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!

Followers

Friday 12 April 2024

Another day, another "double"

 A bit like "Groundhog Day". I was back down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery for a "sundowner" session, on Thursday afternoon, and managed to trip up another nicely conditioned Mirror Carp of 15 lbs 15 oz for my troubles. It would seem that my use of The Bushwhacker baiting pole is causing a few ripples in certain quarters. Basically, if I am not allowed to use it I will take my custom elsewhere. It's a commercial day ticket fishery, thus needs to attract customers, not go OTT with rules which go beyond encouraging proper fish handling and their safe return to the water? I've not had chance to chat with Kevin, as yet, so will have to wait and see how things develop.

I ran the garden moth trap overnight and caught just two individuals. Obviously conditions weren't particularly conducive for these nocturnal insects, yet the two I did attract were migrants? A SIlver Y and a Dark Sword-grass, both of which were my first of 2024.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Afternoon delight

 I managed to grab a short, "Sun-downer", session at Sandwich Coarse Fishery this afternoon. Although it was quite chilly in the stiff SW breeze I did manage to temp a lovely Mirror Carp, of 17 lbs 3 oz, to pick up my baited rig. A really enjoyable tussle, in a tight corner swim, was just what the doctor ordered. I'd only just landed it when Ken, one of the fishery bailiffs, turned up and the regulation banter ensued. Apparently I'm a cheat! I use a baiting pole and that's not fishing, yet it doesn't contravene any of the fishery rules, so I can't be doing anything wrong? Well that is with the exception of Ken's opinion. All harmless fun and after a quick selfie session, back it went. I stayed on for another couple of hours without any further action. I hadn't blanked, so what's to moan about?.

A lovely, scaly, fish in great condition.

Friday 5 April 2024

An "Old school" Carper?

When, on that fateful afternoon of 5th July 1983, I caught my first Carp over twenty pounds it was obvious that there could be no turning back. It was a huge fish and, even though I'd already landed Pike over twenty pounds, is the one which marked the start of my specimen hunting journey. Way back then a twenty was a "big" Carp and, to my mind, still is. That there are now Carp three times bigger swimming around in UK fisheries doesn't change anything for me. If the day ever dawns when I am unable to derive enjoyment from landing a fish of this physical size, then it's time for me to take up knitting! 

21 lbs 10 oz of pure joy!
Taken on floating "Slyme", a Duncan Kay bait, using a Gerry Savage S/U 10ft Carp rod.

Watching modern anglers, usually on YouTube, glibly dismissing "big" Carp as "it's just a mid-twenty, a low thirty" is completely alien to everything fishing means to me. If I can be bothered to stick a hook in such a fish then the least I can do is place it on the scales, out of respect? That I have records of every "double" I've ever captured is part of the adventure and if that means Danny Fairbrass considers me, and all those other guys who are able to recall the early days, as folk singers, harping on about a bygone era, he's allowed that opinion. However, he'd do well to remember that, if it wasn't for us, old boys, he wouldn't have the business empire built upon the meteoric rise in the popularity of Carp angling!

27th June 1984 - Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City, HERTS.
18 lbs 10 oz - it was considered a "big" Carp back then.
If I catch fish of this size, today, they are just as appreciated as they've always been

The term "Old school", in a Carp fishing context, conjures thoughts of par-boiled potatoes and silver foil rustling in the butt ring of a split cane. Whilst that certainly still holds true for a small number of Chris Yates type folk, for the vast majority of anglers who experienced this Carp fishing (r)evolution we have also embraced, at least some of, the advances in tackle and bait which have been part of the process.  As an individual, my angling journey started back in the Summer of 1963, aged seven, fishing for Minnows in the River Gade. My apprenticeship required me to sample the delights of Gudgeon, Roach and Perch from the Grand Union Canal before advancing the the lofty heights of Bream and Tench from further afield. As my angling moved from stage one, catch the most, to stage two, catch the biggest, I was extraordinarily fortunate to cross paths with many characters who assisted my learning and helped steer me in a positive direction. That lunatic period during the 1980's/early 1990's saw me embark on a ridiculous course of obsessive pursuit for specimen fish. It didn't matter if they were Chub, Catfish, Bream, Tench, Roach, Pike, Zander, Barbel or Carp, the dereliction of duty, as a father, was something about which I am now very ashamed, but cannot change. The other thing which will never alter is that same period is one in which some of the most memorable events of my life took place. If only they could teach "experience" whilst  we were still at school?

