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 24 November 2022

Strange times

I did get down to the side drain, early on Monday morning, and was delighted to land a Pike from this tiny venue. Not the size I'd have chosen, but a Pike none the less, thus evidence supporting my floodwater conditions theory? However, something I'd not thought about, but of major consideration is the fact that this side drain is also subjected to the varying water levels due to tidal influence. So it will remain a work in progress whilst these weather patterns persist.

I now find myself in a very pleasant position, due entirely to retirement, and view the world in a very different way. My Nissan NV200 is just a small, white, van, complete with my personalised number plate, and as I drive around the high-ways and by-ways of Kent the frantic antics of fellow road users makes me smile. My journey is purely for pleasure, therefore I've no requirement to drive like a lunatic. At 05.00 hrs, however, the vast majority of other drivers are frantically attempting to chase that mighty dollar with a complete disregard to fellow road users or the highway code!

Guess what my postcode is?

I took a drive down to the RMC, this morning, but shouldn't have bothered as the canal was filthy mess. Still, having driven the distance, I gave it three and a half hours before the EA decided to open the main sluice and all three rods were wiped out within a few seconds due to the huge amount of debris in the water. 

It is in situations like these that I am hugely grateful for my ability to derive enjoyment from so many other aspects of being outdoors. Birds play a massive role and I'm really having fun playing around with the Canon EOS 70D.  What this technology is capable of capturing is way beyond anything I've previously known and I'm really blown away with the results, particularly when light conditions aren't too brilliant. Down on the canal, this morning, I was able to capture images of Mediterranean Gulls and a redhead Goosander which my old kit wouldn't have had a chance of recording.

As always my time on the banks, of the RMC, was enhanced by the conversations I had with complete strangers. None of us would engage in idle chit-chat if we were not in the situation of enjoying the RMC experience. All of a sudden catching Pike isn't such a high priority when viewed from this different angle.

Sunday 20 November 2022

Outside the box

This might never come to fruition but, if things fall into place, I could be a very happy bunny! Bev and I took a drive down to The Stour, around mid-day, so that I might assess the Pike fishing potential on offer given the ridiculous amounts of rainfall recently. As expected the river was in full flood. Filthy dirty, debris laden and piling through so not quite what would be described as ideal conditions under normal circumstances? Still, this was exactly what I was hoping for! My Pikelines article effort has required me to delve into my angling past and, I have to say, opened my eyes to a situation that I'd completely forgotten. Floodwater Piking in the Thames and Hampshire Avon, during the 1980's had produced some of the most memorable captures I've been privileged to be part of/witness. What's the point of growing old if you're unable to learn from the journey? Grateful for the relationships I've established with the local farming community, since moving to Kent in 1993, there's a side drain which might provide an opportunity that is well off the radar of the majority of East Kent anglers. I've already made the phone call, although it might be another wasted effort, in a list of similar wasted efforts, yet I feel it has to be worthy of an attempt - nothing ventured = nothing gained! Van's loaded and I've got a window of four hours (max) before the next deluge descends. What's the worst that can happen? Exactly - nothing.

Saturday 19 November 2022


 It was 05.00 hrs, Friday morning, when I got out of bed to embark upon my latest Pike fishing session. The weather has wreaked absolute havoc on my plans for the River Stour project, continued heavy rainfall rendering it unfishable. My venue choices, therefore, has been severely restricted because of the conditions and I ended up driving across to the flatlands where the drains have provided some decent sport in the past. It wasn't to be repeated on Friday as the water was the colour of strong "builder's tea" and my only bite came from a small "jack" which threw my bait as I attempted to set the hooks.

Winter thrushes were present around the adjacent farmland in reasonable numbers and I counted (sort of) 1,120 Woodpigeons moving WNW during the first hour of daylight. It was nice to catch up with my mate, Neil D, out on the marsh and we had a long chat about the local (and not so local) birding. The weather forecasters aren't particularly reassuring with their predictions of a month's rainfall over the next week or so. Could be that my Pike fishing project will follow the same pattern as the Barbel caper which preceded it?

