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!


Thursday 30 January 2020

One step at a time

Down in this little corner, of East Kent, the weather is all over the place and, as such, so are the local fisheries. My new syndicate venue is proving to be a very interesting challenge and one which I am looking forward to taking on as time passes. I'd joined in the knowledge that the two ponds (they're described as lakes?) contained some very large carp but, of equal importance for me, also tench, bream and pike of weights that made membership well worth the fee. The fact that these venues are less than twenty minutes from the front door just added to the no-brainer decision when this opportunity became available. I'm now in and will remain so until I decide differently. Basically, once I've delivered on my promise and that split cane thirty has been landed, I'll possibly seek challenges at other venues? However, not wanting to wish my life away, I'll cross any bridges as they appear being in no great rush, just happy to dawdle along life's pathway enjoying each moment as it arrives.
Work is insane, at present, and looks likely to continue as such for the coming while. I'll make the most of this situation, readily accepting every extra penny on offer. Bev and I have our next  adventure already booked and all this overtime money goes straight into the holiday spending pot. No need to raid the savings account under these circumstances - happy days.
The situation with Bev's mum remains very much the same. Carers visiting three times a day to assist with her daily routine, each and every one of these folk totally dedicated and professional in their role. Quite simply it is unsustainable for Denise to remain in our bungalow without them. With all this as the background, it shouldn't be too difficult to spot that my fishing is some way down the priority list, at present. That said, I still manage to sneak in a few hours during the weekends and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Not quite what I was hoping for but, a bite's a bite and I'm sure a match angler would be well pleased with
a net full of these?
I've managed four sessions, thus far, none longer than four hours. Two total blanks, sandwiched between that small jack pike on my first visit and a bream on my latest attempt. I'd have called it a "snotter" but for the fact that it weighed four/five pounds and required the landing net. Certainly not why I was sitting behind the rods, but still another piece of the puzzle and all part of the learning process. I made mention in a previous post that I'd no intentions of starting carp fishing before 16th June. Wrong!!! On three, of the four, outings I've seen signs of carp activity and on one occasion a very large fish showed twice over an interesting spot. With the 1959 Mk IV's still awaiting the magic touch of Steve Boncey, it will be the 1983 Duncan Kay's which will get an airing whenever I am targeting these mud pigs. At this time of year it will simply be fishing for one bite at a time. There's absolutely no way (unlike so many of my fellow syndicate members) that I'll be piling in bait attempting to emulate those Youtube salesmen and their spectacular successes - brand logos being an essential component in any carp related situation? No, not for me, just a single hook bait accompanied by a small pva mesh bag of crumbed boilies and mixed 3 & 6 mm pellets nicked onto the hook prior to casting out. I've not done any serious winter carp fishing since 1983/4 so there's much catching up to do over the next six, or so, weeks

As you can see, I'm rapidly morphing into a complete tackle twat yet will incorporate odd items which will cause a reaction from the hardcore gang and demonstrate a level of eccentricity which comes from being a thinking individual and not a, brain dead, clone!

Sunday 26 January 2020

Poor return

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2020, this weekend, and I got Emily and Harry to assist me with the count. Sadly, the time that they were able to join me coincided with our neighbours doing some work in their own garden and this disturbance certainly had a very negative effect on the numbers and species diversity we were able to record.

Gull numbers were certainly a casualty of the events beyond the adjoining fence line, as I'd fed the lawn with two loaves and would have expected in excess of thirty Herring Gulls to be attracted, but the reality meant just three, along with a single Black-headed Gull, made an appearance during the chosen hour. Feral pigeons, on the other hand, had no such fear of the situation and peaked at 51 birds. House Sparrows remain very numerous around the feeding station and peaked at 39 during the hour, although this number was beaten subsequently with a total in excess of 55 in the late afternoon. Sparrowhawk and Jackdaw were recorded in the garden during the day, but didn't feature in the hour we spent thus didn't count in our effort. No sign of Wren or Dunnock was a bit weird given the regular sightings in the preceding weeks and the other species we did record were Blackbird - 1 male, Robin 1, Collared Dove 2, Magpie 1, Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 2, Starling 2 and Rose-ringed Parakeet 2. Very enjoyable to be able to take part, but rather disappointing for the kids given the build up I'd pitched to them on Friday!

