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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Saturday, 29 June 2019

New dawn?

A two post day - that's almost ridiculous given my 2019 blogging output! I've just taken delivery of a new laptop, and have to thank the guys at Curry's PC World for their efforts and support. Not too sure how much this new acquisition will impact on my output but, it's certainly a lot faster than the aging Toshiba it replaces. Off out for another session very early tomorrow morning, so let's hope for some more carpy action - I'll keep you posted.

It's a start

Twelve days in and I finally get my first fish of the 2019 campaign! I had a short session, yesterday evening, and managed to winkle out a chunky little common tipping the scales at 12 lbs 14 oz. It's been a long time since such a modest fish has caused such emotion; I was absolutely buzzing when I secured the fish in my landing net.


I still haven't seen any sign of that monster, but will keep looking. This project is much more of a mental challenge, as opposed to the physical effort required to get to and from these remote venues. I am finding it to be a severe test of my resolve, as I so enjoyed the regular action of the surface fishing over at Homersham. One fish in eight visits can't be described as anything other than "gruelling" in comparison to the previous venture.
I am constantly thinking about my tactics, bait presentation, rigs and umpteen other aspects of the conundrums posed by these carp. The freezer, in my study, is filled with various particles and boilies which allow me the freedom to grab any opportunity without having to worry about bait. A slow cooker is one of the most valuable, non-angling, items in my possession, as it allows me to prepare my party mixes with the minimum of fuss. Doesn't matter if it's chick peas, hemp or pigeon tonic, the slow cooker does the job without me needing to be in constant attendance - perfect. As it was purchased specifically for this task, it doesn't matter if I add colour and flavours into the mix as I won't be doing a casserole in it later! The results mean that the freezer trays are kept regularly stocked, awaiting my next sojourn out onto the flatlands.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Solstice

Whilst Druids, hippies and other like-minded folk gathered in their hoards to witness the event at Stonehenge, I was alone, out on the flatlands enduring another blank!  Only one Beaver occurrence and I was, almost certainly, done over as I registered an aborted take on the left hand rod. Strangely, however, the night wasn't about the fishing. A lingering patch of illuminated sky, which traversed the horizon from ENE to NNE, well after sunset, was the focus of my attentions. Camera on a tripod, and exposure times up to 5 secs, I recorded some images of the spectacle that I'd been privileged to have witnessed without the need to join the throng on Salisbury Plain!

22.50 hrs

23.10 hrs

23.55 hrs

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

The pieces of a puzzle

Left the bungalow at 02.20 hrs headed for another biteless session out on the flatlands. I managed three hours, at a new spot, where I'd seen fish on 16th June. A very tight swim, which only allowed me to used a single rod, but this was compensated for by virtue of the fact that I was able to watch how the carp reacted as they moved around this section of the drain. I came away feeling that I'd learned some valuable lessons which, hopefully, I will be able to utilise as the project evolves.
Still not found my target fish, but there was certainly a decent, mid-twenty, common present this morning. I'm planning to get back there very soon with a couple of tweaks of my bait presentation which I will be tank testing, tomorrow. I need to nip in to see Camo, have a chat and purchase a few bits that will assist my cause?

I hadn't reached my swim, but had to stop in order to capture this scene
A spectacular dawn, was made even more impressive because it followed a full moon (or very close) dipping below the western horizon prior to the sun rising in the eastern sky. So impressive, in fact, that I set up the camera on a tripod to record the events, even before I got the bait cast out.


The wildlife added to my morning, a Barn Owl drifting past just after 04.00 hrs, four Cuckoos calling from various positions around the adjacent marshland, with a pair of Curlew, calling as they flew westwards, high overhead. Three Beavers were a reminder that I needed to keep on my guard but, sightings of a Stoat and, better still, a Water Vole made it a very tolerable blank session?

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Midnight ritual - ruined!

I really should know better? Sixty three, thus surely old enough to no longer need to be there for the witching hour; but oh no! As the clock steadily ticked towards that magical hour, I was sheltering from the, wind driven, rain that was soaking the surrounding marshland. My Stakeout Mk II brolly doing me proud, despite it's Dragoncarp origins. I don't have the eloquence to describe what this "tradition" means to my generation and I feel that membership of the Tring Syndicate has far more to do with my personal emotions than any other factor, some forty years after that initiation into this mystical, mythical, magical, mid-night hour experience. June 16th is very much on a par with New Year and Christmas Day, such as it is ingrained into the very fabric of my being.