I now need to fast forward eighteen years, as that is the period which elapsed between me (and my family) moving from Hertfordshire to Kent. My obsessional behaviour quickly transferred from angling to Kent birding and was to, ultimately, result in divorce. Bev and I getting together. was a very weird quirk of fate which eventually led to me picking up the rods again for "one last cast" with my son! Well that was the plan prior to that trip back to Loch Awe in April 2011. The spark returned and, once again, angling became the dominant force in my outdoor activities. During my time away from the hobby so much had happened as to make it unrecognisable from my time as member of the Tring Syndicate. Carp fishing dominated the scene and was catered for by an amazing number of club and commercial fisheries which simply hadn't existed in 1993. I have to admit, I did have a little dabble with the species but didn't like the atmosphere created by so many, unthinking, off the shelf, Carp fishing clones. To see and hear these folk dismiss double figure Tench and Bream as nuisance fish was too much and I sought my enjoyment in other arenas. Those two seasons chasing Barbel in the Kentish Stour certainly proved to me that there was still much more to freshwater fishing than Carp.


Two thirteen pounders taken just five days apart in August 2013
The top fish went 13 lbs 14 oz and the lower one 13 lbs 5 oz
Who needs Carp?

It wasn't until July 2015 that anything particularly noteworthy, Carp wise, was to happen in my new angling adventure. Because of some EA weed cutting my Barbel plans had to be put on hold and, instead, I thought a session out on the flatlands, after Tench, would be worth a bash. This proved to be a pivotal decision as, despite not catching the species I was after, a Common Carp of 18 lbs 10 oz graced my landing net and provided the insight that they could be caught away from the crowds and their moronic, tunnel visioned, views. Just four days later I was back, this time with Carp as my target and, with the fishing gods smiling down, I landed my first "twenty" since February 1984. What a fish, absolutely stunning, like carved mahogany and probably never seen a hook in it's lifetime? There and then I knew that Carp would now play a part in my second dalliance with angling.

My first "twenty" in over thirty-one years.

Exploring the East Kent drains provided some brilliant angling experiences, plus a few decent Carp along the way. My son, Benno, pointed me in the direction of the Royal Military Canal and we both caught a couple of twenties from the section near Seabrooke as a result. However, it was the drains which continued to hold me under their spell and now, having past my sixtieth birthday, had the added factor of using a couple of 1959 B.James & Son, Dick Walker Mk IV, split cane, Carp Rods. A couple of Mitchell 300's completed the set-up and "Old School" I was indeed. There is no doubt that using this kit does anything else but raise the enjoyment of catching fish to a new level, however, there is an element of feeling a little under-gunned in certain situations so I am now rather selective about when and where I use it. Not to worry as my main choice of rods are three, 1983, Duncan Kay 11' 1 lb 10 oz t/c carbon fibre versions which were built by Ian Crawley in the St. Albans branch of Leslies of Luton. I would think that 90% of my angling is done using these rods, be that after Pike, Carp or anything else. 

I'm absolutely spoilt for reel choice with a nice blend of ancient and modern versions at my disposal. Away from the Mitchell 300's, my preference seems to be with ABU Cardinals, either 66X's or 55's. That I also have the option of sticking a Match Aerial centrepin in the mix certainly helps add something to the angling experience if a decent fish is hooked. I also own modern Whychwood, Nash and Okuma, fixed spool, models which ensures that I have got most bases covered? As with all aspects of life, with the passing of time comes experience and, for me, it was retiring in April 2021 that really lifted the lid on the potential angling options that were available without having to rub shoulders with the weekend warriors. Although it is those wild Carp of the East Kent marshes which really fire my enthusiasm, I have to admit that my recent seasons spent on both local club and commercial venues have provided some excellent angling. 

I'm now in the very comfortable position of not needing to worry about how others perceive my ability based upon my choice of tackle or tactics. This also works in reverse, as I have no requirement to understand how others derive enjoyment from their own angling. Each to their own, I guess? I am now embarked upon a very individual journey which, by definition, will be done my way. I might have my angling roots back in the "Old School" days yet am not completely oblivious to the incredible advances in tackle, techniques and bait production that I will ignore them. My apprenticeship ensured that watercraft and bankside etiquette were fundamental requirements when at a fishery. An enquiring mind-set was also a major factor in big fish angling during my formative years and hasn't diminished in importance with the passing of time. 

