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 29 March 2021

Ground Hog day

 Young Mr Gashby is the digital packing area supervisor, for want of a better job description, This, by definition, means that he's also my superior - Oh how he wishes? Fortunately, he's also a fellow angler and a mate. I use the term angler in the loosest of meanings - he's a carp fisherman and there's a big difference between our approach to this mutually shared hobby. However, he ain't a bad lad and, living up in the Medway area, has access to a vast array of second hand kit via the wonders of "FLEABAY". Over the past few years Gary has obtained, on my behalf, a pair of Wychwood "Big Pit" reels, the Carp Porter barrow and, now, a Nash Ground Hog brolly system has come into my possession. 

The Ground Hog brolly is a piece of kit that has been on my wish list for quite a while. The basic stabilized oval brolly system is all I required, but have been supplied the full-fronted ensemble, complete with groundsheet. It's a, short session, bivvy in this guise. So why do I need such equipment? I have a maximum of seventeen working days until I walk away and, with this in mind, have just renewed my local syndicate subscription to ensure that I have a venue where I can take the grand-kids over the summer. Obviously there are also the superb facilities and that realistic chance of a "thirty" which can't be ignored. I have no intention of becoming a "time bandit" but will, without doubt, have the ability to allow the prevailing conditions (rather than holiday entitlement and shift patterns) to dictate my need to be on the bank. That Ground Hog brolly will give me all protection, from the elements, that I require whilst sat on the exposed banks of the syndicate venues, What I can't deny is the fact that my £5 CK Stakeout Mk II brolly has given stout service since 2013 but is now well beyond its' serviceable use. A wing and a prayer is at best, knackered closer to the reality. If the Ground Hog is capable of providing eight years service then I'll be well into my seventies and very much doubt the continued desire to endure conditions which warrant the use of such items?

The last pieces are falling into place; retirement is, now, just weeks away. There are a few more bits of kit that I would like to have in my armoury before that fateful day. A baiting pole system being top of the list, but there are other bibs and bobs I'd like and am doing my best to ensure everything is in place for the start of this next chapter in my angling adventure.

Sunday 28 March 2021

A far more interesting bird

 With a westerly wind, gusting 40 mph at times, this morning I headed off for a quick scan of Newlands in a vain search for that first Wheatear of the Spring. All I discovered, for my limited effort, was a lone Meadow Pipit and five Sky Larks! Once back in the comfort of my study, hot coffee to hand, I was able to spent a while watching the feeding station and enjoying the antics of the regular visitors. I suddenly became aware of a Chiffchaff feeding low down in the Dog Rose at the bottom of our garden. Too good an opportunity to pass by, I grabbed my camera and crept outside. With a bit of stealth and a great deal more good fortune, I was able to get some decent images of this individual and it is clearly a newly arrived migrant as demonstrated by the pollen encrustation on its' forehead. I believe it to be Portland Bird Observatory that were behind the research effort which revealed that this "pollen horn" was made up of Eucalyptus and Citrus pollen which would have origins in North Africa, Portugal and Spain. It is because of that type of really interesting science garden birding is such a rewarding way of enjoying these encounters. All that way from Africa just to spend time in my garden, en route to its' final destination. Who knows where?

What a joy to be able to spend time watching this long-distance traveller

Saturday 27 March 2021

Rats with wings

 Feral Rock Doves, or "(Micky) Streeters" as we used to call them in Hemel Hempstead - a long story, are not particularly high on my favourite garden bird list. They are begrudgingly allowed to feed in, and around, the garden on the basis that my neighbour, Barbara, absolutely loves them and happily feeds them copious amounts of seed every morning. They know what's coming and assemble, en mass, on the partition fence awaiting this daily ritual. Today, whilst outside scanning for additions to the BWKm0 list, I spotted a stranger in their midst. A ringed Racing Pigeon. I grabbed the camera and quickly rattled off a series of shots which have allowed me to get the ring details. Not too sure what to do with the info? Someone out there might be able to point me in the right direction?

There are obviously two rings. The blue one has the code GB 21 F12603. The yellow one is a split ring and might just have a phone number on it. However, the start of the code is obscured by the overlapping plastic so all I've managed to read is ......9 268993. Of course I might be wrong and the yellow ring is a race entry band? The fact that I'm blogging about a bloody pigeon speaks volumes about the local birding to be had today!

Thursday 25 March 2021

Scratching around - it's better than nothing?

 Just one more day's O/T, tomorrow, then it appears the gravy train has hit the buffers. This weekend has been cancelled, work wise, and there's nothing on offer in the run up to the Easter break. No point complaining, I've certainly had more than my fair share of the extra dosh that's been available. With the end now well in sight, those kind folk at HMRC will spend some time working out how much they owe me before that tax rebate is headed back my way. O/T in the run-up to retirement, I told you there was method in the madness. Bev and I are now both looking forward to this new chapter in our lives.

