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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Tuesday, 31 December 2019

All creatures

I was really scratching around to find something to write about, thus ensuring December didn't finish as a thirteen post month. Can't help myself - superstition is built in. Two magpies while I'm fishing is always a good sign, although if a black cat ran in front of the van I'd loose no sleep if it ended up in the gutter - not that it's ever happened I hasten to add; just don't like domestic cats!
So as I was out in the back garden, earlier this morning, still trying to get a decent image of the Raven (which remains in the vicinity) I started to think about the enjoyment I derive from the simple pleasure of looking. I would imagine that this may have been a subconscious effect of a recent thread by Steve Gale about the futility of "listing"? Please feel free to click the link, if you've not already seen it, but don't just read Steve's post continue onto the comments as they contain opinions that are of equal merit.



I frequently find myself distracted whilst sitting behind motionless rods, yet it's when I'm on holiday that I really go out of my way to look at creatures, even plants, which are way beyond my normal encounters. I can honestly say that my enjoyment is in no way diminished because of an inability to put a name to what it is I'm looking at. Very occasionally I might follow up a sighting with a bit of casual research but, for the most part, I'm glad I looked, now move on!



I completely accept that this mentality is totally alien to others for whom correct id is everything. All I can say is it works for me and, as such, is of no concern to anyone else. It's a simple pleasure for a simple man - end of!


I am not alone in my outlook and one of the outstanding memories from Kefalonia 2019 was the look of delight and excitement, in equal measure, as Craig set eyes upon some wild terrapins in the wetlands beyond Argostoli. We always make an effort to see the Loggerhead Turtles in the harbour, but this was a new creature for us both, although neither of us cares what its' called?




Monday, 30 December 2019

A Scamp - with teeth

In little over twenty four hours we will enter another decade, bloody crazy. I'm still adjusting to the millennium impact and the fact that the year isn't prefixed by 19! I'd started to prepare a post but, because it went off at a very strange tangent, got myself all wound up and had to walk away. I might revisit the "saved draft" in the New Year? Sunset over Thanet had been rather spectacular on Sunday evening and I'd grabbed a few shots from the back garden as the light started to fade.



Out on the marsh, early this morning, and I enjoyed a wonderful session which, although short on fishy action, was in superb winter sunshine with some very nice distractions. Two bites, the first landed, the second spitting the hooks at the net (might have been a double - so all the fun but no weight!) ensured I hadn't blanked which, as an angler, is a very important consideration. However, being out on the flatlands has so much more to offer than a bent fishing rod. The dawn was clear and rather chilly but, once the sun rose conditions changed from thick coat to fleece temperatures and I had to take off my sweater in order to push the barrow back to the van when I'd packed up! It was a really pleasant way to waste away a few hours, that's for sure.

Better than blanking? A scamp "jack" pike which still retains the ability to leave its' mark if handled incorrectly!
My binoculars were in constant use but, despite having them close to hand, the cameras remained almost dormant save this obligatory mat shot. The birding was pretty good and those Kent birders, who visit this blog, will have some idea whereabouts I was when I say that my day list included two Cattle Egrets! Six Common Buzzards, a Merlin, four Little Egrets and 800+ Cormorants (Neil counted 3,000+ during this same period) ensured I always had something to occupy me whilst awaiting the Siren R3's to sound. 2020 is almost here and I'm looking forward to challenges I have set myself, yet remain realistic enough to know that other issues will have to take priority over my silly quests. One day and counting.
I promise that there'll be another post before midnight tomorrow - can't finish the year with a thirteen post month, superstitious twat that I am?



Sunday, 29 December 2019

Newlands Raven

For only the second time, in almost twenty years, I recorded a Raven flying over the back garden as I was sat in my study on Boxing Day. That haunting, deep, resonant croaking call easily heard, even through the double glazing. I rushed outside to watch the bird disappear down towards St Lawrence College before a group of Carrion Crows started to mob it and forced it to seek refuge in the mature trees which surround the sports field. I grabbed a very poor record shot but, at a distance of 400 m plus, it wasn't much cop. Still I was really pleased, it's these type of encounters that make patch watching so rewarding.

I said it was "poor" and this has been cropped!
Imagine my surprise when, on Saturday morning as I was getting out of the car, having been to the tip, the Raven was once again flying over the bungalow, calling continually. Unbelievable? I grabbed the camera from my study and went outside hoping that the bird would reappear. I could hear it calling on several occasions, yet it wasn't playing ball. With work early this morning, I was back home by 10.00 hrs and what would you know, same again. The Raven appeared over the garden and I was straight outside and, after some frustrating glimpses, was finally able to grab an image of the bird on the field just beyond the garden hedge. I hadn't had time to check the camera settings, hence the picture quality isn't brilliant, yet certainly good enough to confirm the id.