Not too many carp anglers looking at venues like this?
Over the past week I'd been trickling bait into seven swims, hoping that I'd be able to make something happen. I'll save all the jive talking - I blanked! No change there then? However, the night wasn't without incident. Ten past midnight and the right hand rod was in meltdown as only a centrepin/Siren R3 combo could produce. Jumping from the bed chair resulted in a thunderous smash as a f**king Beaver tail slapped the surface and wiped out the carefully positioned terminal tackle. The result was a complete re-tackle, as my rig was entangled/lost in the far marginal snags. It was nearly half an hour later that I managed to get another bait out onto the spot. That was it, basically, the odd bleep caused by floating weed, but nothing to get excited about and I was on my way home before 06.00 hrs, but checked out a couple of other spots, en route.

I photographed this Beaver, very distantly, 14th June, on a new drain that I'd been pre-baiting
Knowing that I've got the entire summer to explore the area, in the quest for a single fish, I'm well aware that this will be a marathon, not a sprint, and my mentality needs to adjust to this concept. So I will return to the problems caused by the activities of the unwanted, introduced European Beavers which now exist in uncontrolled numbers out on the East Kent marshes. I say uncontrolled, but it would be more accurate to use the term un-monitored, the local farming community have already taken matters into their own hands and are actively involved in protecting their livelihoods from the damage caused by these animals. We're not talking about big water rats or mink here, these creatures are the size of a bloody Labrador with all the finesse of a bulldozer! What was the thinking behind this re-introduction? More's the point, who was consulted before they were placed in Ham Fen KWT Reserve? It would be really interesting to know if KWT are liable for the subsequent damage to bank side habitat caused by these escapees, and their offspring - their original enclosure fences were no more effective than candyfloss! Royal St. George's Golf Course has certainly seen the negative side of these animals being present in our coastal flatlands. Can't see them being allowed to impact on the Open? Wonder what Chris Packham will have to say about this, the myopic twat! Conservation activist, without question, that he has the first idea how the UK countryside actually works is far less clear.


Fabulous animals, without any doubt, but do they belong on the East Kent Marshes?
One other bit of news that has come my way - an Otter killed on the railway line near Chamber's Wall, Reculver! Our club section of the River Wantsum must have been the waterway used by this indigenous,"wild", creature to reach this spot. Interesting times ahead? I've yet to see an Otter in Kent and am, probably, the only local angler looking forward to this event?

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Keep it simple

I'm not too sure where this'll end up but, it's, hopefully, an insight into the thinking behind the recent surface caught carp distraction. It was way back in early March, whilst I was still involved with my Scroggins perch caper, that I was made aware that Derek, a fellow Wantsum AA member, had already caught a couple of carp at Homersham. Nothing too unusual until I learned that they had been taken using surface baits. So come March 15th, the start of the traditional close season, I'm on it. Can I catch one hundred carp, off the surface, before June 16th?
Well, as you are now aware, I pissed it. Homersham must be the easiest carp fishery in the UK, or they're bloody starving? The second hypothesis is quickly discounted as these fish are in wonderful condition and fight with great tenacity when hooked. It's certainly not a big fish venue and those boily chucking, brain dead, clones will testify it's also not a runs water using this approach. So, I find myself questioning, why do they continue to stick with these tactics? Yet I already know the answer without needing to get involved in dialogue. Dumb schmucks don't know any different. They've watched Youtube and have fallen for this slick, marketing genius's, sales patter and the associated, over priced, products that they see their heroes endorse/promote! (Danny Fairbrass, Alan Blair, et al, are superb carp anglers, but even better businessmen. Carp tax is what they peddle - logos mean so much more than functionality in today's screwed up angling scene!)
Oh yeah, where was I? Simplicity and how to get the best out of time spent on the banks of Homersham. It was 21st March when I first pitched up at the fishery with the intention of tempting the carp to sample my floating hook baits. It doesn't get any more simple than free-lined bread. A rod, centrepin reel, line and a hook all that is required. A handful, no more, of freebies adjacent to the marginal reeds and away I went. Four fish on that first outing was to set the tone for this silly dalliance with these carp. All that I needed to do was to find them, actually temping them to take a bait was the easy bit.

One of the carp taken on that first outing
With the days lengthening and starting to warm, it became obvious that the carp preferred to spend their time away from the margins and I changed over to a Mitchell 300 reel and controller float in order to cast my baits the required distances. I started with the ESP floats and enjoyed some memorable sessions, none less than the sixteen fish, in little over two hours, on 1st April. However, it was when I swapped over to the Nash Bolt Machine that I really saw how much more efficient this float design was over my previous choice. The ESP products are very good and cast with more finesse, but the Bolt Machine knocks them into a cocked hat where hooking is concerned. I've lost count of the times I've actually missed seeing a fish take my bait. The first thing I knew about a bite was the line tightening at the rod tip - bloody savage!

