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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Sunday, 24 May 2020

Writing - a wonderful distraction

These past three weeks have seen me spending a great deal of time at the laptop, attempting to put together pieces for several projects/publications. Obviously this task has helped me avoid going "stir crazy", but has also brought back just how much joy I derive from the written word and all that it entails. Don't get me wrong, I love blogging and the spontaneous interaction it can illicit, yet sitting down to actually write something which has more than two paragraphs, attempting to do more than describe the events of a day on the bank, or in the garden, is very different and, ultimately, far more satisfying when completed. I use Google Docs for my efforts although Microsoft Word is equally suitable. One such piece is sat on the laptop, yet I'm unsure if the project it is destined for is anything more than a pipe-dream? So to rid myself of the venom and bad feelings created by the antics of Boris's chief adviser I'll share it here.


Two pivotal weeks - Two years apart


You’ll have to bear with me; for the start of my discovery of the thrill, to be experienced, chasing wilderness carp can be traced back to some incredible events, which took place on The Stour. It was August 2013 and, along with my son, Benno, the stretch of river behind, the now infamous, Willow Close, in Canterbury, was the scene for a drama which I couldn’t have scripted, even in my wildest dreams. The original project target was a double figure Barbel. In these modern times nothing particularly remarkable, but I’d packed up chasing Barbel in 1985, my PB of 9 lbs 2 oz being a very respectable statistic at the time. Eighteen years away from fishing was an incredible period spent watching birds but, as they say, all good things must come to an end. A week’s pike fishing in Scotland (April 2011) re-ignited the flame and, once again, speccy hunting became my focus.

August 2013, and, thus, I’m already two years back into the angling groove, although this time round not quite as obsessional? Both Benno and I had already taken a “double” apiece from this notorious stretch of the river, so it was game on! Some of the other folk, also frequenting this particular stretch, were proper wrong’uns, so we carried walkie talkies as a method of raising the alarm should anything untoward arise. It didn’t, but at least we were prepared. The evening of Saturday 17th August, was to see me having to create a brand new swim, because some lame-brain had ruined the one I’d been targeting. I must have done half a decent job because two guys came past and climbed an adjacent tree, yet still didn’t spot me, or any barbel, for that matter! 

It was just after 23.00 hrs, on that fateful date, when the rod wrenched round, the centre-pin spinning wildly, as an unseen fish bolted off with my rig. I had to get into the river, in order to net the culprit but, at 13 lbs 5 oz, there was nothing I could complain about. I’d smashed my PB out of sight. Walkie talkie quickly in use, Benno was soon at my side, assisting with the weighing ritual and capturing those, all important, trophy shots.


Just four days later we returned. No question as to where I’m fishing, Benno dropped into the “Willows”, some 400 m upstream from me. Being Wednesday, therefore a work day, no way we could stay late but, my bite came at 22.30 hrs and ensured, we overstayed by some considerable margin. 13 lbs 14 oz of pure River Stour magic. The capture of those two fish meant it was probably the best week in my entire angling adventure? I’d certainly have to do something very special to beat it.