After I'd posted the latest instalment, I was sat in the study with the door wide open, camera kit at the ready, awaiting some hedgehog action. I wasn't to be disappointed, as just before 23.00 hrs a very large individual appeared and spent a good ten minutes crunching away at the Tesco "kitten biscuits". A right messy sod, there were pellets strewn all around the two feeding dishes before it decided to have a quick drink and vacate the area. Another hedgehog turned up. just after midnight, but I'd already closed the door so was unable to get any more photos.

Late up, this morning, I only had an hour out in the garden before work called. A Common Buzzard came spiralling over, but there was very little else to report. With the weekend now free, let's hope that I can do a little better with the BWKm0 listing?

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Gathering momentum

 As I count down the days until retirement, my BWKm0 project is really starting to kick in. After a rather sterile period, post Storm Darcy, birds are now starting to move as Spring approaches. Two more additions to the list have been the obvious highlights, but there's plenty of other stuff to keep me entertained. 

No. 52 - Blackcap - a male at the bird bath yesterday morning

No. 53 - Siskin - a beautiful male on the feeders early this morning

Chiffchaffs are now starting to trickle through, there were three together yesterday. A pair of Chaffinches seem to be prospecting a territory a couple of gardens to the south and that male Mistle Thrush has started to sing from the flowering cherry next door. Absolutely brilliant. I've been playing around with the camera kit, pre work, and have captured a few images that are able to show the simple pleasure of garden birding?

So that's my news for today, let's see what tomorrow will bring?

Monday 22 March 2021

BWKm0 No. 50 - I was almost right

Two more additions for the latest "lockdown" list and boy was I close with my prediction of yesterday? Activity around, and under (more about that later), the feeding station was fairly constant with all the regular visitors putting in appearances during the couple of hours I had spare, pre-work. Still one pair of Greenfinches hanging around, this is the male without the BTO ring, and it was a nice surprise to see several Chaffinches drop in to pick up crumbs from the feeders above. It was whilst I was watching a pair, flicking about in the neighbours flowering cherry that I heard that unmistakable call of a Brambling as a small flock of birds passed over the garden. So No. 50 wasn't either of the species I'd thought, but No. 51 certainly was. I was undertaking a bit of "pest control" with my trusty old 1959 Webley Mk III air rifle when I espied a Chiffchaff flycatching from the rear of our garden Elder bush/tree. The Common Buzzards are back on territory over at the farm compound, where a Mistle Thrush was also belting out his song in the still morning air. A group of four Rooks went north, which is right on cue for this time of year and there is a noticeable increase in the Blackbird numbers, around the gardens of Vine Close, although I've made no accurate counts. 

So back to my pest control efforts? I begrudge the seed that is consumed by the hoards of feral Rock Doves that my neighbour, Barbara, actively encourages, but because I am also able to provide food for Collared Doves and Rose-ringed Parakeets, put up with their presence. Brown Rats, on the other hand, are totally unwanted visitors and I do my utmost to ensure they don't become accustomed to the hospitality afforded other wild guests. I've shot twenty-seven during the last ten days and, before anybody gets on their high horse, it's because I think shooting is far more humane than indiscriminate use of rodenticide poisons. Still want to make a fuss? My simple answer is PSL - lets kill something to tick another box! 

Sunday 21 March 2021

A bit of garden birding

Not said too much about the local birdlife of late. Probably because there's been very little to write about and my head has been in other places. Work remains a massive part of my life, but there is light at the end of that particular tunnel. That wonderful carp provided a magnificent finale to the 2020/21 season, whilst Bev and I are now getting things in place to ensure the next chapter in "The adventures of Dyl & Bev" gets underway as smoothly as possible. Early on Saturday morning I finally managed to add another species to the BWKm0 list

No. 49 - Long-tailed Tit - a single bird very briefly on the fat-ball feeder

There are any number of species which could be No. 50 but, if I was a gambling man, my money would be split between Chiffchaff and Red Kite. There was a big movement of Redwings, early this morning, many hundreds of birds headed N/NW as I was getting ready for work early doors. A female Kestrel has taken up residence around the Vine Close area and, today, it was perched in a small Hawthorn at the end of our neighbours garden. I grabbed a few shots through the double glazed study door. Just as well, because it wasn't happy with me opening the door and was away as I turned the handle. Rose-ringed Parakeets numbers have increased of late, with up to nine birds descending on the sunflower heart feeders at times.


A week of late-shifts to come, although I'll be grabbing fifteen hours O/T between Monday & Friday, then sixteen hours over the weekend. There is method in this madness, as you'll discover at a later date.


Saturday 20 March 2021

Wilderness carping - my way

 I'm sure that I've posted a version of this tale, somewhere in the not too distant past. But, having spent a good time going over the events leading up to last Friday, feel sure it is worthy of another, up-dated, airing? The start of this adventure has its' roots firmly embedded in the lunacy of a three season long campaign after the Barbel of the Kentish Stour. Or, more accurately, those Barbel which inhabited the stretch between Willow Close and Broad Oak Industrial Estate. Canterbury. Can't be more precise as I wouldn't want to spoil it for the locals - ha ha ha! That period which Benno and I spent, and were amply rewarded for, was a surreal mix of Billy Smart's Circus and The Wild West - there were some proper wrong'uns knocking about the banks during those times. Although I must make it very clear that neither Benno, myself, or any of our other mates, who fished this stretch, ever had cause for concern because of the antics of this alternate mob! To be fair, we all enjoyed a level of success which., even looking back now, has to be right up there with our finest moments. Benno, Luke and I all caught barbel which set new PB weights, whilst Tom Bradbury and Bunny took their first fish from this wonderful river. So many happy days! 