The past three seasons of Carp fishing has been the most productive time I've ever spent in their pursuit. My single most important edge has been the desire to do something different from the norm.and that doesn't require the IQ of Albert Einstein at the vast majority of fisheries I have visited. The "copycat" mentality of the current generation of Carp angler is on display for all to see. Just take a look at YouTube and it is quickly apparent how little thought, and effort, goes into the fishing of the vast amount of contributors on this platform. The abuse of time, with very few signs of ability, is key to their thought processes and so it's bait & wait every outing with monotonous repetition. As I stated earlier, it's not for me to judge how others derive enjoyment from their own angling experiences, I just know that it doesn't work for me. Crashing around with 3 oz plus leads plus kilos of spod mix and boilies placed noisily into the fishery via a "Spomb" using rods which guys on Ramsgate beach would consider to be heavy doesn't fit anywhere in my own approach. 

So in 2024, how does this "Old School" bloke fish for Carp? At this point I do need to make it very clear that I have no affiliation to any tackle manufacturers, so my kit is based purely upon the need for it to be able to do the job I require. This said, it was an Oli Davies, of Nash Tackle, YouTube offering which pointed me in the direction of their "Bushwhacker" baiting pole system and it has proven to be a real game changing piece of kit in my own fishing, not only for Carp! I have an original version but have purchased an additional six sections which gives me a maximum range of 24 metres of stealthy and incredibly accurate bait placement. My baiting edge is provided by a home prepared particle mix which is based upon Racing Pigeon conditioning seed, but with a few tweaks which I will keep under my hat. My choice of boilies is to stick with frozen baits, of whoever's are available in the tackle shop at the time, and to use a wafter version as my hook bait for reasons which I will expand upon shortly. 

My rigs are a mix of simple blow-back and "D" rigs, I have absolutely no desire to create a "Ronnie" rig with all that metalwork which goes with it. Although I have no issues with modern braids, be they coated or not, I am currently using 10 lbs b.s. Diawa Sensor mono for my hook links with very pleasing results. Hooks have been a real journey of discovery with many twists along the way. Korda "Widegapes" took some beating until I stumbled across the Gardner "Rigga" model. They are insane and, along with the Gardner "Mugga" pattern, provide everything I require from my hooks. I'm happy to use a lead clip system or an inline dependant upon the substrate I'm fishing over. Where allowed I prefer to use a length of leadcore leader, yet am equally confident that tungsten tubing will allow me to present my rig in very similar fashion should the fishery rules require it?  My preferred lead size is between 1 1/2 & 2 1/2 oz, although I will go heavier if conditions dictate the need. One other thing which is part of my rig presentation is the use of back leads, no matter what distance I am fishing.

So what do I do to make sure my approach is so different? Well, firstly, a kilo of boilies will probably last me over a month? I never offer them whole, they will be either halved or crushed (or both) and placed in the Bushwhacker on top of a scoop of particle mix. I think that I use about 60 kg of particles for every 1 kg of boilies. My wafter hook bait is the only whole offering I place in the swim. Out on the marshland drains and the Royal Military Canal, the challenge is provided by the Carp themselves. At the local club and commercial venues it is the other anglers which pose the biggest test. Margin fishing has been the biggest edge I can find, purely because Noddy and his mates can't use a Spomb or a catapult to deposit copious amounts of freebies at such close range, thus targeting spots at longer range where they can impress their peers with an agricultural display of bait placing prowess. The Carp associate all this disturbance with danger and head for cover where my rigs await them.

Day ticket Common of 25 lbs 4 oz

My sessions rarely exceed five hours and the kit on display is not expensive, logo covered, gear but still does the job required of it. NGT landing nets, unhooking cradle, and weigh sling, a cheap Leeda rod pod on which are Nash Siren R3 alarms (courtesy of Fujifilm awards scheme) and my choice of old rods and reels about sums it up. I do enjoy my time spent after these fish yet can't help feel that something is missing from modern angling because other species are held in such low esteem by the vast majority of those who now go fishing. A twenty pound Carp is physically a big fish and that hasn't changed despite the fact that there are specimens many, many pounds heavier swimming around in the fisheries of the UK today. So to sum it up, I probably am "Old School" because all I desire from my angling is to enjoy the experiences it provides. Big fish are still a draw, yet having experienced such a wondrous journey, certainly don't matter as much as they have done in the past.





Thursday 4 April 2024

Bits & bobs, odds & sods

The situation with Bev's medical issues all seem to be headed in the right direction, as predicted by the surgeon and cancer nurse after the operation. The biggest issue, from our perspective, is waiting for the next stage in this process. Obviously, for us, it is the top priority in our lives yet we recognise that the medical crew are dealing with so many other cases that we are, in reality, just another entry on a spreadsheet. Roll on 26th April and the consultation meeting with Dr.A. Podder to learn what happens next. 