It really was a very gloomy day and I needed to resort to ISO 1600 1/500th sec to secure a few images to accompany this post. Not a true reflection of the drawing power of the feeding station, but I suppose it is a very accurate snap shot of an hour in our Thanet garden? Four more species added to the garden photo challenge; I really can't include Feral Pigeon, it's just wrong! (Unless I'm on 49 species cum December 31st?)

Sunday 19 January 2020

Garden photography challenge

This particular project is purely a whimsicle folly, borne of frustration and the knowledge that garden birds will play a major part in my enjoyment of the natural world whilst Bev's mum remains in our care. Indeed, the moth trap may also feature more regularly as the year progresses, such is my need to make the most of whatever is on offer under these trying circumstances.
To photograph fifty species of birds, in any calendar year, isn't much of an ask. Indeed, I'm confident that I've managed that total ever since I was made aware of digi-scoping way back in 2003. My travels involved in pursuit of my angling targets, plus our  holiday adventures, ensure that I have every opportunity to point a lens in the direction of many species of bird during any twelve month period. To do so from within the boundaries of our bungalow/garden, however, does add a degree of difficulty to the task. I stopped keeping detailed lists some ten years back but, know that the garden list stood at 173 species and my Newlands Farm patch list 219 for the same period (November 2000 - May 2011) Funny how things that once seemed so important can become very secondary with the passing of time? Doesn't change the pleasure derived from any wildlife encounters, just the need to tick boxes and create data has long since passed me by - my choice and my life, so no need for others to get upset.

I would guess that I record between 90 - 100 species annually from the garden, so photographing fifty isn't such a task? That's how I saw it until I started to tot up my options. Oystercatcher, Curlew, Whimbrel and Green Sandpiper are annual, but have never been photographed because they are, almost exclusively, nocturnal records. Meadow Pipit, Grey and Pied Wagtails are also recorded every year, yet I've only one photo of a Pied Wag in the garden from the nineteen years we've lived here and that was in the snow! Green Woodpeckers breed over on the farm, and in Ramsgate Cemetery, yet again, only one photo from the garden. Basically, I'm going to require a fair slice of luck if this challenge has any chance of being completed.

Sneaky little sod, creeping about in the dappled light over
by the, ivy covered, garden shed
The feeding station is providing me with plenty of opportunities to grab a photo or two and, in the run up to the RSPB Garden Birdwatch weekend, I've started to feed mealworms and a wild bird seed mix in addition to our regular fat balls and sunflower hearts. This is all very positive and will certainly allow me the best chance to get off to a reasonable start. Twenty five species shouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility by the end of March? Some "gimme" species being seen every day around the garden. House Sparrow, Blue & Great Tit, Starling, Dunnock, Robin, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Magpie are just awaiting the lens being pointed in their direction. I think that the key to a successful outcome will be the ability to make the most in any situation, thus keep the camera kit close to hand whenever I'm sat in my study and remain alert to the sounds and activity in the immediate vicinity. The local gulls are a superb early warning system for the approach of any large species, particularly raptors. In all honesty it won't matter how this idea pans out. I devised it as a project to ensure I keep my focus on the birdlife around the immediate area rather than worrying about those species which are off limits - so to speak. By insisting that I get an image, for the record to be included, just helps me work that little bit harder and keep me on my toes! It will be that extra effort required to record the likes of a flyover Red Kite or Cormorant which will make or break this project. Three more additions today, the Grey Heron being very much the type of record that I will need if I'm to achieve my target?

