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 December 2022

More garden activity

The local weather forecasts predict high winds and accompanying rainfall right into the start of 2023. Knowing that the river will remain a chaotic mess I have drawn up an alternative plan to have a bash on Trenley Park Lake which, because of its' location, gives me the obvious bonus of being able to keep an eye on the state of the river without needing to embark on extra journeys. Indeed, yesterday afternoon I grabbed a couple of baits from the freezer, loaded the van and had a short session into dark. It was very much an off the cuff decision and, as a result, chuck and chance. 

I didn't receive a single bleep from the alarms so, if nothing else, I'm demonstrating a superb level of consistency! It was, however, quite an enjoyable session with three Little Egrets scattered around the complex, a couple of Common Buzzards, many 1000's of Woodpigeons moving around the Stour Valley and adjacent woodland plus all the regular Kingfisher, Water Rail, Coot, Grey Heron and various wildfowl activity which is expected at the site. To be fair, all the guys who I spoke with as they were leaving the fishery all said that they'd failed to catch and most of them had been there all day. I packed up just before 17.00 hrs and headed homeward quite excited by the challenges posed by this stunning fishery. To be continued ..........

Once back home, the van unloaded, I set about preparing the feeding station bowls for the nocturnal visitors. I've managed to illuminate the patio area by positioning a lamp, within the conservatory, which allows me to spot any activity well beyond the normal area which my study lights cover. This new ruse gives me the opportunity to sit in the dark, at my laptop, the camera perched upon a tripod and focused on the food bowls. It was 23.30 hrs and I was absolutely knackered. As I rose from my seat, there was a stunning little vixen at the bowl but, before I could reach for the shutter release, it scuttled off back up the garden. Cursing my inability to stay focussed, I'd been watching some Youtube stuff, I quickly called through to Bev and then returned to the camera. Within a few minutes the fox was back and I did my best to grab a few shots, through the double glazing, as she grabbed another mouthful of food before trotting off to stash it somewhere and then coming back to repeat the performance. 

This is certainly a different animal to the one I saw a few days ago. If I keep the food provision regular feel sure that I'll be able to position the camera at a lower angle and keep the study door wide open, thus removing the annoying reflective glare caused by the double glazing? 

Foxes are stunning creatures and, for me, a privilege to be able to watch at such close quarters - especially from the comfort of my own home!

Tuesday 27 December 2022

Garden encounters

Benno and I spent Boxing Day morning at the C&DAA Trenley Park fishery where, as is par for the course, we enjoyed a brilliant social session without being troubled by any hooked fish! Having already got plans in place for a return to the Stour, in the New Year, I am quite happy to leave it until the holiday period is over before getting the kit back in the van. So it is rather fortunate that the garden feeding stations are able to provide ample entertainment whilst I wait. Foxes have returned to the garden, although haven't got into any specific pattern of visiting. They (it?) certainly aren't as confiding as my previous regular client. It was 17.30 hrs, yesterday, when it was first seen yet it has not returned tonight and it's well after 22.00 hrs. Probably the most interesting, nocturnal, sighting was of a Hedgehog at the fox bowl on 23rd December, although not since.

Birds provide the bulk of my wildlife fix with good numbers of House Sparrows (50+), Goldfinches (20 - ish) and Rose-ringed Parakeets (max count of 14) all visiting the hanging feeders on a daily basis. The back-up crew are an odd mix of Blackbirds (including a couple of "continental" types), Great & Blue Tits, a male Chaffinch, a Robin, several Dunnocks, Collared Doves and, of course, the ubiquitous Herring Gulls. 

The Robin feeding under the sunflower heart feeder, a Hedgehog house behind.

"Continental" Blackbird - a first year male with typical dark bill and contrasting
greater coverts above un-moulted primaries & secondaries.

There seems to be a young Common Buzzard hanging around the Newlands area and I'm fairly sure it is roosting in Ramsgate Cemetery? Good numbers of mixed "corvids" and Woodpigeons are scattered around the adjacent farmland with odd Stock Doves and Starlings for company.