Garden birding has been good fun, although I am really struggling to get any additions for the year list. Three pairs of Sparrowhawks are holding territory around the Newlands Farm area and I was delighted to grab a photo of a stunning adult male which perched on my neighbours fence a couple of days ago. A lone Buzzard has also taken up (temporary?) residence which is causing the local Herring Gulls quite a few issues as it goes about its' daily routine. 

I have been out with the rods, down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, for a couple of "sundowner" sessions this week. I've caught Carp on both occasions, yet only one "double" out of three fish landed. I've got to give Kev, the site manager, a massive thumbs up for allowing me the opportunity to be a little flexible due to Bev's medical issues. Top bloke! 

The best one, thus far, at 17 lbs 6 oz 
Quite a distinctive character with a deformed tail which probably explains why it didn't
put up much of a scrap!

I saw my first Swallows of 2024, four, this afternoon and my decision to switch to centrepins provided added enjoyment from the capture of two "scamps" which fell for the tactics today.

Not quite a "double" these Sandwich Coarse Fishery Common Carp
are capable of pushing tackle to the limits.
 
I do have a post, in preparation, about my current stance on Carp fishing and hope to get it finished in the next couple of days. We have a busy, family based, weekend planned, so it will be placed into cyberspace when I am able to do so?

Sunday 31 March 2024

I wasn't expecting this

 Easter Sunday and "British Summertime" kicked in overnight, thus the body clock will be in disarray for a short while? I've just been outside to check the moth trap and have discovered a crazy butterfly on the egg boxes. A Speckled Wood, no less, my sixth butterfly species of 2024 had decided that a cool, clear night, with a gentle Easterly and temperatures down to 7C would be a good time to have a fly around. My earliest record of this species, without question. This type of encounter is exactly why running the garden MV trap is so much fun - you just never know what might turn up next?


Happy Easter!

Friday 29 March 2024

Looking ahead to retain focus

Under no circumstances do I have any desire to wish my life away yet, with the current situation, find myself making angling plans for April and beyond. I have absolutely no problem with getting the Easter break out of the way before returning to the waterside. My C&DAA membership is due for renewal at the end of the month and, having chatted with Benno, will get it sorted. It was at the March PAC gathering that Tom Lane, a proper good guy, asked if, after Pike season had ended," would I be Carp fishing again?"  A perfectly valid question from an angler who, despite his tender years, is far more accomplished in their pursuit than I. My negative response needed quickly amending, as there is no way I could possibly go through a, river, close season without casting a bait in their direction. So yes, I will do some Carp fishing, probably focussing on Victory Lake, at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, but my real hope is, after June 16th has dawned, to have a serious attempt for those Tench which I spotted in Black Dyke. A couple of other distractions might be provided by Perch and Eels, although no serious thought has been entered into as yet. Obviously, how Bev's medical situation develops will have a massive impact upon anything I am planning, thus the requirement to remain flexible will be fundamental over the next few months.

So at present, I am only thinking about what might be possible before June 16th and Carp will definitely be the species which will provide the challenge. Ten weeks, or thereabouts, should allow me plenty of opportunities to get to the bankside whenever the conditions are suitable. Day ticket Carp fisheries aren't my favourite venues yet, somehow, Sandwich Coarse Fishery suits my short session approach and has the stock which provides the realistic chance of a "thirty". Added to this is the relatively short distance from our front door ensures my ability to get back home, should Bev need me, within twenty minutes! 

My first "twenty" from Sandwich Coarse Fishery

I do have a "Plan B", in the locker, which can only come into play once we understand what direction the medical situation will take?  I haven't caught a Carp from the RMC since 2015 yet am well aware that small gang, of very talented guys, are catching some stunning fish from the canal. Not too sure that I will be able to give the venue proper attention, due to the distance involved and the resultant inability to conduct a pre-baiting program, yet it is a place which offers the "unknown" potential that I find so intriguing.

My best, split cane caught, Carp from the RMC (23 lbs 5 oz) 

Is ten weeks enough time for me to add another five "twenties" to my tally? I am currently re-reading Kevin Maddock's, 1981, "Carp Fever". Kevin and I never did see eye to eye, as he was a tunnel visioned technician, whilst enjoyment of the angling experience was far more important to me. We never Carp fished together, it was the advent of the Catfish Conservation Group which lead to our paths crossing. In my defence, I was young, vocal and very head strong. Kevin was up there to be shot at? Anyway, the target setting mentality used by Kevin, during those times, certainly now resonates with my angling journey in 2024. I'm now reading Carp Fever with a very different perspective on what Kevin had written all those years ago.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Not a lot happening

