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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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?

Monday, 5 November 2018

Shameless!

If I hadn't dipped yesterday, then I am sure I wouldn't have gone to Margate Harbour this morning? The KOS website had a report (Jim Bloor - I'm very grateful) announcing the presence of the White-billed Diver at said site, just twenty minutes before I'd logged on. It wasn't a difficult decision and I was on my way within a few minutes. I parked near the surgery building at Cliftonville, opting to walk the seawall into Margate, hoping to bump into a few year ticks as I went.


A nice walk, but rather uneventful, bird wise. Odd groups of waders included Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Common Redshank and four Purple Sandpipers. Rock Pipits were present in good numbers yet the hoped for Black Redstart failed to appear. I reached the harbour in good time and after a few minutes scanning, discovered my target miles out in the bay, towards Westgate. My views from the beach were just about tickable, largely due to the sun highlighting the banana beak of this impressive Arctic visitor. I then made the decision to walk to the end of the harbour wall, it seemingly a little closer to the bird's position, although the angle of the sun wasn't particularly favourable. It turned out to be a masterstroke and luck was truly on my side. The bird was making its' way steadily towards my position and swam passed me into the main bay of the harbour proper. I thought about wandering back, to get a better angle, but the bird had other ideas and proceeded to swim past the end of the harbour wall, coming within 30, or so, metres of where I was sitting. Get in! Absolutely stunning views of this wonderful bird, all to myself. Camera in overdrive, I managed a few images which convey the quality of the encounter - a "lifer" in the bag!





Sunday, 4 November 2018

Winter already?

It's winter in all but the technicalities of date, autumn now behind us and that awesome summer, just a collection of memories about glorious sunshine and stifling heat. I know that many of the deciduous trees have yet to drop their leaves, some even have to have them turn through shades of rustic, golden brown, but it makes no difference to me now. The pike are in fine fettle, winter thrushes have arrived, en mass, and Stonechats are holding territory along the clifftop pathways. What other signs are required?

Two images from the archive - just for effect
I had to drop Bev off at the QEQM Hospital, Margate, this afternoon as both her parents are undergoing medical treatment at present. Any ideas of going fishing were a non starter, thus I opted for a wander along the cliff-top pathway between Foreness and Kingsgate. There's been a White-billed Diver present along this stretch of coastline for the past few days and it would be a "lifer" should I set eyes upon it! Utter folly and I was distraught that I failed to connect with my target - NOT! A wonderful stroll along the cliff-top path was rewarded with a splendid male Stonechat, a Short-eared Owl that arrived in/off over Kingsgate Castle and a juvenile Gannet which headed east, just beyond the exposed chalk reef.



A sign of getting old? There was a time when I'd have skipped work to get that tick on a meaningless list of nothingness. Oh! the benefit of hindsight, how much of a gift would that be in a Christmas stocking? Yes, winter really is upon us.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Effort & success

The quest for a "flatland's perch" continues to dominate my angling effort. Working shifts is a great benefit, during the winter months, as I can get mid-week evening sessions in whenever the conditions look favourable, yet still be home before 18.00 hrs. Smash and grab tactics at the very basic level. Arrive at the chosen swim, introduce my baited hook over the freebies, then wait - maximum two hours. It's all about what happens before the sun sets? It matter's not if I have, or haven't, caught my target - I go home when it gets dark. Despite my obvious lack of recent blog activity I have managed four short sessions, out on the marshes, this past week, actually getting the first perch for my troubles. All this material is in the pending tray, awaiting the capture of my target, before I offer my own slant on "The Black Dyke" adventure.
The aside to this perch search is the unexplored pike potential that exists in the same drains. I'm certainly more confident with my pike angling techniques, than anything perch orientated, and have experienced many more bites to this rod, fished "snide on the side", during my recent excursions. Nothing big, that 8 lbs 14 oz fish being the best, so far, from this particular system. It doesn't matter how many of these magnificent predators I catch, there will never be a bite registered that doesn't set my pulse racing. I think that this is due to the simple fact that I am unable to offer a bait which can be labelled "Big Pike Only!" and the bite alarm will sound the same whether the fish weighs three or thirty pounds!


I took three rods, to the marsh, on Friday afternoon, deliberately seeking pike. The superb afternoon sunshine being as far from ideal perch conditions as I could describe. Strangely, however, the pike didn't respond either and I came home having experienced a comprehensive blank, my arse well and truly kicked! Nothing else for it but to dust myself down and get back out for another attempt, the morning forecast being much the same. A quick check with Bev and I was on my way at 05.00 hrs, today, headed down to the Royal Military Canal. Just two rods, because that's the rules and there is a bailiff, my pair of Duncan Kay's fitted with Matt Haye's centre-pins fishing two popped up tail sections (Bluey and Mackerel).


The dawn was spectacular, as the sun rose over the surrounding marshes, the roaring lions at Port Lympne adding to the ambience and expectations. Although I was the first to arrive, four other anglers turned up within an hour of sun rise, two float fishing for "silvers" the other pair pike fishing. We all settled into a section of the canal some 400 m in length, to do our own thing. At 07.50 hrs I experienced a "dropped run" which certainly had me scratching my head. How cute are these canal pike? Nothing about the take suggested eel activity; I'd simply been done over! I fished on with my plan to pack up around 10.00 hrs. 09.30 hrs came and went and it looked like my nets would remain dry for another session when, completely out of the blue, my right hand rod was away and I found myself in battle with a powerful fish which had no intentions of seeing my un-hooking mat. It was an amazing fight, the bloody thing tail walked away from the landing net on one occasion, before it finally succumbed to the pressure of a straining compound taper and I was able to scoop up my prize. The other guys were suitably impressed, by the scrap, and quickly came along to witness the unhooking and weighing ritual. It was a splendid pike, weighing in at 18 lbs 4 oz (after a lot of faffing about!) and my best from this particular section by some measure. A quick phone call secured me an extra hour, or two, although I shouldn't have bothered as my day was done; not another peep from the alarms.


Both flanks of this magnificent wild fish.
I can't finish the post without mentioning some of the wildlife, birds in particular, which enhanced my time on the bank. Yesterday there was a Common Darter (Dragonfly) skimming over the drain, a Brown Hare in an adjacent water meadow and a stunning imm/female Marsh Harrier hunting over the surrounding farmland. Today it was about Ravens, Common Buzzard, Kingfisher, Long-tailed Tits, Yellowhammers, Treecreeper and a Yellow-browed Warbler; a bloody brilliant side show. The Black Dyke challenge remains my goal, but the pike of the RMC certainly have a place in my winter angling efforts.

Female Yellowhammer