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!


Thursday 28 April 2022

Big up for Nash Tackle

I'll start by making it very clear that I've no ties with the Nash brand. The last time Kevin and I spoke was at a NASA Conference when he was still trading as "The Happy Hooker"! That's a lot of years back and Reading University seems to fit the bill? Towards the end of the RMC Pike campaign I experienced a major problem with my Siren R3 receiver unit. It ceased to give an audible alert, although the lights still indicated that the unit was connected to the alarms. I did all the usual crap, changing batteries, switching everything off and reconnecting the whole ensemble - nothing changed, the receiver had lost all audible functions, even the burglar alarm feature! Fortunately the alarms, themselves, continued to function perfectly and this fault had no major impact upon my angling. 

Knowing that I would have to start my quest for a repair at Camo's Carp Cabin, Ramsgate, purely because that's where I purchased said item, thus my contract was with Camo - not Nash? However, there was a major issue due to the fact that Camo had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn't running the shop. Luckily, Dave Haworth, had stepped in to keep the business running and it was his efforts which resulted in an incredible outcome. The receiver unit was out of warranty, as are the alarms, so I was expecting to incur some expenditure to repair the faulty item? Not a bit of it! Nash replaced the unit, with a brand new one, free of charge and I have to say, what a brilliant piece of PR. I emailed the Product Support Dept, thanking them, and received a nice reply from a guy, Kurt Pottle, saying he was pleased that it had been a successful outcome. 

I've heard some nightmare tales about Nash Tackle but, have to speak as I find, can say nothing negative about the situation I experienced. In the grand scheme of things it is a very insignificant event yet, for me, speaks volumes about the company who's founder started out making "carp sacks" from industrial nylon fabric!

Friday 22 April 2022

Garden photography lessons

Common Buzzards continue to trickle, North, over the Newlands Farm area allowing me to enjoy the spectacle of raptor migration from the comfort of my back garden. The plumage variation is incredible and unmatched in any other species (maybe Common Pheasant apart?) that I'm familiar with. Now that I'm retired, it might be worth attempting to learn some basic digital camera skills, thus improving upon the poor quality of my record shots. Still, as photography is just a bi-product of my angling, those images which appear on this blog are perfectly suited for the purpose. The National Geographic magazine they ain't!

As darkness falls then it's all change. On goes the 125w MV moth trap plus the Hedgehog and Fox food is placed out in close proximity to my study doorway. Moths have been quite hard going, thus far into the year, but the Hedgehogs are back in good numbers and the "hand fed" Fox project is coming along nicely. Still not actually got the end result, yet the larger animal is extremely confident and will come within a couple of yards of where I'm standing - camera in hand! Not obtained "that shot", which I so desire, I'm certainly getting bloody close! 

Thursday 21 April 2022

A wild one, every time

Even as I was closing the Heronsview gate, behind me, I knew that the Carp which had just been landed wasn't anything more than a symbolic capture. A fish to enjoy, without doubt, but not one that will have any place in my memory archive - if that makes any sense?  That it was caught whilst I was after Tench just assists with the drama yet, does little to elevate the achievement beyond that of an accidental capture. A "nuisance fish", for want of a better assessment?

It is certainly not my intention to belittle Carp, as a species, in any way. My gripe, if that is what it is, lies with modern angling's perception of Carp, somehow, being a far more worthy fish than the other species that share the same environments. Nothing I possibly say, or do, will change this. Fuelled by a multi-million pound industry which thrives because the hoards of "tunnel visioned" individuals who've been sucked into this stereotyped pursuit of, what is after all, a non-native species in UK freshwater fisheries. What makes it even more sad, to my way of thinking, is that in this current era size is everything for the majority of those involved. Even whilst down at Heronsview I heard members complaining that the fishery didn't contain a "forty"!!!? Although, to be fair, it would have been me forty years ago when my own obsession with big fish was all consuming. Today, however, considerably older and certainly mellowed in my outlook, the size thing has been replaced by a desire to derive maximum enjoyment from the angling experience. I now seek my thrills in situations where methodology and venue is of far more importance than the size of my quarry.

