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 27 April 2020

When you're down?

I received an email, computer generated, today reminding me that my rod licence had expired and it was time to renew it. Bloody genius, next line on the web page that I was directed to stated "that in line with government guidelines - DON'T GO FISHING!" Cheers EA for that pointless kick in the guts. It's painful enough, knowing that the rods will remain in the holdall, without such harassment for further wasted expenditure. I've not been able to go fishing for six weeks now, can I get a rebate on my previous licence because of government instructions? Can I bollocks!! It doesn't work like that. You want to go fishing? You need a current rod licence - end of! I'll get my new one when I'm able to cast a line again, not before.I suppose one of the benefits of modern technology is that my next licence, as did my previous one, will run for twelve months from the day of purchase and no longer the duration of a calendar year or traditional coarse fishing season. Every cloud?

So whilst I'm on about pointless stuff, I photographed a BTO ringed Herring Gull, perched on the pergola in our garden, one day last week. It is one, of a pair, which has taken up residence along Vine Close and will probably be nesting very shortly? With birds of this size why no colour ring? I had absolutely no chance of reading the full ring details, although BTO & London were discernible from some of the images I recorded. With technology advancing at such a pace, why are bird recording schemes not keeping abreast of developments in order to maximise the usefulness of the data which could be generated? Before you bother posting a comment - I bet it's all to do with money?

Sunday 26 April 2020

#BWKm0 - Buzzards and bits

It's been an absolutely stunning day here, on Thanet. I'm not quite sure how the BBC get their weather info but, 13C isn't what it felt like in the garden in the direct sunshine with little, or no, breeze. I was late outside due, in some part, to staying up, last night, attempting to get some hedgehog photos.

Not the best image ever recorded of  a garden hedgehog?
It was 07.45 hrs before I got myself sorted out and almost immediately I spotted a Chiffchaff collecting nesting material from around the base of the bird bath. The male singing from the Cherry tree a couple of gardens to the south (where I'd photographed the Whitethroat). Although Chiffchaffs have bred around the Newlands Farm patch, in previous years, this is the first time I've been aware of them attempting to nest along the Vine Close boundary.

The mewing calls of Common Buzzard are now a daily feature of spending time outside. The pair which have taken up residence around the farm compound seem set to stick around. This morning I witnessed a display which I've never previously seen when the male, I presume, was sky dancing over the farm clutching a stick. As the day progressed, so Newlands airspace was occupied by a number of migrant Buzzards and the resident pair weren't best happy. It was nice to be able to stand and watch the interaction between the birds. Once the interlopers had been escorted off site, the resident pair engaged in noisy sky dancing before they returned to their territory. I suppose it's because of this enforced "lockdown" situation that I've got time to pay attention to such behavioural nuances?

This bird is the Newlands Farm male (?) It is the individual which was sky dancing clutching that stick.

A selection of images taken from the garden today. Common Buzzards are as individual in plumage as finger prints are to humans. Fantastic birds and to have a pair taking up residence so close to the bungalow will ensure I've something to look at during the next few weeks whilst I'm unable to work. Oh yeah! Yesterday I added Common Swift to the garden tally
57 - Common Swift

Friday 24 April 2020

#BWKm0 - another good day in the garden

Strange times at Fujifilm SIS (and everywhere else - in no way are we unique) means that yesterday might be my last late-shift for ten weeks! There's quite a bit of contractual stuff needing to be sorted out but, it looks like the factory will be on reduced manning for nine weeks, commencing 4th May. Knowing this was on the cards I took a camera to work, so that I could record us, my shift colleagues and I, partaking in the ritual Thursday, 20.00 hrs, NHS tribute "clapping" before we are split up to provide a minimal production capability within the plant. It was quite a poignant minute, as one of our shift is off, in isolation, as his wife, who's a front line nurse,  is showing symptoms of Covid-19. Our thoughts and best wishes are with them, Twatters & Alison, during this difficult time.

