Who am I?

My photo
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!


Sunday, 26 March 2023

Fishing then and now!

Knowing that Carp will play a major part in my 2023 angling I find myself searching through incredible amounts of Youtube content in the hope of discovering a few snippets which might be of use? It was forty years ago when I first spent any prolonged effort in pursuit of these "non-native" fish. Stanborough Lake in Welwyn Garden City, Herts, is a fantastic piece of my angling jigsaw as, at this time, it was a premier day ticket fishery which contained a stock of Carp which were as good as they got. I've just watched a Korda podcast with Martin Locke in which he recalls the details of the accidental drowning of Keith Sellick, then proprietor of Middlesex Angling Centre, a guy with whom I enjoyed many days on the banks of this crazy venue. It was Keith who first showed me back leads, used to avoid the keels of the yachts and sail boards rather than any other reason. He was also responsible for providing me with my first specific bait flavours, as opposed to Nesquik, custard powders and ice cream toppings which I'd been using in my semolina and soya flour boilies prior to this. Obviously I learned of Keiths passing at the time but, Martin's podcast was the first time I've ever heard the real story behind this tragic event. 

Keith was in the swim next to me, at Stanborough, when I caught three "twenties" in three casts, 
6th November 1983, and I'm fairly sure these photos were taken by him?

I have to admit that not getting drawn into the Carp angling circus is one of the best things I can say about my personal journey through life. Head on collisions with the likes of Kevin Maddocks and Tim Paisley certainly played a part, yet the "speccy hunting" scene, of the period, was far more attractive than the tunnel visioned pursuit of a single species - still is ! Now living in Kent it would appear that I've located to Carp Central and every fishery is there to cater for the whims of those anglers who know no different. With this as the background, it was an incredible quirk of fate which led to my discovery of the Carp angling potential of the drains and dykes out on the East Kent flatlands. 

The Carp which re-ignited the flame - my first "twenty" since February 1984.

My desire remains to go fishing, not camping, and catch fish because of ability not abuse of time. I recall an Angling Times headline once proclaiming "There's no substitute for time!" to which Jim Gibbinson replied, "Yes there is. It's called tallent!" Sadly modern Carp anglers never saw this exchange and appear to remain in the Alan Wilson mind-set that time is the greatest leveller of all. "Everything comes to he who waits" and there can be no denying that Alan proved this theory to be correct with the incredible series of, Drennan Cup winning, captures he made. 

Alan Wilson poses with 13 lbs 12 oz of Startops End Res. magic

To be fair, during Alan's period of dominance, I also subscribed to this "time bandit" approach to big fish angling. So what's changed ?  Forty bloody years, well that's certainly a major factor in the equation. I no longer have the desire to push limits beyond a comfort zone that growing old has given me. In all honesty I can put my hand on my heart and say that I'm a far better angler today than I was back in those crazy, full on, speccy hunting times. If I can't catch a fish within four/five hours then tomorrow's another day and I don't need to make "one more cast" just in case. 

Friday, 24 March 2023

Carp puddle carnage

I've had six sessions down on the farm irrigation reservoir, since 14th March, and have managed to land at least one Carp on every visit. What I hadn't done, however, was to land a "double" out of the twelve fish prior to today. Friday 24th March 2023 will stay with me for a long time, such was the insane session I was to experience. In three and three quarter hours I landed eleven Carp, lost one at the net and got done on several occasions. It was absolutely crazy, just like taking a time machine back to Stanborough Lake in 1983. 

Pretty little scamp in lovely condition

The venue isn't one that can be taken seriously, it's absolutely packed with "scamps" which can be tempted to feed in the most ridiculous conditions. What can't be denied is the fun that this type of angling scenario is able to provide. Every fish came to my particle baits, which are presented using the baiting pole. Rigs were very simple "blowback" affairs using a size 6, barbless, Gardner "Mugga" hook on Nash Armourlink braid, around eight inches between lead and bait. No pop-ups and no plastic, does it get any more basic? 

As the session was drawing to a close, my finishing time being 18.00 hrs, I was already well into the pack down when my left hand rod was away. Unlike any other battle I'd experienced today, this fish was in a different class entirely. It was nearly ten minutes before I managed to slip the net under my prize and the March "double" was in the bag. A lovely Mirror of 15 lbs 6 oz being my reward. Obviously not a Carp which will excite the mainstream, but it will certainly do for me. What with all the fannying around, unpacking the cameras and associated kit, I was well over half an hour late getting off the fishery. 

March "double" in the bag!

I'm now planning to spend a few sessions at another small farm pond where, apparently, there are some much larger Carp to be caught? Onward and upward will be the cry!

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Nice surprise

Running the moth trap has been a futile gesture for the most part, just seven species recorded from eight individuals lured to the MV light. Yesterday was the first time I got more than a single visitor when both Common & Beautiful Plume, plus Common Quaker were discovered on the egg trays. The light is more useful in allowing me to watch the comings and goings from the nocturnal feeding station. Last night saw a return to form with just a single moth being discovered this morning. A Silver Y and certainly not a species I would expect at this time of year, particularly with the awful weather we've been experiencing here on Thanet.