Goldfinches are one of those species which have that "ooh!" appeal. Butter wouldn't melt in their beaks? They arrive at the feeding station in tight groups, constantly calling to each other as they pitch down into the top of my garden Elder and Buddleia trees (big bushes). Only when they're on the feeders do you actually see what aggressive little sods they can be. Obviously a self preservation trait, they are constantly bickering whilst at the feeders. With nothing better to do, I spent some time, this morning, attempting to capture some images of the squabbling antics.

My photos won't win any prizes, yet I certainly enjoyed the time spent watching this behaviour. By comparison, the House Sparrows were very sociable when tucking into their grub.

The camera kit is set up at the study doorway in the hope of grabbing some images of the nocturnal visitors. One definite issue is due to the fact that I'm not currently running the MV moth trap and, as a result, can't spot any approaching critters prior to their arrival at the food bowls. A work in progress which will help me through to the New Year, that's for sure.

Saturday 24 December 2022

Thursday 22 December 2022

What next?

I sometimes wonder if there's any point of me making plans and/or setting myself targets. Whilst, particularly during the period of this blog's existence, this type of challenge has proven to be a very enjoyable way of keeping focussed, 2022 has certainly been the exception that proves the rule. Once I'd achieved the Pike quotas at the start of the year, my angling has been anything but successful. The barbel campaign wouldn't have been less productive if I'd cast my baits into the bungalow shower tray. The River Stour Pike fishing has been equally spectacular in its' failure to produce results. The self-imposed Christmas break should be just what's required for me to get back into the groove. Benno & my traditional Boxing Day, morning social, session will not be expected to kick start the campaign, although if I've a bait in the water there's always a chance.

Benno posing with a nice brace from Startops End Res. Tring.
Christmas holiday period 1992/93

Knowing that the holiday break will be an opportunity for many full-time working guys to get a few hours on the bank I am more than happy to wait until the New Year before getting back into any type of routine. All being well (weather & water conditions permitting?) I expect to get twelve sessions on The Stour during January before changing tack and spending, my available time during, February down on the RMC. My head might struggle with the logistics, my heart is still firmly committed to the possibilities of achieving my targets. 

Sunday 18 December 2022

A decade down the line

Time, the most precious commodity for each and everyone of us, just seems to pass that much quicker as age grows. Just a couple of weeks back, whilst doing some research for the Pike Lines article, I realised that this blog was rapidly approaching ten years in existence. That's just plain crazy, 18th December 2012, is when this caper got started. 

All I can say is that it has been a superb experience. Obviously there have been times when finding inspiration gets difficult, whilst other occasions you can get on a roll or caught up in a wave of enthusiasm caused by being part of this "Blogland" community.  I have absolutely no idea how much longer "Of Esox" will remain a part of my routine? Whilst I still derive immense pleasure from my blogging I see no reason to pack it in. To all of you who have, over these past ten years, supported my efforts I am grateful and, indeed, truly humbled. Bloody Hell - where does time go?

Saturday 17 December 2022

Afternoon delights

 If, and that is a very big "IF", the weather forecasts are correct then tonight will be the last in this current cold snap? The predictions for Thanet over the coming week are for temperatures into double figures, Celsius, with accompanying rain. What joy in the run up to Christmas. The morning was much the same as yesterday, however, Lapwings had replaced the decked Golden Plovers and I actually managed to get a record image whilst standing within the garden boundaries. 

A convenient gap in the garden hedgerow enabled me to obtain this record shot.

A decent flock of Goldies did pass over, but were certainly intent on going somewhere other than Newlands. As the afternoon started, so the sun finally broke through the high cloud and I said to Bev that I was going out with the camera to make the most of the conditions. My plan was to have a quick wander around Pegwell Bay NNR before heading over to the Ancient Highway, where Sandwich Bay Obs had reported five Short-eared Owls to be present on the Royal Cinque Ports GC. 