I was outside, this morning, around 07.00 hrs with all the regulation items close to hand; coffee being top priority at this time of day. It was a reasonable sunrise, although a layer of high, broken, cloud ensured that the sun didn't really do much more than cast a shadow. There was certainly no warmth, early doors. Four Chiffchaffs, two each of Willow Warbler and Swallow had been recorded within the first twenty minutes; so clearly there was some movement happening.

As the temperature started to rise, so the raptors appeared with a couple of Common Buzzards and a lone Red Kite providing the early sightings. It wasn't long, however, whilst I was straining to decipher the distant song of a Chaffinch, that the unmistakable display song and flight of a Common Whitethroat was performed in the adjacent garden. Camera quickly called into action, I'm relatively happy with the outcome of this briefest of encounters.

55 - Common Whitethroat

The action didn't stop there, oh no! Next up was another Common Buzzard which quickly attracted the attentions of a pair of Ravens! Then, to put the cherry on the cake, a Marsh Harrier appeared in the binocular view and, once again, the long lens was pointed skywards.

56 - Marsh Harrier - quickly moved over the garden headed NE

I needed to get ready for work, so had to cut short the session before raptor o'clock, but still managed to add a further nine Common Buzzards, four Sparrowhawks and two pulses of Black-headed Gulls before I packed up for the day. Garden birding? Under these circumstances, you can't knock it!

Thursday 23 April 2020

#BWKm0 - Mediterranean morning

Another glorious morning made so much better by the much reduced wind strength. It felt quite warm in the sunshine, which is such a pleasant change from having to endure the chilling effect of the blasting ENE winds we've been experiencing, of late. Same old routine, outside by 07.15 hrs, coffee, camera and binoculars to hand. First decent bird to be encountered was a smart Chiffchaff which was flitting about in an Elder before dropping down into the Dog Rose which is beside the feeding station. The light was okay and I rattled off a series of shots and have to admit to being rather pleased with my results.

The Chiffchaff must have only just moved back into the dense  cover of the Elder when the unmistakable sound of a Raven had me quickly scanning the skies. And there it was, approaching high, from the west, muttering to itself as it quickly passed over Newlands and headed off to the NE. It was turning into a decent session and I hadn't been outside more than twenty minutes!

Two Sparrowhawks and three Common Buzzards made it onto the day list before a pair (?)/two Greenfinches flew over the garden and brought me down to earth with a real bump! My second garden record of 2020 - they were once the second most common visitor to our feeding station. What is going on? I'm aware that the ageing process is taking a toll on my hearing, yet I am still able to hear most sounds and am extremely glad of this fact. If it were not for their unique, and very loud, contact calls I would have missed the three adult. summer plumaged, Mediterranean Gulls which headed north at 09.55 hrs.

54 - Mediterranean Gull

It didn't end there, as I was just getting ready to leave for work a flock of eighteen Common Buzzards came over the garden and there was a very good candidate for Rough-legged (as reported from Broadstairs, and coming my way, some 25 minutes before my sighting) in their midst. I've got some photos, but the laptop is having a hissy-fit and won't download the images. Hopefully I will be able to get this sorted out in the morning? It is certainly a very interesting individual, that's for sure!

It's not a Rough-legged, but it certainly had me going. Same bird as seen  in Broadstairs? No idea.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Looking and learning

It's bloody hard work attempting to find interest in the current situation. I suppose I should count my blessings, as at least I have a garden, which backs onto farmland in which I am at will to spent my time. The current run of persistent E/ ENE/ NE winds and clear skies have conspired to produce the worst spring, bird wise, I've witnessed in the twenty years we've been here. Yes, of course it's not all been bad and I should be grateful for the hand I've been dealt. There are many folk far worse off than I at present. So, this morning, I decided that it would be a good idea to look for something positive. With the sun shining brightly from a cloudless sky, let's have a play around with the camera kit and see what the feeding station attracts? I must add that I've now placed the bird bath down at the far end of the garden and that provision of water has added an extra dimension to the attraction of the feeders. The accompanying images were taken today and helped lighten the mood in these trying times. After the fiasco with the Rough-legged Buzzard images, actually learning how to use the camera kit might be a decent "lockdown" project over the coming weeks?