Birds around Newlands are starting to arrive and I am pleasantly surprised by the numbers being recorded. My neighbour, Madeline, had a cataract operation recently and I've been charged with taking her dog, Mental Mylo, for exercise twice a day, if I'm able. Our circular walk, around the perimeter of the farm, has produced a flock of eighty plus "alba" Wagtails with at least seventeen White Wagtails included. A male Stonechat present for four days, double figure counts of Chiffchaffs plus a couple of Reed Buntings, a flock of Linnets and even a couple of Song Thrushes! No Wheatears, as yet, but it can only be a matter of time?  

Friday, 17 March 2023

Let the fun begin

 The traditional freshwater angling season drew to a close, on Tuesday, as I spent a very enjoyable session down on the farm irrigation reservoir. Three and a half, rain soaked, hours saw me land five "scamp" Commons, the heaviest being around seven and a half pounds. Great fun on the 12', 1.75 lbs t/c Specialist Barbel rods and Nash GT 4000 reels, thus exactly what was required. However, as I would really like to land a "double" figure Carp in every month of 2023, I've decided that for the next six weeks the kit, to be employed, will be even more in keeping with my quest for enjoyment. My C&DAA membership only allows me to use two rods (my choice) and so I will be using two Duncan Kay 11', 1 lbs 10 oz t/c rods with an ABU Cardinal 55 on one and a 155 on the other. Proper "old school" gear but that's where it ends. Everything I use between my reel and hook comes straight out of the Carp Faggots book of, logo ridden, brain dead, Youtube driven, "How to do it so you look like a "Carpy Carper" volume that is akin to their version of The Holy Bible. What's it called? Oh yeah, a Korda/Nash/Fox/Ridge Monkey Youtube offering - take your pick. Sadly this is where I'm at, I've now morphed into a raging "tackle tart". What I have to say, in my defence, is that modern tackle is manufactured to such a high standard that only a complete fool would ignore these advances. I certainly have a bias towards Nash, but then again I am able to recall the times when Kevin and I could have a chat over a "pasting table" adorned with weigh slings and carp sacks whilst he was trading as "The Happy Hooker". What Danny Fairbrass has achieved with the Korda brand is nothing short of miraculous. Never met the guy but he seems to be decent enough, as viewed on social media platforms, and the company certainly caters for the whims of these unthinking sheep with aplomb? 

So there you have it. My terminal tackle and rig materials are all products of these, high profile, companies. I'm happy to pay "Carp Tax" because I know that quality control hasn't been compromised in the quest for that extra dollar. The guys who founded these companies are serious, and successful, anglers so share the aspirations of their customers? Much of the peripheral kit, however, is manufactured by far less prestigious brands like Kodex, Korum, Whychwood and NGT. Not that a Carp has any opinion about such matters, they don't see them until they've been landed. Fish care is not compromised because of these choices but my status within the local Carping circus might take a hit due to the lack of "carpy" logos. How will I cope? Got it in one! Absolutely no desire to join the ranks of a bunch of folk who have no concept of angling beyond the pursuit of this, non-native, species! 

There can be no denying that Carp have, just like Zander and Wels Catfish, been a huge part of my, UK, angling adventure since it began way back in 1963! Over the years I have enjoyed some amazing times in pursuit of these, introduced, fish. What hasn't happened, however, is that I've lost sight of the importance of other species within the bigger picture. Sadly, it would appear that modern anglers have been steered towards Carp without an appreciation of the spectrum of other angling opportunities available to them. Still, it is not my place to question how others derive enjoyment from their own angling experiences, just to say that I won't be singing from the same hymn sheet.

Bev and I took a drive across to Sturry, this morning, in order for me to renew my C&DAA membership for the coming year. The club house is a magnificent building and the process was a painless exchange of paperwork and £82 (OAP membership!) which gives me access to all the club, coarse, fisheries but with a limit of two rods which, of course, is all I require. The River Stour remains the key attraction for me, yet the venues at Littlebourne and Minster offer challenges which tick all the right boxes. I was chatting with Camo, down at the shop, recently and said that if an angler can't catch Carp at Minster then they seriously need to consider taking up golf! It's a piece of piss. They're a population of ravenous scamps which can be tempted to feed in the most un-carpy conditions. Fun fishing, no more, or less, and under no circumstances to be taken seriously, yet just the job when enjoyment is the major reason for being on the bank. The fishery rules prevent the use of boilies, nuts and pellets (Halibut, Trout or otherwise) plus there's a no Spod or Spomb rule! How could anyone catch a Carp under such a regime?

Even in March these dumb fish can't resist a tempting particle bait.