Perch are a species which can thrive, yet remain completely under the radar, in modern fisheries
where Carp anglers dominate proceedings

Since the return to angling, back in 2011, I've attempted to use a target system to keep my efforts focussed. If it started with my quest for a wild "twenty-plus" Pike, the incredible Kentish Stour Barbel campaign really demonstrated the worth of this type of approach. Winter Eels, club water Perch and the discovery of "wild" Carp, in the drains of the East Kent Marshes, have all utilised this mind-set to provide stimulus during these varied projects. So, with retirement a life-changing factor, I'm now looking ahead to future challenges. 

I look like a "rabbit in the headlights"!
This 12 lbs 10 oz Barbel is the only one I ever caught from The Stour
because I felt my watercraft and tactics were key, not just a huge slice of luck.
Can I do better in 2022/23?

The desire to set goals isn't something unique to me. I would imagine every serious "speccy hunter" utilises a similar thought process for whatever target they seek. If there is anything different between me and the majority of others, it will be the desire to remain "off piste". I now want to do it my way; absolutely zero interest in what anyone else has caught or yesterday's news. I will attempt to explain my current outlook by using photos of three, very nice, Carp that I've captured since returning to angling. Not overly convinced that it'll work?

Situation No. 1  - Club/commercial "Carp puddles" Obviously not part of the "big fish" circuit, this type of venue certainly has a place in modern freshwater angling. They provide excellent opportunities for the "average" angler to experience the thrills of landing a "twenty". In current parlance, that's not even a Carp worthy of weighing for those in pursuit of specimens? I was only at the venue because of my Perch project. Absolute lunacy to ignore an opportunity, I caught this lovely "Mirror" on a floater, using a Mk IV split cane and Mitchell 300, whilst attempting to capture an orange Koi that I'd spotted in the margins! A cracking fish but, because of the location, there will be plenty of other regulars who have a similar trophy shot!

Situation No. 2 - The Royal Military Canal - nuff sed! There are a small number of, highly talented, Carp anglers who ply their craft on the banks of this incredible waterway. The vast majority of "bait & wait" bivvy dwellers are nowhere close to the level these guys opperate at. Back in 2015, it was only because Benno (my son) was living very close to Seabrooke that we were able to attempt any type of serious Carp angling. Pre-baiting was key and the quick, in and out, sessions just the job! My very first, split cane, Mk IV (Twenty+) Carp came from the RMC and very few others will have an image of this lovely Carp in their portfollios?

Situation No. 3 - The Flatlands - who gives a shit? I'm now in a situation where it's just me and the Carp. Yes, I accept that, by modern standards, they aren't "big" but they're more than welcome in my landing net! For me to stumble (or was it fated?) across such an incredible angling opportunity is what keeps me enthused, as I seek the enjoyment of a bent fishing rod in situations very few have experienced previously. Carp like this are rare, as rocking horse shit, and I doubt anyone else has a photo of it in their collection?

"Two-tone", "Heather", "Burfield Common", et al, ....... Every modern day "celebrity" angler, and their dog, have got photos of these same fish! How many more times do you need to know that Carp are as thick as "Goldfish" - an attention span of less than 3 seconds! No, not for me thank-you, I'm very happy catching, "lesser" Carp that Camo described as the best looking fish he'd ever seen!! And I'll use this same analogy for whatever species I decide to target as time moves on.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Dumpton Raptor Fest

The past few days have seen a large number of Common Buzzards moving over Newlands Farm. A good percentage are very pale birds, suggesting Scandinavian origins? The largest group consisted of thirteen individuals, yet flocks of six to nine birds have been regularly counted. Day totals have been in excess of twenty birds since well before the Easter break but, today, I've counted thirty - two although it is very difficult to be sure that repeat sightings aren't involved?

