Who am I?

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


Monday 28 January 2019

Timeless fascination

Since my return to angling (specimen hunting?), in 2011, I have set myself targets in order to maintain a level of focus in my approach to the hobby. You certainly don't need to be a member of MENSA to spot that I am frequently distracted from these projects as other opportunities present themselves. However, by and large, this tactic has paid off and some of these various challenges have been completed whilst others are still ongoing. Right from the start pike have been the one constant of my angling year so, when I got back into the swing of things, it was natural that a "wild twenty" would be the first entry on the wish list. It took me nearly two years to achieve this goal, such is the underlying desire to seek my enjoyment, thus angling targets, at fisheries away from the crowds.This is in stark contrast to the circuit venues which had been such a fundamental part of my earlier involvement with the obsessional pursuit of big fish. Back then I'd expect to catch at least one twenty during the course of a winter. This is not a reflection upon the population dynamics of the UK's pike but, instead,  a realistic appraisal of the status of twenty pound plus fish within the fisheries I have targeted during my reawakened angling adventure. Back in the 1980's/early 90's, I would choose my venues with the chance of a "twenty" being paramount in my thoughts and, with this as my approach, it was slow going. However, if taken within the context of being a result driven exercise, I was relatively successful, twenties being caught with some degree of regularity throughout this period of my life.

Since 2011 I have caught far more pike than I ever did previously, doubles being very regular visitors to my landing net as a direct consequence of the venues I now choose to frequent. Twenty pound pike, of which I have taken just two and one of them was from Loch Awe, are now the icing on the cake and not the draw they once were! Don't get any impression that I wouldn't like another one, they're a magnificent fish and every one landed is an achievement to savour - they remain very scarce within the ecosystems of our waterways. The reality is I'm no longer prepared to forgo the enjoyment of regular action in order to target another twenty, unwilling to hit the road again in search of such a prize.

The one thing that I am sure about is that I'm a far more competent (pike) angler, today, than ever I was. Big baits and a sit and wait approach might well be a recipe for catching big, lazy, pike; it certainly can't be described as thinking angling. These days I want far more from my time on the bank, whatever species I am after, and therefore that chuck and chance style fishing no longer has any part in what I seek to achieve. I suppose what I am trying to say is that I'd rather use ability, not time, to get my results; something which hasn't always been true. To this end my sessions, now, rarely last longer than four/five hours and whilst I'm fishing I do my utmost to remain active in my decision making. If something's not right I'll change it, no longer prepared to see what happens if I leave it for while. Pike are still capable of reducing me to an adrenaline induced, shaking, mess. The awesome acceleration and brute force created by the fin placement, along that elongated torso, being transmitted down a fishing rod is one of the defining reasons why angling is still such a thrill for me. I haven't given up hope of catching another twenty, that'd be ridiculous. My methods catch me plenty of pike, if the venues contain twenties, then nothing I do will adversely affect my chances of getting one to take my bait.

With so many other species to target within the local freshwater fisheries, pike are my fall back, comfort zone, which I use to rekindle enthusiasm or boost my confidence when I'm struggling. I simply enjoy catching these fish, whatever size, because they are a link to my earliest recollections of big fish angling. They are still that "freshwater shark" that match anglers of the 1970's used to speak about. "The only good'ns are dead'ns" a phrase which would crop up from time to time in the angling press of the period. I suppose it was this aspect which provided that original spark of interest in trying to capture these unloved, murderous, beasts. I will never tire of that unblinking stare, the toothy gape and dappled flanks of these magnificent predators. 

Only time will tell if I am ever to return to a deliberate attempt at targeting a big pike. In the meantime I am happily able to wallow in the myriad memories of my time spent in the company of these wonderful fish and the immense pleasure I have derived from the successes I've enjoyed along the way.

Saturday 26 January 2019

A Barney (Rubble), my barrow, a kite and more

The two sessions have now been completed and, to be fair, I've struggled for bites. There is no getting away from the obvious fact that water temperatures are very low, 40 F, therefore not particularly suited to fish feeding. My perch efforts were a complete waste of time, not a single sign in over three hours at the club fishery, on Friday afternoon. I was back out at 05.15 hrs, today, headed out onto the marsh for a spot of pike angling. All three rods out by 06.50 hrs, it was just twenty-five minutes later that a popped up sardine was taken and the alarm rattled out its' audible alert. It was a stubborn, yet unspectacular, battle resulting in my first pike of 2019 being drawn over the net chord. A cracking fish, of 12 lbs 12 oz, was rested in the retaining sling whilst I awaited the light to improve before I got my photos. Well, that was it! I remained on the bank until 11.45 hrs and didn't have another touch in spite of leap frogging the rods along a 400 m stretch of the drain.

