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!


Tuesday 30 June 2020

Tough going

I have really struggled to get motivated for anything blog related; nothing to write about being the very obvious issue. The BWKm0 garden list has grudgingly risen to 65 species, courtesy of a flyover Yellow Wagtail (a local breeder displaced by harvesting the potato crop?) but that's it as far as the garden listing is concerned! The Buzzards have disappeared, so will have to go down as a failed breeding attempt? Skylarks remain in situ and, on a very positive note, two Song Thrushes have started singing again. That's been a very long gap since the last one was heard in March! One is over at the farm compound, the other along the railway embankment, down near Hogwarts's (St Lawrence College). Newly arrived and/or looking to attempt raising another brood? Whatever the answer, they're certainly a most welcome addition to the local soundscape.

During the current furlough period, Bev and I have been pottering around doing those things which were always on the "to do list" just not that important to be "must do". The garden pots have now been placed upon a racking system which allows them to be positioned along the fence line without making horrible brown rings on the lawn. Even though I am nowhere close to being a gardener, have to admit that they do make the space so much more pleasing on the eye now that they're tidied up. So now, in addition to my green keeping duties, I cut the lawn, there is also the daily watering of the pots. Can't complain, because the garden is unrecognisable from the jungle that existed after the bungalow refurb had been completed. One major sighting occurred last Saturday when a pristine Silver-washed Fritilary appeared in the garden. I couldn't believe my eyes, thinking it had to be a miss-id'd Comma but, fortunately, it decided to land on the white buddleia (in the centre of the above image) two gardens to the north thus allowing me to confirm my suspicions and add a new species to the garden list. 

Bev has decided that she needs to get some exercise back in her routine, using the fact that I'd be able to accompany her as a motivation to get started. So far, during the past fortnight, we've managed to achieve a little over three miles, which is a vast improvement on sitting in an armchair all day, walking to the fridge or to assist her Mum in the next room. Bev has set her sights on five miles, so with July requiring me to attend work for just ten days, there is every chance that, together, we'll achieve this milestone. We ventured out, this morning, in light drizzle and I was telling her that my chances of seeing Humming-bird Hawk-moth, this year, were almost zero as our Kefalonia holiday was cancelled and the crop of Red Valerian, in and around our garden is vastly reduced from previous years. Imagine my absolute delight when, seeing Bev off the drive, (she wouldn't want to scratch her beloved CX-3) a "Hummer" appeared beside the bungalow feeding on a handful of flowering Valerian which align the driveway. 

An archive photo from five years ago.

Fishing has been a bit of a roller coaster, just lately. Benno has full time work, being self-employed, and the tides haven't been particularly conducive to our efforts whenever we've been able to get out. There have been a few other developments, which I'll keep for another day, suffice to say that we're not smashing it! 

It's not all doom and gloom, despite my increasing despair at the complete ineptitude of our political leaders. A Great White Egret has been spotted several times at Monks' Wall NNR, as I've driven past en route to the Ash Levels. Yesterday evening was to allow me to witness an awesome movement of Common Swifts over the marshes. Many thousands of birds moved south and continued to do so right into twilight, much to my amazement. It was a privilege to be sat there, just in awe of the spectacle that was unfolding in the skies above. If they'd have been Wildebeest, out on the Serengeti, then travel companies could charge huge sums to  watch such events. They ain't, and they can't, because birds don't need to stick to rules. Benno and I were very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, certainly kept us amused whilst the bite alarms remain silent!

Appreciation of big skies is entirely due to the input of Steve Gale. Over this past three weeks I've been pointing the camera in the direction of the setting sun, whenever the event seems worthy, and I've managed to capture the feel of the moment on the odd occasion.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

A Minestrone post

For those visitors who are at a loss, as to the relevance of my choice of post title, might I suggest a tap on Google search, entering the code 10 CC ? It will all become obvious after such an enquiry has been made. To the rest of us "old'ns" no such explanation is required and I'll continue with this offering. Benno and I returned for another session down on the tidal Stour, Sunday, yet still feel we're clutching at straws with our approach and tactics. The only fish, a very small bream, came to my, quiver-tipped, offering of bread flake. We gave it a good five hours and continue to exchange ideas about how we are to progress the challenge. Understanding the tides is but a, very, small aspect in a much bigger picture.  Bait presentation and bite indication have already proven to be areas where there is much room for improvement. There will be many more flaws to iron out before we finish this caper, that's for sure. It wasn't a wasted effort, by any means, and I managed to grab a couple of shots of the huge adult Beaver that is present along this section of the river. Despite steady boat traffic, paddle boards and kayak activity, the first sighting was at 18.10 hrs, in blazing sunshine, as it came powering down the centre of the river. I obtained my photo, some ninety minutes later, as it headed back upstream, swimming much closer to the opposite bank, still in broad daylight.