One of the species which are annual but not always seen
whilst I'm holding a camera

Saturday 18 January 2020

A nice distraction

Free time is very much a scarce commodity at present, such are the other issues which have to be dealt with. It was, therefore, an absolute delight to be able to grab a few hours this morning and head out onto the flatlands in pursuit of pike. The weather was glorious, for January, with dawn breaking to reveal a clear, calm, frosty scene with the wind increasing, from the west, as the morning progressed. Obviously chilly but I was dressed accordingly and really enjoyed my time on the bank. My only action came at 08.05 hrs when I landed a rather sorry looking pike which, on inspection, had been stitched up by another anglers' rig which was lodged in its' stomach. Fortunately, my PAC training allowed me to remove the offending trace, along with my own hooks, and I rested the fish in an ET Pike Tube for over two hours before releasing it back into the drain. I'm happy to report that it swam off strongly, so my efforts were worth while. Unfortunately, on the fish front, that was all that happened!

However, knowing that this session was going to be my only outing, for the foreseeable future, I kept my binoculars and cameras to hand ever hopeful that something might turn up. Four Little Grebes were working the drain, a Water Rail squealed from an adjacent ditch, whilst several skeins of Greylag Geese headed over en route to their daytime feeding haunts, somewhere out on the levels. Common Buzzards, an immature Marsh Harrier, several Kestrels and a couple of Little Egrets did their best to keep me entertained, if not focus the long lens in their direction. It was left to the raucous sound of a cock Pheasant which was to alert me to the imminent appearance of two Foxes. I'd seen them (or another pair?) in the half light of dawn, but it was well after 09.30 hrs and the light now superb. Show time. They were hunting the margins of a large field behind my position and seemed oblivious to my presence. Never coming closer than around one hundred metres, the "dog fox" still provided me with plenty of scope for a few images. Happy days!

Back home for mid-day, I sat in my study listening to the football and watching the feeding station. All of a sudden there was a flurry of activity as a small gang of Long-tailed Tits arrived. I grabbed the long lens and went into the garden, hopeful of a photo opportunity. I had to muck around with the settings, but did manage a series of images, thus added species number six for my garden photo challenge!

I was rather pleased to get this opportunity as I'd mucked up a chance of a cracking male Sparrowhawk, perched on the garden fence, early on Friday morning. I'd spooked it trying to creep into the summerhouse to get that bit closer!

Saturday 11 January 2020

Off the mark

You'd have thought I'd be over it by now but, no, I didn't sleep well because my mind was racing about the prospects of casting a line into my new syndicate fishery. Out of the bungalow before 05.45 hrs, I'd topped up the van at St. Lawrence, en route, yet was still at the waterside before 06.10 hrs. I did a quick lap of the chosen pool before settling for a swim on the west bank. My very first session and all I wanted was to register a bite; not too much to ask?

The dawn produced a spectacular display of colour before the clouds rolled in and grey skies dominated the remainder of my session. I had chosen to use a couple of split cane Mk IV's complete with Mitchell 300's just because I can. It was little after 08.30 hrs when my left hander registered a take as a fish took a fancy to a popped up Bluey section. The Mk IV Avon was never likely to be tested by the culprit, a rather skinny jack of four or five pounds? In absolutely superb condition, I took the obligatory mat shot as befits the first fish from a new venue - job done!

I remained, optimistically, sat behind the rods until 11.00 hrs when I decided to call it a day. No further action forthcoming, it was left to the local birdlife to keep me entertained. Two Ravens, a Sparrowhawk, my first Chiffchaff of the year plus so much more. It was a joy to spend time at the venue and I saw enough to know that I'll be back very shortly.

I'll be back!