The week had started well enough with the first Canterbury/Thanet PAC regional gathering of the new season and was a very enjoyable event. Plenty of banter, as is to be expected, amongst some more serious stuff. Our R/O, Nick, asked if anyone would like to write an article for the club magazine? With nothing better to occupy my time, I've decided to pick up the gauntlet and see what happens. So far it seems to progressing in a positive fashion, although I'll await Nick's approval before submitting the offering. So there you have it. No fishing, very few birds, the moth trap stowed away for the winter and weather forecasts which spread doom and gloom. Things will improve, they have to, but I'm not holding my breath!

Saturday 12 November 2022

Radford's Flame Shoulder

Pike fishing, on Friday, produced some action but was of little relevance given the date. At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day,  of the eleventh month, my "Poppy" proudly on display, I was all alone observing the two minute silence. How others view this ritual is for personal opinion but, for me, with my family's military background, I feel duty bound to observe this moment of reflection. Whilst on the bank I'd received some sad news, which has no place here, and I wasn't in the best frame of mind. Suffice to say that my homeward journey involved a slight detour as I paid a quick visit to someone who means so much.

The garden moth trapping has been a little hit and miss, of late, purely because of the weather patterns. Temperatures have been perfect, yet wind speed, direction and rainfall have meant that results were unlikely to reward the effort involved? Last night the wind speed had fallen away and I was quietly confident that, given the conditions, something would happen. 

I wasn't to be disappointed, as I discovered our second garden record of Radford's Flame Shoulder. A rather worn individual, but absolutely no doubt about the id. Two Scarce Bordered Straws and four Rusty-dot Pearls were the best of the rest, plus numerous LBAM's. The trap is back on tonight, although temperatures aren't quite as high as they were yesterday. There certainly can't be too many more nights conducive to attracting these insects before it becomes a wasted effort?

Pike fishing, birding and/or garden mothing are, simply fun, but of no consequence when viewed from a different perspective. 

Thursday 10 November 2022

Biding my time

No fishing? Well then I'll go birding; there's absolutely no way I'm sitting indoors moaning about something I can't change. The river will get back into decent nick soon enough and, while I wait, wasting away my time looking through binoculars can be no less enjoyable that sitting behind motionless rods awaiting a bite alarm to sound? Simply spending time outdoors is good for my mental wellbeing and it really doesn't matter how, when or where I do it. After the high octane birding of yesterday, it was back to the mundane as I chose to have a wander along the Western Undercliff to Ramsgate Harbour. I parked the van as close to the tunnel as is possible then walked the undercliff to the harbour before returning via the cliff-top path and descending back to the coast through the "Chine".

Nothing much to report, although three Little Egrets were a little unexpected, but I'm sure they're often seen by other birders who frequent the area on a regular basis. I could have probably written a list before I left home, such was the predictability of the majority of species I encountered along my route. One recent aspect of birding which I'm very happy to adopt is the recording of "alba" Wagtails. Sure that spring White Wagtails are easy enough to id, but the range of plumages shown by wintering birds is a bloody minefield.

I read something on the SBBOT website, a few days ago, stating the apparent demise in Turnstone numbers. This is totally beyond my comprehension, purely because I'm no longer birding on a regular basis. The walk around the harbour was to demonstrate just this. I only counted ten birds, although I didn't walk around to the Eastern Arm. 

An adult Peregrine was past before I'd lifted my bins, thus avoiding any photographic evidence, but that was about it as I made my way back towards the van. I was out for ninety minutes, or so, and much happier for the experience. The rods are prepped, the kit assembled, and I'm Piking tomorrow. Where? Now that's a secret!

Wednesday 9 November 2022

November Red-rumps

Shameless, I know, but I took a drive across to Foreness, on Tuesday morning, where I was able to enjoy the spectacle of two Red-rumped Swallows. They were feeding, in the company of a couple of House Martins and several Swallows, along the cliff-top above Palm Bay. As I've already got this species on my year list, it didn't actually make any difference to my tally but, is the first "twitch" I've been on in a very long time! Arriving just after 09.00 hrs, I immediately spotted some hirundine activity and made my way across to where the birds were active. Just one other birder present, although plenty of dog-walkers using the cliff-top pathway. As I approached the spot I almost trod on a Snow Bunting, which was feeding alongside the footpath. That'll do nicely, another self-found year tick, number 176! 