I have to say that it proved to be a most enjoyable afternoon. Pegwell wasn't too brilliant, although I might have seen much more had I carried the Kowa. I then proceeded to the rendezvous point, at Sandwich Bay. Unsurprisingly, there were a good number of camera wielding folk present. I parked the van and got as much space between me and the "toggers" in double quick time. I'd already decided that 15.30 hrs was the latest I could stay and was, therefore, delighted when five Short-eared Owls left their communal roost site at 15.10 hrs. They knew exactly what they were doing and headed directly across the Ancient Highway and out onto Willow Farm. I rattled off a sequence of hopeful shots knowing that they'd be little more than record efforts. 

Back indoors before 16.00 hrs, the sunset provided the cherry on the cake. It had certainly been a very pleasant way to waste away a few hours.

Friday 16 December 2022

Newlands Goldies

 Little before 10.30 hrs, this morning, whilst sat at the laptop perusing the usual stuff that passes for entertainment in my little world, a flock of birds whizzing over the field beyond our garden boundary caught my eye. I grabbed my binos and rushed outside, just in time to watch a small bunch of Golden Plovers pitch down onto the field some 600m to the north. Knowing that they wouldn't hang around for too long, due to dog walkers, I grabbed my camera and took a quick stroll to see if I could get a record shot, or two? With the sun shining brightly, I was very happy to spot them almost immediately, out on the recently sown stubble. 

As I made my way around the field perimeter, in order to get a better angle for the light conditions, I stumbled across a lone Stonechat flicking around the hedgerow vegetation. A really nice bonus, I quickly rattled off a few shots, before continuing on my mission. The plovers were always a bit distant, but I did my best and, as predicted, it wasn't long before they were airbourne, due to a couple of dogs charging about the adjacent footpath. It wasn't a deliberate, or malicious, situation which caused the disturbance, just an everyday occurrence which the eleven Golden Plovers had dropped into. I rattled off some flight shots which, for me, aren't too shabby. A nice outcome from this chance encounter, Goldies not being annual visitors to my Newlands Farm patch.

No fishing now, until after Christmas. So much to do and the weather forecast does nothing to inspire me to find a window of opportunity. Fortunately, the majority of the shopping chores have been done and it's just those few last minute bits which need seeing to.  This next week will see a round of socializing and present drops - happy days!

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Very slow, so is there progress?

Back down on the banks of The Stour, Tuesday morning, only to discover that the snowmelt run off had caused the river to rise by a few inches and the water temperature to drop some 8 degrees F. By 08.00 hrs I was already casting my baits into the third swim of the session, such was the amount of debris being carried down by the current. Even with 5oz leads I couldn't keep a bait in position for more than a few minutes and this was in the margins! No surprises then that I blanked, yet again, even though I remained on site until mid-day. Crazy as it might, at first, appear it was actually a very enjoyable session. I'd arranged to meet up with Mark "Chiddy" Chidwick and we had a lovely time catching up with tales of birds, fish, moths and bumble-bees. Like-minded souls tend to have this affinity that others struggle to understand. Mark was using his fly fishing kit, but had no more success than I on this occasion. Assuming that nothing untoward happens, we should cross paths again tomorrow?

Once Mark had headed off homeward, I spent the majority of my time playing around with the EOS 70D. I'd seen some stuff on Youtube about a "hack" used by professional wildlife camera-folk. They used manual settings but with auto ISO. With nothing to lose, I gave it a bash and am very happy that I did. 

This Robin was a right poser - "Look at me!"