12 lbs 10 oz of Broad Oak barbel - fantastic memories of crazy times, dodging the wrong'uns!

So to that fateful day, July 6th 2015, and how a single phone call changed the direction of my angling journey forever. I was a loose end and found myself with an opportunity to get out with the rods, yet hadn't anything planned. "I know, I'll get down the river for an evening Barbel session" and, as luck would have it, knew that Benno and Luke had been "drop-shotting or micro - jigging?" around the Sainsbury's stretch that very morning. My phone call to Benno is catalyst to the whole saga. If it hadn't taken place who knows what I'd be fishing for today? So there I was, already given the okay by Bev, sorting out the barbel gear for an evening session on the river when Benno provided the news that EA weed cutting, further upstream, had rendered the river unfishable. I was clutching at straws for a Plan B, I didn't have one. I remembered a conversation, with a fellow angler, whilst pike fishing out on the marsh. He'd spoken of tench that he, and his mates, had caught from a nearby venue, with weights that made my time on Wilstone seem ordinary? Obviously there are many outside influences that have impacted upon water quality and fish growth since the 1980's and this might well be a consequence. Whatever the current status, there was only one way to discover the truth of this particular situation, I had to take a look for myself. A leap of faith, if you like? 

I wasn't set up to go tench fishing, my kit for that first session was bastardised barbel tackle and the associated bait options that came with it. I did have one ace up my sleeve, as I still had a tub (a Chinese take away container) of frozen "curried" chick peas left over from the 2014 season. Tally - ho! That first session was purely on a whim; swim choice based upon gut feeling and a smidgen of watercraft. I saw no signs, nor had any previous knowledge, it really was a chuck it and see session. The chick peas were the only extra that I took with me, 18 mm halibut pellets being my go to barbel baits at that time. The flatlands are a fabulous place to waste away a few hours and I really don't recall the time span between casting my baits and that first bite.  What I do remember is the absolute "out of the blue" moment when the alarm, on the chick pea set up, sounded and the indicator slammed up to the butt ring. The battle, that ensued, was epic, purely because I was thinking all things tench. I'd only taken my Tring 24" circular pan net and found myself well out gunned by this first encounter with these wild carp of the flatland drains. It took three attempts before my adversary was securely within the folds of that inadequate net and what a fish it was to behold. An 18 lbs 2 oz Common Carp lay there before me. A truly stunning fish, right out of the mould of those iconic carp that Dick Walker and Jack Hilton had, so eloquently, written about all those decades before. I can't, honestly, recall another fish making such an impact? Yet, I'm sure my first 2 lbs + Roach did, as would have the first 7 lbs + Tench but, at that moment I knew Carp fishing still had a place in my own angling adventure. I still had an opportunity to push myself without resorting to the "tackle tart" mentality of circuit water carping. It was just four days later, but this time for a dawn start, that I really set the wheels in motion. No messing about, pretending to be Tench fishing, I had the 42" landing net with the full carp set-up and wasn't to be disappointed. Two bites = two carp landed. The larger of the brace, another magnificent Common Carp, was my first twenty since February 1984, I was living the dream? 

My first twenty plus carp in thirty - one years!

I carried on visiting the venue, catching quite a few more fish, all Commons, to just over sixteen pounds but, somehow allowed myself to get distracted and ventured off on another challenge. The winter was spent pike fishing but, as I passed my sixtieth birthday mark, received a 1959 "Earl's Court Boat Show" limited edition B James & Son, Dick Walker Mk IV, split cane, carp rod from my family. I couldn't help myself? I went out and purchased another one, so as I could fish with a pair of these iconic relics from an era when all fish were equal in status and merit. The East Kent drains are subjected to the traditional close season ruling that applies to the entire Stour catchment area. The Royal Military Canal, however, does not fall under this statute and it was here that I embarked upon my quest to catch a split cane thirty. This was something which became far more important to me, at a very personal level, later in the year. Benno was still living down at Sandgate at this time and we were to embark upon a rather enjoyable project which was to see us both take some very nice carp from the Seabrooke section of the fishery. Because Benno was living so close by, we were able to indulge in a pre-baiting program which certainly aided our effort. A lesson which has not been forgotten.

June 2016 and as the new season got underway, so I was back out on the flatlands, once again looking for that thrill of chasing the unknown - catching the impossible? I got off to an absolute flier, two more twenties, including a Mirror of 23 lbs 10 oz, and a nineteen before my father's deteriorating health put an end to the effort. Bev and I were to move into Dad's place thus ensuring he could remain at home as he neared the end. We kept our word, Dad passed away, peacefully, in his own bed and I'd had plenty of time to  re-assess what is actually important in life?  My promise that I'd catch a thirty on my family's gift now, more than ever. means that I have a target to focus upon. After the funeral was out of the way I returned to the marsh to continue my quest, yet with a nagging doubt about the reality of such a carp actually living in these drains. 