So to the next bit of this rambling concoction. Revisiting old photo files to see what might have been overlooked?  Well; this has been rather an eye opening journey with some very interesting lessons for me. Birds which had been dismissed as wheatears, now subjected to scrutiny that reveals yes, they are indeed wheatears, but not the species with which I'm familiar. Because, to me, identification really doesn't matter, a jot, I will continue to enjoy the experience of looking at all creatures which cross my path uncluttered by such nonsense. 

The current pan-species/bio blitzing craze is something to which I am as far alienated as is humanly possible. In the year 2020, how are Victorian collector mentalities allowed to prevail within these technologically advanced times? Those same guys who pin invertebrates to data tagged cards then pull out the most advanced camera kit to show, in intimate detail,  the subtleties of the id criteria required for a positive record to be claimed. Why the need to photograph a corpse? Stick the creature in the fridge then take those same images of a living entity before releasing back from whence it came. Can't do that because I'd have a gap in my collection! Might just as well promote egg collecting and erecting statues to celebrate The Slave Trade while they're at it!

Now on to a really weird scenario. Fujifilm SIS were in contact, via the Royal Mail, to all us guys/gals, currently enjoying, oops! sorry, I mean enduring this enforced "furlough" caper. Basically it was to keep us updated and to ask if those it involved would be prepared to exchange holiday entitlement to ensure 100% wages continued to be payed as the Government support started to subside. The parting line being something about your manager getting in touch before 6th July. I'd already spoken with Bev about the fact that this might be a possibility and that "Minge" (my mate Eric, fifteen years my junior, but still thinks he's in control) was the only one at Fuji with my number. Just gone 19.00 hrs, yesterday, and "ping" goes the phone with a message from guess who? I hadn't even opened it, instead walking into the living room to show Bev this crazy message about wanting to use holiday entitlement! Wrong, it was even better than that! 
I don't have the vocabulary to be as pathetic as this whinging 6' 5" excuse of a man. There's a baby seagull fallen down my chimney. "I've rung the RSPCA and they haven't replied. What should I do?" I immediately rang him back, saying that I'd drive over to his place and get it sorted, which I did. The first time I've had the chance to meet his wife, Kim, and took full opportunity of the situation by asking if she was hoping for some type of medal, verging sainthood, for putting up with the useless twat. My parting shot was "you owe me one!" Job's a good'n! Watch this space once we get back to work.

Happy days! The Minge presenting me with a factory IPICs award worth 
enough money to purchase three Nash Siren R3's. No wonder he's my mate?

So now we're close to the finish of this jumble sale of a post. What the f*ck were those Burnley fans thinking when they decided to get a banner "White lives matter Burnley" towed behind a light aircraft over the Manchester City stadium? It amounts to blatant racism and incitement, nothing better. If they'd really wanted to make a statement and incur support for an alternative theme then "All lives matter" would have been the way forward, certainly more likely to win approval than this, seriously misjudged and odious, prank. What the Burnley captain, Ben Mee, had to say about this outrageous stunt is well worth watching. Click here

Saturday 20 June 2020

Better late than never?

This past couple of days I've been really poorly. Nothing to do with the pandemic, food poisoning would be a far more likely cause. Either way, I haven't felt like doing much more than sleeping and visiting the loo - how very pleasant. With my laptop keeping me abreast of the latest developments in the weirdest Premier League games ever played; this afternoon,  I've been going back through old files looking at stuff that has been long forgotten.  It was September 2015, our first holiday on Kefalonia, and I'd had an absolute blast whilst wandering the stunning countryside which surrounds Lourdas. I returned home with more than enough material to produce a series of posts and the photo file got sent to my external hard drive where it has languished ever since. Until today, that is. I was clicking through the several hundreds of images when I came across a series of a warbler in the olive grove, just along the road from the Saoulas Studios which is always our base whenever we're on the island. My first thoughts were why hadn't I made any effort to id the bird? "Couldn't be arsed" being the case at the time, plus copious amounts of Mythos and so much more to enjoy whilst on holiday, thus it simply avoided any scrutiny. The more I looked at the images, the more drawn I was to the fact that it might be something worthy of further research and I've spent a very enjoyable, if interrupted, afternoon grilling this individual.

This is why you visit olive groves in Greece. Olive Tree Warbler

I'm sure that I'm not unique in having difficulty associating familiar birds with completely out of context habitats. I remember, in 1993, finding myself questioning the id of Tree Sparrows, migrating along the cliff-top at St. Margaret's Bay, because my only experiences were from the Hertfordshire countryside and the Ashridge Estate. They were simply not on my radar as a coastal migrant, thus my brain refused to recognise a call, of which I was completely familiar, because of the habitat they were encountered. Over the years, Greek olive groves have provided me with some exceptional birding experiences and I've enjoyed, immensely, the testing conditions of cloudless blue skies and the dappled mix of light and shade created by the foliage of these trees. Prior to 2011, and my rediscovery of specimen hunting, I'd have nailed the id of this bird on the day, using the back of the camera to assist my efforts. 

So what have I got to go on? The above image is the best I managed when I initially found the bird. Obviously hindered by the dense vegetation, the pale tipped primaries, leg colour and that very strong supercilium might be of assistance? This individual was never settled, moving steadily through the foliage searching for food, certainly not overly worried about my presence. 