Well "there's no point getting old if you don't get artfull?" My bait choices will remain on a "need to know basis" but rest assured they don't break any club rules. No-one else will be able to copy what I'm doing, because my offerings are prepared by me, at home, using a slow cooker. Particle fishing has always been a massive part of my Carp angling experience, yet has become even more important since the discovery of the fish residing in the drains and dykes of the East Kent Flatlands. Can't use a spod or a Spomb, doesn't matter a jot as I've never owned such contraptions. My Nash Bushwhacker baiting pole system allows me to present my baits, both accurately and with minimal disturbance, up to twenty-four metres out in the pond. As the weather starts to warm, the opportunity to offer floating baits will become a more realistic proposition. All change to a single rod, 5 lbs b.s. line a size 10 hook combined with a, Dick Walker, split cane Mk IV Avon rod and the trusted Allcock's Match Aerial centrepin. Absolute kids stuff - let the fun begin!

Friday, 10 March 2023

Laugh or cry?

I was back down on the banks of the RMC, bright and early, on Thursday morning for my final session of the 2022/23 Pike season. The weather forecast was dire, with rain for much of the day, therefore I had the Nash Groundhog brolly and a bedchair, on the barrow, as well as the regular kit. It proved to be a very good decision, as I was able to remain comfortable, warm and dry for the entire stay. I was hoping to get a chance to say thank-you to the regular gang of fellow RMC visitors, yet the weather put that plan in the bin as the rain kept human activity to a minimum. Happily Chrissy and Mo did get out, very early, and we were able to exchange our farewells yet also planning a meet up for lunch, with Bev & Rob joining us, later in the month. The rain got started around 08.00 hrs and remained a major issue for the next five hours, on and off. Unbelievably, with the rain belting down I spotted a, hi-viz, dog walker approaching, which turned out to be Kev and Mac, who'd played such a role with my photography during the previous winter campaign. We haven't seen each other since, although do have email contact occasionally. It was a wonderful surprise meeting and we had a brilliant chat, even if the weather wasn't conducive to standing around on the exposed RMC banks.

Huddled in the brolly, around 11.10 hrs, a Siren R3 announced a bite on my right hand rod. I was using the Matt Hayes centrepins on my Duncan Kay's and the bite was just like a carp on a bolt rig. A one toner! With the reel spinning freely, the fish powered off along the canal, I picked up the rod and went through the usual ritual of allowing the line to tighten before setting the hooks. The fish went nuts, surging across the canal before swirling in the opposite margin some thirty yards to my right. Obviously a very good fish, I took my time getting the Pike into my landing net. With adrenaline pumping through my veins, I was brought crashing to the ground as I realised that it was the same one as I'd caught on Monday.  A characteristic yellow mark, on its' flank, being the pin that burst my balloon. 

The third time I've landed this "twenty pound plus" Pike, since 26th January, and the second time this week yet never from the same swim. What does it mean? Is it just a very stupid creature or am I able to glean some positives from this series of re-captures? I've spent some time chatting with my brother, Sye, who's a far more talented angler than I, in the hope of getting another spin on the situation. Not too sure that everyone else will agree with our assessment but, for what it's worth, this is what we came up with.

Firstly, wild Pike (any fish) don't grow to a large size because they're stupid. Too many mistakes will ensure that at some point, or other, they get caught by an angler who doesn't know how to deal with the situation and the fish will suffer ill effects as a direct consequence. So, as an aside, this particular individual is testament to the bankside treatment that I was able to administer which has ensured its' continued good health. For this skill-set I will be forever indebted to the Pike Anglers Club of GB whose dedication to Pike welfare has been a beacon within the UK angling scene for decades.

My results along the canal suggest that my location skills are pretty good and I am able to present an attractive bait, on an efficient rig presentation. What I'm not able to do is choose what fish actually picks up my offerings, I can't put labels on. I think that my baits certainly play a massive role in my success. I use big baits, 6 - 10 oz and am a firm believer that the biggest Pike are lazy, opportunist, feeders who look for maximum return from minimum effort. My use of colour dyes, flavours/fish oils and buoyancy aids means that my bait offerings are as far removed from "straight out the packet" items as I can possibly make them. My RMC campaign is now ended for the winter and it's on to pastures new as the days grow longer and the temperatures, hopefully, begin to rise. I really enjoyed my time on the bankside and am already thinking about next winter and how I might use the lessons learned  to lure that monster which I'm convinced lives in the murky depths of the RMC.

Oh yeah, just as a parting gesture the Pike gave me a "love bite" on my thumb as token of our friendship - how kind!

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Self take fish photos - my way

This will definitely be an idiot's guide however, I'm the only idiot inferred, it's not an attempt to slur the intellect of my blog visitors too whom I remain forever grateful. The requirement for this technique is directly a consequence of retirement as I now spend the majority of my angling time alone. Unlike the entomological crowd who still hanker after Victorian values, modern angling doesn't require cased specimens but, instead, trophy shots allow the catch and release of our quarry, thus subsequent enjoyment by others. Obviously it's my choice but, because of these solo sessions, the requirement for recording these images has fallen upon me and the technology I have at my disposal. It might be prudent to re-phrase that last statement? Technology that I'm confident using. My phone contains computer technology which is far superior to that available to NASA when they made the first moon landings, plus a camera facility which is absolutely amazing, yet completely beyond my grasp. I'm happy to stick with the trusty Canon digital SLR's and remain within my comfort zone. The transition from film to digital was more than enough for my little brain to cope with. Cameras, tri-pods and remote shutter release mechanisms - that'll do nicely. 

