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!


Friday 30 July 2021

To my shame

 Being fortunate to live in a wonderful neighbourhood, in the quiet backwater of Dumpton, which is part of Ramsgate on the Isle of Thanet, I am truly grateful. The sea is just over a mile away, as the crow flies, and should I wish to embark upon a low carbon birding project places like North Foreland/Foreness Point, Ramsgate Harbour, Pegwell Bay, Reculver Marshes and the superb Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry NNR are all within an hour's walking/cycling distance. I'm living the dream compared to those, far less fortunate folk, who find themselves in land-locked towns and cities of the Shires and Midlands, for instance. Now, two General Elections ago, I am ashamed to admit that on that fateful date I placed my "X" beside the UKIP candidate - one Nigel Farage. It seemed like the best option at that time - what a major error of judgement on my part. A few years back, Bev and I had a massive redevelopment of our bungalow, using a builder called Kevin Andrews and his team. They're from Margate and came highly recommended by neighbours who'd also had some work done by these guys. 

The Margate Lifeboat in action off of North Foreland
I nicked the image from Google - do hope no-one gets upset?

Kevin said six weeks, but planning regulations and umpteen other unseen issues meant it was closer to nine months from start to finish so, unsurprisingly, we became quite friendly. Turned out that Kevin and his mate Andy were members of the Margate RNLI Lifeboat crew. Kevin was actually the coxswain, and several times during the building project they had to down tools in order to attend some maritime incident off of our coastline. These guys are volunteers, putting their own lives at risk in order to assist others. When I saw, and listened to, what Farage had to say about these brave individuals acting as a "taxi service" for illegal migrants I was speechless. This racist bigot had conned me into voting for him, riding high on the failure of Theresa May and, clown prince, Corbyn to convince the electorate that they were worthy of support. I cringe at the bile that comes out of his mouth - he has no grasp of what we, as "British Citizens" hold dear. He appeals to the low life, far right, extreme of a culture which thrives on diversity and prides itself on being a fair and open democracy. Or at least we used to?

Sorry for this heavy shit, I seem to be on a bit of a moaning mission at present. Out in the garden, again, early this morning in order to save the hanging baskets from a battering by "Storm Evert". I haven't spent all summer nurturing these plants to have them destroyed by a summer storm. Once I'd done the necessary, I grabbed the bins and scanned the skies for swifts. I don't think there will be many more sightings in 2021 from the garden, so was pleased to record eight in little more than an hour. What put the cherry on the cake was the sighting of a lone House Martin battling south, into the increasing wind, thus adding another species to the BWKm0 2021 list

No. 64 - House Martin

I was really pleased with this sighting because, on Tuesday, I'm sure I completely screwed up when another single hirundine passed over the garden but I just couldn't clinch the id despite my "gut feeling" Hopefully, some time in the not to distant future, I'll get down off of my soap box and revert to posts about not catching fish from the East Kent marshes?

Thursday 29 July 2021

Schoolboy error

 After posting my offering, of yesterday, I felt a bit uneasy. I'd read it through to Bev, in the hope that she would pick up on anything too offensive or outrageous. She thought it was okay and I pressed the publish button still unsure if it was the right thing to do? My issue was with the obvious fact that I'm no longer actively involved in birding, at any level beyond that of casual observer. Should I offer an opinion? My blog, do what I like, so sod it! I packed the van with a bit of kit and headed off out onto the flatlands for an afternoon/evening session with the rod. Because it's over a mile and a half between my parking space and where I'm actually fishing, I took the minimum required, using the barrow to avoid excessive wear and tear on my arthritic joints. 