I managed a series of twelve images in total before it was lost from view. The two images above allow an appreciation of the rusty tone to the brown plumage and a better view of the long primary projection, in the top image, and the substantial beak proportions, in the lower one.

So there you have it. My mystery bird is nothing more exciting than a Great Reed Warbler. I've seen loads during my holiday travels, even a few in the UK, yet didn't think of it when I was actually standing in that olive grove, nor when initially looking at the photos again today. Why? A mental block, my brain incapable of spotting the obvious, purely because of the habitat. I must say that I've rather enjoyed this little exercise and might see what else I can find tucked away in the hard drive, awaiting a second look?

Thursday 18 June 2020

Too much tackle, not enough thought

Benno and I trudged off of the tidal Stour, our gear soaked through due to the persistent rain. It was approaching 23.00 hrs and, as such, our first session can be summed up by three bream, to 4 lbs, falling to Benno's set-up whilst my bait went untouched. With walkie talkies being one of our most important items under these conditions, we had plenty of time to exchange ideas whilst sat in our separate swims. Benno had gone with a two rod approach and, as is obvious, used terminal tackle that was very non species focused. I, on the other hand, opted for a barbel, or nothing, set-up and it is therefore right that nothing was the outcome. 
I'd used a bait dropper to introduce a patch of party mix on the river bed, in nine feet of water, just under my rod tip and fished with a single, Dick Walker Mk IV split cane "Avon" rod, centre-pin and a swim feeder presentation. Bait was a sweet boily/pop-up snowman, on an 18" rig, specifically chosen to avoid the attention of eels. In that fact I was 100% successful, so a good thing, but this being true of every other fish in the river, not so clever. 
The pair of us are well aware of the steep learning curve we've embarked upon, none more so than the amount of gear we need to physically carry from where we have permission to park our vans, then having to walk over a mile to reach the swims. On getting back to the parked vehicles, yesterday night, we both agreed that stripping everything right down to the minimum is a major priority. All things being equal, we'll be back out there on Saturday?

Not the individual which swam past my position on the tidal Stour.
I took this photo a few years back out on the East Kent flatlands - San Miguel is a dodgy brew!

What else happened? Well a bloody Beaver swam brazenly past, in broad daylight at around 20.00 hrs , returning some two and a half hours later. Chris Packham, on Spring Watch, says there are no wild Beavers in Kent, so everywhere I fish on the East Kent marshes I must be hallucinating? San Miguel does that to a man, yet the camera doesn't lie. At least three Cuckoos, two male and a female, were very vocal around our position and it was nice to watch several pulses of Swallows moving east, towards the Richborough roost site (?) as the light began to fade. Kingfishers, Cetti's and Reed Warblers, plus four singing male Yellowhammers, made it a very tolerable blank for my first visit. With the light fading fast and the tide on the turn, fish started to roll in the deeper water in front of me. I can't be certain, but they sure looked like roach. When we return, my kit will be far less specific and, hopefully, I'll start to experience some tidal Stour action?

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Into the unknown

The tidal Stour project starts this evening, as Benno and I make our first casts, of the new season, into this wonderful river. I really hanker after a barbel from our chosen section, Benno is a bit more open minded about what we should be targeting. We know that there are carp present, some rather large individuals have been caught over the years. Bream might feature and, if this is so, a double from the tidal waters would be an exceptional fish by any standards; then there are the chub. What size they might attain in these conditions, who knows? One thing's for sure, my 5 lbs 2 oz PB is very beatable and, again, such a fish from the new stretch would be most welcome. 
Under these circumstances it will be very difficult to gauge our results until we've spent some time learning the ropes. If our time, during 2013/14, along the Willow Close stretch of the river is anything to go by, then we're in for a tough ride. That being said, the rewards were so much more appreciated when they came along because of the effort involved in achieving them. I'd like to think that we've evolved a fair bit, as anglers, in the intervening years and that extra experience might help us avoid the mistakes we'd made during the previous campaign?
Exciting times ahead? I really don't know if it's excitement or trepidation that has me itching to get started on this latest journey into the unknown? If you don't try, you won't fail but, you won't achieve anything either. My philosophy is if you haven't tried, you'll never know your limits or experience the joy pushing the boundaries of what's possible. Is the tidal Stour a venue where dreams become reality? Only one way to find out! 