Friday 10 January 2020

First impression

We have a saying at FSIS "You only have one chance to make a first impression".  I now find myself in such a position as I am about to embark on a new venture as a member of a local syndicate. After collecting Emily from school, this afternoon, we drove the short distance down to the fishery and I set eyes of the venue for the very first time. It has a good reputation as a carp fishery and is held in high esteem by many of the local lads. I have to say that I was very impressed, not having a clue what to expect prior to clambering up the bank. Absolutely immaculate, despite a couple of swims being out of bounds due to maintenance work, both Emily and I were very happy with what we found. Without a living soul on the complex, I wasted no time contacting the bailiff and arranging a short session for Saturday morning.

It will not be carp, however, which will be targeted on my initial visit. The fishery has a nice variety of species on offer and it will be the pike that will see my first baited hooks. I've been made aware that there are also some very big tench present in the older pool, plus a few decent bream and roach. The complete unknown is that of the perch potential, something I'm hoping to explore once I've spent a few sessions getting a feel for the place. So despite the fact that I've experienced my first impression, there will be several other opportunities to repeat the process as I set about targeting the various species which inhabit the fishery. As of now, although not tablets of stone, I have no intentions of starting carp fishing until 16th June! Plenty of scope for other projects to develop and explore over the coming six months. The first challenge is to catch a pike, any pike, from the venue then I will set my sights on a "Thanet double" something which has so far eluded me. If the truth were told, I've only ever caught one pike whilst within the Thanet boundary, I'm hopeful that syndicate membership allows me to add to this lowly tally?

Thursday 9 January 2020


When Dad passed away, in August 2016, I became the owner of a rather primitive, Chinese, slide copying device which allows me to transfer images to a digital format. I'm well aware that there are far superior products out in the market place, yet this simple gadget serves a purpose and I've recently spent some considerable time revisiting the memories contained within the hoards of slides stored in tatty old boxes at the back of my study. There are so many faces from the crazy days of Hemel Hempstead; those guys who shared in the lunacy and adventures to the far flung corners of our specimen hunting domain. So many big fish of which I have no recollection, venues that are long forgotten and much, much more. I'd been toying with the idea of a post all about the early visits to Scotland but, with so many other places cropping up, these old pictures kept steering me down alternate avenues of thought. This only served to demonstrate how difficult it would be to ignore the influence these other destinations also had on my development as an angler, thus, I've chosen to widen the scope. It might get messy but let's see where it leads?
What I must also explain is that my use of these transparencies (slides) was a direct result of my employment within Kodak Ltd and my involvement with The National Association of Specialist Anglers, as a member of the Executive Committee. I used to travel quite extensively giving illustrated talks on fish photography and/or Catfishing on the Leighton Buzzard AC venues. Before this development, my photography had been very limited and the results were stored as photos within the pages of assorted albums, the whereabouts of which I have no idea today! So the very early days are not part of the story, as recorded in the slides I have been looking at. This is a pity, because there were some good times enjoyed on The Grand Union Canal, Pixies Mere and The Great Ouse during the 1970's none of which are anything more than distant memories as I've no photos to share. Although I was nothing more than a, Distribution - Southern Region, warehouse worker, the Kodak technical advisory team was based in the same building and I was able to access these guys on a regular basis as my fish photography became ever more important in the angling process. Unlike modern digital images, when using traditional film technology, if you screwed it up - tough tits! I'm forever indebted to the advice and effort those professional photographers were willing to offer me during this period.

The Mill Pool at Mapledurham circa 1985
Because Kodak were such an important part of my journey it's probably only right that I start this rambling nonsense at one of the fisheries which I could access due to this employment. Mapledurham, on the River Thames, just below Sonning, was a fabulous venue. The old mill pool home to huge numbers of pike during periods of flooding. Yet it wasn't only pike, there were good numbers of roach and chub, my PB equalling Barbel of 9 lbs 2 oz came from the main river some way downstream from the mill pool and there were even a few half-decent perch present, although they showed the sad symptoms of the disease which was decimating the species right across the country at this time. 
The head of my rather gnarly old barbel - no unhooking mats back then, just a weigh sling to rest on!
I can't ever remember seeing a bailiff on this fishery and all the gang used to tag along to enjoy a social whilst awaiting the pike to feed. Cuddles had his first twenty from the river and we had many fabulous sessions when in excess of a dozen fish were landed, plenty of doubles included.