When I reached the spot where the other birder was positioned, camera in hand, it became very apparent that he was right on the money. What happened next was completely surreal. Introducing himself, saying "he knew me, but I didn't know him!" His name was Bernie (?), he'd travelled from Sidcup to see the swallows, but knew me because he was a regular visitor to the blog. Small world? The Red-rumps showed at fairly close range, although the gusty wind and dull light did nothing to assist my photographic attempts. I didn't stay long and, instead, took a stroll back towards Foreness Point where I dropped down onto the coastal footpath and walked back along the Palm Bay undercliff. Three Sandwich Terns put on a brief display, just off shore, whilst a number of "alba" Wagtails fed alongside three Rock Pipits along the high water mark. 

I don't think I was on site for longer than ninety minutes yet, by the time I left, there was quite a sizable mob gathered watching the birds. At 05.00 hrs, this morning, the alarm sounded and I was en route to The Stour within half an hour. Despite the forecast being to the contrary, it was pissing down as I drove to my chosen section. Making no attempt to unload the kit, I put on the head torch and walked over to the river. The scene was of utter carnage, filthy muddy brown water, full of debris and absolutely piling through. Nothing for it but to resort to plan B, if only I had one? No way was I driving down to the canal, so birding had to be worth a try. Thus, at first light, 07.00 hrs, I was back on the cliff-top at Palm Bay. Still heavy grey skies and raining, I almost immediately relocated the Snow Bunting and rattled off a series of shots more in hope than anything else. 

As the light intensified, so the clouds started to dissipate and I was quite hopeful when a group of seven House Martins flew west past my chosen spot. They had just passed when another, binocular wielding, guy came walking towards me. "Had I seen the Red-rumps today?"  My answer was, obviously, negative yet I suggested that, given the conditions, the birds could still be roosting on the cliffs. He said he needed to get off to work but had just seen a Dartford Warbler in the cliff-top vegetation a hundred, or so, meters to the east. I'll have a bowl full of that, says I, and off I go. "It's with a male Stonechat" was a very helpful addition from this birder as we parted ways. I saw the warbler quite quickly, yet the little sod had no intention of posing for the camera. The light was getting better by the minute and, around 08.00 hrs, there they were. Two Red-rumped Swallows skimming around the cliff-top and over the adjacent grassland, two House Martins for company. Once again my camera skills were woefully lacking and, as a result, won't appear on the blog. However, the plan to get home before the school run kicked off was thrown into the bin when Barry H. came wandering along the cliff-top path. We've not crossed paths in over a decade and had so much to chat about. I really don't know how long we were chatting, but it was a fantastic encounter as we discussed getting old and our shared perception of the current birding scene. I told Baz about the Dartford Warbler. "It's been here for four weeks!" was his response. At that point it decided to perch up atop a cliff-top bush. "That's its favourite perch" says Baz. Having further gripped me off with news of a Black Redstart by the Cafe/Medical Centre area, we parted company. I walked across to the Medical Centre, whilst Barry headed over to Foreness Pumping Station. 

No sign of the Black Redstart, there was an awful lot of activity around the area now that the centre was open. I slowly retraced my path back towards where I'd parked the van. The male Stonechat suddenly flicked up onto the top of an exposed stem. Immediately I spotted some movement below and there was the Dartford Warbler. I managed just a single image before it dropped back into cover, but I'll settle for that!

It was now getting on for 10.20 hrs and I decided that home was where I needed to be. I walked across towards the van as another vehicle pulled up. Bloody hell, it was Steve Ashton! Loads more gum-beating ensued before I finally got into the van and headed back home, some time approaching 11.00 hrs. A fantastic morning spent birding, in superb, like-minded, company, when I'd hoped to be Pike fishing. Shit happens - then you die!