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Fantastic start

I must say that it was far better than I ever dared hope, given the stuff going on in the background. I ended up down on my syndicate fishery for the opening night malarkey so wasn't expecting too much. Unbelievably, there was just one other angler on the bank and, as such, I was able to partake in my midnight ritual without interruption or background human noise. 
I must admit that I was already fishing a rod, for eels, before that magical hour. To my way of thinking, and that of the EA, eels don't breed in freshwater, thus are fair game during the close season. I managed to land four nice specimens, to 2 lbs 9 oz, during the hours of darkness. The other two rods, however, were cradled in their rests awaiting the church clock to announce the off. One slight fly in the ointment? The church clock doesn't chime after 22.00 hrs, so I was forced to keep an eye on my phone to ensure the ritual was performed as planned. 
Both spots had been pre-baited with a scattering of munga and the rods clipped up to present my baited hooks as accurately as possible. The moment came round, rods were cast and a can of San Miguel raised in honour of those anglers, many of whom are now long gone, who've inspired me to become a fisherman. A Water Rail flew over, calling as it passed, then a Whimbrel did the same. Every now and then a Reed Warbler would burst into song, luckily sleep wasn't much of a priority. I'd set up my kit under the stars, no brolly or bivvy but, a heavy mist descended and my outer sleeping bag got a proper drenching from the resultant dew. It was an incredible session which got even better at 02.30 hrs when a Siren R3 sounded and the clutch of a GT 4000 announced that a carp had taken my hook bait. 
A very spirited battle resulted in my first ever syndicate carp being drawn over the net chord. At 17 lbs 15 oz, it was a lovely Common which, after weighing, was placed in my "recovery" sling so that I could get some photos when the dawn broke. WRONG!
It's called a "recovery" sling, not a "retention" sling, for one very simple reason. Once the carp had rested, for a couple of hours, it simply surged out of the contraption with a huge splash as it made its' escape. Not having any photos of a carp of that size is never going to cause lost sleep. But what if it'd been that thirty? I'm off to see Camo tomorrow in order to rectify the situation. Always learning, and this was a tough lesson, but one that won't need teaching twice.
I came away from the fishery well pleased with what I'd achieved, at such very short notice. The tidal Stour project gets under way tomorrow, hopefully, and is something which I'm looking forward to. I'll now revert back to short session angling, picking and choosing my visits to coincide with favourable weather or tide conditions. The syndicate carp and eels ain't going anywhere, so I've always got a plan B should it be required?

I nicked this image from the Skynews page - hope they don't mind?

I'd just like to finish by giving a huge thumbs up to Marcus Rashford and his campaign to ensure underprivileged kids continue to get free meals during this unprecedented Covid-19 period. At the age of twenty-two, all I cared about was having enough money to buy another pint! "Cometh the hour, cometh the man!" - Marcus has certainly stepped up to the challenge and proven that being a decent member of society is far more powerful than anything Boris & Co can concoct with their elitist clique mentality..

Monday 15 June 2020

The stroke of midnight

I don't have any idea, off the top of my head, how many June 15th rituals I've experienced during my angling journey? All I can say is that it still has a special significance in my own little world, although it means nothing to the current generation of fisher-folk. So tonight, whilst most of the visitors to this blog are tucked up in bed, I'll be awaiting the church clock to announce that magic moment when tradition decrees the start of a "new" season.

It's of absolutely no importance if I catch, or not. Just being there is what fires my imagination, rekindles enthusiasm and is, on hearing those distant chimes, like a starting pistol for the adventures ahead. Isaac Walton said "Study to be quiet" Dick Walker made comment that "There's more than luck to catching a big fish" Come midnight I'll raise a glass (well a can of San Miguel) and toast all those fellow anglers who've inspired me to chase my dreams. Bring it on and let's see where it leads?

Sunday 14 June 2020

More baiting

It was a glorious early morning stroll out across the farmland to reach the section of the tidal Stour that Benno and I have settled on to start our latest campaign. Another bucket of munga was introduced into the areas we'd identified yet, I'm still not sure if this is where I'm going to make that first cast, because I am a little concerned over the ability of a lone angler (Benno has work to attend, so won't be with me for that opening night ritual) to actually net a fish when the water levels fluctuate so dramatically and the currents are so strong. 
I think that we'll end up treating the challenge in much the same way as we did the Willow Close barbel adventure and our early carp fishing exploits on The Royal Military Canal. In both situations the use of walkie talkies was a massive edge whenever a decent fish was hooked. So what else is on offer? Carp, wild carp, that live in the extensive network of drains that criss-cross the entire East Kent marshes. I've got a few places to visit early tomorrow morning, just to check out the potential, before making a decision on where that baited hook is cast, cum mid-night.
It will depend upon my final choice, of venue, as to what kit will be required? Split cane or carbon, Nash GT 4000's or centre-pins, mono or braid? Until I've made a decision, none of this other stuff really matters. At present our back garden is littered with the contents of my van and study. 

Whilst I'm about it, may I offer my apologies for yesterday's offering. The absolute dereliction of duty, as displayed by the current incumbent of No. 10 is staggering. I only have to click on the Sky/BBC news channels to be shown more evidence about why this manipulating fraudster is totally unfit for the office he holds. I do try to steer clear of getting sucked into the malaise, but sometimes just can't help myself. I'm sick, to my stomach, with the complete lack of leadership shown by our elected representatives. So to cheer myself up I've been browsing some holiday snaps - hoping they bring a wry smile?