Cuddles with his first "twenty" - 21 lbs 10 oz of Mapledurham joy!

The tail end of the mill pool as it flows out to rejoin the main river - two ET back-biters, ABU Cardinal 66X's
& Duncan Kay's - just like 2020!
I've recently blogged about Fenland, but focused on the zander fishing. There were pike to be caught and the Sixteen Foot, Three Holes and The Counter-wash Drain, just outside Manea, were all visited regularly throughout the winter period. We experienced very ordinary results for the majority of our efforts yet, every so often, one of us would get lucky and the enthusiasm would return ensuring another trip wouldn't be too long in the offing!

Paul Elborn, fishing for live baits from the bridge at Three Holes. Much to the angst of
John Foster! Crazy really as Paul was the R/O for the Luton PAC Region!
It would be great fun, travelling up there, mob handed and generally running riot. It didn't take us long to cross swords with, the late, John Foster. He being the R/O of the Fenland PAC Region. Quite why he didn't stop and say something, at the time, choosing instead to use the angling media to voice his disapproval of our antics? I never did find out but we, eventually managed to overcome our differences and became chatty, if not ever mates! The fishing was great fun and my first real experience of the vastness of these flatlands, scenery completely unlike that of Hertfordshire and the Chilterns in which I'd grown up.

Baz Adams netting a pike for Cuddles at Three Holes
I think that both Simon and Phil Mitchalek caught Fenland twenties, yet it was Cuddles, again, who landed our best pike from the Sixteen Foot. I remember the fish, but for the life of me don't recall how heavy it was?
Cuddles with our best pike from Fenland
Driving up and down the M1 between Hemel and Peterborough, en route to Fenland, meant that we passed some famous fisheries in Northamptonshire. We looked at Billing, but finally settled on the fishery complex at Emberton Park to continue our quest for big pike. This venue provided some wonderful fishing and was the first one where I experienced regular night feeding by pike. Always a social activity, fishing at Emberton was a very successful distraction from our other venues. Ronnie Thomas landing our best fish, on my rods!, at 23 lbs plus. However it is loud music, Sharleen Spiteri and Texas in particular, emanating from Ron's VW Camper along with copious amounts of beer that will be my lasting memories of time spent at this venue. Big pike aplenty and mad times indeed.

Ron was always the sensible member of the gang - he drank "girl's beer" and never played up.
It is impossible for me to overstate quite how pivotal the reservoir complex at Tring was in my development as a "specimen hunter". Marsworth, Startops End and Wilstone each playing their part as my experience and ambitions were buoyed by the successes I was to enjoy at the various waters. I'd landed my first Wilstone tench during the long hot summer of 1976, when we were given permission to fish the centre bank. It went all of 4 lbs, but was to prove to be the start of an incredible period of irreversible impact on "big fish" angling within the UK and I am so very fortunate to be able to say that "I was there!" 

Elbs with a very nice tench from Cyanide Strait - Wilstone
It was during that same summer that Roy Johnson and I took nineteen two pound plus roach in a single afternoon at Startops - all fish falling to bread flake fished on a simple open-ended feeder set-up. As the tench revolution took off, so my path crossed with so many of the big hitters of that period. Wilstone became the magnet for a who's who of all the speccy hunters of the time. Obviously it was the colossal tench which were the main draw, but there were still a few bream worthy of effort and, very occasionally, rudd and roach put in an appearance. An absolute privilege to have been part of this era of monumental change in UK angling. I caught so many huge tench that I began to think I was a decent angler, until meeting guy's who were the real deal and quickly realising that I was very ordinary by comparison. Still, the enjoyment wasn't diminished, nor was I too proud to ask for assistance whenever the chance arose. I received some superb tutoring, from guys who were at the top of their game and am truly grateful for their input and generosity.