Talking of projects. I managed to obtain a small number of scrap wooden pallets from work, today, and am hoping to use the reclaimed timber to construct a hedgehog house, as per the instructions/guidelines I discovered on the BBC Gardener's World web pages. We've got three, at least, individuals visiting our feeding station and a shelter, positioned at the bottom of the garden, might just be enough to encourage these fabulous creatures to hang about all year? I know what I'll be doing over the weekend and will probably get a post, or two, as a result of my labours.

Sunday 19 April 2020

#BWKm0 - I never expected that

Working in the chemical manufacturing business, ink to you and me, has meant that the Covid-19 pandemic has a much lesser impact upon my daily routine than if I was forced to work from home or furloughed. Because I was on earlies last week, my garden listing was severely restricted and, as a result, only one new species made an appearance. When I finally left work on Friday lunchtime, the weather was already on a downward spiral as cold winds and rain became the reality. Up reasonably early on Saturday morning, my reward came in the shape of a Grey Heron being pursued, noisily, by an angry mob of Herring Gulls. However, my hoped for vis mig failed to materialise and I was left to ponder what might be happening elsewhere?
52 - Grey Heron - not unexpected, though never regular at this time of year.

It dawned bright, yet cold, this morning. The sun shining from a clearing sky, but a brisk ENE wind ensured it felt chilly as I stood outside, first coffee in my hands. A Chiffchaff was singing from a garden just to the south and I noted three Swallows flick past as they headed towards their breeding sites, who knows where? Coffee number two and three were consumed, as was a sausage sandwich, and I didn't hold out much hope. One of the local Common Buzzards drifted over the farm and prolonged scanning through the binos revealed a total of four Sparrowhawks around the area. It was now 11.25 hrs and I'd just finished chatting with Mike, my next door neighbour, socially distancing over the garden fence when the gulls went up. Not a lot of noise, but they certainly weren't happy about something?
It wasn't long before I picked out the familiar shape of an approaching Common Buzzard, surely the gulls hadn't reacted en mass due to this? As I watched, through my bins, a second bird appeared and with it alarm bells started ringing in my head. It's got a white tail, bloody hell, it's got a pale head and a dark belly - isolated carpal patches - F*cking Hell it's a Rough-legged Buzzard!! Always distant, I grabbed the camera and fired off a series of shots which, I hoped, might confirm my id. The two birds continued on their steady way, headed into the wind and disappeared off to the NE with me a gibbering wreck looking at the pathetic images I'd managed, on the back of the camera. I rushed into my study and downloaded the camera then rang my brother, Simon, with the news. I was physically shaking, just like I do when I land a decent fish. Only those who share this passion will be able to understand how I felt? Not only was it a garden, therefore patch, tick it is everything that this laid back challenge stands for. A positive during a period of such negativity and I am going to savour this experience for some time to come unless, of course, something else turns up tomorrow?

All of the above images are massively cropped from the originals. I'd like to think they do enough to confirm my id?

53 - Rough-legged Buzzard - now I never expected that!

This is a ridiculous cropped image from a pretty bad starting point yet does, I feel, confirm my sighting!

Saturday 18 April 2020

Scilly inspiration

Gavin Haig is a virtual buddy, via this blogging caper, and has just posted a superb piece about his carp fishing exploits during the 1980's (click here) as an indirect result of a Twitter initiative #Me@20! Now I'm not getting involved with any of that nonsense, yet seeing all those dated, pre digital, images of Gavin posing with some superb fish had me looking back through my own albums and recalling my own exploits during the same period. Right from the off, there can be no doubt that Gavin was way more successful than I ever was, plus he is a far superior wordsmith, thus his posts are always worthy, thought provoking, reads. I've made a few similar blog entries in the past, involving my embryonic "speccy hunting" days but, because of this current situation, new visitors to the blog might enjoy a wander down memory lane and, anyway, it's an excuse to dig out some old photos and recall much happier times.