Self explanatory?
Rod choice is a very personal thing, knowing that I wasn't fishing for carp that were particularly big, my first choice was to use the 1956 Hardy Palakona "Perfection Roach". Sadly, this was a step too far and the repaired tip section gave up the ghost (requiring an expensive replacement tip being manufactured by a professional split cane rod maker) and I spent the majority of the project using my Mk IV Avon. Line is Guru "Pulse Line" in 6 lbs b.s. and hooks, all barbless, being a mix of Nash, Korda and Gardner patterns in sizes 6 to 10. I'll admit that thus far I've quite blatantly named those products that I've used, to such good effect, and would appear to be a victim of the "tackle tart" syndrome that so affects carp anglers. Possibly true, but I want what is actually in the water to be the best that I can afford, so long as it does what I require, brand labels mean jack shit!


The Hardy Palakona - in a sorry state after the abuse I gave it. Great fun whilst it lasted
Now let's get on to bait. I will make no attempt to claim anything other than the modern commercial bait companies manufacture some exceptional products. With this undoubted quality comes a cost and it's for the individual to decide what they spend their hard earned cash on. Knowing that I was fishing for the easiest carp in the UK, why would I need to spend exorbitant sums on bait when a Co-op Wholemeal loaf and Happy Shopper "Mixers" would do the same job as the more expensive options? I'm all about catching fish, not impressing the anglers in adjacent swims with my logo covered accessories.

Not too sure what dogs think - carp love them!
By using a pair of scissors, I am able to fashion a small cube of wholemeal from the crust of a sliced loaf. I insert the hook through the crust then twist it through 180 degrees and pull it back into the soft bread. My choice of wholemeal is because the vast majority of other anglers will only use white loaves, thus I'm offering something different, but also because the colour of the bait is very similar to that of the mixers I use as freebies. So there you have it - my slant on catching the carp of Homersham Lake. Only two other essentials are a landing net, of whatever brand/design you choose and an unhooking mat. That I also have a barrow, packed with umpteen other bits and bobs is about being able to ring the changes, should an opportunity arise, and to assist my arthritic limbs - not looking good for my audience. The barrow ensures that I can carry all my camera kit as well as retention slings, scales and spare clothing, without having to struggle.


What happens next is the complete opposite to this enjoyable nonsense, a return to the split cane (wild) thirty challenge. I have every intention of keeping tactics as basic as I can make them, location being the undeniable, single, most important aspect in this project. Bait choice, rig mechanics and presentation come a long way down the list of priorities under these circumstances. At present I am sorting out the kit in readiness for the start of the new season. Come the sixteenth of June; the pursuit of a dream starts again and, if I'm to realise my ambition, I've got to be in it to live it!




Friday, 7 June 2019

Scamps at dawn

I couldn't resist just one last bash at Homersham, this morning. Barry Shaw had given me the heads up, as to how good early mornings were at the venue, and that's why I'd made the effort on Tuesday. Knowing that this coming weekend is already booked solid, I grabbed this final opportunity to cast a floating bait onto the surface of this ridiculously easy "carp puddle". Just as before, I was at the fishery before 04.30 hrs and watched the sun rise over the eastern horizon as I prepared my kit for the coming session.

Sunrise over the East Kent marshes, as seen from Homersham Lake looking across towards St. Nicholas at Wade
The dawn was spectacular, although there was far more cloud and a moderate breeze, rain being forecast by 08.00 hrs. A very accurate prediction and catalyst to my returning home as it turned out. With nothing to prove, or lose, I went through my well rehearsed routine and ended the session with a further eleven carp to add to my tally. Absolutely fantastic fun and the place to myself - angling heaven!

One of the Common Terns hunting in the half light of early morning
A pair of Common Terns put in a couple of appearances and three Black-headed Gulls (moulting adults) were my first for some while. At least four Cuckoos, three males and a female, a Turtle Dove, Yellow Wagtails, Reed Buntings and many other bird species were constantly on the move around the adjacent farmland and hedgerows. It was a pleasure to be outside, fishing was just the excuse.
As I mentioned, eleven carp fell to my very simple tactics, seven Commons, four Mirrors, the best fish weighing in at 12 lbs 9 oz making it my eighth double for this project.
No bank sticks, bivvy, bite alarms or boilies - just a, hand held, single rod, a controller float, 6 lbs bs line and a barbless hook baited with a cube of wholemeal bread. It was a  matter of concentrating on getting the simple things right; find the fish, accurate baiting and casting, then let the carp gods do the rest!