Some time in the late 1980's this photo of a, seven pound plus, Wilstone Res.Tench
 is typical of the self-take efforts I produced using slide film. 

So where to start? At the very beginning is always a good option. My Kodak links remain a fundamental part of how I perceive the images to appear when attempting to record any angling successes. A trophy shot is just that, a record of the fish which happened to grace the landing net. Quite what is required to make a good photo is almost certainly within the eye of the beholder. What some will consider okay, others will have very different opinions, so it's very much the individual's perspective. For me, being of that era, an image must portray my capture in a manner which doesn't deliberately attempt to distort proportion. Holding a fish at arms length, so as to present it as a monster, was always considered cheating during the Kodak years and nothing has happened during the intervening period to change my opinion. I want a photo to portray my prize in such a manner as to retain proportion to my physique directly behind it. Modern Carp anglers, using i-phones to record their prizes, will be completely blown away by this concept. A portrait of a fish is one thing, a trophy shot is something completely different. I'm more than happy to get a mat photo if required for id purposes. The more detail captured will allow enhanced chance of studying the nuances of individual scale patternation, but this is not why require an image of any fish I deem worthy of presenting to the lens. My desire is to simply capture the memory of that moment. I want an image which will have the ability to transport me back in time when viewed at a later date. That the same image, in 2023, is also something I'm able to place into cyberspace, via the blog, just furthers my desire to get a decent result.

The Benbo tripod is an absolute genius piece of engineering design. I can't think of a single angling
situation, within my experience, where it wouldn't be useable? The intervalometer is lying
 on the grass, in front of the tripod, connected to my camera via that obvious wire.

My kit of choice is very basic but, now, given a completely new lease of life by the inclusion of the intervalometer gizmo. My camera is a very old, battle scarred, Canon EOS 400D complete with the standard 18 - 55 mm Canon lens. I have had it since new and it has never let me down. I've fallen down Turkish mountain tracks, got soaked in torrential downpours and the camera gets knocks and bumps as part of my general angling experiences. Bomb proof is how I describe it and with just 10 million pixels as basic as they come. I love it. Remember that I'm only seeking to capture memories of my angling adventure and require photos suited to blogging and not magazine work. To get my images the camera is mounted on a Benbo Trekker tripod system. This superb device allows me to get the camera very close to the ground, in comparison to someone else holding the kit and pointing it in my direction. This single factor is very useful in keeping reflected glare, from the flanks of a wet fish, to a minimum. 

Preparation, prior to the actual photography, is key. Fish welfare is, and always must be, paramount in any catch and release angling situation. Therefore it is crucial to have everything ready to go before lifting the fish from the water. The above image was taken to help illustrate this post and not before an actually photo shoot. The two outer banksticks mark the edge of my camera shot whilst that one, in the middle, with my hat on it is where my face will be. What is missing is the water container which is used to wet down the unhooking mat and wash the fish prior to presenting it to the camera.

This Chinese made gizmo is a real game changer for me.
£14.99 from Amazon

The intervalometer is a brilliant piece of kit allowing limitless experiment with the camera set-up. Personally I have it set to rattle off 30 shots at two second intervals, thus a minute's worth of photos. My desire is to return the fish to the water within four minutes of getting it on the bank for the photos. Obviously, it will have already been out after being landed, simply to be unhooked. My own preference is to then get it into a recovery sling/Pike tube/sack and back in the water as soon as is possible after the netting. What this means is that when it is next lifted from the water, it is fully recovered, but needs weighing as well as my photos. Four minutes doesn't allow for any faffing about because you've forgotten to get something prepped. Not surprisingly, the more you practice the easier it becomes. The reality of the whole process is that I would like to get a single image which captures the memory of my angling success. Rattling off a series of thirty shots allows for plenty of "not quite what I wanted" type photos being placed on the memory card. Now that it doesn't require chemical processing and a lengthy delay in seeing the results of my efforts, the digital self-take experience can produce some very amusing results which certainly wouldn't have been captured during the Kodak years.

I'm sure that there are loads of anglers out there who wonder what all the fuss is about. They whistle at their i-phone and it takes photos. Sadly, technology way beyond me is involved and I'll happily remain in the stone-age where capturing trophy shots is involved.

Monday, 6 March 2023

Another box "ticked"

My quest for a March "twenty" is done and dusted. At 11.00 hrs, this morning, I achieved my target with a nice Pike of 21 lbs 2 oz visiting the unhooking mat. Not quite what I'd hoped, as it is the same fish I landed in January but, beggars can't be choosers? The session had got off to decent start with a Pike of 13 lbs 12 oz falling to a, Sardine oil boosted, Mackerel tail just before 07.00 hrs. Two leapfrogs, and four hours later, the same rod/bait combo was to deliver my sought after prize. Crazy thing is that I'd already packed the other two rods away and was just about to collapse the second landing net when the remaining alarm signalled a bite. It would seem that the Pike gods were smiling and it was meant to happen. The weather was all over the place. A beautiful, frosty, dawn complete with full moon soon developed into a wonderfully sunny morning. However, it wasn't to last for long as the clouds thickened and the rain, quite light at first, intensified and my angling experience was certainly not enjoyable at that point. Hence my decision to pack up half an hour early.