I'm after a specific fish but, because of the chance of catching a sizeable carp is an ever present possibility the kit is biased towards strength, not finesse. The huge ammounts of vegetation, both on and below the surface, have already cost me several good fish. It was a beautiful afternoon, although a 40 mph SW wind ensured I kept a long-sleeved shirt on even in the blazing sunshine. Bait in position, alarm on and the indicator resting on my line there was nothing better to occupy my time than scanning the marsh with my binoculars to see what was about. It didn't take more than a quick glance to realise that there was a significant movement of Sand Martins and Swifts taking place across the area. Next thing I know there are two adult Mediterranean Gulls steadily moving south almost directly overhead. What didn't I take with me? You got it - my long lens. Beautiful light and all I can do is sit and stare. I rang Bev to check if we'd had a parcel delivered, we had, and I told her of my predicament. She just laughed, which was very sympathetic I thought. Call over, I picked up my binos again and straight away an adult male Peregrine came into focus as it passed within 50m of my swim then, just to take the piss, a superb adult Raven flew low over the drain. My views through the optics making it seem as if I could have reached out and stroked it! And so it continued all the time there was daylight. A tatty looking adult female Marsh Harrier hunted the field directly behind me, a Hobby chased dragonflies further along the drain. There was a second Raven, scores of Lapwings, a distant Little Egret, six more Mediterranean Gulls (4 ads, a 2nd summer & a juv) and my very conservative estimates of 520 Sand Martin and 60 Swifts don't really do justice to the sheer spectacle of the passage I witnessed as pulse after pulse of these migrants passed me by. I've been playing around with various bait options, recently, and have settled on worms for the time being. At 19.30 hrs my alarm sounded, which in itself is a minor miracle, and the indicator rose towards the rod. My strike met with firm resistance but any joy was quickly replaced by a heavy sigh as an eel rolled on the surface of the drain. It weighed little more than 2 lbs, so a quick record photo and back it went leaving my net and sweater covered in pungent snotty slime - oh joy! The only other sighting worthy of merit was that of my first, Kent, Brown Hawker of 2021. I saw one in Tim's back garden last week up in Hertfordshire.

That's about it really, nothing much else to report beyond a few garden observations. Still a few swifts around, 17 yesterday and 14 today, although some will be breeding birds from the colony in St. Luke's Church? House Sparrow numbers are starting to build with flocks of fifty plus birds being seen around the gardens. Goldfinches have had a good breeding season, with many juveniles visiting the feeding station which has also attracted a few Chaffinches and Greenfinches which is always nice.

Whilst looking at some hoverflies, on the hanging baskets, I spotted the first Gatekeeper of the year sun bathing on one of our buddleias. Casual observer - yeah that's what I am.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Higher ground

 I'll get this started with another huge thank-you to Gavin Haig, over at NQS, for the inspiration for my own post. Click here to see what was catalyst for this offering and please read the comments which resulted from this, superb, thought provoking, piece. I'm guilty, as the next man, when it comes to finding fault with the behaviour of others. It doesn't matter if it's the "agricultural methodology" of some pike anglers or the lack of etiquette by morons (I refuse to call them anglers) fishing for spawning carp out on the drains. So I make no claim to being any type of a saint. What I can say is that my opinions are based upon personal experience, not those enforced upon me by a third party. Rapidly approaching sixty-six years on this planet I feel I've earned the right to offer a reasoned opinion upon subjects which have been part and parcel of my journey. Engineering, mountaineering, space exploration and plumbing - all way off of my radar. Birds, fish and associated natural history, are part of my very soul, the reason why I still wake up in the morning.  

So where's this going? I live in a democracy where freedom of speech is a given. That I can be in breech of the law should I incite racial, religious or sexual intolerance is understandable but, having an opinion is still legitimate. That my opinion doesn't always concur with that of others is also perfectly acceptable, it's all about choice. You have to believe how lucky I feel to have never embarked upon any Twitter, Facebook, Instagram journeys, I'd have been chewing fence posts and spitting feathers, probably banned, because of my own intolerance of certain subjects which would have me fuming. Fortunately age, as opposed to wisdom, steered me clear of these situations and my only forays within social media are via "Blogger" and an email account. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with questioning how we, as individuals, negatively impact the environment in which we live. The concept of offering sound, science based, evidence to support any opinions is always preferable to that of "I think". "Low Carbon Birding" has created a massive ripple amongst the birdwatching community with certain individuals taking it upon themselves to pass judgement upon those who fail to comply with their personal viewpoint. It is one thing to change your own habits/behaviour in order to conform to a set of standards which you feel to be the right way to progress. Setting yourself up as high priest is way off the mark if you really want to change the behaviour of others. I have written, previously, about how the most influential people I've ever crossed paths have an ability to inspire. Sue Llewelyn, my English teacher at Halsey School, Hemel Hempstead didn't harp on about spelling and grammatical correctness but, instead concentrated on the joy of the written word and the ability to express yourself via the medium of pen on paper. I'm sure that those basic skills of spelling and grammar were covered, but they were integrated into the whole concept of the much bigger picture. Going into that classroom wasn't a chore, it was fun, an absolute privilege to be part of. In the late 1990's (I'm sure?) I attended a Herts Bird Club event at which Roy Dennis took centre stage. Although I don't agree with some of the projects that his foundation have instigated, being in his presence as he reels off his patter is very special. His enthusiasm for the subject is infectious, I left with a wonderful sense of positivity about the future of the natural world because of this one guys visionary outlook.  

