catalyst.

With my return to the hobby, I find that much has changed in what I expect from my time on the bank. I'd be a complete fraud if I ever suggested that "big" fish weren't my target, although pounds and ounces aren't everything involved in this complex equation at this juncture. Enjoyment is now the number one factor in all my angling projects and this manifests itself in many guises. Centrepins are, to me, a key part of my search for that spark. They allow direct contact with your quarry, a rod comes alive without requirement of gears and drag mechanisms. You're on one to one terms with the hooked fish, your rod, line, hook and reel reliant on the pressure of your thumb to keep a tight line and the reel in check. It's up close and personal, the very essence of the man v's fish challenge. My use of centre-pins is, therefore, not a fashion statement, just a quest for fulfillment in the enjoyment stakes. The Match Aerial is an iconic part of angling history, and my own reel has even more going for it as I actually went round to Fred's, Enfield home, to purchase it - all £25 worth!

An absolute brute of a barbel. 11 lbs 4 oz of Kentish Stour magic.
Made all the more special because it's the heaviest barbel I've caught using Fred's reel
Thirty- odd years on and the old girl is looking a little jaded so, hopefully Paul & Roger will be able to give it a makeover and extend her usable life?  I have taken many decent fish using this reel, my River Thames PB (equalling) 9 lbs 2 oz barbel in September 1985 is probably the finest capture of that period, an 11 lbs 4 oz from The Kentish Stour being the heaviest and sternest test in 2014.
I still hanker after a "twenty" (carp) off the top, using a pin. If/when the Match Aerial gets sorted, then I've already got another project to pursue.

Please don't get the impression that my use of old reels is the only way I can have fun. I also own three modern Chinese centrepins, which have accounted for many of my recent captures. Matt Hayes Limited Edition models, marketed by Dragoncarp, have been a mainstay of my pike angling since I purchased my first in 2013. I own three, numbers 54,55 & 56. They do exactly what it says on the tin! They have accounted for many decent fish, amongst which are the two "thirteens" from the Stour and my Scottish 24 lbs 10 oz pike. It's without question that they lack historic significance, tactile grace and the build quality of the Match Aerial, but they still have plenty to offer when enjoyment is the overriding factor. I readily accept that casting 150m plus is way beyond the scope of a centrepin, well use a bait boat, as we do at Loch Awe, and Bob's your uncle; anything is possible. However, my angling roots and, the present challenge have me creeping around very intimate venues, attempting to outwit my quarry at very close quarters. Under these circumstances, casting is of no importance and even the most basic of centrepin techniques will see my baits positioned where I want them. It's not about the cast, it's the battle with a hooked fish which ensures I get the maximum adrenaline fix each time it occurs. A split cane rod and a centrepin becomes a part of the angler, such is the ability of this combination to transmit the feel of the fishes actions as it lunges beneath the surface. I'm in no doubt that many modern day fishers will pour scorn on these whimsicle notions, but each to their own and I shall continue in my quest for enjoyment unswayed by modern thinking and associated high tech tackle.
This Kingfisher has been very active along the section of drain.
I'm sure it just uses the perch to show off his fishing skills to belittle my own efforts.
I will finish this offering with a little up-date. I'm getting closer to that carp. I have been within touching distance of a huge common and have got two spots on the go. I will get a proper post sorted out when the time comes. In the mean while, here's a little scamp that sneaked into my swim yesterday evening and spooked the shoal as it battled in the tiny drain. A beaver ploughing through the swim, some ten minutes later saw me pack up early and head for home, my head awash with ideas and plans.


  1. I've one of those Fred Crouch pins Dyl. It's in totally mint condition on account of it hardly seeing the light of day in forty years. My older brother got a couple when he fished the Royalty in the late 70's, though his version has a wider rim.

    1. Ric,
      I'm sure there was a phase when all us speccy boys went through "I'll try a centrepin" and purchased one. Probably driven on by trotting for Dace or Chub in our local rivers? The Fred Crouch legacy, for me, was swimfeeder maggot tactics with bait dropper assistance - using a pin, one of his! Barbel bites were vicious affairs, often the rod being wrenched from the rests, the pin unable to give line fast enough - absolutely savage. Because I've always associated pins with bottom fishing, I stayed with it. Those whose vision was based upon a return to
      long trotting were soon found disappointed and returned to the ease of a trotted stick float with a fixed spool (of whatever brand)
      It might just be that centrepins weren't up to the job, as modern technology allowed ease of use? I know not, nor care! I enjoy the thrill of playing a fish directly off the rotating drum and long may it continue. I took a 13 lbs 10 oz common from the drains last night - the battle enhanced by my use of Fred's battered Match Aerial.
      None of the kit I use could be described as "mint" - I think "lived in" might be a better termanology. The thing that matters is that my tackle is up to the task, what it looks like, up to a point, is of no consequence.

      All the best - Dyl

  2. Hi Dyl, I missed your reply.
    Long trotting with the pin. Well, last year a neighbour of mine (he once caught a 40lb pike on a fly) took me to a place called the Lower Itchen Fishery. It was fast water, trotting sweetcorn under big floats for trout and grayling.
    I used a fixed spool since I knew no better, while my companion used a pin. It was obvious the pin was streets ahead as it held back against the current in an even manner.
    On returning home I dug out the Fred Crouch number, gave it a quick service and it was ready to go. The spool could spin free for ages. Really smooth.
    Haven't gone back yet mind.

    1. Ric,

      Pike on the fly, Trout & Grayling on sweetcorn - what is the world coming to? No wonder centrepins are so out of vogue! I don't have the concentration span, nor vision, to watch a float drifting down on the whim of the current - unless it's an ET vaner! My love of the pin is purely because it does everything a baitrunner does, but with so much more class/feel. My Fred Crouch is in much need of some TLC, the Matt Hayes are perfectly serviceable, although they needed a bit of tweaking before this was achievable. We had it so good, during our time around Tring that I feel a great pity for those who've tried to follow. I don't, for a minute, think that they need my support as they will have their own version of reality to look back on. We enjoyed the greatest period of angling discovery, be that big fish or tackle advancement, the finest music the planet has ever listened to and freedoms which will never be repeated. Ric we've been blessed mate - end of! (Not too sure about those dodgy Fiesta's - shit happens, we're all allowed to make mistakes, just look at my hair!)

      Toodle pip - Dyl

  3. Yes Dyl, I sort of miss the XR2 until I remember that getting spares for it was nigh on impossible. It had to go.

    I once grew my hair as long as I could get it for a couple of reasons. The first was to see the end result - over a foot - and also in support of a guy in the factory who had done the same. Long hair has a natural ability to antagonise as we both know.

    I cut it off prior to a race since it was getting too much to deal with. I'll admit I was a bit down after the crop. I mean, that was two years of effort gone in minutes. But only two years. Part of one's identity is another ball game completely.

    Actually, there was a totally hirsute runner I knew of who in return for a large offering to charity agreed to have the whole lot off. It was odds on he was going to grow it all back, but a year later he was still clean shaven and a number 2. Why? Convenience. A flannel does the job in seconds.

    Come to think of it......

    Out of curiosity Dyl, how many people have you politely told to 'f' off, when they suggested...you know what?