Reg's Point on Kodak's Water End fishery.
Cop a look at that gear! Optonics with a cable connected to the sounder box, I'm not sure what the rods are but the
reels are two ABU Cardinal 66X's - still going strong today.
It was in the early 1970's, I was still at school, when I caught my first carp; a very small Common from the wondrous Pixie's Mere at Bourne End, Herts. Certainly less than four pounds, it was dwarfed by many of the tench for which the fishery was famous. It wasn't until I'd started working for Kodak Ltd that any serious carp fishing was ever attempted. It was March 9th 1981 when I actually caught my first ever double from Reg's Point. So called because Reg was the only serious carp angler who fished the Water End fishery using free-lined paste baits if my memory serves me right and this was his favoured swim!

Look at the colour of this magnificent winter carp.
Although I dabbled with carp after this momentous event, tench fishing at Wilstone and winter pike fishing around the Tring complex, Fenland and the Thames at Mapledurham was far more important at the time. It wasn't until July 1983 that anything worthy of recall was to happen to my carp angling. I can't even remember which angling club controlled the fishery, but Bridigo Pond, where the Great Train Robbery had taken place, was the scene of my next landmark capture. 5th July was to see Paul Elbourn and I spend a sunny afternoon at this tiny fishery and I winkle out a stunning old Mirror of 21 lbs 10 oz on a lump of free-lined floating "Slyme". A concoction made, and marketed, by the legendary Duncan Kay. What a cracking fish and catalyst to further exploits after these desirable creatures.

It was Lester Strudwick, a fellow member of the Tring Syndicate, who pointed me in the direction of Stanborough Lake in Welwyn Garden City. A municipal day ticket fishery which, at the time, held an incredible stock of very good fish. In the October I made the effort to visit the fishery for my very first cast into the murky depths. Within ninety minutes I was connected to a nice fish of 15 lbs 9 oz and didn't look back from that moment on. Pike were forgotten for that winter as I focused my angling on this remarkable park lake. Indeed Rob Maylin was to recall his own time spent at the venue in one of his books and called it "The Cracker Factory" such was the hectic action to be had if you got it right.

The carp that got my Stanborough adventure off the mark.
Looking back through my diaries and reading some of my rig notes, plus bait references, is utterly cringe-worthy stuff. Crazy bit about it all is that it worked and I caught a large number, for the period, of very big carp from this very ordinary piece of water. On 9th November I was to catch three twenties, on consecutive casts, a feat which made the front page of one of the weeklies at the time! How things have changed since those mad days, modern anglers don't even bother weighing twenties! 

Sye with our first Stanborough "twenty"

What we need to remember about all this is that the carp boom was in its' infancy. Kevin Maddocks had blown the lid, clean off, the secretive world of The British Carp Study Group with publication of his "Carp Fever" quickly followed by the VHS video offerings of the "Richworth" pairing which basically showed, in moving images, exactly what Kevin had described in his book. It was game on and anyone who was first at a venue was able to reap the rewards. For sure, I was nowhere close to being the first carp angler to cast a boily into this mad house, but I did have an advantage in as much as Ian "Creepy" Crawley, over at the St. Alban's shop of "Leslie's of Luton" was happy to provide me, and my mates, with the very latest tackle, at cost, in return for publicity in the weeklies and other publications I was involved with by this time. Shimano reels, Bruce & Walker HMC rods, if we asked for it, Ian could get hold of it for us and we ripped the arse out of the situation. I'm happy to be able to state, hand on heart, that it was a win, win situation for both parties.