My first Kent Raven was twitched, when an individual was discovered feeding on a sheep carcass down near Dungeness in the late 1990's. Since that time, they have become an established and relatively widespread breeding species within the county boundaries. I'm unsure as to why, but Raven, and Great White Egret, remain a description species within the Kent OS recording area, yet I'm seeing both, regularly whilst out with the rods? 

Pefkohorri - Northern Greece
Whilst these massive crows might not be particularly pleasing on the eye, they certainly make up for it with their vocal repertoire and aerial acrobatics. Having an ability to stop me dead in my tracks whenever I am lucky enough to encounter them. Wonderful birds with something about them that ensures, no matter wherever I am, they give me an inner glow and draw a wry smile.

Loch Awe - Scotland
Quite what Newlands Farm offers this bird, I've no idea but there must be something and I'm hoping it hangs around a while and allows me to secure some better images. Even better, I'd love it to stay into the New Year as I've a garden photo challenge planned for 2020.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Hardy Perfection

It was a very strange morning when, back in January, whilst at a work party Rob Tuck-Brown offered me the chance to become the owner of a 1956 split cane fishing rod. "Was I interested?" I wasn't immediately sure but, after some research, the rod being an 11ft Hardy "Palakona" Perfection Roach, we agreed a price and the deal was done. Still perch fishing over on Scroggins at this time, I was quickly to enjoy some action, but centre-pin caught carp (scamps!) and not the species I was after. The rod performed wonderfully and I loved the feel as the cane came alive with the lunges of a hooked fish, it was a nice addition to my expanding split cane collection.

The repair on the tip section - all rather primitive and why I didn't pay top dollar to become the owner of this iconic rod.
However, what I've failed to mention, is that the tip section had undergone a, rather crude, repair at sometime in the past, thus wasn't in particularly good condition. Being a complete numbty, I continued to use the rod in pursuit of my surface caught "close season" one hundred carp. I shouldn't have inflicted such stress on the repair and, with hindsight, am not surprised that my abuse led to the eventual failure of this earlier effort at extending the usefulness of the fishing rod. What next?

It came in the original rod bag - King George V, how cool is that?
Well what would you do? Search the internet of course. I did just that and stumbled across the website of Steve Boncey and WOW! I'd provide a link but, Steve has moved from Ascot to Cornwall recently and I'm unsure if he's still offering his repair service? I remain in contact with this highly gifted craftsman and will certainly post a link if he's still in business as a split cane repair specialist.


He was a delight to do business with, Exactly what he said he could provide was explained and costed into the service he offered me. He was honest enough to tell me about some issues which would prevent the project being completed quickly, but we agreed a deal and so it was that Steve waved his magic wand, reconstructed this rod and returned it to me in better nick than it was when brand new? What he had actually done was to rebuild, not repair, the broken tip section using original Hardy blue prints to actually construct a brand new replacement. But he didn't stop there, the whole rod was completely given an overhaul, with new rings and whipping, just to ensure total satisfaction when I opened the package some five months after sending it to Ascot - unbelievable!

Better than when it was brand new?

Not only have I the original rod bag but also the original ferule stopper!


Quite often, when in conversation with other anglers, on seeing my ancient split canes, I'm asked "why you still using them?" My answer remains the same "because they're fishing rods and not oil paintings!". The quest for enjoyment being the single most important factor whilst I'm on the bank. These old rods were designed to catch fish and not as ornaments to hang on the wall. Only by experiencing the tactile qualities of these rods can any angler ever know what it is I'm seeking. Way back in 1952 Dick Walker landed a 44 lbs carp using such rods, all I'm wanting is to experience those same thrills, but without the quality control issues involved in mono filament and hook reliability of that same period.
Steve has promised to give my pair of 1959 Dick Walker Mk IV's a similar overhaul - the outcome of which is eagerly awaited as the split cane thirty challenge will recommence on 16th June 2020!