To be honest, I don't think I could have done much more with my dead bait presentations having ringed the changes with buoyancy, colour and flavours. This drain is over a mile from where I am able to park my van and, therefore, involves a trek along a winding track to reach it. Since I managed to acquire a, secondhand, Mk 2 Carp Porter barrow this task has been assisted greatly as it ensures that tackle choice is not restricted by what I'm physically able to carry. Pushing a barrow is far easier than struggling with back packs and a rod holdall, over the shoulder, whilst carrying a chair and cooler bag.
A promo image of the barrow that I own - I can't say
anything negative about it. It does everything I require.
I enjoyed a great morning out on the marsh, pike fishing being just part of the experience. I had the binoculars draped around my neck and spent much of the time scanning the surrounding flatlands watching the local birdlife. My mate Neil, the birdwatcher, was out and I watched him making his way around his regular circuit, thinking he must be seeing quite a bit due to the amount of time it was taking. When he finally appeared on the bank side, he raised his arms in triumph asking "did you get it?" As it turned out he'd seen a 2nd year Glaucous Gull, flying along the railway embankment and, to top it off, re-found a Great Grey Shrike which had first been discovered way back in the autumn. So a quality morning's birding for this time of year. I reeled off my meagre list of sightings. Two Little Egrets, two/three Common Buzzards, a Water Rail, Common Snipe, Reed Bunting and Cetti's Warbler, all very predictable. Understandably Neil was buzzing, the Glauc being a great record for the area. "You know what?", he said, "I'm surprised we've not had any Red Kites yet" He couldn't have drawn breathe before I raised my binoculars towards a raptor being mobbed over the adjacent marsh. "There's your Red Kite mate!" and what do you know, there it was. We watched as it gained height and flew off south. He said his good-byes and wandered off leaving me to make a slow pack down whilst continuing to scan the surrounding marsh to the south. It must have been the sixth or seventh attempt when "bingo!" there it was! The Great Grey Shrike, quite distant but completely unmistakable, was perched atop a lone hawthorn in the middle of a large grazing marsh. What a result? It'd been a fabulous morning and I drove home very pleased with my efforts. The weather is forecast to take a turn for the worse, over the next few days, so I've already resigned myself to the fact that I won't be getting back out with the rods any time soon. The coming week of late shifts will allow me to do some local birding. It's been quite a while since I visited the harbour and the under-cliff, this might be a good time to make the effort?

Thursday 24 January 2019

Getting there

With a little luck, and a decent tail wind, Bev and I should have managed to empty our storage locker by Sunday afternoon. We'd used it to store our belongings whilst the building project was underway; thinking that we'd need the facility for just a few weeks! Nine and a half months later, and well over a grand in rental fees, we are finally able to get all that stuff back home. My new study/fishing room is coming together nicely, with plenty of room for the tackle as well as my reference library and assorted dross that comes with being me. Stuffed birds and "George" the pike are back on display whilst my choice of artwork now adorns the walls. I've had to make one small concession as the washing machine and tumble drier are housed within the room but, as they are next to my bait fridge/freezer, it is no big deal. From my desk I am able to look directly, via the large window, out into our back garden and the feeding station is now within 5 m of the back door.