I switched venues and quickly stumbled upon a fish which looked like it might just be "the one". I had a 21 lbs 14 oz Common Carp, very shortly after getting back fishing but had, then, to suffer the moronic baiting overload, by a selfish half-wit, which ended the project for that year. Any how, it's in the past and that, misguided loser has now departed the flatlands. I returned for a few sessions during the following season but had got involved with a couple of club waters and, have to admit, didn't give it my best effort. There can be no getting away from the utter joy I derived from my time spent at those club venues but, as with so many things it seems, politics and personality clashes brought an abrupt end to the situation. I walked away. Glad I'd spent time on the banks and fortunate to encounter the characters who's paths had been crossed whilst simply enjoying catching carp from these popular fisheries. Even though I found the fisheries to be less than testing, there were still good learning opportunities to be had in terms of understanding the nuances of rig mechanics and bait presentation. Although completely over-run by "scamps" I did manage to snare the largest "known" fish in the complex on a margin fished floater set-up presented on a Mk IV split cane and Mitchell 300 combo.

As far as I'm aware - this single carp represents the "A Team" in this fishery.
To be honest, it was a very pleasing moment and one that comes as close, as I want, to
"circuit" venue angling. A cracking fish on the split cane.

The drains were still out there, nagging away in the background, and I embarked upon another project but had to curtail the effort due to outside influences. First it was Bev's father, quickly followed by her Mum's deteriorating health, that was to put a stop to any thoughts of extended sessions and pre-baiting campaigns. I know that a few carp were caught during this period of uncertainty, but there was no rhyme, nor reason, to the angling effort involved. I was just going through the motions.

The Dick Walker, split cane, Mk IV's awaiting action on the RMC.
That left hand bite alarm is an original Steve Neville, circa 1993, the
indicators are Tring tench swing arms and the reels? Mitchell 300's of course!

So now I'm up to the here and now. As promised, I will explain the thought processes involved in my approach to carp fishing these intimate venues at this time of year. This isn't a "how to" but, more precisely "how I do it" type of offering. I've passed comment about steering clear of circuit fisheries and the cult status created by the big brands, within the hobby. Yet there is no way I can ignore the superb range of, high quality, products offered by these top end manufacturers. To do so would be verging on insanity. The kit I have on show, to those souls whom I encounter, doesn't matter a jot to the carp? What really does matter is what I'm presenting in the water and how it appears to those fish I'm targeting. I don't have (or want) any affiliation to the big brands within modern carp angling but am happy to state that I have the utmost faith in Korda hooks, particularly their "wide gape" pattern, coated braids and tungsten tubing. Similarly Nash have produced so much high quality kit that I now find myself the proud owner of three Siren R3 alarms, plus a receiver box, and two Scope GT4000 reels. I'm rapidly morphing into a "carp faggot!" Adverts over - where was I?

The approach of Storm Darcy had been well documented. The forecasters predicting doom and gloom across vast tracts of the UK. Me? I'm pike fishing out on the flatlands where I was able to witness some incredible surface activity by carp and tench in a very localised area of the drain I was fishing. Having finished the session, before I went home, I played around with a lead to establish the topography of the stretch where these fish had been showing. It didn't take long to discover a deep channel, with a firm base, was the feature over which these fish had been active. I won't dwell on the mix of awful weather and work commitments but, instead, just say that it was the final week of the "traditional season" before I was able to return to the venue for a last gasp saloon type of effort. It was Tuesday 9th March when I actually had my first attempt. Just a morning session and, although I blanked, saw enough to encourage me to return asap. Blasting W/NW wind accompanied by squally showers became the prevailing weather pattern for the final four days. However, this didn't prevent me from driving across, pre-shift, to keep bait being introduced into the swim.

Now I appreciate just what a minefield the subject of bait has become. People can write whole books on the subject, yet still not explore all the options. All I have to say on the subject is particles. I have absolute faith using this type of offering and so had no doubts about my chances of catching simply because I avoided commercially produced pellets and/or boilies. So for those who are interested, this is my go to party mix. I've a supply of Racing Pigeon "conditioning" mix to which I add hemp seed. I keep it stored in airtight containers. It's exactly the same base mix I used for barbel fishing all those years back. To prepare the seed I soak it for 24 hours before placing it in my slow cooker and heating it for at least twelve hours. It's important to ensure that there is sufficient liquid, especially towards the end period, otherwise the batch will dry and become ruined. There are a couple of tweaks I use, just to enhance the attractiveness of this gloopy mess. Six large teaspoons of sugar and a healthy glug of supermarket "Banoffee" ice cream syrup are added prior to the heating. The finished concoction is like runny mashed potato with lots of bits in it. Once cooled down, it is a sticky mix of, easily digested, a very important factor during the colder months, carp attraction from which I select my hook offerings. For this final fling, I had decided to stick with two grains of maize topped off with a IB pop-up fake grain (Korda) just for a sight aid. The added buoyancy might also help neutralise the weight of the hook?  For these sessions I used an inline 2 1/2 oz lead with 18" of tungsten tubing plus a back lead. My short hook links were made of Combi link and my hooks were the ever reliable size 6 Korda "widegapes"

Certainly nothing revolutionary about my methods or bait, yet because it can't be purchased directly over the counter, 90% of carp anglers will never bother going through the rigmarole of preparing their own particle baits and, because of this, I am at an advantage. I have my edge. and on that final Friday I also got my reward.