A Song Thrush was a little less cooperative, but still provided some good tests for the camera set-up

Finally, this Long-tailed Tit was feeding in overhanging trees on the far side of the river. Light conditions were awful yet, somehow, the camera was able to capture a useable image. My Pike fishing had to be cut short due to an unscheduled school run which, under the circumstances, wasn't such a trauma. Grand-kids sorted, it was time for the main event. The Canterbury/Thanet PAC regional Christmas bash. What a fabulous evening, spent in superb company, enjoying an absolute feast as provided by the staff of The King Ethelbert PH, Reculver. Amidst the customary banter, there was ample opportunity for me to gauge the feel of my fellow members and their own perspective of the current Pike season. I'm relieved to report that, with odd exceptions, the general view is the local scene has been very hard going due, entirely, to the crazy impact of the weather. I'd particularly like to thank Andy Larkins for his input. A pike angler with over twenty years experience, on The Stour, his comments about my current project were very reassuring, despite my lack of results thus far.

Monday 12 December 2022

Two steps forward, one step back

 Another short, three hour-ish, session on the river this morning proved to be more in hope than a realistic attempt at luring a Pike to take my carefully presented dead baits. Although the river wasn't in the floodwater state of previous weeks, there was certainly an influx of snowmelt run off which had reduced both water temperature and clarity. With visible signs of fish activity still very difficult to spot,  the regular occurrence of Cormorants along this section of river would suggest that there are food fish present. I remain confident that my tactics and bait presentations are more than adequate to achieve my goal. 

My swim this morning. It is a beautiful section of this magnificent river and the longer
it takes to catch a Pike the more I feel I will have earned it.

I am totally committed to the theory that my "twenty" is a lazy, opportunist, feeder, looking for maximum return from minimum effort. This is exactly why my baits are prepared to have that something extra which makes them stand out from the norm. I am not so silly as to expect the word hectic to be associated with this project. One bite a week will do just nicely if I feel that my learning processes are moving in a positive direction. A new section of river, with a completely new set of problems to overcome. I'd like to think that the apprenticeship I've served will see me in good stead for the challenges to come?

Sunday 11 December 2022

Getting started

 It was just after 07.15 hrs, on Friday morning, that I was finally able to cast a baited rig into my selected section of The Stour. With little more than three hours at my disposal, I had already decided that I would leapfrog the rods back towards my van (thus upstream) at hourly intervals. This is exactly what I did, but without any joy, on this first foray. It was a fabulous session, with so many positive learning opportunities as I went through my repertoire of bait presentation gambits. 

In the time that I was on the bank I probably covered 200m of river. I was fishing to features, which were obvious because of overhanging trees and similar signs, Only once did I see any fish activity, although it was fairly blatant when it occurred, I did have one "possible" pull out of the clip, but it didn't develop. A new project, on a totally new section of river, what's not to get excited about? 

As I said in my previous post, I'm not down there "playing games". 50 lbs b.s. braided mainline, Marlin Steel, seven strand, wire traces and size 2 or 4 Drennan/Partridge "doubles" in conjunction with big, heavily flavoured and/or dyed baits, with the option of additional buoyancy. Bite detection is via "back biter - type" alarms which are manufactured by my brother, Sye, specifically for the situations we seek to explore.  OTT? Quite possibly. What I don't want is a situation where I feel under-gunned.

The real highlight of this first session was a conversation with a fellow C&DAA member who turned up at around 10.00 hrs. He was also targeting the Pike and was incredibly generous with his advice as he recalled the successes of the past six seasons at the venue. A very similar vintage to myself, I guess, he had nothing to prove and was, as a result, totally honest with his opinions about the river and what lies ahead for me as I chase my goal. I don't know his name yet am very grateful for the conversation we enjoyed.

I'm back down to the river for a couple of sessions over the next two days. Monday will be very similar to my previous foray, yet Tuesday has a window of opportunity which might allow a full day? It all depends on the school run requirements of the grand-kids. Either which way, Tuesday is also the Canterbury/Thanet PAC regional Christmas bash, so something very much to look forward to. Now that The Stour is in a condition where I feel confident to present a bait, I'm really excited about the prospects of achieving my target before the end of January.