The garden, however, is in much need of attention and it is our plan to get this sorted within the next few weeks. Piles of rubble and associated debris litters the grass and the decking area is strewn with junk. All will be dealt with by the hiring of a skip - easy?
Plans are already in place for a couple of outings over the next two days. I finish my shift at 13.00 hrs, tomorrow, and am headed over to the club fishery for another perch session. With the weather forecast predicting temperatures up to 9C, with light winds, I'm hoping to get a float out on the Hardy split cane. I've not used a float in ages, so don't expect to set the world alight with my efforts but I'm rather looking forward to giving it a bash. It will depend upon the results of Friday to dictate what I do on Saturday morning. I've two options open to me. I either go back perch fishing or, more likely, have a session out on the drains after a pike or two. All the pike kit is ready to go, three rods, with reels and rigs attached, are in the hard case, dead baits packed in the freezer, all I'll need to do is place them in the van should I make that call.
I am hoping to get the perch project completed before mid-March and have already committed to write a piece for the club Newsletter about my own experiences, at this fishery, with these splendid fish. With this in mind I am carrying the Canon kit, alongside my Fuji Finepix, with the intention of getting some images of the bait presentation, rigs and tackle that I use, rather than just the fish I catch. The Fuji is a superb piece of kit, particularly for my self-take trophy shots, yet the Canon outfit offers far greater flexibility due to the various lens and extension tube combinations that I have available to me.

Monday 21 January 2019

That moon

If there's a benefit from working early shifts then, this morning, I hit the jackpot. The BBC News/Weather pages had been raving about the Blood Wolf Moon and, apparently, there won't be another until December 2029! My alarm rattled off the wake up call at 04.50 hrs and I had 25 minutes to grab my shower and get dressed before the eclipse reached its' climax. Here, on Thanet, conditions for sky-watching were perfect although, sadly, my camera skills were woefully short. The images being a poor record of a spectacular event, in fact so spectacular that Bev even got up to witness the phenomenon.

20.01.2019 - 23.00 hrs 

21.01.2019 - 05.15 hrs (Quite magnificent when viewed through my binoculars!)
I make no claims of being remotely interested in astronomy, but I certainly enjoyed this extraordinary sight in the sky above our garden.

Saturday 19 January 2019

Surreal - blown away

The little world that I inhabit has been chaotic since the start of 2019. Work has been central to the situation, yet other factors have also contributed to ensure my free time has been severely restricted and, therefore, angling time has been a very scarce commodity. Although the work situation has now returned to some level of normality, other issues still remain in the background and only the passing of time will see where they lead? I had already arranged to attend a club work party, this morning, over at Marshside so got there in good time to do my bit! A fantastic turn out ensured the screen removal exercise was completed in double quick time and we were back in the car park, supping a nice hot coffee, within forty-five minutes of starting.

One of the guys said he had a surprise for me in the back of his motor and proceeded to hand me a split cane rod. "What's this about?" I enquired as I examined the said item. It was an 11' Hardy Perfection Roach, two piece, manufactured in 1956, in superb condition. "Did I want it?" "Are you kidding? I'd love it but how much?" The outcome of this dialogue was to see me drive off with the rod, a price to be agreed once I'd spent some time using it. Madness; you simply couldn't make it up.
Back home, I made arrangements with Bev to forego my Sunday morning pike session in return for an afternoon over at the club venue where, in spite of the cold, clear, conditions, I would be able to have a play with this new toy. Perch were my target, but anything would do if I could get a bend in the cane. What a beautiful action, so soft and quite "tippy" it is a joy to use. I managed to winkle out a small bream and a scamp mirror carp, the latter fish putting up fine resistance, allowing me to experience the tactile qualities of this vintage cane,  as it battled away beneath the glassy surface. Both fish were taken on link ledger tactics, the rod being far more suited to float fishing, so much more to be explored as I get used to this unexpectedly wonderful, surprise, addition to the growing split cane ensemble.

A superb afternoon, out on the marsh, was spent watching the water, the local birdlife and playing around with bite indicators. I'm very hopeful of getting back one afternoon next week, weather permitting, to carry on with this unexpected twist to my perch search. There's still quite a few ideas which I'm wanting to try/adapt for myself. I've been spending a lot of time watching youtube offerings pertaining to perch fishing, particularly the use of red maggots and feeders. Now, if I'm to get the best from this rod, I've to see if I have the resolve to watch a float for prolonged periods?

One reason why float fishing will be so testing - a Sparrowhawk flies over and I'm on it!

The sun goes down over Marshside. Just being out there is enough, catching a decent fish is a bonus!