What flatland dreams are made of

Saturday 13 March 2021

It has to be done

 I've given myself a maximum of five hours to have one final session, out on the marsh, in the hope of another fish before "close season" takes effect. No decision to be made about swim, bait and rig choices. Friday's result ensuring I travel to the venue fully confident with my approach for this final, Sunday morning, effort. It would be simple to reload the van with kit that I used on Friday but, because I can, there are a pair of, split cane, 1959 B. James & Son, Dick Walker Mk IV's prepared and ready to go which will replace the Duncan Kay's. In keeping with the rods, my reels will be Mitchell 300's which are plenty quirky enough to ensure there's never a dull moment should a fish be hooked.

9th March 1983 - my first "double" 11 lbs 4 oz
I've come an awful long way since this image was taken but, still,
feel the same adrenaline rush whenever I draw fish over the net chord.

There will be an explanation of the thought processes I follow, along with my take on rig mechanics, bait preparation and presentation, once I've had my final visit (for this season!). Whilst I'm out there I'll do my best to get as many images as I can, which will help explain my ideas far better than anything I'm able to convey via the written word? What needs to be clear is the fact that my choice of rod and reel combinations have no influence on the terminal tackle employed, nor the fish caught, in these remote and intimate waters I target. I might appear to be a bit eccentric(?) yet, fish safety is paramount, in any angling situation that involves me casting a baited hook into the water. At this stage in my adventure it no longer matters "how big?", although I'd be lying if I said anything other than I'm a specimen hunter, but instead "how did I catch it?" Enjoyment of the moment now has to be first and foremost in my angling successes. Well "tally-ho!" I'm off to bed for an early (stupid o'clock) start in the morning. One final twist? 

Friday 12 March 2021

Flatland royalty

 "Effort equals success" is an adage which I've heard used in many situations. It certainly rings true in many spheres beyond angling but, the pursuit of big fish is definitely suited to the sentiment. Today I have finally reaped the rewards for a sustained period of baiting that was a bi-product of a pike session before Storm Darcy unleashed the "Beast from the East II". Way back in early February, I witnessed a spectacle of fish activity, on a small drain, which was sustained and very area specific. Both carp and, far more interestingly, tench were involved and I made plans to give it a bash before the season ended. A quick lead around, after packing up the pike kit, revealed a couple of interesting features. I couldn't wait to get back. Only thing is, I had to, because snow and ice had impacts on fish behaviour which weren't conducive to me casting a bait. Even when the snow had gone, heavy rain followed and the drain systems suffered the double whammy of snow melt and floodwater; I had to bide my time. It was the session when I caught that 14 lbs 14 oz pike when I was to, once again, witness some tench/carp activity in a similar area of the drain and knew it was now, or never, to get a plan together. Prior to today I had managed two short sessions, in the new swim, and had seen much to keep me encouraged yet not managed a bite! If nothing else, once I have a project on the go, I'm a bloody stubborn git. So bait has been going into the swim either before, or after, work which is one of the major benefits of shift work. 

It was really moody out there today

If I was up at "silly o'clock" on Tuesday, then today it was "stupid o'clock" because I was parking the van just before 05.00 hrs - two baits in the swim just 45 minutes later. As I've still got one more session planned for Sunday morning, I will hang fire on the details of rigs and bait until after the season finishes. I'd written, yesterday, that all I wanted was just one decent fish before the season ended. At 08.15 hrs the right hand alarm burst into life and, very quickly, I found myself attached to an unseen adversary who had no intentions of seeing my landing net. It was a magnificent battle, worthy of the fish which I eventually subdued. A gnarly, old, Common Carp which tipped the scales at 24 lbs 10 oz! That's a decent fish anywhere, let alone a remote drain on the East Kent marshes. Benno, Sye and Bev were all contacted and given the dribbling highlights by this adrenaline junky. I was out there, all alone, smiling like an imbecile. I stayed on for another ten hours, missing the only other bite. Did it matter, did it f**k! My self take efforts don't do this fish true justice, but they're certainly better than nothing.

What an absolute privilege to cross paths with this wonderful character.

As I'm looking at these images, I'm still buzzing. If ever I stop feeling like this then it's time to pack it in? I know that it won't matter if Sunday produces another fish but, I'm excited at the prospect already! I've already stated that once "close season" kicks in I won't go fishing again until I've retired. As I haven't even handed in my notice, as yet, it will be at least six weeks I reckon. On the plus side, the garden will look a lot better and the BWKm0 list will get a few additions.