Contrast those experiences with the whinging that Gavin highlighted in his post. If humanity are to save the planet, as we know it, then surely first and foremost, we need to enthuse the next generations to get involved with our natural world, not castigate them for embarking upon a journey which might not be "needed". As an individual I was less than impressed by the antics of one spoilt brat, swanning around on a "solar powered" super yacht, telling the world leaders what they were doing wrong. The carbon footprint of the evolving technologies required to eventually develop the manufacturing capability to produce such a vessel would far outweigh that of the global birding community - period. That, at the age of seventeen, Greta doesn't have the experience to know shit from dirty pudding is my slant on this PR stunt. If, however, she has inspired others of her age to take a serious look at how their behaviour is impacting upon the climate and environment then it's mission accomplished. It really doesn't matter a jot what I think. 

I've enjoyed a lifetime of involvement with the outdoors and the creatures which share my space. Garden birds and fishing in The River Gade were my entry points, but what an adventure they started. My move to Kent was pivotal in many other aspects of wildlife watching coming onto my radar. I'm particularly indebted to the guys at Sandwich Bay Obs who introduced me to the joy of moth trapping. I now look at anything which crosses my path with a more appreciative mind-set. I well remember my reaction when Mark Telfer introduce the Pan Listing League to the blogging community. I was horrified that our natural world had become little more than a spread sheet exercise. I'd completely missed the point and now see it as a tool for any individual to push the boundaries of their own knowledge. Over the years I've looked at many creatures which, before PSL, I would have simply ignored. 

So if behavioural change is required, in order to achieve this, education must take president over, narrow minded, moaning by folk who've had their slice of the cake but now wish to deny others their chance to share the experience. Endless ranting on Twitter, etc, won't inspire anyone to change, wouldn't work for me, of that I'm certain. In fact know that I, for one, would have the perfect response if it came my way - F*CK OFF you sad little, attention seeking, no-one! Haven't spent forty odd years working in factories to now be worried by the opinions of self-righteous bullies. Reasoned debate is one thing, do as you're told just doesn't cut the mustard!

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Little things

It was in the summer of 1994 that, due to the requirement for Benno to undertake a school holiday project, I first ran a moth trap in our garden. I'd been living in Kent for less than a year yet, because of time spent with the incredible characters in the original "H" block, that was Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, moths had quickly come into my conciousness. Andy Johnson was probably the keenest of the bunch but, if we needed assistance with an id, the late/great Tony Harman was always in the wings waiting to help us wannabes. So with that as my starting point and Benno needing to return to school (St. Faith's at Ash - which my parents founded) with a project of his choice completed, the garden moths were a gimme? There certainly wasn't a teacher involved who could question the accuracy of anything Benno reported. Indeed, over that holiday period the highlight for us was our first Poplar Hawkmoth, however Tony Harman came round, as he often did for a social, and discovered a Red-necked Footman in one of the pots stored in the fridge awaiting id. Big news back then! Benno's account of the excitement of finding that first garden hawk-moth was well recieved and his primitive artwork only added to the genuine feel for his involvement with the whole project. 

A Least Carpet (Idaea rusticata) on my study window frame!
A moth which Andy Johnson had gone to great lengths to explain how
restricted was it's distribution in SE England, thus how lucky we were to catch one.

That first season was an incredible period of discovery and a very steep learning curve was embarked upon. That Benno lost interest as gramar school impacted upon his social life and interests, I was left to continue the amazing journey alone, certainly from a garden perspective. Bev and I have run the trap on and off right up to 2016 then sort of lost interest. So why am I prattling on about such things? Firstly, the grand-children finished school today and I'm hoping that moth trapping might inspire them to look at nature rather than be scared of it (parental influence, their Dad is a piss poor excuse of an example where spiders and bumble-bees are involved) Secondly, with retirement, I need to have a reason to get out of bed in the mornings. Emptying a moth trap is certainly one that I've enjoyed previously and showing the odd specimen to the neighbours has always been fun. I'm now in the market for a new trap. Not too sure if I'll get an atinic or an MV, but a trap will be acquired very shortly - any thoughts on the subject would be most gratefully recieved. 