13 lbs 12 oz of Mackerel munching RMC Pike

With the goal achieved I plan to have one, final, Pike session down on the RMC before turning my attentions to other challenges. I need to say thank-you to all of the regular folk I speak with down on the banks of this magnificent waterway. What they are able to add to my sessions is beyond anything I'm capable of putting into words. It is simply a brilliant place where such random encounters allow so many different characters to exchange opinions without stigma or prejudice. For being allowed to become part of this gang I'm truly humbled. 

Well over a quarter of a mile away from where I caught it in January - job done!

What I've learned over this past six weeks means that, all being well, I will be back down on the banks of the RMC next winter to carry on my search for that elusive giant which has avoided my acquaintance thus far. This 2023 campaign has provided some superb Pike fishing with ten "doubles" which include three "twenties" gracing the landing nets. What might have I achieved if not side-tracked by that R. Stour folly?

Friday, 3 March 2023

A Stodmarsh stroll

 Bev had a lunchtime meet up, with her gang, in Canterbury. So I was happy enough to drive her to the venue, safe in the knowledge that I'd be able to get a full circuit of the Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry NNR before she required picking up. As it turned out, it was spot on. I dropped her off at 12.30 hrs and was back to pick her up at 15.10 hrs - brilliant! This is the first time I've visited the reserve in 2023 and, potentially, there were a few easy year ticks to be had. As it turned out I managed just four but it really doesn't matter as I'll be back at some point in the coming months. Camera over my shoulder and binos around my neck, it was a very pleasant couple of hours spent doing a sedate lap of the site.

My photos are simply a means of ensuring I've got something to aid my blogging efforts; record shots for want of a better description. Seeing some of the images posted by "toggers" I realize just how much better I could do if I actually learnt how to use the kit. True, but I can't be arsed to start learning new tricks. Must be the "old dog" syndrome?

There's some seriously weird shit going on at present, within my family circle. Can't say any more, purely because I don't have a scooby what's involved, or why. The "Wrafties" are gathered, tomorrow, for a birthday/engagement celebration, so I might have more insight after this event. It all revolves around money and inheritance, therefore, way beyond my comfort zone!

Thursday, 2 March 2023

Good times

Back down on the banks of the RMC, this morning, saw yet another "double" added to my catch list for the 2022/23 Pike season. Registering in at 11 lbs 12 oz it is the smallest one, thus far, yet no less welcome. I had a fantastic session just by being there. Firstly Chrissy & Mo, plus one of her mates, turned up and we enjoyed the usual bankside banter which has become so much part of the ritual. "A" level bollocks is actually how we describe the conversations. 

No sooner had Chrissy departed when Ian Roberts, of Folkestone Birds, arrived and another very enjoyable conversation was had. Moths, cameras, Little Egrets and twitching, we chatted about absolutely everything, and anything, it was really great - cheers Ian. He had to get away, just after 09.00 hrs, and I was then left to play around with the camera kit whilst awaiting further action on the rods. It didn't happen, yet it was just fantastic being out there today. That March "twenty" remains the target and I've got four more chances at achieving it before the 14th. It's something I've not managed in over fifty years, so another one ain't gonna make much difference should I fail in my quest this season?

If ever I need to explain why I require electronic alarms instead of floats, for bite registration, then those photos say everything required about being able to enjoy the outdoor experiences without jeopardising fish welfare. I might not be staring at a float when a Pike takes my bait, yet I can't ignore the sound of an alarm alerting me to just such an occurrence. It was a good to be alive day, that's for sure.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Dumpton Gap to Broadstairs

It was some time back when fellow angling blogger "Bure Boy" wrote that the most boring photo collections were those of single species fisher folk. Scanning through my recent posts would certainly seem to confirm his theory. If my blogging is not about my recent Pike sessions then it's Foxes and Hedgehogs taking centre stage. Time to throw a few avian "observations" into the mix I feel. 

The view from Dumpton Gap this morning. France is out there somewhere!

The van needed its' annual MOT in order for me being allowed to part with £290 for road tax covering the next twelve months. Today was to see a further £300 added to the bill as the guys doing the MOT also needed to fit two new tyres and do an oil change, with a new filter, being part of the deal. Still, now it's done I know that my fishing won't be disrupted due to vehicular issues as they had been last year. I digress, the MOT station is in Broadstairs and my van was booked in for 08.00 hrs this morning. This meant that I drove to the garage just after 07.40 hrs, left the van and took a slow stroll back home along the seafront. The weather was horrible. Heavy, grey skies, intermittent rain and a brisk N/NE wind making it feel very chilly as I made my way back to the bungalow. 