Thursday 11 March 2021

The final push

 Despite the awful weather forecast, with just three more days of the "traditional" angling season remaining I have a single aim before the curtain falls. I would really like to catch one more decent fish from the flatland drains. Having landed a very nice pike, just last weekend, the target species are now carp and/or tench. Am I mad? All I know is that only by casting a baited hook, into the water, will I ever get an answer to this question. I've been putting quite a bit of effort into this particular challenge and will, hopefully, be able to blog about my efforts with a fish, or two, to share? My approach is to do things my way and, as such, not something copied from the Korda/Nash Youtube "how to do it" offerings. Quite what defines a "decent" fish will be for me to decide if I am fortunate enough to get a bite! Fingers crossed.

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Every month of the year

 It couldn't have been more than twenty minutes after I posted my effort, yesterday, that a hedgehog turned up at the feeding station. I completely screwed up the photos due to a focussing error that was totally my fault. I quickly discovered this cock-up as soon as I looked at the images on the back of the camera - bollocks!! However luck, it seems, was on my side as a short while later the hedgehog returned for a second course and this time there was no repeat of my school-boy error. With the image captured I was well pleased that another of my, self-imposed, challenges had been achieved. I have photographed hedgehogs at our feeding station in every month of the year. Not something that I would have thought possible before the onset of the pandemic and the "stay at home" messages emanating from our political leadership. If there has been anything positive, as a direct consequence of lockdown, then for me it has to be a heightened awareness of the diversity of wildlife that shares my space. If staying local now becomes the new normal, then I am incredibly fortunate to live where I do. For all the negative press Thanet receives, it is still a superb place to witness the wonders of our natural world. Now for a few photos!

April 2020 and the project gets underway.

August 2020 and action is non-stop. My camera work remains a little bit
"here & there" but with so many hedgehogs coming to the feeding station even 
a clown will have the odd moment of success?

September 2020 and I'm now well into the project. 
With a number of "colour marked" animals now visiting the garden I'm starting
to have doubts about the motives of some other members of "Hedgehog Street"

October 2020 - I'm already expecting a gradual wind down in the numbers of 
individuals visiting the feeding station. Not so, activity remained at a high level, although 
it was noticeable that many of the hedgehogs were youngsters.

November 2020 - still they come. It was becoming obvious that the visitors were getting
ready for hibernation, thus making the most of the banquet on offer in our garden.
Aggression was witnessed on many occasions.

December 25th 2020 - I had been privileged to see hedgehogs on most nights during the month and
had hoped to get an image on Christmas Day. My grandchildren had gifted me this feeding bowl and 
I was overjoyed to get my photo with it being used first time out.

I had managed to photograph a hedgehog 38 minutes after the start of 2021. 
They continued to be recorded on a daily basis up until 12th Jan when the weather took a 
turn for the worse.

The image I so nearly missed? Last night's visitor to the feeding station.

It has been an absolute joy to witness these wonderful animals up close and personal. I have to state that none of this would have happened had it not been for the encouragement of Julie & Gary Pearse, who have been "Hedgehog Champions" for many years. 

Tuesday 9 March 2021

Rough ride to the end of the season

 At mid-night on Sunday, 14th March, the "traditional" close season will kick in on the entire drain network of the East Kent marshes just as it always has done. However, due to the travel restrictions, imposed by the current lockdown, I don't have the option to visit other venues which are not subject to this annual break. Therefore, the ability to go fishing will cease for me - short term! I've already promised Bev that I won't fish again, after Sunday, until I retire and I'm okay with that prospect. Six weeks (maximum?) ain't that long to wait. Right back at the start of my angling adventure, close season was just that, everyone had to endure a thirteen week break from the hobby. (March 15th - June 15th inclusive)

No point me complaining, everyone, once again, is in the same boat. My pike fishing was absolutely flying, with this season's target of twenty doubles (three twenties) looking to be a very realistic goal. Even a week before the Christmas break, I was still confident the plans made were sufficient to see me achieve a positive result. I had the venue, the methods and had secured a stock of "alternative" dead baits which would provide the edge I required. Then "BOOM" - no fishing, no travel, no Christmas!!! 

The Angling Trust did a superb job in restoring angling as a legitimate form of "exercise" - you sure? - thus was grateful that I could still get out with the rods as a direct result of their hard work. What I couldn't do, however, is drive the thirty-odd miles down to the Royal Military Canal and claim I was staying local? The wheels came off the pike challenge and I was, once again, at a lose end. Fortunately work dealt the ace card, as unlimited overtime became part of the routine and provided the distraction required.  If I couldn't go fishing then at least I could earn an extra few quid to ensure I'd have choices when the lockdown eventually comes to an end. Yet, as it happens, due to internal politics, bullying and intimidation compounded by management ineptitude, it will be un-employment, not lockdown, that curtails this particular sideshow and so a new chapter in "The Adventures of Dyl & Bev" will begin. Knowing that, although not wealthy, we will be able to pay our way quite comfortably, it is a situation which I am now looking forward to. Setting new benchmarks for what I'd like to achieve with my life, at a very personal level, plus doing my utmost to keep family values at the heart of what I hold most dear. 