Tuesday 20 July 2021

It ain't 'arf hot!

 With the 149th "Open" Golf Championship taking place at Royal St. George's GC, Sandwich, this past week, traveling on and off Thanet has been a bit chaotic with all the restrictions in place to ensure the golfing fraternity have easy access to their premier showpiece. As I'm writing - Collin Morikawa has just won the Claret Jug and I can but imagine the euphoria that accompanies his sporting achievement - fair play! So why has it taken me this long to produce a post? 

Black-headed Gulls are not a regular July sighting 
from the garden. It was a massive hatch of
flying ants which resulted in several moulting adults 
joining the massed ranks of Herring Gulls reaping the harvest.

Well, if I'm brutally honest, I've been lazy. Simply can't be arsed but, not because I've nothing to blog about, just the crazy heat has left me absolutely drained. Plenty opportunities have presented themselves enabling me to observe some nice stuff from the confines of the garden, whilst Bev and I topped up the tan just in case Kefalonia becomes a  possibility later in the year? Then, whilst Collin clapped hold of "The Claret Jug" Bev was notified of her winning "Flea-bay" bid and a, pink, recon, dressing table needed to be collected from Cockfosters - whoopee f*cking doo!!! 

This female Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) was egg laying in my neighbour, Barbara's,
pond on Sunday morning. The first garden record of this superb insect.

Monday morning, just after 10.00 hrs, we're on our way in the van to pick up this desirable piece of (junk) bedroom furniture. However, there was no way I was driving all that way and not continuing a further twenty minutes to visit my brother Tim and his family. A phone call later and Sye, my youngest brother, was also part of this inpromtu gathering and the "light ale" was flowing before the barbecue got fired up and any plans for driving home were consigned to the back shelf until the following morning (today!) It's bloody great that, now retired, we're able to do this sort of stuff and to put the tin hat on proceedings I caught my first fish since 16th June. I landed three, very small, chub from The River Bulbourne, which flows through Tim's garden, the heaviest no bigger than a couple of pounds but it didn't matter, I'd caught a fish and my new scoring system has registered it's first entry.

Never going to be up to the standard of David, over at Birds of the Heath, but
certainly a vast improvement on my previous efforts.

Now the sun has set and the moon is clearly visible in the southern skies, I decided to have a play around with a 600 mm lens that my nephew, Josh, gave me. It wasn't suited to his Youtube stuff, not that I've ever seen it. The results are very pleasing and, with a little practice, can only get better?

Oh yeah - BWKm0 No. 63 - Sand Martin (45-ish North on Saturday - crazy as it's at least 40 more than I've recorded here in 20 years!)

Monday 12 July 2021

Ric strikes again

What follows are some thoughts about a possible method for gauging the relative success of an angling season/campaign? 

Based upon an idea originally put forward by The Daily Mirror to encourage angling clubs to report their members “big fish” captures in the 1950’s. It was Ric Francis who, in a recent email exchange, really made me aware of the potential of this system to measure your own angling achievements at an individual level. Because it is such a very personal tool; there is no requirement for judgement, by third parties, for a capture to be awarded whatever score the individual feels appropriate. As anglers we all have our own definitions of what is a “big” fish, generally based upon the venues in our local vicinity. Obviously, someone who is on the circuit, chasing specimens wherever they may be found, is going to have a very different outlook on the relative “value” of a capture compared to that of a local club stalwart, yet it really doesn’t matter. As it is purely a measure of personal achievement, there is no element of competition involved. However, if two, or more, like-minded souls wished to create a playing field on which they could compete, there is nothing to prevent this occurring so long as all parties agree on the scoring system at the start.

What I am proposing to do is use a very similar system to the one which Ric had outlined in our original email exchange, however, with one slight tweak. The most obvious difference between when Ric had been using his versions, and today, is the loss of the traditional close season. It remains my intention to use 16th June as the start date for any version I might employ, but  will now have an end date of 15th June the following year instead of 14th March as he was legally bound by. One very interesting spin off from this concept is the likelihood of encouraging me to target various species during the year rather than embarking on lengthy single species projects. As none of this is set in stone, any results only impacting upon my own angling, I can’t see what harm there is in giving it a go? 