Saturday 13 June 2020

Our first look & some other stuff

Benno and I had a wander along one of the sections of the tidal Stour, which we are thinking about as a possible target stretch. I had a bucket of munga and a sawn-off with a 3.5 oz Gardner weed rake attached, Benno had a lure rod with his Deeper "pro" fish finder kit. The river was really busy with many folk enjoying their freedom, whilst maintaining social distancing, yet making the most of the superb weather. Quite a few ramblers walking the bank side footpath and we even bumped into a fellow angler who was also prospecting for likely spots to start the new season. One thing that really struck me, as it has done elsewhere recently, was how friendly and polite everyone has become. The guys and gals on their boats, kayaks and paddle boards, the dog walkers and ramblers, every one had the decency to say "hello", "how you doing?" and make the effort to ensure that social distancing rules were abided to wherever possible. Good humoured banter being standard fare during these encounters - long may it continue! 
The river looks to be in absolutely prime condition. The bank side vegetation is luxuriant, and thick, hiding those secretive swims which Benno and I so desire. We think we've located a few, only time will tell, but I'm back down there in the morning to introduce some more munga in the vain hope of getting something going prior to mid-night on Monday. At the present time I'm not too sure if my feelings are those of excitement or anxiety? What madness is about to ensue due to this crazy challenge?  One thing I do know is that I've never had to consult a tide table before tackling a river before. It will be a very steep learning curve as we seek to develop a strategy that allows us to tackle the nuances that this project throws up. With daily level fluctuations being more than two metres, the ebb and flow of the river will have a massive impact upon our ability to present a rig with any degree of confidence. However, until we've tried our luck we'll never learn anything about the challenges that catching the inhabitants, of this lovely river, pose.
Benno and I talked about terminal tackle, rigs and bait whilst we were at the waterside. It was quite an open exchange, as it always is between father and son? We both harbour those same desires, probably due to genetics rather than logic? If this lunacy were to develop into a quest for a "double figure" bream, then we're both happy to adapt our strategies to encompass this target. Very strange times indeed, I've absolutely no idea where I'm headed - much like Boris and his team of, equally, incompetents?
Sorry folks, this is where the soap box comes out. The only difference between these two scenarios is that my short comings impact upon no-one, but me, Boris & Co's failings have far reaching consequences for the entire populous of the United Kingdom and beyond! More than ever the UK needs a leader. What we've got is a complete imbecile, who'd struggle to hold his own in a pub, let alone parliament. He's lost the plot and must do the decent thing for the benefit of our nation. Both him and Cummings need to exit, stage left, and allow our nation to move forward. Will it happen? Will it F*CK! Arrogance and elitism reign, "wealth before health" and "don't do as I do, do as I say" Any real surprise that there's civil unrest within our cities? The "Black Lives Matter" protests are just the tip of an iceberg  of issues which our political elite need to address. "Can't stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen!" Boris and his cohorts couldn't boil an egg before they were out of their comfort zone. Please feel free to click the following link to see how Boris is viewed by far more intelligent folk than I.

Friday 12 June 2020

Pushing boundaries

"You never know your limits until you've gone beyond them" It's a quote from my murky past, probably relating to some sporting achievement or endurance test? Either, which way, the sentiment has poignancy in context of my current thought processes. Benno has been keen for us to get back out, together, chasing dreams which are,well away from the madding crowds! The tidal Stour seems perfect for a brand new challenge and, thankfully, many miles of this wonderful river are flanked by the farmland to which I have access. No club ticket, no rules, just the common decency required to say please and thank-you when seeking permission from the land owners. Those same, generous, guys who've been kind enough to allow me to  chase wild carp in the myriad drainage dykes which criss-cross the marshland of East Kent. 

What's it all about? For a couple of years, now, I've been toying with the idea of tidal river barbel. As far as I'm aware they have not been captured in this section of the Stour? So the one big question is "are they present?" The thinking behind this quest is based upon very sound reasoning. Barbel, including some very big barbel, are to be found in the tidal reaches of the Trent, Severn and Thames, so why not in the Kentish Stour? If Benno and I don't try, we'll never know. Failure won't mean anything more than our efforts were not good enough, certainly no way are we that arrogant to think that the barbel aren't present just because we can't catch one. You only have to go back to our 2013 campaign to see how much we struggled to get a grasp of the barbel conundrum in the, non tidal, Canterbury stretch of this wonderful Kent river. No, this is a leap of faith, and the outcome might not be as we expect? There are some very large carp swimming around in these same waters, and chub, even decent bream, so we might just find ourselves taken off at tangents, results dictating where we focus our effort.

The drains are still there, waiting, should I need a carp fix, plus my syndicate fishery will start to quieten down as the members have their fill, so the eels remain, very much, on the radar. Due to the furlough rules, I'm not allowed back on site, at Fuji, for three weeks; whoopee do! As things stand, it seems I've been given the best chance of exploiting the unknown potential of this wonderful river due to the ridiculous fall out caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  I'll take it all day long. Getting full salary to sit behind a fishing rod - you couldn't make it up? In the back of my mind, I still hanker after wild carp and one out of the tidal Stour would certainly fit the bill. So I'm going into this particular project with a very open view as to what I will call success. As when we tackled the Canterbury section, it will be one rod each. Under no circumstances do we want the self inflicted pain of losing a fish due to it picking up another line.