So now I fast forward to July 2015 and a manifestation of the ridiculous role that fate plays in all our lives? It was mid-afternoon on Sunday 5th, when I rang Benno to say that I was thinking about taking a drive over to Canterbury for my first barbel session of the new season. What a fluke? He’d been drop-shotting just upstream from my favoured stretch, that very morning, reporting that the EA had been carrying out some extensive weed cutting and the situation was absolute carnage. That’s plan A scuppered then, what to do now?  It was at that moment I remembered another angler telling me about some big tench which inhabited a small drain that I had pike fished in the winter of 2011/12. With nothing better to do, I’d give that a try. Bait was already prepared and stored in my freezer; left over from a recent trip down to the river. I left home around 17.30 hrs but, due to access restrictions, did not arrive at the venue much before 19.00 hrs - that's some walk. The drain hadn't seen any angling activity, which was obvious by the luxuriant bank side vegetation. Lily pads and extensive aquatic weed beds, in crystal clear water, made it a very picturesque scene, although finding and preparing a swim was a little problematic. I eventually settled on a swim, which had produced a few decent pike in the past, knowing that the depth was slightly deeper than the average, plus it was on a slight kink in the waterway and, to top it off, had a nicely spaced group of lily pads. I got started by casting a small lead around to establish the condition of the bottom and the extent of the weed growth. Once done, I proceeded to go through the routine of introducing my "munga" which consisted of nothing more than hemp and sweetcorn! Two Duncan Kay's, fitted with Mitchell 300's were assembled and baits cast out onto my spots. Curried chickpeas on the left hand rod, a neutral buoyancy 14 mm halibut pellet/fluoro pop-up combo on the right.



I set about getting a few shots of my gear, but got distracted by several small patches of bubbles appearing over my baited areas. Some time after 20.00 hrs the left hand alarm screamed into action as the indicator smashed up to the rod. The fish went nuts, careering through lily-pads, the line cutting through the stems of these wild plants, like cheese wire. It took three attempts to get it into my waiting net - wrong choice? I was using my 24” round Tring tench version which was perfectly okay for those Stour barbel. I’d certainly not been expecting this. A stunning Common Carp which tipped the scales at 18 lbs 2 oz! I doubt if it had ever seen a hook? Absolutely pristine, beautifully dark, almost like it had been carved out of mahogany - a truly sensational creature. I did my best to get a record shot, but failed to do the fish true justice, my auto focus isn't much cop on timer delay plus the light was starting to fade.




There is no doubt that this capture was nothing more than a fluke, yet the sight of such a glorious creature encapsulated everything I was seeking in my angling. It didn’t have a name and there wasn’t another soul, let alone angler, within miles of me. A truly wild fish from a neglected dyke and, unsurprisingly, I wanted some more of it.

Five days later and I’m back at the waterside, this time for a dawn session. The light was just starting to intensify on the eastern horizon as I went through the ritual of introducing a few pouchfuls of munga and flicking out two hook baits. It was chickpeas on both rods this time round and I hadn’t been fishing for longer than an hour when, at 04.40 hrs, the left hand indicator smashed up to the blank and I was into carp number two. What a battle and what a magnificent fish. If I’d been blown away by my first, then this one pushed me over the edge. Absolutely perfect, in every detail, the rising sun just adding to the drama by picking out the subtle shades of black, brown and bronze, as it lay there on my unhooking mat. I was speechless, although had no-one to talk to, my mind racing through the events that I’d just been privileged to experience. It weighed in at 20 lbs 10 oz and, as such, was my first twenty since February 1984. What a moment, all the more intense because I was alone with my thoughts and emotions. Too early to ring Benno, no point packing up, I sacked my prize and recast the rod; caring not a jot if I caught another fish - ever?






Sitting out there, basking in my moment of glory, bathed by the early morning sun, I decided that 06.15 hrs would be time to pack away the kit and get some selfies done. Already counting down the minutes when, with just ten remaining, the right hander was away. All together a far more routine battle with the outcome being a beautiful, fully scaled, mirror, of 12 lbs 6 oz, joining the party. The rest of the day passed in some sort of a blur as I tried to get my head around what I’d actually achieved? No new PB’s, in truth very ordinary carp if weight is the primary concern. What the capture of those three carp provided was, far more than anything I could have hoped for? It had opened a doorway leading to a path where, once again, I would be able to pit my wits against the demands of truly wild fish in their own backyards. 



Obviously success is based upon very personal goals which, by definition, won't be shared by others. The ridiculous quirk of fate which led to the sequence of events, out there on the drain, has steered my angling ever since. If it hadn't been for the EA weed cutting I might still be dodging the wrong'uns and chasing big barbel along The Stour?




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