Ancient Fuji Finepix camera and awful light conditions - it's still a Purple Sandpiper

I'd walked the coastal pathway because I still needed Purple Sandpiper for my self-found 2023 year-list and it didn't require much effort to ensure mission accomplished. However, because of the conditions, I had only taken a cheap Fuji Finepix camera and my photographic efforts were pitiful. A couple of phone call later, I was told that the van would be ready for collection at 14.00 hrs and, thus, I made my way back along the coastal fringe, this time carrying my proper camera kit. Not only did I secure much better images of the Purple Sandpiper(s) I also managed to capture a series of photos of Scandinavian Rock Pipit. 

Whilst I'm very happy to be corrected on my id of said Pipit, all I can say is that the vivid supercilium, and grey/blue tones to the head plumage, make this individual glaringly different to those boring little brown jobs which nest around Ramsgate Harbour.

Normal service will be resumed shortly. I think I've now got all the images required to complete the self-take blog offering? The repetitive trophy shots might well be boring to my blog visitors, the capture of the photographic subjects certainly isn't. 

Monday, 27 February 2023

The RMC just keeps giving

With sunrise now around 06.45 hrs I'm having to leave home at 04.30 hrs in order to ensure I've got my baits in position as the light intensifies. Not overly sure why I make the effort to be there at such an ungodly hour, but it's part of the ritual I've partaken in since Pike fishing became an established piece of my annual routine. The earliest I've had a bite, in 2023, has been after 07.30 hrs and bite time seems to be closer to mid-day, than dawn, if the truth were told. Still; old habits and all that stuff, it is great to be outdoors watching the natural world awaken, even when it's bloody freezing! Two bites this morning, two Pike landed. The first was the smallest I've taken from the canal this year. Six, or seven, pounds at best. The second bite was to provide further evidence that I'm in the right area to capture my March target fish. At eighteen pounds, two ounces, this individual had the physique to have weighed more. I had to remove another "snap tackle" rig from this fish's stomach and feel sure that this is why it wasn't heavier. 

Seemingly blind in it's right eye, this Pike could surely tell a few stories - if only!

Having the capability to remove treble hooks from a Pike's stomach lining isn't something you discover by accident. I will remain forever indebted to the guys within The Luton Region PAC, in the 1980's, who were more than willing to share their skills and knowledge with a long-haired wannabe! Andy Windmill was the R/O during the formative years, Paul Elborne taking over the reins at the start of the 1990's. Great memories of wonderful times and so much opportunity to learn from the experience of others. 

Sunday, 26 February 2023

One step at a time

That post about self-take, angling, trophy shots is well advanced yet, bizarrely, requires some images of how the camera kit is set-up in order to ensure it makes sense? Hopefully the final result will be worth the wait? Another RMC Pike session, on Thursday, was all about a hunch. Sadly, it didn't pay off but, even blank sessions can be useful if you are able to learn from the experience. Friday I was back down, on the irrigation reservoir, scamping. A cracking afternoon session producing five bites = five carp landed; two doubles! It would seem that I've very little to complain about, from an angling perspective, at this current moment. 

At 11 lbs 14 oz, this Common Carp was the best, of five, on Friday.

With two angling projects already underway in 2023, yet knowing that I've only fourteen days to catch that March "twenty" Pike, there are several other loose ideas floating around in my head. Barbel, Bream, Tench and Chub are certainly in the mix yet, without any logical reason, Eels have certainly risen in my thought processes. The quest for a double figure Carp in each calendar month isn't something which will stretch my angling skills to any extent, such is the wealth of local fisheries which hold huge populations of these fish. My C&DAA membership is up for renewal on 31st March and something I'm certainly going to do, however, I'm also looking at the possibility of joining a couple of other (relatively) local clubs who control some interesting fisheries. There's certainly no great rush; I'm happy to get the Pike season out of the way before finalizing any plans moving forward. Back down to the RMC tomorrow, hoping to continue with the learning experience offered by this magnificent waterway. All being well, I'll get the photos to finish that "self-take" post which is awaiting the publish button in my blogger's draft folder.

Saturday, 25 February 2023

Waste food disposal - Dumpton style

"What's the best food to entice a Fox into your garden?" A question I've been asked several times since starting to blog about the wonderful experiences, enjoyed, watching/photographing these fabulous animals from my study doorway. Foxes are, despite their canine features, very much opportunist omnivores and will readily take advantage of any food supplied (Lettuce, Peas, Carrots & Tomatoes excepted!) If I was forced to stick to one item then Yorkshire Puddings would be it! I don't know either, it was only because of the fact that I'd thrown some (well out of date and suffering severe freezer burn) out onto the lawn, late afternoon, and the Herring Gulls hadn't taken advantage of the situation. I'd prepared the bowls for both Hedgehogs and Foxes and was looking from the study window as darkness fell. A Fox came into the garden and proceeded to hoover up all the Yorkshire Puddings completely ignoring the dinner left-overs which are normally on offer. Since that original encounter I've deliberately placed Yorkshire Pudding scraps around the garden and have watched Foxes seek these items in preference to the alternatives. I will add that they were "Tesco" own brand and there might be an ingredient in these items which isn't included in other similar products? Either which way, Tesco don't sponsor my blog and there are plenty of other Yorkshire Pudding manufacturers which Foxes will also enjoy.