Bev and I had an appointment with the nurse at East Cliff Medical Centre, this morning, where she removed the dressing and was able to confirm that the healing process is going as well as could be hoped. Bev still has quite extensive bruising around the scar tissue, but this has to be expected at our time of life? No replacement dressing was applied, so that's a very positive sign of progress. When we returned home, after a detour to Copper's at Preston Garden Centre for a spot of brekkie, there was a letter from the surgeon confirming our follow up consultation on 26th April. At this meeting we will learn of what happens next, so we've got four weeks to get back into some form of normal routine. I have no intentions of picking up the rods again until after the Easter break has passed, so will continue to potter around in the garden when conditions allow. I managed to add Jay (No. 41) to my 2024 garden list, on Tuesday, when three birds flew south over the bungalow. Hedgehogs are nightly visitors to the feeding station, yet the mix of strong winds and rain has made it very difficult to get a decent chance for some photos. On the one occassion I did get the camera kit readied, the Hedgehog that turned up had a distinct preference for the Fox bowl over the normal fare on offer.

These same conditions are also playing a major role in keeping the moth activity to a minimum. This morning did, however, provide a nice surprise in the shape of two Esperia sulphurella (Sulphur Tubics) which are my earliest garden records by some margin.

Gale force winds are predicted for tomorrow, starting just after midnight, thus I won't be wasting effort, or electricity, running the trap tonight. However, in the run up to this next storm, there appears to be a window of opportunity allowing me to play around with the Hedgehog photography kit. Watch this space!

Sunday 24 March 2024

Brambling - day two

 Although it's nowhere as intense as that first, 2020, "lockdown" scenario, my garden listing has certainly become quite a feature of my everyday routine. The one thing which has impacted upon this activity is the camera kit that I now own. Image quality is completely off the scale when compared to my results with the Sigma 170-500 mm lens on a Canon EOS 400D. I was up before 06.45 hrs and, after the regulation coffee, took a wander around Newlands Farm in the search of Ring Ouzel or Wheatear. I failed dismally, the best I could do was a single male Blackcap, a Linnet and a couple of Skylarks! I'd topped up the garden feeders before I left and, on my return, was rewarded with a pair of Goldfinches on the sunflower hearts. This being quite a result, in 2024, just the second garden sighting of this species.

The second coffee of the morning was sitting beside my laptop, as I looked out of my study window towards the feeders. House Sparrow numbers are very buoyant, probably peaking around fifty individuals, whilst Chaffinches are also very numerous. It was whilst I was watching a group of five females that I became aware of the female Brambling in the same Buddleia bush (tree?) Pretty sure that it is the same individual as was present yesterday, I spent quite a while attempting to grab some better images of this bird in much improved light conditions.


Nothing much else occured during my time watching the feeding station. A pair of Greenfinches dropped in, but couldn't get onto the feeders due to a raucous gang of twelve Rose-ringed Parakeets dominating the scene. If anyone has ideas to prevent these, colourful, birds from using the feeders I would love to hear from you. Yes I know they are an alien species with no legal protection yet, my air rifle isn't an option in this situation. 

An absolutely beautiful little bird and most welcome at the feeding station

Saturday 23 March 2024

Garden exploits and encounters

 With Bev slowly starting to get over her operation I have found myself plenty to do pottering around in the garden. Hanging baskets, and the vast majority of my planters, will have to wait until after the Easter break before they get any form of attention. At the moment, the only three garden plants which I care about are my Buddleia trees, of which there are three, the Red Valerian and, of course, Nicotiana. Why? Because they are the three most attractive plants for moths, especially Hawk-moths, and therefore are an essential part of the garden flora. To be fair, the Buddleia and Valerian look after themselves, my task is to keep them in check. The Nicotiana require a little more effort in order to ensure that they are in fine fettle come the late Summer/early Autumn when moth migration tends to be at a peak. I have four planters specifically for these flowers, yet it is the one directly outside my study doorway which is of prime concern. Quite a few of last year's plants have successfully overwintered and are already showing signs of new growth but, just to ensure a plentiful supply of, heavily night-scented, nectar I have scattered a very liberal number of seeds to help boost the odds.

Red Kites - not in Aston Clinton

As I mentioned in the previous post if I'm in the garden my camera and binos will be close to hand. Today saw me add two more species to my tally which now stands at forty! With Spring raptor migration now well underway it was no great surprise to spot two Red Kites when the local Herring Gulls went into full frenzy mode. The female Brambling, at the feeding station, was a little more of a surprise as they are not quite annual garden visitors. 