A very youthful Mr Turner with a rather modest Wilstone Esox
Pike fishing at Tring was hard going, yet the rewards were there for anyone prepared to put in the graft.That Eddie Turner, Bill Hancock and Vic Gibson had used Startops to test their Vane Float techniques before turning their attentions to Wilstone was an absolute blessing. We got on really well and I was like a sponge, soaking up every snippet that was on offer. Neither before, nor since, have I seen anyone work harder at their fishing than these guys - a wonderful period which remains firmly etched in the memory bank. Just up the road, so to speak, from Tring is Leighton Buzzard and it was this angling club's fishery at Claydon which was to see some of the most outrageous antics by our crew.
Claydon Middle Lake - Yours truly bent into another catfish at this
wonderful estate lake. 
Catfish had just started to become the centre of attention for a certain Kevin Maddocks. Yes, you know the one, that same guy who completely f**ked up carp fishing with the publication of "Carp Fever" in 1981. Well we were having none of it and deliberately set about ensuring we wouldn't be ignored. We caught loads of catfish from that muddy puddle, but it was how we caught them and how much fun, read Stella Artois, we could cram into a session that was to set us apart from the super serious approach of our arch rival. Strange as it may seem, we all got on really well. Kevin and Bob (Baldock) doing it their way whilst we did our own thing and the Catfish Conservation Group came into being with our motley gang becoming members from the very start. In fact I was to write quite a few articles for the early editions of Whiskers. the members magazine.

What was I thinking? Have a word!
The dalliance with catfish was to last for several summers, although we shifted our attentions to the Tiddenfoot Pit towards the end of the project. I look back on this period with great fondness, a bit like my memories of school holidays, I recall the successes and blot out the rainy days.
Although I was against the removal of the close season, the advent of any method trout fisheries was to be the beginning of the end for this traditional period of recovery on still water venues. John Carliki (I'm not too sure that's how it's spelt?) ran Linch Hill Fishery at this time and I was quickly on the case once I'd discovered that he allowed pike fishing, from boats, and would supply trout live baits as part of the deal.

It was a revelation, probably be better called a revolution? I couldn't go wrong and landed a succession of big pike, probably because I was one of the first off the mark?  Yes, I'm fully aware of my current stance on live baiting, I'm also certain that I was in favour of the close season yet, as many other English anglers, happily went pike fishing in Scotland during this same period. Hypocritical as charged and offer no defence, it happened and I wouldn't change a thing but now use this experience to help me make better informed decisions when the need arises.

My biggest pike from Linch Hill - photo by Pete Stone
Well I think this has rambled on long enough. Scotland will have to wait for another day. Rest assured there a loads more images where these came from and hopefully I will be minded to get something together over the coming weekend.

Sunday 5 January 2020

Incredible journey

I'd given Benno my, 1976 2nd edition, copy of "Fishing for Big Pike" by Barrie Rickards and Ray Webb after we'd been to see Eddie Turner do a talk at an Essex PAC bash in 2012(?). Eddie happy to state that this book contained the most comprehensive advice for anyone who wished to catch pike. In fact he said it was the best book ever written on the subject - some statement! This Christmas was to see me get a replacement copy, an original 1971 1st edition, as a present from Bev's son, Darryl and his partner Alix. With the weather so grim and water levels all over the shop, the break provided a perfect opportunity to revisit the wisdom contained within this highly regarded tome.