Thursday 8 December 2022

On the up

Still not feeling 100% but certainly so much better than I have been. The current cold snap has raised hopes of getting down to The Stour and being in with a realistic chance of presenting my baits to good effect. All going well I'm heading down tomorrow morning for my first "proper" session. Got quite a few ideas spinning around in my head but, with no concrete plans, will wait to see what condition the river's in before making a decision on bait presentation and tactics. My C&DAA membership only allows a two rod limit which, under the circumstances, might be one too many? The general approach will be to remain mobile, travel light and be prepared to move if circumstances dictate. I think I've blogged earlier that I'm not going down to The Stour to play games. My kit is the best I have available, thus very similar to what I use at Loch Awe. I've a freezer filled with heavily flavoured and dyed baits, none of which are under 8oz, which will provide the "edge" I seek in my quest for that desired, second, river "twenty".

Over forty years ago (16th November 1982) I caught
this magnificent Pike of 19 lbs 11 oz from The Thames, at Mapledurham.
I know I've used this photo many times, but it's remains very special to me.

I did take a drive down to the RMC, on Wednesday, with the intention of fishing a section that I've not previously visited. However, the logistics of pushing a loaded barrow to the spot proved beyond my physical capabilities and I had to settle for second best. It wasn't the distance involved as opposed to the bankside terrain/conditions. I'd found it on Google Maps and will certainly have another look at a future date. I'd have to describe the session as an enjoyable blank; there being so much more to look at than motionless rods.

So much more to fishing than catching fish!

The season 2022/23 has, thus far, proven to be a total disappointment due to the incredible extremes in our weather patterns. From a very personal perspective the two projects I embarked upon have proven to be catastrophic. There have been times when I've felt like I'd joined Greenpeace such has been my lack of results. Still you can only enjoy the highs when you've experienced the lows and this is true for so many other aspects of life, not just angling!

Monday 5 December 2022

Been a bit "Bill & Dick"

I got home from the RMC, Friday 25th Nov, and wasn't feeling too sparkling. A sore throat and snotty nose isn't particularly pleasant but, thankfully, a positive Covid test wasn't forthcoming and I could rely on Day & Night Nurse to see me through. However, well over a week later, I'm still not 100% and, as a consequence, haven't been back to the bankside. Bev and I had a drive down to The Stour, Friday, 2nd Dec, morning, where the scene remained one of utter chaos. A filthy torrent of, debris strewn, water piling through thus not decent Pike fishing conditions. Surely things have to improve?

Leon & Leeney

This past weekend has seen the reunion of the "Kefalonian Gang of Six" for our, now annual, Christmas gathering. Carrie & Craig, from Wychbold, Leon & Leeney, from Sidmouth joined us in The King's Arms, Budleigh Salterton for an evening meal, Secret Santa, ample light ales and "A" level banter (aka talking bollocks!) Quite how the stars aligned to cause the six of us to become such close friends is beyond any sensible explanation. That they did, and we are, is all that matters and I am a very lucky individual because of this random set of circumstances. To top it off, my sixty-seventh birthday was on Sunday and we re-assembled for a cooked breakfast before going our separate ways. Friends like these are special and it won't be too long before plans are being drawn up for our next rendezvous. Kefalonia? Who knows, or cares? The chemistry which exists between us ensures that whenever we're together the overriding emotion is one of  fun, harmony and genuine respect. An oasis within the pressurized madness of modern life and all that it involves.

Craig, Bev & Carrie-Anne

Nothing else to report, if I'm honest, just the regular garden stuff and the odd wander along the coast to Ramsgate Harbour. There's certainly a change in the weather patterns as a Northerly influence has become established and, as a result, overnight temperatures have plummeted. Grey skies and the constant threat of rain, however, has done nothing to elevate my expectations for a return to the river any time soon. As I'm sat here, typing this, Brazil v's South Korea has just kicked off and rain is falling steadily from a leaden sky outside the back door.

Fulmars have already returned to their nesting ledges along the undercliff.