February 25th 1984 - my PB (still) 23 lbs 14 oz
We smashed the place, catching huge numbers of decent carp, using tackle that Ian had been able to acquire, on our behalf, and that included our terminal kit. We had braided hook links, hair rigs and pva stringers. Our boilies were all home made, using ingredients which were readily available off the supermarket shelves, but with an edge! Fred Wilton had made his HNV bait theory public knowledge and Kevin (Maddocks) was quick to join a growing band who exploited and developed this original concept. Now whilst these thinking anglers were off down some road of scientific discovery, I thought "f*ck that!" Don't worry about nutrition, give them something they like! and that's exactly what we did. Semolina and soya flour was the basis for our baits, but then we got creative. Custard powder, Carnation condensed milk, dried baby milk and various, off the shelf, food flavourings were combined in a mix, along with the regulation eggs, to produce round baits which were to the carp's liking - given our results. We fished our lines, bow string tight, 2 oz leads and 22" hook links - how did any of this work? All I know is that it did and we were to enjoy some fabulous sport on a very highly pressured venue because of our approach. Could it work today? I very much doubt it.

This 19 lbs 11 oz Mirror is one of the last carp I caught at Stanborough and
will be remembered because if fought with a tenacity which few other carp have done, before or since!
24th August 1984
I never was, and never will be, a dedicated carp angler, but looking back at these images does allow me to remember some fabulous times spent in pursuit of these wonderful fish.

Thursday 16 April 2020

It's etched in your DNA

Going right back to my earliest memories, as a very young child, having moved from Chiswick to Hemel Hempstead in 1959, I knew that natural history was something to which I was drawn. Dad calling, upstairs, that a Barn Owl had just landed on the fence and looking out from my bedroom window as the ghostly white bird just stared back, through those huge eyes, set in a heart-shaped mask, from the garden fence! No 27, Coleshill, Gadebridge. There were Weasels, Stoats, and Grey Squirrels in the wide open spaces of Gadebridge Park. By 1963 I was already fishing, using rod and line, for minnows in The River Gade. Yes, being aware of the creatures which share the same space is something for which I will always be grateful. It is a fascination which has taken me along a wondrous road of discovery and amazement as my own life has evolved since those very lowly beginnings. Yet my journey, as unique as, by definition, it has to be, isn't one that sets me apart? Instead, I feel, it is mirrored by those of so many unknown souls with whom I collide whilst actively engaged in my blogging across an incomprehendable vastness that is the cyber network. It's obvious that not everyone will have been as obsessed by the lunatic fringe of "speccy hunting", UK twitching and/or county listing, but the desire to push boundaries in a quest for self development as an observer/participant will have manifest itself in so many other fields of interest within the massive scope encompassed by involvement with our natural history.

It is not my purpose to defend fieldsports, yet as an angler I'm on the fringe of a whole side of exploiting the natural world which, to other equally valid opinions, is abhorrent. I'm fine with this difference of opinion and have my own thoughts on many aspects of country pursuits which I'm unable to defend. What I find so strange is that some of the most gifted naturalists I've ever encountered have been from the hunting, shooting, fishing fraternity - one of them a gamekeeper! Strange how the same subject matter can result in such polar opposite ways of deriving pleasure from the same journey as we seek to enjoy the time spent outdoors.
So whilst I support the conservationists and their agendas, in as much as I agree with a need for bio-diversity and associated wild spaces, the guys who chose a very different route also crave a very similar vision of how the countryside should evolve. Let's be under no illusion that the UK looks like it does because of natural causes! It is an entirely man-made landscape and the wildlife which shares these spaces is purely a result of the habitat produced as a result of human endeavours over the eons as we have sought to create a civilised society. Why now, why these thoughts? Too much time and very little going on around the garden! I did manage another addition yesterday.

51 - Garden Warbler - singing male from the hedgerow, second year on the trot! Same individual?

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Nine years travelling a very crooked road

When, in April 2011, I went back to Loch Awe for one final cast, little did I know how my life was going to change. Eighteen years of Kent birding under my belt bought to a shuddering halt due to the capture of some very modest pike from the magnificent, peat stained waters of Kilchurn Bay. Benno and Bev have to accept equal blame/credit for this monumental U-turn in my leisure time pursuit as "speccy hunting", once again, came to dominate my free time.