November 8th 1981 - my first twenty at 20 lbs 3 oz from the, Kodak owned, Water End Fishery, Herts.
Whilst I enjoyed this trip down memory lane, I did so with a realisation that Eddie's praise had to be taken in some type of context. Yes it might have been the best book written on the subject, but that was in 1971 and certainly some of the advice offered no longer has place within pike fishing in 2020. This is no criticism of the authors, both fine anglers, without question but time travellers they weren't. Nor of Eddie; a guy for whom I have nothing but respect and fond memories of time spent together on Wilstone Res. in the early 1990's. I learnt more about catching "big pike" during those two winters than I did before, or have since, such was the willingness to share his knowledge with anyone who sought it!
22nd December 1986 - 23 lbs 5 oz from Wilstone Res. Tring
So there I was reading through the various chapters, regularly thinking "you can't do that!" and it soon became very apparent how far pike angling has come over the past fifty years. I would say that the passing generations of members of the Pike Anglers Club of GB (previous to which The Pike Society) have to take the majority of credit for evolution to modern catch and release pike fishing - a remarkable turn around given the ingrained mentality of the match anglers post WWII. However, it is impossible to ignore the events of 18th March 1963 when looking at the upturn in the fortunes of our "apex" freshwater predator. It was on this fateful date when, with total (verging on criminal?) disregard of our freshwater ecosystems, The Great Ouse River Authority took it upon themselves to introduce one hundred Zander into the Relief Channel and, therefore begin a chain of events which were beyond the realms of a Hitchcock horror movie. The fall out of this introduction, with the subsequent catastrophic population explosion, was to see the pike reinstated as a sign of a healthy fishery and the Zander taking on the role of the villain of the piece. All of a sudden the catch and release pike angling mentality was given added momentum in the angling press, endorsed by many of the high profile match anglers of that period.

Probably the most important step in the development of any pike angler.
Membership of the PAC should be compulsory before anyone is allowed to cast a bait
in pursuit of these magnificent fish. My opinion and not the law!
So, as it turns out, this combination of factors has seen the popularity of pike fishing become such that businesses are able to exist based upon demand for products relating to their capture. The incredible surge in the use of artificial lures is certainly one aspect of predator fishing which has grown beyond all expectations. I suppose that it remains down to each individual how enjoyment is derived from their encounters with pike, the one common denominator being a desire to return the fish to water and not chuck it up the bank as unwanted vermin.

An original ET Back-biter alarm with an open bale arm. Scotland 2016,
yet it wouldn't have looked out of place on Tring thirty years previous?
My own pike angling remains very much in keeping with those techniques which have stood me in such good stead since the Tring days - 1981 onward. Of course I've had to modify my methods, indeed I have rejected the use of live baits entirely because of a personal inability to justify this technique. Yet I still keep aligned with the advances in tackle manufacture and forward thinking anglers but, by and large, my basic methodology has changed very little? It is a realisation that pike are creatures of instinct, their role within a healthy ecosystem being refined by evolution to produce this magnificently efficient predator which gets me back to Barrie and Ray's book. Even in 1971, these two pioneers, were already placing great importance upon location. So much so that rigs, tackle and bait were of no importance until this fundamental piece of the puzzle had been put in place. It was really great to look back at the advice contained within that wonderful Christmas gift and only by doing so can I see how far I've come, as both a pike angler and a person, during the intervening years. Plus, it gave me an excuse to look back through old photos and recall some fantastic memories from my incredible journey in pursuit of Esox lucius.

An image I've used many times in the past. One of the most memorable pike that I've ever captured.
November 16th 1982 - 19 lbs 11 oz of River Thames perfection
Having just read back through this offering I've realised the role that our Scottish pike adventures, going right back to May 1982, has been totally overlooked. It wasn't deliberate but, might just be, the excuse I need to delve into the archive, one more time, to blog about some crazy times spent in pursuit of the best looking, hardest fighting, pike in the UK?

Saturday 4 January 2020

Out in the gloom

Since the start of the New Year thick, grey, cloud has dominated the skies above Thanet. So it was a real pleasure to get down to the marsh, early this morning, with clear skies, thus my first sighting of the sun in 2020! I've managed to get a further two species for the garden photo project with the Raven and a Black-headed Gull added, despite the Mordor-esque flat light.