So with just five days until the "close season" takes effect the weather has decided to put a major spanner in the plans. High winds, heavy rail, hail and thunderstorms have been forecast right through to Saturday - well "whoopee - do!" I've got Friday off, so I'll be going fishing whatever the bloody forecast, but can't see me enduring a three day effort, with all that it would entail, if conditions are against me. Plenty of other stuff to keep me occupied, so another wet fish isn't of the utmost importance however much I'd like to finish the season on a high note. The BWKm0 project has taken a back seat, of late, although I've managed to add to my tally this evening

No. 48 - Teal - naked noc-mig - heard as I was sorting out the hedgehog feeding station.

Just to add to this; there was a bunch of Greylags calling as they passed over Newlands Farm at 21.00 hrs - very strange? I've seen several hedgehogs at the feeding station during the past few nights, just haven't been able to get a photo. Maybe my inability to go fishing might result in the opportunity I want to capture that March image?

Sunday 7 March 2021

Good to be alive day

 Another trip out onto the flatlands, at silly o'clock, this morning was just what the doctor ordered. I had three baits in the water before 06.00 hrs and sat back, coffee in hand, to watch the sun rise in a red and blue/black horizon.

It hadn't been an hour when a Siren R3 burst into life, heralding a bite on the middle rod. I quickly found myself attached to a modest pike which put up a spirited scrap before I was able to coax it over the draw chord into the waiting landing net. A lovely fish, in fine condition, of around seven pounds was quickly unhooked and returned to the drain. A fresh bait was given the Predator Plus and salmon oil treatment before being cast back on the spot. I spent the next ninety minutes drinking coffee and scanning the surrounding marshland through my binoculars. Nothing to get excited over, the highlight was a sub-adult female Marsh Harrier which came drifting down the drain, hunting the opposite bank. Just before 08.15 hrs the alarm on the left-hand rod signalled a bite which resulted in another, smaller, pike visiting the unhooking mat. On this occasion I got my bait back, so it was very simple to quickly give it a flavour boost before flicking it back into the drain. The bait couldn't have been in the water more than twenty minutes before, having just poured another coffee from the flask, the alarm sounded again. This time it was all together a different battle, this was a much bigger fish. Twice it tail-walked as the Duncan Kay hooped over to cushion the lunges of this powerful pike. Being totally confident in the tackle I use, I was happy to allow the fish to expend as much energy as it wanted, safe in the knowledge that it was going into the landing net. I knew it was a "double" but realised it was a little bit special when I attempted to lift it from the water. Once on the unhooking mat I was clear that this was a good mid-double and so it proved. At 14 lbs 14 oz, it is the heaviest pike I've taken from the marshland drains since February 2012.

I stayed on for another couple of hours, without further action, before heading for home well pleased with my morning's effort. Three pike from three bites, today, what was I doing when missing that take on Friday afternoon? I've always been of the mind that you won't mess up the bite you want. It is the smaller pike which are missed because they lack the body weight to provide resistance to a strike. Quite simply, the force of the strike is enough to spin the fish and pull the hooks/bait clean out of it's mouth. With all the crap going on at work, this was exactly what I needed to get my head back into some type of normality. If this is what retirement will allow? Bring it on!

Saturday 6 March 2021

Signs of change

 No weekend overtime for the first time in ages and, with no plans to get out with the rods, I've spent a very pleasant period, today, in the garden watching the local birdlife. Nothing added to my BWKm0 list, but still a very enjoyable time looking at the regular species I expect at this time of year. The weather was kind, sun shining brightly from a lightly clouded sky, although temperatures were nothing to shout about due to the northerly airflow. 

Not the greatest image of female Greenfinch - but I can cope with that

I felt sure that a Red Kite was a real possibility, although a little early, but had to make do with a trickle of Common Buzzards instead. A female Sparrowhawk, high overhead, might well have been a migrant as it was not behaving like a local bird. Over at the farm compound a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming frequently whilst a Kestrel was engaged in a vocal exchange with a grounded Peregrine (on prey) out on the newly planted potato field. Greenfinches continue to visit the feeding station, providing a wonderful distraction from the regular House Sparrows, Goldfinches, Blue Tits and Collared Doves. Good numbers of Black-headed Gulls moved high, south, over the Newlands fields and four Rooks flew in the opposite direction. All good stuff within a "patch watching" mentality.

Not much else to get excited about but, I'm fishing tomorrow, will have something to offer when I get home?

Friday 5 March 2021

Flatland moods

The van was loaded with my pike kit just after 05.00 hrs, prior to me leaving home for the start of my Friday shift. Luckily I had plenty to occupy my time, at the factory, so avoided spending the day "clock watching" and wishing my life away. 12.40 hrs it was over, by 14.00 hrs I had three baits in position on my chosen drain. Let battle commence!

The best laid plans eh? I had one bite which I failed to connect with - hey-ho! It was cold and the stiff NE breeze hastened the thick grey clouds across the sky. I spent a while pointing the camera at various vistas but, I have to admit that it was rather tough going out there today. A decent flock of "Russian" White-fronted Geese (60 +) had a short fly about and I recorded my first Shelduck of the year, so something to be positive about I guess. A Kingfisher zoomed past, my first since Storm Darcy paid us a visit, and as I was driving back down the track, headed for home, a Barn Owl flew through my headlight beam, flushed from an adjacent fence post.