Friday, 27 December 2019

Blogging - a weird adventure

Being an inhabitant of "Blogland" is a very strange concept. Complete strangers become mates, although the likelihood of ever meeting is almost zero. Way back in December 2012, when I embarked on this latest incarnation of my blog, little could I have realised how enjoyable the venture would become? I'll admit, here and now, that the passing of time has a great deal of hidden benefits, despite the very obvious downside. There are no short-cuts to experience and those confrontational days, of The Non-conformist blog, were a necessity in order for me to reach the point that I'm now at.  George Harrison wrote the lyric "if you don't know where you're going any road can take you there!" It's a perfect summary of the continued pleasure I derive from this cyber interaction with ridiculous numbers of other souls from around the globe. "Of Esox" would be a very stale place if pike were the only subject matter involved, hence the inclusion of "& Observations" which gives me the scope to explore so many other tangents as my life's adventure moves relentlessly onward. No chance of being taken to task due to a misleading blog title? Trade descriptions have no role within blogging and realistically, as a blogger, I can post whatever I want because there is no compulsion for a visitor to actually read, let alone agree with, what are nothing more than the opinions of an individual.
With You-tubers establishing that platform as the dominant force in social media due directly to the technology to record, high quality, moving images becoming evermore affordable. Blogging is seemingly left to a generation of folk for whom the joy of the written word is a skill which was learned during school days long before the invention of battery powered calculators? I still retain fond memories of logarithmic tables. A Google search might be required by those same You-tubers to understand what I'm speaking about? Blogging is, in cyber terms, the Jurassic Park of this computer driven age. Bloggers being the dinosaurs who hang on to that ability to communicate via the use of the written word in a world where txt speech is everything and the complete opposite to why our skills with English, and basic mathematics, were an essential piece in the interview process as we set out on our career paths. Quite simply we've been left behind in some type of IT graveyard as the technological advances move, ever onward, towards new communication platforms that humanity, at present, can but dream of?
Does it matter? Of course it doesn't. Quite how any individual chooses to interact with the cyber system is very much a personal decision which requires no authorisation from third parties.
It's an absolute pleasure to be able to share my slant on the world, as viewed from a very individual perspective, and something that I have no desire to cease. "Don't fix what ain't broken!" being my thoughts. Exactly the same thinking as to why I wear a Tag Heuer "Calibre 5" Aquaracer, being a complete watch snob, and not some pathetic £99, black plastic, Fit-bit, lifestyle gizmo. At this stage in my life it's all about being satisfied with who, and what, I am. If blogging is the limit of my cyber skills, so be it.
Where, and how, will it end up? Your guess is as good as mine, I've absolutely no idea. All the while my blogging is able to create interaction with unknown folk, from so many different backgrounds and interests, I remain committed to the project. Looking forward. I am hopeful that Of Esox will still be capable of attracting interest in December 2022, thus a decade of blogging under this particular banner. What would be even more satisfying would be if it could be achieved without me managing to fall out with a bunch of unknown individuals, resulting in the wasted emotions of anger and hatred, purely due to a difference of opinion. Only time will tell, but on the positive side must be the fact that this venture has gotten thus far with no such fall out!
So communicating, via the written word, is an outdated mode but, there again, so is long hair, split cane rods and Levi 501's? Get the drift - too old to change now, I'll do my best to fill the rest of my days doing the things with which I'm comfortable and not attempting to change purely to fit in. As it says on my blog description "You'll never make a difference by being the same as everyone else" and I'm determined to stay true to that doctrine all the while I draw breathe. Yeah; Blogging - it's a very weird adventure!

Thursday, 26 December 2019

2019 - where did it go?

This last year has simply flown by and I honestly don't know where time went. There were three major factors which have impacted upon my life during the year, over none of which I have much choice. Work is obviously a big part as I need to earn a living, whilst taking care of Bev's Mum is a no-brainer. The third piece of this jigsaw was far less down to me and more dependent on the workloads, and timescales, of the contractors we used. Happily, three weeks before Christmas, the bungalow refurb was finally completed and, apart from a bit of decorating, the project is over. I think that it's obvious to most visitors to this blog that my posting was very erratic and rather sparse in comparison to previous years. I plead guilty as charged and promise to try harder next year. Similarly my angling exploits were rather slap-dash and lacked the focus of previous years, again down to other pressures impacting on my available spare time. So, although 2019 wasn't a classic year, looking back isn't without highlights and pleasant memories - so here we go!

January

Nothing particularly out of the ordinary as the New Year kicked in. Perch fishing at Scroggins continued to take centre stage whilst the local drains could be relied upon to provide a bit of pike action by way of a change. The most incredible event was by complete fluke, Rob Tuck-Brown offering me the chance to own an awesome split cane rod, although not one I'd any interest in up until that fateful moment. A 1956 Hardy "Palakona" Perfection Roach became mine and was to lead me on a crazy adventure as the year unfolded.

Not a brand synonymous with Dylan Wrathall - this was the first example of this
manufacturers rods I've ever held!
Plenty of birds to look at whilst awaiting the alarms to sound, the East Kent marshes have so much to offer


The drains can always be relied upon to provide a bit of pike action.