Sunday 6 November 2022

Raining again

"Be careful what you wish for" is a sentiment which often crops up whenever there is a situation that isn't as you'd like. All summer long, whilst I was pretending to be on a Barbel mission, the ridiculous drought conditions ensured that the river was in a right mess, with low water levels and excessive weed growth. The advent of the Pike season was delayed by a C&DAA ruling, with which I had no issue, and was perfectly content to bide my time. Now Pike fishing is allowed the weather gods have decided to get involved. There is no denying that East Kent is in dire need of rainfall but, all in one week, really? The weather forecasts remain doom laden for the next few days and, as I'm not seeking an endurance examination, will await the time when I can visit the bankside without getting a soaking. 

Rock Pipit in the outer harbour

Not having any desire to cast a baited hook during the weekend period, I've pottered around in the garden and had a wander around Ramsgate Harbour but, for the most part, have found myself sat in my study watching the rain falling from leaden grey skies. It was around half time in the Spurs v's Liverpool game, today, when Bev asked if I'd seen the rainbows? Her daughter, Debbie, had sent her some i-phone images that she'd just taken. We went outside to see the rainbows and, almost immediately, spotted a female Sparrowhawk perched on a t/v aerial opposite. I ran back indoors thinking that the bird would be gone, but no, it was still there when I returned, attempting to dry its' feathers and I managed to grab a series of images of this very unusual behaviour.

I will get back out with the Pike rods but, as yet, have no idea when.

Friday 4 November 2022

Fleetingly "swift" encounter

Early on Sunday morning (30th October 2022) I took a drive down to The Stour expecting to bump into Benno. The clocks had gone back an hour, at midnight, and it was all going "tits up" with timing. So, as it happens, we didn't cross paths and I decided to cut my losses and drive across to Pegwell Bay rather than head back home. This was purely to avoid waking Bev, who has absolutely no problems with an extra hour in bed!. It would have been around 08.20 hrs when I parked the van by the garage and took a stroll along the coastal path towards the bird hide. I had just reached the Garage Pool when I spotted a Little Egret flying over the salt marsh, gaining height, and heading off, high, inland. It was whilst watching the egret that I picked up two swift sp. moving deliberately west along the cliff-top, just beyond the hover port. 

Three photos, three species - you sort it out!
Answer at the end of the post

I only had my binoculars and the distance was in excess of 600m yet I'm totally confident that the two birds were Pallid Swifts. Of course I couldn't produce an accurate description based upon my sighting, certainly not one that would convince a bunch of "record committee" members as to the identity of said birds. But, guess what? I couldn't give a flying f*ck! I've been called a liar by these unelected goons once before and will never again put myself in such a position. 

The two birds followed the cliff-top right over the hover port and then continued westward toward Manston. The event was over within a couple of minutes and, once again, I was alone with my thoughts. I've seen hundreds of Pallid Swifts this year, two more really doesn't make any difference? Oh, and if you're worried about a self-found Kent tick? I found my first Pallid Swift out on the Ash Levels on 22nd November 2003!

Answer - Top = Plain Swift (Tenerife) Middle = Pallid Swift (Halkidiki, Greece) Bottom = Common Swift (Kent "Flatlands")

Thursday 3 November 2022

Lowly beginnings

 "Never forget where you come from" is a lesson which Mum & Dad tried to teach me, and my two brothers, as we grew up in Hemel Hempstead. From our original  council house at Cole's Hill, Gadebridge, all the way to the three bedroom, semi-detached, home on Warners End Road, opposite Cavendish Grammar School, the advice remained the same. Over half a century later I'd like to think that all three of us are still able to relate to those early years and recognise how fortunate we've all been to now be in the situations we find ourselves? To be perfectly honest, Bev and I quite often have a quiet moment to appreciate the journey we've experienced over the past twenty-two years. No silver spoons, no-one owed us a living, we've grafted for what we now have, although Mum & Dad's estate has provided us all with a substantial inheritance. Why all this heavy shit? I don't know really but I've been looking at some very old photos of Pike which I caught during the crazy years of circuit water, specimen hunting, and the associated publicity seeking lunacy which accompanied the antics. 