So my points system will be as follows:-

5 points for each new species, whatever the size.

3 points for a specimen - my definition not that of % of UK record weight

2 points for a “good” fish

1 point for a lesser fish, although it must be of a size above the minimum I decree worthy of merit.

The tweak involves the score of 10 points for any new PB taken during a year although, as I can only have one PB, if I subsequently better a weight with another capture, those bonus points will be transferred and not doubled up!

As I haven’t landed a single fish since 16th June 2021, I’m very happy to get this idea up and running as of now. I have still to construct a weight table for the various species that are likely to be encountered on my travels. One thing is for sure, I will continue to weigh any carp or pike which I feel might break the 10 lbs barrier. As I’ve kept records of every “double” I’ve ever captured there’s no way I’m stopping now. If I can be bothered to stick a hook in them, surely they deserve the respect of being weighed, not guesstimated?

In 2012 this Chub would have scored 10 points

Might only warrant a single point - this caper doesn't factor in enjoyment.

The species which I feel will be involved in this experimental season are Carp (only one species not Mirror, Common, Leather, Koi etc) Tench, Bream, Perch, Roach, Eel & Pike. Chub and Barbel are also possibilities, later in the year, but haven’t featured in my angling since 2014.

Sunday 11 July 2021

The sideshow continues

 My reliance on electronic bite alarms is a deliberate choice as it allows me to engage with the other aspects of bankside wildlife whilst I'm there. My attention could be drawn towards a butterfly, a bird or any number of other creatures yet, if an alarm sounds my focus will immediately be directed towards the rods. To be fair, it's a very simple process and whilst I'm sure that there will be angling purists who frown upon such antics why should I care? If you don't like it - don't do it!

I was out of the bungalow at 03.30 hrs, my bait positioned by 04.40 hrs, using my Nash Deliverance baiting pole. Alarm on, bobbin positioned, I watched the dawn sky brighten and kept an eye open for any signs of fishy activity. A couple of adult Hobbys were hunting the drain at first light and, once the sun had burnt off the early morning cloud cover, there were decent numbers of Common Swifts careering across the adjacent marshes. Being so mobile, it was impossible to get an accurate count but, certainly in excess of thirty birds involved. Really glad I made the effort to carry the long lens again today as there were good numbers of newly fledged Reed & Sedge Warblers plus Common Whitethroats. The temperature had dropped away noticeably soon after daybreak and I'd had to put on an extra jumper. By 07.00 hrs it was T-shirt time although this soon changed again as a layer of high cloud, once again, obscured the sun. It was at this point a Great White Egret appeared, flying steadily northwards. I grabbed the camera and rattled off a few shots, the settings all wrong for the prevailing light conditions, but hey-ho they're better than nothing.

And speaking of nothing, that's exactly what I caught. So with little else to occupy my time, there's a game of football tonight that might be worth a watch? COME ON ENGLAND

Friday 9 July 2021

There's more to it

I'm fairly sure that it was Jim Gibbinson who made me aware of the wisdom contained in a quote by Dick Walker? Indeed Jim, in 1983, used the words as a tribute to Dick at the start of his brilliant book "Modern Specimen Hunting" (ISBN 0-9507598-7-2) Can't say that I've always been of this mindset, certainly not during those crazy Tring times and the big fish circuit but, if I've not matured, age has certainly mellowed my outlook of such pointless folly.

Jim's starting gambit in Modern Specimen Hunting
Dick certainly knew the score.

Since June 16th I've only hooked three fish, which in itself is pretty pathetic! However, to put the tin hat on it I've lost them all due to the incredible weed growth in my venue of choice. Slowly, but surely, I'm sorting out answers to the myriad questions being posed by these conditions and am confident that things will get better? On the other hand, can they get any worse? A quick three hour session, this morning, was more about getting some bait into the swim rather than a serious attempt for that first fish in the net. Signs were encouraging and, if all goes well, I'll be back in the groove early next week, although Sunday morning offers some potential. I've certainly no plans for Monday, can't think why not? Oh yeah; Bev's shouting something about a game of football - could get very messy. I could take the batteries out of my alarms, I'd hear nothing different given the current state of affairs and, with this at the forefront of my thinking, I took the camera kit out for an airing. I'd posted earlier about seeing Norfolk Hawkers at the drain for the first time and had told Bev of my desire to get a photo. Once the baited hook was positioned I was at liberty to see what I could find to point the long lens at. 