Hedgehogs are nightly visitors to the feeding station, yet I haven't seen, or heard, a Fox in a good while. I will make an effort to grab some images of the "spiny critters" if the conditions allow. The moth trap hasn't been particularly busy, although an Agonopterix arenella (Brindled Flat-body) did require me to take a look at my Micro Moth field guide and visit Kent Moths to confirm the id.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

MV time?

 It's Bev's birthday, today, so what better way to celebrate such an occassion than with a visit to QEQM Hospital, Margate, for an operation? You couldn't make it up, but there you have it! We were parked up and inside the Day Surgery unit for 07.30 hrs where the highly committed team were on hand to provide the first class treatment for which our NHS is rightly famed. The team plied their magic and, after a spell in the recovery unit, we were back home before 13.30 hrs. We've now got to wait for three, or four, weeks before knowing what happens next. In the meantime, Bev and I are expected to be able to go about our normal routine with little disruption. There's absolutely no way that I'll be out on the bankside over the next couple of weeks, but there is much to fill the time whilst I await that next trip out with the rods. Garden planters need sorting, the lawn trimming and some jet-washing of the patio and off road parking area, just for starters! 

To be fair it all needs doing so, an enforced period of non-angling, is not time wasted. Because I will be in or around the bungalow there should be plenty of scope to improve upon my pitiful garden listing effort, thus far in 2024. Spring is upon us and with this comes heightened expectation of migrant species putting in an appearance. One thing is for sure, if I'm out in the garden my camera kit and binos will be close to hand should the gulls alert me to any raptors passing by. What this situation has also provided is the excuse to fire up the 125w MV moth trap again. Under no circumstances will my mothing be anything other than a dalliance with these wonderfully diverse insects. I don't keep lists, nor worry about those individuals which avoid specific id. No, it's just something I do for the sheer joy of "because I can" It's illuminating the garden, as I type this, for the first time this year. It will depend upon whatever else I have to blog about as to how many of my results will end up in cyberspace. It's my garden, they're my records and of no importance to anyone else - end of!


Sunday 17 March 2024

A surreal weekend

 With Bev's operation being imminent, I decided that we needed to get away for the weekend in order to avoid the situation of dwelling upon the impending medical procedures. A couple of phone calls, on Friday, ensured that we were able to do just that. First I spoke with my youngest brother, Sye, who along with his wife, Yve, were more than happy for us to visit them for the weekend. The second call was little more of a gamble. I rang Simon Walker, Dick's son, to see if we could meet up and take a look at the tribute display for his dad in the North Herts Museum, Hitchin. Unbelievably, this also resulted in arrangements being made which ensured it became a very special experience for us all. So Bev and I headed off, via the M2/M25, to Aston Clinton where Sye & Yve reside. This was our base for the weekend, although we didn't spent much time within the walls of their lovely home. We arrived just after 11.00 hrs, on Saturday, and between the usual banter, I managed to spend some time out in their garden grabbing a few shots of the local Red Kites. In Aston Clinton these majestic raptors are the equivalent to Rose-ringed Parakeets on Thanet; they're bloody everywhere! Light levels and generally gloomy conditions did nothing to assist my cause, yet I'm happy enough with what I managed to achieve. 




We get Parakeets - Sye & Yve have to poke up with Red Kites

The plan for the afternoon was for Bev & Yve to drive across to the garden centre in Tring for a coffee, cake and general perusing, whilst Sye & I headed to Hitchin where we were to rendezvous with Simon for a museum visit.  It was a good plan. The girls had a great time and were able to chat about stuff which I find quite difficult. Sye and me were to experience one of the most memorable afternoons of our lives? We drove to Simon's house, in Hitchin, where we were able to get parked without any issues, before being chauffeured to (and from) the museum by his lovely wife, Janet. I have to admit, here and now, that I've just had to get in contact with them again because I couldn't actually remember her name - much to my shame! Anyhow, we spent a very pleasant time in the museum, first viewing the tribute to Dick Walker which is absolutely bang on. A Hitchin lad and a local hero, although his influence obviously goes far beyond this parochial perspective. Sye and I were impressed by the display put on by the museum, and yet got just as much pleasure when, after looking at the posters and artifacts, we were able to sit down with Simon and just chat about what his father meant to him and us, over a coffee in the museum cafe area. 





The Heron Bite Alarm which set this whole series of events in motion - crazy!