Benno and I with a double apiece. That backdrop is capable of conjuring such magical memories.
As I said, the pike falling to my rods were quite modest, but Benno was to land the first Scottish "twenty" I'd ever seen and that was the spark which ignited the flame once more. That first season back was to see me acquaint myself with ridiculous ease of modern commercial carp fisheries and also discover that perch were, once again, widespread, healthy and attaining weights which beggared belief. Off we went to Stream Valley and what'd you know, I land a new PB (2 lbs 10 oz) on our first outing and was to witness several specimens topping my own to a maximum of 3 lbs 6 oz.

I spent the majority of the 2011 summer, re-acquainting myself with the thrill of centre-pins and surface caught carp. The local area is certainly well catered for in this respect, however, it was pike which had fanned the flames and what I had set my heart on. I wanted another twenty but, this time, on my terms. I no longer wished to be part of the circuit water scene and chasing yesterdays news. No, I wanted a wild fish from an unfashionable venue and the East Kent marshes were to provide my first test.  I was very fortunate to gain access to a remote drain and had an absolute blast over that winter period. I landed numerous pike to a top weight of 19 lbs 2 oz, so I failed in my quest but learned so much more which was to stand me in good stead as I moved forward.

2012 was to see me embark on a journey of re-discovery as the Kentish Stour became a fishery which came onto the radar. Benno had already taken a 6 lbs+ Chub from a tiny free section just outside Sturry. I popped along to have a look at what all the fuss was about and became fascinated by the barbel which were reported to be present, yet capturing my PB chub (5 lbs 2 oz) for my troubles. The internet was to fan the flames, even higher, with stories of monster barbel being captured from the river, particularly by one "social scrounging, work shy, Drennan Cup Winner"

However, I had that twenty pound pike target to address and had changed my focus to the Royal Military Canal for the winter 2012/13. It was just days after the passing of my Mum when I was to realise my dream. All alone, on a desolate stretch of the canal, moments don't get much more intense. It was far more than another wet fish in the bottom of that landing net?

Mum was looking down and smiling - of that I'm sure!
As the new river season started, in June, Benno and I headed off to the mighty River Severn to spend a couple of days barbel fishing at Hampton Lode. Great fun, we returned home even more determined to take a decent barbel from the Kentish Stour because of our experiences. Indeed; I'd landed my first two barbel since 1985!  Back down on the Stour it was Benno who got things started with a magnificent specimen of 11 lbs 6 oz. This was the biggest barbel I'd ever seen to that time - absolutely awesome!

My time would come, but I was made to work for it, such are the nuances of this splendid little river. I caught my first ever "double" in the July, yet is was five crazy days during August which will remain ever etched in my memory. I took two thirteen pounders (13 lbs 5 oz & 13 lbs 14 oz) from a swim which I'd had to cut out for myself - it doesn't get much more rewarding? If Mum was smiling down when that pike was landed, then Fred Crouch would have been equally pleased by those fish?

13 lbs 5 oz

13 lbs 14 oz
I did get back to the river for the early part of the 2014 season, landing a couple of doubles for the efforts involved. It was a very testing time and not particularly enjoyable. I was there in spite, not because, if that makes any sense? Time to look elsewhere for my challenges. The local commercials came to the rescue, particularly the Sandwich Coarse Fishery. Using very ancient kit, I was able to glean some superb learning, amidst the very real enjoyment, as centre-pins and particle baits were my chosen approach. There are several points about carp angling and the "instant angler" which I'm struggling to comprehend, but feel sure it's more an age thing than anything more sinister? If I can be bothered to land a fish, the least I can do, if I feel it weighs in excess of ten pounds?, is to weigh it. My records go right back to 1981 when I caught my first ever double and I see no reason to stop the habit just because modern celebrity anglers are so flippant about their catches and associated weight guestimations! Another winter's pike fishing around the East Kent marshes and the wonderful Royal Military Canal was to see me continue to do battle with our apex predator but it was April 2015 when I finally achieved a goal which had taken thirty-three years! Our, now annual, spring trip to Loch Awe resulted in me landing the biggest Scottish pike so far. Twenty-four pounds and ten ounces worth of adrenaline inducing, fishing perfection. An ambition which was launched during the crazy period and that first fateful trip up to the Isle of Bute and Loch Ascog in May 1982. Gazing down on that magnificent fish is one of the most cherished memories I hold - a magical event.