The first juvenile Cuckoo I've seen in 2021

My first flight shot of a dragonfly - a start and my Norfolk Hawker image is secured

Emperor Dragonflies - a mating pair

Male Blue-tailed Damselfly

As you can see, it was quite good fun. Also as predicted the alarm remained silent and the bobbin static, yet three hours wasn't wasted. As Dick quite rightly observed "there's more to fishing than catching (big) fish"


Thursday 8 July 2021

Once upon a time

 Just recently my fellow "Tring Syndicate" member, Ric Francis, posted a magnificent account of his (June 1981) "Record Tench that never was" courtesy of Gavin over at the wonderous Not Quite Scilly blog. That forty years have elapsed since the event is mind-blowing; that Ric and I are still in regular contact, via the wonders of cyber space, even more remarkable. Ric's cautionary tale is part of my angling heritage, they were truly halcyon times at this iconic complex of reservoirs. Although five years my junior, Ric was a far more talented "big fish" angler than I during these times. Micro attention to detail was his forte, oh yeah, and driving a flash Ford Fiesta XR2. He would go on to re-write the Roach fishing, how to do it, over on Startops End Res, culminating with a specimen in excess of three pounds -  an incredible fish even today. Me? Well I became obsessed with the whole "big fish scene" and, along with my band of merry mis-fits, chased around the circuit attempting to put a decent statistic against whatever species we were targeting at the time. Tring Reservoirs, however, had me in their grip and it was never too long before the allure of another Wilstone tench, or pike, would see me back at this group of concrete sided bowls.

There can be no getting away from the fact that we were present during an exceptional period in big fish anglings evolution and it is highly unlikely that coming generations will ever experience the like again? I think what is most important to emphasise is the fact that all species were of equal merit. If you fished for bream, then good on you. There was certainly none of the relegation of species to "nuisance status" that modern carp angling has created. Going back to Ric's original account of his tench capture, the bream which preceded it was no less welcome. He was on the bank to catch fish, under no circumstances can any angler put a label on a bait stating the intended species. When the indicator signals a bite, half the joy must be because of the unknown factor. What have I hooked? Okay, I admit that an eel savaging a carefully presented pike bait isn't the most welcome experience yet, it's not the fault of the eel, nor the angler, just the very essence of our hobby.

The greatest "time bandit" ever lived?
Alan Wilson with a 3 lbs 12 oz Roach from Startops End Res.

It is because of my angling roots being so firmly embedded in this multi species appeal that I've developed an avid belief in "talent over time". Of course I've spent more than my fair share of long, lonely, hours within the confines of a bivvy, or a "Brolly-camp" as they were originally called. The banks of Tring Reservoirs, during the 1980's, were to see the advent of the greatest exponent of time banditry ever to have lived. The late, and unequalled great, Alan Wilson plied his trade, thinking nothing of spending six weeks in a swim, safe in the knowledge that the fish he desired would turn up at some stage in the cycle. He was the original winner of The Drennan Cup and what he didn't catch during this period isn't worth worrying about. An absolute gentleman, always quick with a fresh cuppa whenever I wandered along for a chat, he was the very first to admit that, as an angler, he was nothing more than competent. He used the "bait & wait" tactic, watercraft had very little to do with his outstanding results. With this as the background, therefore, I find it quite strange that it was Alan who pointed me in the direction of using mobile tactics to maximise my chances during the limited time I had available. Chalk and cheese? By the mid-80's I was catching tench from Wilstone for fun. I could turn up at daybreak, locate some fish activity, spend four/five hours and be at work for a late-shift with a bite, or two, for my efforts. I was living the dream during these superb times. If I was on earlies, then I'd pick Benno up from school and, weather permitting, head off to the Leighton Buzzard AC fishery at Claydon, for a spot of catfishing. He'd caught two "twenties" before he was seven years old from this muddy puddle at a time when there were probably less than twenty, known, catfish in excess of this weight in the whole of the UK! Eight of them, however, were in Claydon middle lake!