Rigs, bait and tackle? I'll have to see how it pans out. Where? You'll wait an awful long time for me to disclose such information. It was seven years before I even mentioned Willow Close, and that was the worst kept secret in Kent barbel fishing. Out of respect for the land owners, no chance of me spilling the beans, although I quite like the thought of an un-invited (ponce) angler being confronted by a shotgun wielding, angry, farmer as opposed to an EA, rod license, bailiff. No, by definition, Benno and I are searching for the unknown and we'll keep it like that all the while the challenge remains viable. There are two ways of approaching this type of situation. "know when you're beaten" or "never give up" - let's see how it evolves and where it leads.

I've already stated previously. The Covid-19 situation is a very strange time and, I'm sure, will result in very strange things happening. A tidal river barbel might just be the start?

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Not obligatory to fit in

The feeling of belonging, being part of something far bigger than the individual items that constitute the whole, is a very comforting one. My angling adventures have seen me joining various clubs and societies over the course of my life. Likewise, birding has resulted in my involvement with the BTO, the Herts Bird Club and, most rewardingly, the Kent Ornithological Society  (KOS). I'd like to think that, whilst a member, my input into all of these organisations was a positive one, although I suppose that it's best left for others to pass judgement?
In June 2020 I'm no longer a member of any mainstream organisation or society. Obviously I have membership at a local syndicate fishery, thus am required to abide by their rules. however, in no way am I duty bound to become a provider of data. If I wish to tell others of my catches, it's entirely my decision. Likewise, with my bird sightings, moths, butterflies, odonata and absolutely anything else I encounter during my time spent outdoors. What some other folk consider important is simply enjoyment to me and, as such, unimportant beyond the boundaries of my time spent looking and learning. That I choose to use such material to compile a post on my blog, again, my decision. What ain't up for debate is that I have to submit this same information to whatever, whoever, feels the right to know! 
During my final years as a KOS member I was given some confidential information about breeding Red Kites, by a gamekeeper. I never did visit the nest site, yet admittedly, enjoyed some fantastic time watching the birds on the private estate where they had set up territory. Imagine my reaction when I received a message from a KOS committee member asking for details of the breeding attempt! You what? I'll send you my bank details too, shall I? If that gamekeeper had wanted to share the information with the KOS, it was for him to do so. Certainly not my place to abuse the trust that the guy had placed in me, by telling the rest of Kent! It was that incident, on top of being branded a liar by BBRC over the Booted Eagle saga, which tipped the balance and why I now have no desire to be party to any of this nonsense.
I'm happy to continue along life's pathway enjoying the creatures, and experiences they provide, as time elapses. If I feel the need, then I'll blog about my encounters. not because I have to but, because I want to. There is a huge difference between the two scenarios. Freedom of choice, the beauty of being an individual, after all "you'll never make a difference by being the same as everyone else"

I'll end it here with a photo of a Marsh Warbler. I've found quite a number of these very desirable birds whilst on my wanderings, sadly never managed a Blyth's Reed Warbler during those same adventures. 
One of these Marsh Warblers was at Stodmarsh NNR and was deliberately suppressed by the warden! If birders aren't able to see birds at a National Nature Reserve, what's the point of tax payers supporting them?  Another topic for another day?

Monday 8 June 2020

Five more days?

At 07.30 hrs, this morning, I started  my final week of the three which are part of my furlough rota. Thus far, customer demand has been so low that eight of us have been able to keep up with order levels in a department which, pre Covid-19, had a minimum manning requirement of thirty-four! What happens after I walk out of the factory, next Friday afternoon, who's to know? Will I ever return to full time work at the site or is it the signal for impending early retirement? The stark reality is that nothing I did created this situation and nothing I can do will change it. Whatever will be; will be.

My immediate reaction to finishing that final shift will be roll on June 16th! Very selfish and one dimensional, but I am really looking forward to getting back out on the marshes in my continuing quest for wild carp. The syndicate fishery is always there as a fall back, should I require it. So a "win - win" situation with three free weeks to make the most of this next furlough period. Plans are very fluid. The only overnight session will be that ritual mid-night start on 16th June, Absolutely no doubt that I'll blank; it's just the being out there that matters? After getting that "Opening Night" silliness out of my system, it will be a return to the short (four to six hours) sessions which are now my preferred option, whatever species I'm targeting. 

My original 1959 Mk IV had no problems with this superb fish from The RMC
Only another six and a half pounds to go!

The bait freezer is absolutely crammed full of party mix, chickpeas and mashed bread. The bait cupboard has stacked cans of flaked tuna, in brine, and cheap sweetcorn, all awaiting the liquidiser treatment before getting thrown into the munga. Catapults, bait droppers and spods (I don't own a "Spomb") are all ready to be pressed into action dependant upon the situation I am faced with. I've got plenty of time, in the interim, to play around with rig mechanics and associated bait presentations. I've got a small tank in which I'm able to fine tune those tiny details which might just be the edge that I desire. 