Saturday 12 January 2019

Little steps

Right up until the middle of November, the perch project was just fumbling along with no signs of me actually learning anything about the fish I was after, let alone catching one! Although the venue I targeted had produced some spectacular fish, during the previous season, I failed dismally. Location, or rather lack of, being the major obstacle, I simply didn't find them. My salvation came about as a result of a club work party, over at Marshside. The club secretary telling me about some perch that had been taken in a recent match. Very interesting and enough of a story to encourage me to swap venues and have a bash. That very first visit was all I could have wished for, two two's landed and plenty of other signs of perch activity. At last I was on a venue where I could develop my techniques as I seek that three pounder; a fish which will indicate that my project is headed in the right direction.

Ultimately, I suppose, the capture of a perch over 3 lbs 8 oz will see me satisfied with these fish and allow me to move on to other species with which I still have unfinished business. I'm not certain that this club venue will provide such a specimen, but the lessons learned whilst fishing here will stand me in good stead for any further fisheries that I visit in my quest. When, at last, I do succeed? Chub is the most obvious glitch in my PB statistics and will probably provide the next challenge when that time arrives. I don't think that I'll ever get serious about tench fishing again? Having experienced Wilstone at it's absolute peak, and being part of that historical period, ensures that anything else will be an anti-climax; no matter what size the tench now grow to. Carp? Well, when I've eventually succeeded in my split cane challenge, I'd like to think that I'll just be able to forget all about them. However, wild carp are very different creatures to those commercial puddle inhabitants and will, I'm sure, continue to draw me back to the flatlands long after the thirty has been secured within my landing net. Using a Dick Walker designed split cane rod just adds another dimension to the experience and it's something of which I hope I never tire. Pike will always be part of my angling year, although I no longer have any great desire to chase monsters (at present). I can't foresee a time when I fail to be excited by the bite indicator registering another pick up of my dead bait. They are the one constant along my entire angling adventure, no matter how many distractions I encounter en route.

Three Holes - October 1985
Crazy memories of absolute mayhem and anarchy
Now there is one species with which I'd love to reacquaint myself; Zander! Probably been best part of thirty years since I last caught one? As English as egg fried rice, they are still a species which hold a great many fond memories. People, places, mis-behaviour, generally pulling a few strokes, these fish evoke some of the happiest memories from a period of absolute lunacy. Not too sure if anything will ever become of this desire, but it is certainly something that's on my wish list.

Sunday 6 January 2019

Graft and grind

With work dominating, Monday to Friday, I've morphed into a bit of a weekend warrior. The perch search resumed with my first outing of 2019. I arrived at the club fishery well before dawn on Saturday morning and endured a ten hour blank - not a sniff! A decent social, with Benno and Luke joining the project, as we chase that elusive three pounder. It wasn't without incident, although my rods remained poker straight, as the boys employed maggots and, therefore, caught a succession of roach, bream, hybrid silvers, a rudd and a lone perch (1 lb-ish). 

Because of my tackle choice I got engaged in two great conversations, with complete strangers, both were very complimentary about the gear on show. It's rather nice to have such encounters, as it means that the decent side of humanity is on display, especially when I was able to explain the historical significance of the rods to a young lad, who was with his Dad. The other guy asked if he could take some photos, with his phone, so I must have made an impression; although not too sure if that's good or bad? This was the first outing with the Allcocks Match Aerial and Mk IV Avon combo, so I was desperate for a bite!

Cygnet "Stage Stand" allow me to use bank sticks on the wooden platforms

The Allcocks Match Aerial in situ

The latest edition to my split cane armoury.

Well, there was nothing else for it! I went back this afternoon for another session, just a quick couple of hours. Conditions had improved, somewhat, it being far less windy/chilly and the cloud cover was much higher, thus light levels were better. Over an hour had elapsed, without a bleep. The only highlight being an adult Whooper Swan, which flew past, in the company of a dozen, or so, Mute Swans. They did a sweeping arc, out towards Sarre, before setting off towards Stodmarsh and The Stour Valley. It was well after 15.00 hrs when the signs started. Odd bleeps, of the alarms, and taps on the rod tip. I kept the prawns sections going in, little and often, and it was just before 16.00 hrs when I had a confident pull and MISSED IT !!!!!! It didn't end there, oh no. Within ten minutes I had another chance and didn't touch that one either. What's going on?? I'd already got the majority of the gear back onto the barrow when the alarm sounded for the third time, in little over twenty minutes. Glory be, the hook hold was good and after a very interesting battle, with the new set-up, I slid the net under a superb perch of 2 lbs 6 oz. Never has a perch been more welcome. Camera and tripod back off the barrow I went through the self-take ritual before packing up properly and  making my way homeward very pleased with a result which had been hard earned.