With Chris Hindle, over at Reculver, continuing to record Red Kites, in modest numbers, it's been hard to understand why I've still only recorded three, from the garden, all Spring? However, given what happened at 14.30 hrs, today, I'll accept the situation. The local gulls registered a half-hearted annoyance as yet another Common Buzzard circled overhead. I picked up my bins as a second bird appeared. As soon as I focussed it was obviously a Kite but, hang on, it's quite small and very dark! Get in, my second Black Kite from the garden in two years. Photos fail to do the bird justice as I just picked up the camera and fired away without changing any of the settings. 

Not much better than a silhouette, but they'll do for me!

Thursday 14 April 2022

Patch birding and special times

Chronologically this post is slightly out of kilter but, as no-one else could be remotely bothered by this fact, I'll start with my morning walk around Newlands Farm. I made my way towards the farm, just prior to 08.30 hrs, almost immediately discovering myself being scolded by a "chacking" male Ring Ouzel. Before I could raise the camera it was off, along the hedge, being joined by a second bird (a female). The pair flew across the smallest corn field up into the crown of one of the mature trees on the northern boundary. I managed to grab a few token shots of them perched up, but that was it, they didn't hang about and headed off westward before I could get anywhere close to their position. 

Within a couple of minutes I was to encounter my second "self-found" year tick, of the day, when a Yellow Wagtail flew over, calling loudly as it passed. Five Meadow Pipits, three (possibly four) singing Skylarks and a couple of pairs of Linnets made up the supporting cast as I wandered the familiar route.

Once back, at the bungalow, there was plenty to keep me occupied around the garden so I was able to remain outside for the vast majority of the day. Nine Common Buzzards consisted of seven migrants and a resident pair with the right hump, a couple of Sparrowhawks, engaged in some form of territorial dispute, before another year tick dropped onto the bird bath for a quick drink. Willow Warbler being No. 115 for me in 2022. Fairly mundane, when viewed from an outside perspective, but it kept me entertained and that's all I'm bothered about!

So to the really special bit, from my stand point. Yesterday evening I took Bev on a "Magical Mystery Tour" as we drove off through the East Kent countryside. My goal being to arrive at Bottolph's Bridge PH as close to 19.00hrs as I possibly could. We arrived a good ten minutes early and had, therefore, to wait at our, pre-booked, table for the "mystery guests" to arrive. Bev didn't have the first idea what was going on. True to form, although not her fault for a change, Chrissy (the dog walker from my RMC Pike campaign) and her husband, Rob, arrived a few minutes late. We had a fabulous evening, eating and drinking, whilst engaged in top quality conversation, banter and laughter. Chrissy and I had been planning this meet up for well over a month. That it turned out so well is way beyond our wildest expectations. Over, all too soon, we parted company vowing to remain in contact. Friendships like this are truly special and, if not for the "lockdowns", probably couldn't have been established anywhere other than on the remote banks of the Royal Military Canal? When life deals you such a good hand, make the most of it - pretty sure that's how my Mum & Dad would have seen it.

Sunday 10 April 2022

Two garden megas

Not written much about the self-found bird list, of late, purely because I've not had much to report. Odd highlights have been a male Brambling and two Black Redstarts (including a stunning adult male) in the garden although none of them staying long enough for a photo opportunity. Today all that changed! I took an early morning stroll around Newlands Farm, adding a couple of stunning White Wagtails to my tally yet failing to discover a Wheatear or Ring Ouzel, which was my aim. A singing male Blackcap, proclaimed territorial rites, over by the farm paddocks, but I returned home less than impressed by the birding I'd experienced. 

Spring raptor passage is now well underway, with Common Buzzards regularly passing overhead. Thankfully, the local Herring Gulls are always on hand to provide an early warning of the pending approach of any migrating raptors and so it proved today. It was around 11.00 hrs when the protesting gulls announced the arrival of another unwelcome visitor. A scan with my binoculars revealed a very weird looking Buzzard - no surprises as it was a bloody Short-eared Owl. My photos were pathetic as the distance was in excess of a third of a mile! Still a record shot is better than nothing?