The split cane thirty quest won't ever cease, as a project, until I realise my promise or age/ill-health intervenes. What I have now realised is that there is no time limit on this challenge, nor is there pressure to succeed, beyond that of my own making. One thing's for sure, however, I certainly have more influence over the chances of a thirty pound carp ending up in my landing net than I do over my future employment prospects. These are strange times and very strange things, just, might happen?

Sunday 7 June 2020

Interesting visitor

The garden remains central to my involvement with the local birdlife and yesterday, after mowing the lawn, I topped up the feeders and sat in my study watching the visitors. When this turned up I had to do a double take. Only a House Sparrow, but it certainly had me going when I first set eyes on it. I'd not seen this individual before, nor since!

Rather a smart little bird in a strange sort of way. What I was really hoping for is a Rose Coloured Starling, Everyone can dream, after all, just ask Gavin Haig. I wonder if he's stopped dribbling yet?

Saturday 6 June 2020

The need for an edge

I had a very interesting chat, whilst observing social distancing rules, with my mate Gary, Team Leader for the digital packing department at Fujifilm SIS. He's a carp angler and a member of the Darenth syndicate, up near Dartford. With UK carp over forty pounds to his name, he seems to know his way around the modern circuit-type angling scene and is very aware of the associated pitfalls that await those who get involved with this style of carp fishing.  Instant, off the shelf, anglers are now the biggest problem to be overcome at the majority of day-ticket venues and popular syndicates. "All the gear - no idea!" These guys have everything that Korda, Fox, Nash, ESP, Avid, et al, can sell them. Watercraft, bank side etiquette? Can't buy it, so they don't need it. I've mentioned this previously. Angling must be the only pursuit which elevates social scrounging, work shy, tramps, to some form of hero status because of their ability to go camping, with fishing rods, for extended periods. Even the most incompetent idiot will get lucky occasionally; after all they're only catching fish!
These guys are using time to disguise a lack of basic ability. Think about it like this. I've never held a golf club in my life yet, if money were no object, could turn up at Royal St. George's Golf Course and tee off at hole number one, chase a golf ball for the entire course, ending up picking it from the eighteenth hole. It wouldn't make me a decent golfer because of this folly. Darren Clarke will have done exactly the same thing when winning The Open in 2011!  I would probably require 300 shots, he'd have walked the same route, four times, carding about seventy, per round, to win the ultimate accolade. The thing is we would have started and finished in exactly the same spots. So if the golf course is the fishery and each hole a step towards catching the ultimate prize, which we'll call the eighteenth hole, then given unlimited time will allow anyone to achieve their goal. The time bandit versus the skilled angler. The "off the shelf - Johnie cum latelies" might well catch a decent carp, but will they ever be able to replicate their luck? Do they have the nous to learn anything from success?
It's not my intention to question how others derive their enjoyment from time spent out fishing, yet feel that there is a general dumbing down of the accepted standards due, entirely, to the influences surrounding tunnel visioned carp angling.  The few guys I've had conversations with, down at my syndicate venue, seem to be decent folk. Friendly and happy to offer advice, if asked, they all use three rods, sat on rod pods with three matching bobbins, and pile in boilies because that's what the others do! I might be missing something, but it does seem to me that original thinking isn't part of the carp angler's remit. When I, eventually, dust down the Mk IV's and start my carping campaign at the two syndicate waters, then one thing's for certain; I won't be copying what anyone else is doing!
"If what you do is the same as everyone else, why should your results be any different to everyone else?" This is an approximated quote from a Carl & Alex (Smith), two very successful Youtubers, offering and was attributed to their, non-angler, Dad. Reservoir Diaries? I'm not too sure, but it certainly hit home with me. It's not a new concept. Going back to the late 80's, Eddie Turner had offered very similar advice when I chatted with him about my decision to stop using livebaits, in preference for dead bait, for my pike fishing. "Make sure you do it different" was the crux of his valued opinion. I've stuck with it ever since!
Thinking outside the box is bi-product of my Unilever days. Once Sarah Frost ( I often wonder where she is now? ) had given me the chance to learn how business operated beyond the shop floor? I've, since, used these structured processes in my approach to many other aspects of life. Problem solving and understanding the benefit of change are now fundamental in the way I do things. No! Getting my hair cut or swapping split cane for carbon ain't gonna happen, but I still recognise the advances that have been made within a whole range of spheres which now influence my life. At Fujifilm SIS we use "Continuous Improvement" strategies to help move the business forward. In reality these are just re-branded ideas from those which Sarah had been championing way back in the late 1990's/ early 2000's!
One of the previous Fuji CEO's had made quite a big deal of his "don't look back, look forward" rhetoric. Although his reasoning is well founded, the message was not. History can teach us many lessons, if we are receptive to the concept? We only learn from past mistakes, simply ignoring them is a one way passage to failure, for a business, or another blank session as an angler.
So here I am, in search of that edge which will give the advantage over the "clones" who are unwilling/unable to think for themselves. Bread, worms, umpteen varieties of particle baits which can be purchased from Tesco, thus not endorsed by the major brand labels with the resultant carp tax, are the way forward. Let's not overlook potatoes, carp love them and I wouldn't mind betting that my syndicate fisheries have never seen one offered as a bait? The scope is only limited by my own imagination. Whilst I'm still searching for that "something" which will define my approach, what is not up for discussion is the use of the modern technology which is available to all anglers. Hooks and associated terminal tackle items are of a quality that were unimaginable in the the 1990's. To ignore this progress would be akin to the rejection of Darwin? All I need to do is find that little niche into which my bait is offered in a way that the fish aren't suspicious of. It's not a MENSA exercise, yet the vast majority of folk, who go fishing, still fail the exam.