February

More of the same, I'm afraid. Marshside continued to dominate my angling efforts, although the perch stopped playing ball. It was left to the drains to provide the pike shaped distraction as bent rods were becoming a bit of a novelty over at Scroggins.



The health of Bev's father was deteriorating rapidly and hospital visits were becoming more regular so it wasn't unusual for me to be in charge of the grandchildren whilst Bev had other matters to attend to. Trying to get Harry interested was hard work, but at least I can say that I made an effort. One other aspect of being outdoors started to play a role. Spurred on by my fellow bloggers, the camera got quite a bit of usage as I attempted to capture images of the ambience of my surroundings. Not too sure if I was successful, but I gave it a bash.

Dawn at Scroggins

March

Personally it was a month of change as my focus switched away from the perch of Scroggins and on to the, surface caught, carp of Homersham. The weather was mild and, as a result, the carp were rather mobile which ensured that my close season target of one hundred fish got off to a flyer! 

Ron Bunclark - RIP
However the month was dominated by the passing of Ron, Bev's father, who departed this world on the 16th; a sad loss to all that knew him.



Because Bev was embroiled in the task of funeral arrangements, and the associated red tape, both Emily and Harry accompanied me on several visits to the Marshside complex, Emily being far more enthusiastic than her younger brother, but they both caught some fish. It was, however, an encounter with a Water Stick Insect which made the biggest impact, Emily happy to pose for a photo with this "lifer" for me.


April

Quite a difficult month as the reality of losing Ron and the subsequent health issues of Denise, Bev's mum ensured that we had very little time for ourselves. For sure I caught a decent number of carp (scamps) off the surface at Homersham but, realistically it was all too easy and I was learning very little.
Scamping at Homersham was very enjoyable but, in reality, far too easy to be taken seriously.
May 

A month of upheaval as Bev and I quickly had to adapt the bungalow to provide a bedroom for her mother. Diagnosed with the onset of dementia, we could do little else as we were committed to the fact that Denise wouldn't be placed in a home, exactly as we'd promised both my parents. Only medical necessity would change our minds, such is the commitment to honour this undertaking. The mine field of red tape that is in place beggars belief, but Bev stubbornly refused to be beaten and set about the task of transferring Denise's care package, banking and associated matters from the Canterbury district to that of Thanet - might as well have moved to Afghanistan, such was the number of ridiculous hoops to be jumped through. 

In the middle of all this we had a week's holiday pre-booked, thus required some respite care for Denise. Fortunately Gary, Bev's older brother, came to the rescue and we were able to travel knowing that Denise would be looked after.

Levant Sparrowhawk

Mole Cricket - sadly picked out of the pool, so an ex mole cricket!
Pefkohorri was a superb break from the reality, that existed back on Thanet, it being a resort that we'd previously visited some years before. The change was incredible and, I have to say, not for the better, but we were out there and made the most of it. The weather was all that Bev could hope for, hot sunshine dawn to dusk, and the countryside surrounding the resort provided enough scope to keep me happy whilst on my wanderings. Just to top it off I even managed to photograph a "lifer" (which I very nearly screwed up) with Levant Sparrowhawk. I walked miles, took hundreds of photos, looked at plenty of creatures that would normally be ignored, and chatted with an array of complete strangers who were intrigued by the long lens and binoculars being carried by a long-haired twat! Just what the doctor ordered.


Remember that Hardy rod? Well I broke it, causing a previous repair to fail, whilst scamping at Homersham and this was the catalyst to an extraordinary set of circumstances that resulted in my stumbling upon the superbly gifted craftsman, Steve Boncey, who had the skills required to return the rod to its' original state. More about this saga to come later.

June

A routine was becoming established as Denise became accustomed to the daily visits of the carers and Bev was able to get some semblance of order back into her routine. Work remained my route to normality as home life took on a very different dimension.


My close season carp project was completed with ease, I actually had over one hundred surface caught fish with nearly a week to spare! All efforts were now to be directed towards the East Kent marshes and yet, I knew that it wasn't ever going to be anything more than playing games. The many time restrictions impacting on my abilities to be reactive under given conditions ensured that I'd spend more time photographing Beavers than I would be in serious contention of catching that split cane thirty.




Despite all the negatives, it was still a privilege to be out on the flatlands and my new found interest in landscape imagery was to see me capture some fantastic pictures of my surroundings including a crazy example of "luminescence" on the night of the solstice.

July

It was sheer bloody mindedness which kept me returning to the flatlands, I would have experienced the same level of success had I cast my baited hooks into the toilet! With the school holidays looming Emily and I enjoyed some wonderful afternoons doing silly things that can only matter to a Grand-dad and his Grand-daughter - brilliant memories for this old'n.