Pasta, Fish Pie, Roast Chicken, Steak or a silly Chinese chuck-out, all the left-overs go into the bowl and the Foxes are free to make their choice. Whatever's left, at first light, is quickly devoured by the local Magpies, Herring Gulls and Feral Pigeons. Quite why I need to pay Thanet Council Tax for the provision of a food waste disposal service, when there is absolutely no requirement, isn't likely to be supported by other members of the local community. I live on The "Isle of Thanet" yet many of my neighbours despise the presence of Herring Gulls? I seem to think that the clue might be in our "Isle of Thanet" address? Still in February yet I've already photographed four different Hedgehogs at the feeding station this year. 

Garden wildlife, what's not to enjoy when the effort involved is almost zero?

Monday, 20 February 2023

On a roll?

Not too sure if it's because I've trodden in something or simply that "The Pike Gods" are smiling down on me? Whatever the cause, I'm certainly bending a fishing rod on a regular basis of late. It was only a month ago (23rd Jan) when I blogged that I hoped that I wouldn't go through the entire Pike season without landing a double. Well a bloody lot's changed since then and the RMC has been very kind to me. I'm now on six Pike landed, all doubles, including two "twenties". Thank you very much Izaac. My trip, this morning, saw another single bite produce a nice fish of 14 lbs 15 oz.  I was about half a mile away from the area I'd fished last week; a direct result of the Cormorant action I had seen. It's called watercraft! Cormorants don't eat Pike, but do compete for the same sized food items, therefore, if the Cormorants are targeting an area there's a bloody good chance that Pike will also be in the vicinity. That I was using a 1/2 Rainbow Trout section, as bait, is altogether a more weird quirk of fate. I've sourced my dead baits from Tesco, Westwood Cross, for several years now but this will cease next week due to the wet fish counter closing. Good decision Tesco!  Fish in the human food chain are far superior, and much better value for money, than those frozen dead baits offered for sale in angling retail outlets. Fortunately, my freezer is full of decent dead baits and I'm not likely to run out before March 14th! Whenever Bev and I are in Tesco I always make an effort to see what's available at the fish counter. The two, regular, guys are very friendly and always happy to chat about my Pike fishing antics. We were in last Friday and they'd already sold out of Herrings (my preferred choice) but was told that they'd put some round in "isle seven" that they'd failed to sell the day previous. You know the score? Quickly scanning through these knock down, best before, items it was obvious that the Herrings had been purchased yet I did stumble upon a couple of Rainbow Trout (1.7 kg) for the princely sum of £3.42.  See how that compares with five skinny Smelt in a freezer pack weighing in under 400 grms. Today was the first time I'd ever cast a trout into the RMC - so any action has to be a positive. 

Because of my desire to catch a very large Pike from the RMC I must, at times, appear quite blasé about fish which, to others (dog walkers, joggers, etc), are physically big fish. I was certainly guilty of this today when speaking with a couple of ramblers. A fifteen pound fish is way beyond the experience of the average Tesco shopper, so my glib dismissal of this Pike was rather disrespectful to both the ramblers and the fish! If I catch a fish like this every time I go fishing, what's to moan about? I drove home with a smile on my face and that warm feeling of success. Not a monster, but certainly better than a blank! 

Just as an aside, the self-take photo gizmo has been an absolute god send. I am hoping to produce a post relating to the methodology used very shortly. Don't worry it's not expensive and certainly doesn't require an "A" level in IT.

Friday, 17 February 2023

Nocturnal antics

It seems incredible that, already, nearly three years have elapsed since the original "lockdown" which marked the start of the pandemic. I will, forever, be indebted to Julie & Gary Pearse who advised me about the fun to be had from setting up a garden feeding station for the local Hedgehogs. Add into the mix an additional bowl for the Foxes, a 125w MV Moth Trap and the garden wildlife experience has taken on a wholly new dimension. We're already into the third week of February and signs of Spring are beginning to appear. There's a Sky Lark setting up territory beyond the garden hedge and I've seen several Buff-tailed Bumble-bees around the garden this past week. 

Scar Face, at the feeding bowl, at the beginning of February

The Foxes are very active (and vocal) around the Newlands Farm area and that "Scar Faced" male has become a regular feeding station diner. To be completely honest, he is a greedy bleeder who is always at the front of the queue. I'll get the food out just at sunset, he'll be there within twenty minutes! The one obvious benefit of seeing this individual, on a regular basis, has been to realise how quickly the healing process has progressed. That open wound on the inside of his left foreleg is now little more than a faint mark in the dark fur, those nasty bite marks on his face all but gone, just the obvious scars on his snout remain as testament to past battles.

That open wound on his inner left foreleg is now just a feint mark in his fur.

After a conversation with my neighbours, Terry & Glynis, relating to Hedgehog at their feeding station on Tuesday night, I was delighted to spot one at the Fox bowl yesterday. Not overly sure why the photos were so poor, even through double glazing, I've got the study door open tonight as I await further visitors.

The moth trap is very disappointing, at present. with just two species (individuals) recorded. Dark Chestnut and Dotted Border the culprits. Onward and upwards - it can only get better as the days lengthen and temperatures rise.