My first session with the rods was a rather light-hearted affair, choosing to visit a drain with a good population of small pike hoping that I might start the year with a bit of action. I'd love to say my plan produced the desired result, but I fear I managed to create more questions than answers. Three bites, one to each rod, resulted in just one pike in the net, one dropped and the other missed completely? On the positive side, the fish landed was done using that recently manufactured, bottom only, cork bodied float with a free-lined sardine presentation. The two other bites coming to popped-up offerings on simple running leger set-ups.

My session was still very enjoyable mostly because of the bright sunshine which dominated the morning ensuring my binoculars were in regular use. Birding wasn't anything more than very ordinary, given my location, but still provided enough variety to keep me occupied. I did also have a play around with the camera as the dawn broke across the flatlands, just to ensure I had images for the blog, should I be inspired to get a post together? The more I spend time simply watching the rapidly changing light and the resultant skyscapes, at both dawn and dusk, the fun in attempting to capture the "feel" of the moment is becoming part of my angling ritual.

No filters, no fancy photo-shop technology, just as they come off the back of the camera, although admittedly there is a bit of cropping. A nice side show for me to become involved with as my angling adventure takes me to some amazing countryside allowing me to experience these stunning displays.

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Let's get this party started

A new year, hence a clean sheet as dawn breaks on the first day, with plans and expectations as fresh as those, well meant, resolutions that are always part of this annual transition. Being no different, I have a few things that I'd like to achieve during the next twelve months, yet must remain realistic because of the other factors involved in my life being far more important than anything related to my hobbies! However, January 1st 2020 has been very good and I haven't left the site. I've either been in my study, the summer-house or back garden. Back in the summer, it might have been after the second, ever, Pied Flycatcher had been photographed in my garden that I toyed with the idea of a simple project to attempt to photograph fifty species, either in or from, the footprint of our bungalow.

The day dawned grey, and gloomy, thus expectations were pretty low. It was a real surprise to hear a Song Thrush giving it the full volume, singing from the paddocks over at the main farm complex, heard whilst supping my first coffee of the morning. A second winter Herring Gull, perched on the roof of the shed next door, seemed like a subject to point the long lens at under the conditions.  I rattled off a few shots as insurance, but was hoping that the Raven would put in an appearance yet had a nagging doubt that the celebratory fireworks might have had a negative effect on the huge corvid roost which assembles in the mature trees of Ramsgate Cemetery each night. Shouldn't have worried as Bev espied this massive crow flying over the field beyond the garden hedge, but as it turned out I  managed to get shots of a couple of species which are, garden wise, equal in status to said Raven!

Firstly, a flock of Lapwings appeared over the fields, looking to drop in on the recently harvested cauli field, although they did a couple of circuits, coming right over the garden, before dropping down over towards Pyson's Road. I was happy enough with that. Sure; I record Lapwing annually, but usually very distantly as the flocks are disturbed over Pegwell Bay some distance to the south.

What happened next, I don't think anyone could have imagined. Having grabbed the camera as soon as Bev had spotted the Raven, I was out in the garden when I could hear wild geese somewhere up in the gloom. All of a sudden there they were, high over the fields, looking to come in, calling loudly and descending steadily. I rattled off a series of images before lifting the bins to establish the numbers involved and confirm Greater White-fronted as the correct id. Only the third garden record of this species. Twenty-six being my count, although I'm not convinced that there weren't a few more? I made the count as the flock disappeared off towards Pegwell and Sandwich Bay beyond. Obviously the presence of dog walkers and other activity ensuring they soon rejected Newlands as a possible feeding opportunity.

So I settled for that, three species on day one, and came inside to listen to the football on Five Live and relive the enjoyment of these unusual garden sighting as I downloaded the images. Work tomorrow but, I'm on lates so, the Raven might yet provide another subject for the garden photo project?