My overriding memories of this period are of the sheer enjoyment derived from my time on the bank and the camaraderie between the anglers with whom I mixed. I'm sure that, even back then, there were plenty of "tackle tarts". Lester Strudwick, again sadly departed, certainly springs to mind but, in general, brand names meant little compared to ensuring bait presentation and placement was the best you knew how to achieve. The rods and reels which I used then are still perfectly serviceable, thus never been replaced. The heaviest test curve I've ever owned is 2.75 lbs; a one off Bruce & Walker HMC 13' fast taper affair, specially built for me by Ian Crawley, of Leslie's of Luton (St. Alban's branch) for one of the early trips to Loch Awe. My general all-rounders are three Duncan Kay 11' "carp rods" with a test curve of 1 lb 10 oz. With a beautiful through action, reminiscent of the split cane Mk IV's, these rods have been responsible for the bulk of my captures over the years. Never once, in all this time, have I felt under gunned due to a lack of backbone. Whilst it is true that the vast majority of my angling is undertaken on modest venues with the ability to hit the horizon, using a 6 oz lead completely off my radar, the enjoyment I get from doing things my own way will never be diminished. It seems crazy that, despite nearly sixty years having passed since I first picked up a fishing rod, I still get that adrenaline rush whenever I'm fortunate enough to hook a decent fish. The day this stops it will be time to pack it in so, here's hoping, long may it continue!

Lester Strudwick poses with a "double".
 Bream of this stamp were a sought after fish during the 1980's

Monday 5 July 2021


 Pete's funeral service, over at Margate Crematorium on Thursday 1st July, was a superbly well conducted event. The "life celebrant", Michael, who did the speaking ensured that the entire process was a respectful, yet very positive, experience for all those in attendance. A couple of "light ales" at The Racing Greyhound followed and everyone agreed that Pete would have been happy with this send-off. At 09.00 hrs, next morning, Bev & I were in the car headed for Rotherham, stopping en route to pick up Debbie, Bev's daughter, then embarking on the delights offered by the M2, M25 and M1 - oh what joy! To be fair, it was little more than four hours before we'd arrived at our destination and got booked in to the Premier Inn. As I alluded to in my previous post, this journey was undertaken in order to scatter Bev's mums' ashes at the family plot in East Herringthorpe cemetery and have a family gathering which had been denied us at the time of her death due to travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Sadly, the weather meant that only Debbie, Bev & I were able to visit the cemetery, but our afternoon celebration in The Tabard PH, just up the road, was a brilliant success full of joy and humour. The first time we've been together since Bev's dad passed away. We are in need of a wedding in the family. Back to the hotel in plenty of time for the football. We had the place to ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed the game without the usual stresses of an England underperformance. A few other lads joined us for the second half and the atmosphere was great as events unfolded. Smiling faces said it all, even at 06.00 hrs, next morning when the bloody fire alarm went off. We were back home by 15.00 hrs very pleased with the way events panned out, all involved seemed to have a similar opinion. 

The first thing I did, on arriving home, was to check the state of our garden plants. Since the original lockdown, and even more so now retired, I've become rather involved with ensuring our garden has some colour. Caring for the hanging baskets and a motley array of pots (on stands so they don't mark the lawn) has become part of my daily routine. I was slightly worried that they would suffer dehydration, I shouldn't have been as I soon discovered. A decent night's kip and now we can start to get back to some form of routine, knowing that we've done our bit in getting Denise reunited with her family in their beloved Yorkshire.

Thanks to an anonymous comment I now know that this
creature is Rhagoletis alternata - a Rose-hip Fly.
Not an uncommon species but, understandably, easily overlooked thus under recorded?

So there I was, this morning, pottering about with the watering can and secateurs when I discovered a very, strange looking, small, orange fly with rather spectacularly marked wings. I grabbed my camera and managed to secure some images which might allow someone, far more knowledgeable than I, to id it. I certainly haven't, knowingly, seen one previously. Whilst I had the kit to hand I began clicking away at some of the other insects using the dog rose and honeysuckle hedge. Three very common hoverflies were quickly "in the can" when I spotted a small damselfly perched nearby. I clicked away, merrily, thinking it would be a Common Blue Damselfly only to be found somewhat bemused when I checked the images against those posted by Marc Heath - Kent's very own Mr Dragonfly. To the best of my, very limited, ability I'm going with Red-eyed Damselfly which, if correct, is a new species for the garden and almost certainly present due to my neighbour, Barbara, having a, hedgehog friendly, pond.

Hopefully I'll be back out with the rods very soon and my blogging will, once again, have a more regular pattern.