Thursday 4 June 2020

The Flatlands are calling

I, like every other remotely intelligent member of the human race, realise that the current situation with Covid-19 is playing havoc with what we've always perceived as normality. That Fujifilm SIS and the Conservative government have managed to cobble together a system by which I will be paid well over £4 k, after tax, for going to work for fourteen days in two months, is mind blowing. What is even better is the fact that Fuji have put me on a rota which allows me three weeks free time from June 15th! Whilst membership of the syndicate is a great comfort, the wild carp of the East Kent marshes are what fire my imagination and keep me counting down the days until, once again, the mid-night chimes signal the commencement of another "new" chapter in my angling story. 

If nothing changes, but I'm sure it most certainly will, I plan to retire in December 2021. Should I be asked to make a decision? With no mortgage or debt to worry about then I should really leave the job opportunities to the younger guys who do have mortgages and kids to care for. Having said that, these are the same group who whinge about being asked to sweep the car park? Do they really deserve the job? Either which way, that's a discussion for another day and all I need focus on is ensuring that I've got everything in place for a mid-night start on the 15th. 

Realistically, the split cane thirty gig, will happen at the syndicate fisheries, yet the drains still have the potential to deliver on my promise. Under these present circumstances I am more than happy to be sat behind the rods and accept whatever the angling gods are willing to deliver. Three weeks is a long time,.Being able to react to the conditions and do short, three/four hour, sessions will suit me down to the ground. I've always believed that it is ability, over time, which defines a competent angler. There are a few other ideas spinning around in the mix which might well provide a distraction should the carp decide not to play ball. 

I'd love the chance to catch another 7 lbs+ tench

Tench, eels and bream, in that order, have me quite excited about the potential of the syndicate fisheries. Once June is out of the way, I am hoping to be able to return to just turning up for a, mid week, dawn/evening session without the need to pre-book.  Only time will tell.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

New Blogger - take two

I'm now half way through my three weeks of work during the, initial "furlough" period that Fujifilm SIS have planned. Although we are certainly not busy, in the factory, there's been enough going on to avoid me getting sent home. That'll do for me! For the past two days I've been clearing up around the site perimeter, having commented on what a state the car park and solar panel areas looked. Discarded rubbish and general debris not showing the company in the best light. Under the current circumstances I was more than happy to undertake the clean up. It seems unbelievable to me, but some guys had refused to do this type of work, saying it was not "essential". What bloody planet do they inhabit? 
So for these couple of days I've certainly been the best paid litter picker/car park sweeper on Thanet, if not Kent? With the Pyson's Road gull colony in full breeding mode, it was always going to be the case that I would be alerted to any passing raptors. One Common Buzzard, and a couple of occurrences which I failed to see what the cause was, yet generally rather quiet. I have discovered a Pied Wagtail nest site, within some pallets, but not much else on the birding front. Having read the reports from Sandwich Bay Obs, telling of huge numbers of Red Kites moving northwards, I'm at a loss to understand why I haven't seen any whilst working outside? Maybe a case of head down, arse up? Gulls certainly aren't bothered by overflying Red Kites in the same way they are about Buzzards and even Grey Herons.

Our feeding station remains a major draw for the local birdlife, although species now featuring are all very predictable. Starlings appear to be have an exceptional breeding season and it's not unusual to have in excess of forty birds in, and around, the garden. The vast majority being newly fledged juvvies! Feeding soaked mealworms certainly causes a surge in activity, whilst they last, as Starlings, House Sparrows, Magpies and a pair of Jackdaws seek to grab their share of these highly nutritious food items. I also scatter a few around the lawn to allow the Blackbirds a chance to enjoy the feast. Hedgehogs continue to come to the food provided, on a nightly basis, although what they don't eat is quickly cleaned up by our local Herring Gulls. The individual fitted with a BTO ring is a regular early morning scavenger and I have, so far, managed to read G11 as the start of the code. It's a work in progress.
Fishing remains a very scarce option, what with having to book in advance with the syndicate bailiff, but June 16th isn't too far away and the flatlands are, once again, calling.
So this is my first post for June and, touch wood, it would seem that my issues with Google's new version are starting to be conquered. I won't start boasting too soon, cos I know something will occur that bites me on the arse! Watch this space.