I was happy enough with this sighting, it being my fifth patch record and third garden sighting, in twenty-two years. So I was sat in my study, back door wide open, awaiting the start of the Man City v's Liverpool game when the gulls went up again. This time I was outside straight away to find myself watching an Osprey drifting west, directly over the garden - again my third garden record. 

It's been some days' garden birding - I've still not seen Corn Bunting in 2022, so there's much to be looked forward to as the months pass.

Thursday 7 April 2022

Farewell gift?

 Well that's my Heronsview membership done and dusted. I don't think I'll be casting a line in these super little fisheries again, although never say never! I had a great chat with Reg, the syndicate bailiff, and know that I'm leaving on good terms. Maybe, somewhere down the line, should my fitness start to fail, then this wonderful, local, venue might just be the answer? In the meantime there are plenty of projects which need my attention. 

Swim No. 3 - Church Lake
Looks are terribly deceiving! Yes it was sunny but the wind was gusting to 50 mph
thus accurate casting, at any distance, was rather testing - to say the least.

Today was all about the last cast and what would you know? I only went and caught a Carp! A lovely Common, weighing in at a very respectable 17 lbs 12 oz, was a brilliant way to end this particular part of my angling adventure. I closed the gate, for the final time, very happy with how it had finished.

A nice way to end my Heronsview membership.

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Couldn't catch a cold

 I've just one more session at Heronsview before my membership expires. Thursday will see another chapter, in the angling adventure, come to an end when I drive out of that black metal gate for the final time. My two and a half seasons, as a syndicate member, weren't particularly noteworthy, as I haven't spent that much time on the hallo'ed banks. Basically it's a carp syndicate, with two lovely "carp puddles" to ply your craft. I spent more time in pursuit of Eels than I ever did for Carp and therein lies the problem. I didn't fit in? A great bunch of guys who fish this superb little venue but, and it's a massive but, they don't seem capable of enjoying their angling if the fish isn't a carp. Bottom line is "why should they? It's a bloody carp syndicate after all!" No big deal, each to their own at the end of the day. 

Brand label snobbery is one thing, being part and parcel of modern carp fishing, so I deliberately took the piss with my ramshackle display of ancient kit. Dismissing 5 lbs+ Eels and 8 lbs + Tench as nuisance species, however, just goes against everything I hold dear in my own angling. We have to agree, to disagree, and it's now time for me to move on. What next? I think that a break away from the water might be a good move, allowing me to get the tackle sorted, do some stuff around the garden and start thinking about the next campaign. Benno & Luke are off to France after Wels Catfish in the River Seine. I'll forgo that particular form of lunacy and await their return before acquiring a C&DAA ticket in readiness for the new "river season". If, in the meantime, I get bored there's always the option of a drive down to the RMC for a Perch or Carp session. 

Since my post saying that I had two weeks to catch a Tench, five sessions have resulted in just eight Bream for my efforts. Not even "big" Bream, the best would be in the region of 5 lbs, had I bothered weighing it. I've enjoyed a few chats with some of my fellow members and said my good-byes to those I won't be seeing again, anytime soon. For the most part I've just been sat behind the rods, hoping!

Running the garden moth trap is a complete waste of time, at present, the weather doing nothing to assist the cause. To be honest the light is better used for watching the antics of my nocturnal visitors with at least four Hedgehogs and two Foxes now regularly coming to the food on offer. The larger of the Foxes is very comfortable in the garden surroundings and allows me to stand in the study doorway, clicking away merrily with the camera kit. Still haven't nailed the image I'd like, but having loads of fun trying. It's very special being able to watch a truly wild creature at such close quarters, quite often within a couple of yards, thus much too close for the long lens to focus!

Left over Pizza for starters - the wire is for the 125w MV moth trap

Hedgehog feeding encounters usually involve noisy scuffles