Stroking lambs or catching her first carp, these summer afternoons were
very special for us both

The skies started to exert their influence further and I found myself mesmerised by the ever changing vista that the fading light, on these long summer evenings, could produce.

This one is from the back garden!
As an aside the garden feeding station became re-established prior to the guys coming round to clear the unsightly jungle and I was entertained by some nice photo opportunities as various species came to sample the fare on offer.



August

I might as well have left the rods at home such was my lack of success! However, the garden feeding station was continuing to attract a nice variety of clientele and, as a result, there was always a photo opportunity should I be bothered?




A BTO ringed Starling was a nice discovery and, by the end of the month the annual passage of Common Buzzards had gotten underway. Many of these early migrants being very pale individuals indicative of the lowland populations of the near continent.


September

With Kefalonia always the main feature of recently passed Septembers, it comes as no surprise that Bev and I were really looking forward to this holiday. The responsibilities involved with taking care of Bev's mum are a burden much akin to bringing up kids! It would be impossible, however, for me to use this as any type of excuse for the events of the 1st. I made a complete pig's ear of a very straight forward identification and jetted off to the Greek sunshine oblivious to my schoolboy error.

What idiot could screw this id up? Me, of course!
With a fortnight booked we needed to find some professional respite care for Denise and came up trumps when we discovered this place in Canterbury. Each, and every, member of the staff at Connors House (A Rapport Housing & Care company) whatever their role, were outstanding in every aspect of this situation. Even as Bev and I were sat in a bar at Stanstead Airport, a phone call was made to reassure us that Denise was in good spirits and for us to enjoy our break and not to worry - fantastic touch! An extraordinary piece of PR which very few other businesses would have thought of? Would I recommend them? You bet I would, an absolute credit to the organisation - advert over!


I don't think I can say too much more about this holiday that hasn't already been said. That Carrie-Anne & Craig turned up, completely out of the blue, just took the whole fortnight to another level. God bless you both - I borrowed that from my Mum! We did things and visited places that we'd never previously experienced and returned home much the better for this time away.

October

My inability to catch a cold was starting to grate and, although it went against my better instincts, pike fishing commenced. I did manage to sneak out a rather characterful common carp prior to my fist pike session, but still my results were a long way short of expectations. Fortunately I had the distraction of "big skies" at both dawn and dusk whilst the feeding station was also a feature outside my study window.



November

If October was bad, this month was even worse! There were events going on beyond the scope of this blog which contrived to ensure going fishing was a long way down the list of priorities. I did get out,


on a few occasions, but nothing occurred to write home about. My second double of the season was a nice change of fortune, yet action could hardly be described as hectic! Our trip down to Devon to rendezvous with Carrie-Anne, Craig, Leon & Leeney was a wonderful event and just served to highlight what true friendship is all about. Bev and I are very lucky people!

You couldn't make it up!

December

As has the rest of our nation, I endured the pathetic rigmarole of the General Election. An exercise which passed without a single candidate, or representative, visiting my address. It was so pathetic that we only received one leaflet and that was from the Lib Dems! On the 12th, after finishing my shift, I did my duty and cast my vote (for the Greens!) knowing that I had ensured the right to complain once the result was announced. The total failure of Labour can be summarised in two words - Jeremy Corbyn - and is a sad testament to the forefathers of socialism who strove to give the working man a voice. It's all over now and only time will tell how clown prince Boris will adhere to his manifesto promises?
Despite the "remoaning" doomsters, FSIS has continued to prosper amidst the chaos of Brexit and my working fifty-four hour weeks is a direct result of the success that has been built by our Japanese owners during this period of uncertainty.


Beyond this political circus, the bungalow project came to an end with the construction of our summerhouse-type conservatory. Many thanks to those guys at Kent Sectional Buildings for their efforts. Christmas Day has passed relatively peacefully and I look forward to getting back out with the rods, however, there needs to be a decent break in the rain before I have a realistic chance of returning to the RMC or drains. My new syndicate might offer some alternative choices but, as yet, I've not even visited the fishery!

So there you have it and I'm sure you'll agree that 2019 hasn't been a classic. However, it doesn't matter how I dress it up, the fact remains that my existence is pretty good and I've little to complain about. It is overcoming these obstacles which makes you understand what, in life, is important? Catching fish and/or looking at wildlife are brilliant interests which can fill a void, but important they ain't!
Oh yeah! I had mentioned the restoration of my Hardy split cane by Steve Boncey. It is such an incredible demonstration of skill that it is really worthy of a post of its' own. I'll do my best to get one ready before the New Year - promise!