To be perfectly honest, catching a pike would have been a bonus, it was time away from work and all the nonsense associated with my formal grievance application, that I really wanted. Mental health isn't a subject I've given much thought, it's never applied to me! Well it does now and I'm finding it a very stressful situation which, only with the support of Bev, my family and close friends, will I come through, so much wiser for the experience.

I'll end with this image of a flatlands sunset. Big skies and the realisation of how insignificant we are, as individuals. I've reached the end of the road and retirement can't, now, come quick enough. Should I feel like this? How can digital ink be on a par, let alone superior, with the critical care NHS staff, yet I earn twice, at least, that of a low ranking doctor. If, for nothing else, the pandemic remains etched in my soul it will be purely down to the massive inequalities within our society, the realisation that my parents did me so proud and it is their legacy that allows me to walk away without a backward glance. The traditional close season comes into effect, mid-night, next Sunday, thus the local drains will be off limits.  I'm hoping to end with a bit of a flurry? Still got two days holiday that I'd carried over from 2020, so am planning a four day stint (remember that there is still a night fishing ban in force) starting next Thursday.

I have this as a fridge magnet on my bait freezer - says everything required I feel?

Wednesday 3 March 2021

March(ing) onwards

 I've not been down to my syndicate fishery for months, certainly three - possibly four? Nothing too surprising from my perspective as the complex is basically a carp fishery and I am not that enthused about the species during these colder months. Membership renewal is due in May, not overly sure if I'll bother, but it is something to worry about on another day. If I'm retired, which is now a very strong possibility, then I might well retain my membership as the location is so close as to allow quick, off the cuff, sessions. Rumblings up in Aston Clinton look likely to result in my youngest brother, Sye, and his wife Yve, relocating to East Kent thus becoming part of the "Wraftie" ganglers. Benno is so confident that his "Uncle & God Father" is moving to Kent that he's already put his name down for a C&DAA ticket. Sye is first, and foremost, a barbel angler and has made mention of his desire to rekindle the golden period that we'd enjoyed during the 2013/15 seasons. If this becomes reality, then a C&DAA membership will also be on my agenda with the Cinque Ports AA membership option also something I (we) will have to consider to ensure a free rein during the pike season.

My time on the bank is always enhanced by any wildlife that crosses my path. During this latest lockdown period, however, I have also realised the significance of the many spontaneous exchanges with other folk I encounter whilst ensconced behind the rods. Real people who, just like me, seek to enrich their lives by spending time outdoors doing whatever they feel is important. Could be walking the dog, riding their bike or having a bit of a ramble, not for me to make a call on how others use their time. The important bit is that we engage and share our mutual enjoyment of the great outdoors.  It would seem that there is a real correlation between the sincerity of any encounter and distance from the nearest car park, the further away it is the more interesting the dialogue. (socially distanced of course) 

It seems incredible but, in under three weeks, the pandemic will have impacted upon our lives for a whole year. Where the f*ck did that time go? I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have remained in full-time employment, only seven weeks furlough. during this period. I've not had to self isolate or, even worse, actually contracted this hideous disease, thus maintained a link with normality which so many others have been unable, through no fault of their own. When I look at the current situation, in this context, I'm gutted that my time at FSIS is going to end on such a downer. My formal grievance is now "in process" with HR and I was quite surprised by the positive vibe generated at the first meeting. I have every intention of seeing this through to its' conclusion before handing in my notice. Either, which way, I'm now fully committed to walking away with 100% support of Bev and my family. What really pisses me off is the fact that I'm able to have a jab to combat the most deadly virus known to mankind yet, have not been able to stay true to my father's wish "work for as long as you can" I've succumbed, had to abandon my promise, purely due to an unwillingness to deal with the bullying and intimidation of a half-witted, middle manager, by the FSIS hierarchy closing ranks, in direct contradiction to the code of conduct of Fujifilm, our parent company. A sign of the times? I feel like I'm pissing in the wind, the guys that have been such an integral part of my enjoyment of life in digital still need to earn a living, pay bills, put food on the table for their families. Quite what post-Covid factory life is going to be like I can but guess, yet if this recent experience is anything to go by, I wouldn't expect to see too many smiling faces. So sad when we all used to get paid to have a laugh whilst producing the "world class" inks which are synonymous with our factory

Have no worries, once un-fettered from the contractual obligations of FSIS I'll have much more freedom to say what I like, offer an alternate opinion for want of a better analogy. HR got a problem?  If push comes to shove, let's see what Tokyo have to say about the situation? The beauty of social media, I can offer alternative opinion, without fear of retribution, purely because "I can!" If I'm retired what possible good will a negative reference be? How much damage can be done, to me, by a system that I've departed? All that I need to do is remain true to myself, not mention individuals, by name, and ensure that nothing I write could be construed as casting a shadow upon the global integrity of the Fuji brand, the world's my oyster!