Man! They really were lowly beginnings. I've spoken with Sye, my youngest brother, on many occasions about these times and how we really thought we were the dog's bollocks! The truth couldn't be further removed, we were only kidding ourselves, deluded clowns at best. All that mattered, to me, was getting another photo in the Mail or Times and hoping that David Hall would print whatever drivel I'd concocted, as an article, in Coarse Fishing. Sadly the more often this happened, the more deluded I became, as I started to believe my own publicity - what a twat! This wasn't "council house" it was "care in the community" stuff. Looking back through old photo albums (remember them?) has just served to demonstrate what a superb journey angling has provided me over the years. 

It has to be another demonstration of the aging process, that unattainable gift of hindsight, which can only come with experience. No amount of wisdom, from outside sources, will ever prepare an individual for the lessons life will provide. If you're going to learn, then you have to live! It's a very simple concept for an old man to perceive. As a younger version? I knew it all and nothing an "old fart" had to offer would change my outlook, hence it taking so long for me to realise my failings. Funny, but I wouldn't wish to change a single thing. As my Dad told me, a few days before he passed away "No regrets". I'll hopefully be able to say this to Benno when it's my turn, but I've a few more Pike to catch before that happens, God willing?

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Focus, patience and mind-set

My River Stour Pike project can now properly get started. November is here and I'm really looking forward to the challenge. I've set myself the simple(?) target of catching a "twenty" from this Kent river and have planned to give it my all right up to the end of January 2023, when I will then return to the RMC with a score to settle.

Under no illusion that The Stour will ever provide the returns I managed last season. The basic approach will revolve around my presentation and ability to position baited rigs in spots where I feel my quarry might be present. Watercraft, for want of a better definition, based upon my experiences gleaned from Pike fishing which has spanned over half a century! The bottom line is my firm belief that "big" Pike are lazy, opportunist, feeders and my dead bait approach is particularly suited to the fish I seek. If numbers of fish was my goal then I'd certainly be more likely to utilise the modern lure technology and also live bait presentation. 

I certainly don't expect the fishing to, ever, be described as hectic, one bite per week will be perfectly acceptable if I feel that what I'm doing is headed in the right direction. Thus far, I've now had five sessions on The Stour with just three Pike to show for my efforts. From this small sample I am already looking to move my focus away from the section currently being targeted. As I did last season, on the RMC, it is my desire to get three mid-week sessions every week. This is to allow me maximum flexibility without having to worry, too much, about what other anglers are doing. By avoiding the weekend warriors I think that my chances of success are much greater. 

So much to consider as the project evolves yet, hopefully, my previous Pike fishing exploits will assist my decision making in a positive manner? Big baits and strong tackle will be key to this challenge. There is certainly no place for split canes or the Duncan Kay's getting involved. My set-up is a Bruce & Walker HMC 12', 2.25 lbs t/c and a Tri-cast "Ultra Light" 13', 2.25 lbs t/c rod, two Wychwood "Big Pit 70" reels loaded with 50 lbs b.s. "Berkley Whiplash" braided line and 30 lbs "Marlin Steel" wire traces with Drennan and/or Partridge VB double hooks - sizes 2, 4 & 6's. Because of the flowing water bite indication is via "Back Biter" alarms opposed to the Siren R3's and monkeys on needles. These particular items are manufactured by my brother, Simon, specifically for this type of situation.

No two dawns are ever the same!
Big skies - the  blame lies firmly with Steve Gale.

Currently the weather is all over the show and it will probably be Friday before I get back down to the river. Whatever the outcome, the Stour has got me in it's spell and I'm absolutely committed to the challenge I've set myself. The cameras will accompany me on this journey, as they always have, and am hopeful that photos will illustrate aspects of the adventure where my pitiful literary skills fail. 

This cheeky monkey tried to sneak out in the pre-dawn half light!
I've seen you before my friend.