2 lbs 6 oz - boy was I a happy bunny.
The Mk IV Avon is going to take a little getting used to, it being of a far lower test curve than the original Mk IV's, although the through action is a joy to witness and the rod a delight to hold as the fish battle in their watery domain. The perch which christened the rod did me proud and tested the kit to a decent level before coming to the net. I think I'll need to hook a few scamp carp, to see how the rod copes, before thinking about taking it down to The Stour for a barbel/chub session.
Now back to five days graft, including fifteen hours overtime, thus money to be earned. By working extra hours I am able to purchase the whimsicle odds and sods, which enhance the enjoyment of this incredible hobby, without impacting upon our day to day finances. Sure I'd like to get out with the rods more often but, then again, it's a hobby that I enjoy; not my job! By keeping work and play separate, I'm able to make the best of both worlds. I work hard and play hard, yet know I can't have one without the other.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Hopes and dreams

2019 - Wow! The start of a brand new chapter in all our lives. What will it deliver? How will things pan out? The reality is that no-one knows and that the only way to find out is to embark on the journey and see where it leads. I, like the vast majority of others, have plans for what I'd like to achieve but, being a realist, will be happy so long as my health remains good, thus, continue to get out, and about, experiencing the wonders of our natural world. If it is able to be planned, which sadly it isn't, there are several projects that I'd like to see through to successful conclusions.

No. 1 is the Perch search. I have given myself until mid-March to continue the quest for a three pound, plus, specimen. I feel confident that the venue, I have chosen, is capable of producing such a fish, although I'm not convinced that there are many of this stamp to go at. With so many fish in the low - mid two  pound bracket, the future potential is very rosy.  If I fail, then I will happily return to the challenge next Autumn.

No. 2 the resumption of "The split cane thirty" challenge is a no brainer. I will continue to seek a successful conclusion to this promise; made to my father, and will not stop until I catch the fish, or die trying. My insistence that the carp has to be from wild stock is as important as the weight. Having discovered one such fish, it will remain to be seen if I am able to relocate it next June (the drains are subject to the traditional close season) or start back at square one, looking for another a little further afield?

No. 3 has nothing to with fishing, although if I am to see (photograph) an Otter, in Kent, it will probably be whilst I am out with the rods. A conversation with Neil, the birdwatcher, out on the marsh, resulted in me being shown some Environment Agency video footage of Otters at several locations around the local area, having been recorded using camera traps. I have only seen wild Otters in Scotland and must be the only angler who wants to see these indigenous mammals on the fisheries I visit. The fact that the most widespread and popular coarse fish in the UK is an introduced alien species (albeit by The Romans) is yet another demonstration of the crazy, mixed up, ecosystem that exists in our countryside.

No. 4 I have treated myself to a lovely example of a Dick Walker, Mk IV Avon, split cane, by B. James & Sons. It is a rod which I've been after for a while and want to use it on The Stour having another bash at the Barbel and also the Chub. I am hoping to get a session, or two, before the close season comes into effect. I'll probably pair the rod with my Allcocks Match Aerial - proper old school stuff. A new PB Chub isn't a particularly difficult target as my present best is a very modest 5 lbs 2 oz and I've seen two fish which could easily add two pounds to that figure.

No. 5 Both of my club still waters are open all year round and it is my intention to spend the close season period attempting to beat, at least one, club record weight. Although these two venues are primarily carp puddles, they contain a variety of other species including Roach, Tench, Crucians and Chub which are very rarely fished for. The club records for these, and other, fish are published on the website and I do quite fancy a bit of a change from carp before the 16th June.

No. 6 Is very vague and, therefore, un-quantifiable. I want to continue to derive maximum enjoyment from my time spend outdoors. It matters not where or when. Birds, animals and insects are all capable of satisfying my requirements. Plants, however, remain off the radar, but still have their moments, particularly when I'm on holiday.

A year is a long time and many things can happen which impact upon the direction your life takes. All being well, these loose plans will help shape the 2019 adventure of one very lucky me!