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

Scamping like a "tart"

I've been toying with various ideas as to what I'd like to achieve with my angling during 2023. Quite obviously, that March "twenty" plus Pike has suddenly become a very current challenge. However, there are several other projects which may, or may not, come to fruition one of which revolves around my desire to land a double figure Carp in every month. There are Carp anglers all around the UK who will wonder what all the fuss is about as they do just this year on year. Well, as I'm not, nor have never been, a Carp angler this is something which is there to be attempted and not beyond possibility given the venues available locally. 

Whilst I was number crunching my Pike captures, one side effect was that I examined the diaries relating to my time at Stanborough Lake in 1983/4,  to discover that I only managed to land fourteen Carp over ten pounds (four twenties) during that full-on project. Further investigation showed that in the period 1981 to 1993 I only managed to land thirty-two Carp "doubles. With Carp now dominating the modern, freshwater, angling scene there will be venues capable of producing these type of returns in a few days/weeks. 

There are several local venues where my short session approach will still give me a realistic chance of enticing a bite from my targets. What is becoming quite worrying, from my stance, is that I slowly appear to be morphing into a tackle tart. A bloody "Carp Faggot" Nash reels, alarms and baiting pole, Korda terminal set-ups, what's happening to me? Fortunately, a semi-sensible side does come into my tackle choices. NGT bobbins, landing nets, unhooking cradles and weigh slings plus assorted Korum, Kodex and Avid kit ensures I've all bases covered, yet without the trendy logos!  A short, three and a half hour, session down at the farm irrigation reservoir produced a single bite, but from the fish I was after. A 12 lbs 5 oz Common Carp my reward and therefore, the February "double" in the bag.

Another session, probably on Friday, down at the reservoir before I'm back to the RMC in search of that Pike which has, so far, eluded my efforts.

Monday, 13 February 2023

Ideas and action

 I do sometimes feel that I'm guilty of overthinking a problem when the blatantly obvious is staring me straight in the face. This current Pike season has seen me struggle, like never before, as I plied my craft on the banks of The (Kentish) Stour. Not one bite registered along my chosen section and just four Pike landed between November and the start of January. Insane; had I forgotten how to catch them? The February RMC return had always been part of my plans, so to get off to such a (late January) flyer with a "twenty" was certainly a confidence booster. However, as reported in an earlier post, the loss of two "decent" fish hasn't been quite what I'd hoped for and there has certainly been a great deal of head scratching - I've got the splinters to prove it! I've been forced to revisit many of my basic concepts of bait presentation and rig mechanics just to ensure that they still functioned 100% in my current situation. 

Not too sure that many other Pike anglers will be
using ABU Cardinal 55's?

Analytical thinking! Here I am, back in my Unilever days, under the tutorage of Sarah Frost, looking at details with a statistical process control mentality. Many will doubt the part that this industrial process could possibly play in an angling situation? Maybe they're correct but, for me, the skill set involved has allowed me to tweak my presentations to a point, at which, I'm very confident. Just to illustrate this exact point I was back down on the RMC this morning, tweaks in place! Two bites resulted in two Pike to the landing net, which has to be an improvement in itself. The first weighed in at 21 lbs 3 oz and the second 15 lbs 8 oz. Happy? Off the scale!

21 lbs 3oz of pure joy

I'm completely out of my depth when attempting to offer any logical explanation
as how this Pike has sustained such horrific injuries? Not replicated on the 
other flank, thus unlikely to be due to natural causes.

I make no claim to have solved all the issues which have beset me over these past few months but, feel very confident, I'm headed in a positive direction. I've been going back through my diary records, right back to 1980, looking for clues and there is one fact which has become glaringly obvious. I've never landed a twenty pound Pike in March! Guess what? I'm going to give it a bloody good try in the first fourteen days of March 2023.

Friday, 10 February 2023

Foreness in the afternoon sunshine

Bev had a luncheon engagement with her regular gang and I was tasked with transporting her to, and from, Margate where their chosen venue is situated (directly opposite the Tate Modern). It was too good an opportunity to pass up, as it meant that I could have a wander around the Foreness/Palm Bay area whilst awaiting a phone call saying that the gig was over. As it turned out, I had well over two and a half hours to explore the coastline and adjacent cliff-top. Excellent! With the sun shining brightly from a cloudless sky, the camera was close to hand as I slowly meandered around the site. It is hardly surprising, given the weather conditions, that the place was heaving with other folk out enjoying the facilities. Still, I made the best of the situation and came away rather pleased with my efforts. Only one addition to my self-found year list, but I'll cope with that. Some photos - 

It really was good fun pointing the long lens at the various birds I encountered. The technology within the Canon being far more capable that the long-haired goon pressing the shutter release button. Realistically, I'm more than happy to get a few shots which assist with the blogging, yet every so often I manage to capture an image which has "something" extra. Certainly not deliberate, nor an attempt at some artistic whim. Accidental, pure and simple, but enjoyable none the less.

My final offering is of the same male Stonechat but, due to the composition, far more pleasing on the eye than the portrait I've posted?