2015 turned out to be a very strange year for me and my angling adventures. As a result of a situation completely beyond my control, I had to very quickly come up with a "plan B" after a River Stour barbel trip was abandoned due to EA weed cutting. The outcome of the decision has played a massive part in the direction my angling has gone ever since. I thought I'd have a bash at some tench which were rumoured to inhabit a local drain, using the same tackle I'd already assembled to go down to the river. Hook bait was 15 mm Halibut pellets and my groundbait was the regular "party mix" pigeon tonic and hemp seed. I was just about to embark on a true angling voyage of discovery - going places where no man (I knew of) had been before? The first session resulted in a stunning 18 lbs Common Carp and, of significance later, an Eel of 3 lbs 6 oz! The carp was an awesome creature and I wanted some more of that so returned, more suitably kitted out just a few days later and managed to land my first "twenty" since February 1984! A stunning wild Common Carp of 20 lbs 10 oz, glistening dark copper and bronze in the early morning sunshine as I posed for my selfies!  Maybe there was hope for carp fishing in these highly commercialised times? There was only one way I would find out.

I did spend a bit of time searching the drains for these wild fish, landing a few more superb specimens to a top weight of sixteen, or so, pounds but it was fast approaching October before I found what I was looking for but my attentions had become distracted by a very different project. A comment, by Darren Roberts, way back in the July, about my dismissal of a three pound eel was catalyst to me attempting to catch one by design, as opposed to accident! It was a crazy challenge which developed a life of its' own as the desire to catch an eel by design evolved into "can I catch an eel in every month of the traditional pike season?" I have to admit that I developed a grudging admiration for these tackle tangling slimy pests as the weeks passed. When, on 12th March 2016, I finally completed my quest, with the best eel of the whole campaign, I have to say that I was more than happy with my time spent doing something very few anglers have ever tried previously.

What I've forgotten to say is that in December 2015, I reached the grand old age of sixty and my family clubbed together to buy me a 1959 B. James & Son Mk IV Richard Walker split cane carp rod. Blown away by this gift, I couldn't help myself, I had to go out and purchase another one so I owned a pair! Long story - the most expensive birthday present I've ever brought myself!  The carp out on the East Kent Marshes have the luxury of the traditional close season, those in the Royal Military, however, do not and it was here I set out to catch a twenty on the split canes. Benno was living down at Seabrooke and, as a result, was able to do some pre-baiting for us. It was probably justice, therefore, that he was to take our first decent carp from the venue. A magnificent Common of exactly twenty-four pounds!

Within a few days I was to open my split cane account with a cracking Leather of 21 lbs 5 oz and I was on my way. By the time it was open season out on the drains, my father's health was deteriorating rapidly. I'd managed a couple of decent twenties before everything ceased as Bev and I moved in with him to provide comfort during those last few weeks. He died, peacefully, in his own bed and fishing doesn't really matter under these circumstances. One thing I had said to him, during a quiet conversation, was that I'd catch him a "thirty" on the split canes and this is a promise I'll fulfil, or die trying. So since that time it has been the single driving factor in my angling focus, not that I've not enjoyed my time chasing other targets? 

The passing of Bev's father was another event, which my angling has had to adapt to, and now we have Bev's mum living out her final days inside our bungalow, again making massive demands on our free time. I'm forever grateful to The Wantsum AA for time spent at their superb fisheries over at Marshside, such a shame that politics got in the way? I had a blast! Now I have the realistic chance to achieve my promise, to Dad, with membership of a local syndicate where such carp are present, yet not easy!

How will this angling adventure pan out? I have no other option than to continue down the road and see what's around the next corner! Sadly, that will now have to wait until after "lockdown" has been negotiated. If you've made it this far, hope you enjoyed my little look back at what has been a very varied pathway through time. Thank you for visiting, stay safe and act responsibly - together we will get through this!