A feisty scamp posing on the unhooking mat
My eighth double of the campaign - happy days
If I can be arsed, I might write a post about the tackle and techniques I've been using - but please don't hold your breathe.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Ended on a high

Well that's my close season project completed with twelve days to spare. One hundred carp, caught off the surface, from Homersham Lake at Marshside. I left home just before 04.00 hrs and was at the fishery within thirty minutes. A perfect, still, bright dawn, the sun rising magnificently over the eastern horizon behind me. I had a quick recce, before I returned to the van and unloaded my gear. I introduced a few floaters in pegs three, four and five, watching the water as I threaded the line through the rings of the Mk IV Avon. Peg five looked the most promising and I moved the barrow to this swim and prepared my net and un-hooking mat in readiness.
By now it was fast approaching 05.00 hrs and I cast my first baited hook amongst the floating mixers. Second cast and I'm in, thus job done. My one hundredth carp from the fishery! I'd allowed myself a two hour time slot, so carried on fishing, and was to enjoy regular action right through to 07.00 hrs when I packed up and went home for a much needed kip. Work at 14.00 hrs.
I ended the session with ten fish hooked, nine landed, which included the heaviest fish I've caught from this venue. A beautiful Common, of 15 lbs 6 oz, was guided over the net at around 06.30 hrs and I went through the self-take ritual, but using the EOS not my favoured Finepix. The results are perfectly acceptable as record shots, of my achievement, but lack the sharpness that the Fuji camera produces under these same conditions.


Both flanks of the lovely fish. A very fitting way to end this particular challenge.
Great couple of hours made even better by a flyover Bee-eater (called three times), a Common Tern fishing the lake and the constant accompaniment of singing Whitethroat and Reed Warblers. Back in bed well before 08.30 hrs. I'm now sitting in the study looking at the steady rain falling on the garden. Crazy how quickly conditions change in my little part of East Kent!
Just one other observation, although it will be lost on the vast majority of carp anglers, I fear? There were two bivvies set up on the north bank, thus a couple of guys had done the night I assume? I watched the dawn, caught nine fish, and experienced the joys of being outside as the countryside comes alive. Those two were still slumbering when I packed up, not a sound from their alarms all the time I was at the fishery. Now it is certainly not my place to say how others enjoy their angling but, from my perspective, I was fishing, they were just camping. Still, it takes all sorts - eh?

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Thirteen days - one required

Three short sessions, since Friday, has seen my surface caught carp tally, for the 2019 close season, reach ninety-nine. I started on March 15th with just a silly plan to get me through the enforced lay off but, the closer I edged to that magic ton, the more seriously I've taken the challenge. With a week of late shifts ahead, I'm fairly confident of completing the task with a week to spare. Time to focus on the resumption of the split cane thirty quest which should keep me game-fully engaged after mid-night 15th June? Two projects, both designed to keep my angling focused and on track, yet like chalk and cheese in their complexities and approach.

Always a surprise when a floating bait is taken by a "snotter"
I grabbed this shot after seeing the latest post by Bure Boy! I've plenty of mat shots of scamps.
From the sheer joy of a bent rod at a carp puddle to the mental challenges required for the mind-set involved in targeting a single fish in a wild venue out on the Kentish flatlands. Crazy as it might appear, I've loved using this target methodology to keep me on track whilst I'm at the waterside. Marshside has been very kind to me since I was invited to join the Wantsum AA and I'm hoping that their two sections of the rivers Wantsum and Stour will allow me to explore, further, the potential of these local fisheries.

Marsh Frog at Homersham Lake, Marshside Fishery.
Will that thirty finally grace my landing net? The only way I'll achieve my dream is by going out there and chasing it. The backdrop is bleak and flat, yet the variety of wildlife sharing the habitat is as diverse and varied as anywhere else I've ever visited. Once the bait has been positioned, the trap set, I have nothing to prevent me melting into the background and becoming part of the wild vibe. Roll on the 16th June!

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Unexpected visitor

So there I was; sitting at the desk in my new study (man cave) just perusing the BBC news pages and checking the weather. The desk is strategically positioned to allow me a clear view down the garden via a large window and a glass panelled door. I don't know what made me look, but all of a sudden there was a bright blue damselfly flying around some Ivy which grows up the patio railings, right outside my door! Thankfully, my camera kit was sitting on the desk, right next to my laptop and I was quickly able to grab a macro lens and step outside. The insect behaved wonderfully, in the superb sunshine, posing for a series of images which, in turn, have allowed me to id it as an adult male Azure Damselfly.


It's a very common species around the Kent marshes, but this is the first time I'd recorded it in our back garden. A very pleasant encounter, purely by chance - right place, right time, I guess?