Then, this morning, despite the drizzle Sye and I had a quick drive across to Wilstone Res. for a wander and a reminisce. It was all rather weird, not too much has changed, from a physical point. A bit of "health & safety" adjustments to the steps meant that they now have railings, but that was about it. We chatted about odd moments, as we passed various points along the concrete banks, yet both agreed that it could never be the same place, for us, to fish again because the characters of yesteryear are no longer part of the scene. Great memories of a stunning venue, yet the magic has faded with the passing of time.

The Wilstone Pier 17th March 2024 - it can never be the same without Alan Wilson's bivvy 
pitched on the end?

Wednesday 13 March 2024

My wish granted

 I was out on the flatlands, this morning, and had my two rods fishing just after 06.00 hrs. It was less than an hour later when the right hand alarm announced that a Pike had taken my bait. Not a particularly noteworthy scrap, but resulted in the "double" I had hoped for gracing the bank for a short while. At 16 lbs 15 oz it was a recapture of a fish which I'd caught in November, but that didn't reduce the pleasure of landing it today. 

A really nice looking Pike and yet another demonstration of the
benefits to be had from adding a polarizing filter to my camera kit.

Although I hung it out until after 10.30 hrs, that proved to be the only action of the morning. I'm not too sure where I'm headed tomorrow, for the final session of the Pike season, but know that even if I blank there can be no complaints about my 2023/24 catch returns.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

I should moan more often!

I'll start with the news that this morning's, pre-op, consultation meeting went very well and we came away reassured about the next stage in Bev's treatment. As we are not back for any more medical procedures before Monday 18th March, I will be able to get two more Pike sessions in before the season closes. With that out of the way, last night's PAC gathering was a very enjoyable event, with all the usual banter between the gang. I managed to exchange a few opinions about my own angling experiences and also give my view on the record status of that stupendous, 47 lbs 5 oz,  Pike which came out of Chew Valley in February. As my opinions have no impact upon those empowered to make such decisions, I won't bother mounting the soap box on this occassion. For me Tommy Morgan's fish, from Loch Lomond, still remains the one to beat.

So there I was, yesterday, moaning about how difficult my garden listing efforts had proven to be and what would you know? As I parked up on the drive, after returning from the PAC meeting, I was greeted by the sound of calling White-fronted Geese somewhere overhead in the darkness. A right result; not only a garden tick but also the first record for my Newlands Farm patch. Then, after getting back from our very expensive, post hospital, coffee morning (I wrote off a tyre on the way home which added another £58 to the bill) there was a male Blackcap on the fat-ball feeder. It made fairly regular visits, despite the constant rainfall, and I eventually managed to grab a few shots which are blog worthy.

Knowing that Pike fishing the RMC is a non-starter my options are rather restricted for these final two sessions. Black Dyke could see a further effort yet, I hanker after one more "double", the drain where my season got started seems to be edging the thought process at present. 

Monday 11 March 2024

Struggling on

 Is there no end to this cycle of abysmal weather? Friday/Saturday we were battered by gale force easterlies which provided some reasonable photo opportunities, down in Broadstairs, whilst I awaited the garage folk to change the front brake pads on my van. On the Saturday morning I endured a completely uneventful session out on the flatlands for the first time this season. Then, to add insult to injury, we had some more rain on Sunday, just to ensure the R. Stour and the RMC remain a filthy dirty, unfishable, mess. Happy days!

My garden bird list is proving to be a testing exercise, at present, Redwing, Song Thrush and, most annoyingly, Ring Ouzel have escaped 100% positive id. In those far off days, of youthful exuberance, I'd have probably ticked them off without a second thought. Certainly much older, although unsure if wisdom has been part of the process, I realise that such unimportant trivia doesn't have a place in my enjoyment of the wildlife encounters which come my way. I didn't get a positive id, so just move on.

With Bev's cancer treatment now imminent, I will be over at our PAC meeting, tonight, for the final time this Pike season. Some exchange of opinion about a couple of subjects would be very much appreciated, from my perspective, as I have several nagging doubts about my bait presentation choices since embarking upon the Black Dyke project. Second opinions are always welcome, especially from this bunch of extremely talented Pike anglers. The way things are panning out, it would seem that I will be out with the Pike rods on both Wednesday and Thursday, mornings, to see an end to the 2023/24 season. If I blank, there can be no complaints about how my campaign has gone. Nineteen "doubles" and two "twenties" providing yet more evidence that my decision to retire wasn't so bad after all? 


Wednesday 6 March 2024

The first Buzzards

Today's been a right "pick & mix" of events. I started off down on Black Dyke where, armed with a couple of split canes, I was on the hunt for a Tench. Crazy as it might seem, the recent sessions have provided me with ample evidence that there are some very sizable fish in this venue. This morning's effort wasn't able to confirm my suspicions, yet I didn't a blank as I managed to catch a very small "wild" Carp of a couple of pounds, or so. Packed up and on my way home, just after 10.00 hrs, Bev and I had a meeting with the cancer nurse booked for 14.00 hrs over at QEQM Hospital, Margate. With the sun beaming down from a lightly clouded sky, the local gulls were very agitated as the first signs of Common Buzzard movement began. I counted seven in little more than ninety minutes, four singles and a group of three, 

Quite high but, straight over the bungalow,
I clicked away merrily

I even managed to add a Raven to my 2024 garden list when one came through, heading south, before deciding it would be a good idea to irritate a Buzzard. Only when the two species are together can you appreciate just how big a Raven really is?

Our hospital appointment was a very good experience as we were given more details about the sequence of events which will take place over the coming months. Everything we heard was positive about a successful conclusion to the treatment, yet honest enough to include the possible side effects that some of the drugs/treatment might cause. I might only get one more Pike session in before the season closes but, under the current circumstances, it really doesn't matter a jot!

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Sad little seal

Thanks to the guys at our independant garage, in Broadstairs, both the van and our Mazda CX3 received their annual MOT certification today. My van requires a new set of front brake pads, as an advisory note from the process. It's booked in for Friday morning to have this sorted out. So another year's motoring is secured with our current vehicle choices. The sequence of events was to provide a window for me to take a slow stroll along the coastal path between Broadstairs and Dumpton Gap.My search for a "Scandinavian" Rock Pipit seems to be an exercise in pointless time wasting, yet not without reward? My walk back along the coastal footpath, between Broadstairs and Dumpton Gap provided the opportunity to grab a sequence of images of a "ringed" Rock Pipit, which I'd first seen in early December, and secure the BTO code.

I've sent the ring code to the BTO, via Euring?
I will update any info when I am able.
It seems that AI can deliver almost instantly? This bird was ringed in Broadstairs,
 on 30th October 2020, thus is a resident.

It was just as I arrived at the Dumpton Gap pathway that a guy informed me that there was a "baby" seal on the beach, if I wanted to get some images? The positive being that a Marine Animal Rescue guy was already present, I had a quick chat which was pretty informative. It was a Grey Seal pup. and would need to be tested for weight and body temperature before any decisions could be made?

A very poorly little seal.

Back out with the rods tomorrow, let's hope for a tight line! 

Sunday 3 March 2024

Coffee & Cake

 If ever Bev and I are at a loose end, then a drive around East Kent is a very nice way to waste away a few hours. Coffee and cake being the prefered option at the majority of destinations we head for. It doesn't matter if it's Copper's at the Preston Garden Centre, Poppies at Petham, the wonderful Fifth Trust Cafe at the Elham Valley Garden Centre, we enjoy them all. However, there is one place that is very dear to our hearts, where the view from the cafe is absolutely outstanding, and that is the "Battle of Britain Memorial Site" at Capel le Ferne, just outside Folkestone. This place is a superb tribute to those folk who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the UK remained free during those horrific times. There are many exhibits, both inside and out, where it is possible to spend a quiet minute just thinking about the horrors that these individuals must have witnessed and experienced during this savage period of our history. The Winston Churchill quote "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" is inscribed upon the wall as you drive into the site and resonates within as I wander around the site. It is a very special place and highly recommended if ever you're in the area.

You might have already worked out that we were there today, hence my reference, but that was just part of why I wanted to get down to this part of the county. Coffee and cake consumed, I had a wander around the area in order to grab a few images, whilst Bev remained in the cafe for coffee number two! It was an hour, or so, later that we were back in the van headed off towards the RMC. I wanted to see if there was any chance of casting a baited rig before the end of Pike season. The flooded fields, out across Romney Marsh, as viewed from the road leading down into West Hythe, told me all I needed to know. The reality being confirmed when we pulled up at Gigger's Green to survey the filthy water flowing under the bridge. I won't be back until next winter, I guess. 

With just ten more days of the current Pike season remaining, it would seem that Black Dyke is going to be where I am to conclude the efforts. One more "double" would be nice, something bigger would see this Pike season elevated to "very special status". I'm back out tomorrow, with a couple of ideas up my sleeve. Only time will tell if my thought processes are on the right track? The van and Bev's car are booked in for their MOT's on Tuesday, we have a hospital visit on Wednesday, time is rapidly passing and I will just have to fit in my Pike fishing whenever possible. 

Saturday 2 March 2024

We have a plan

Bev and I had our meeting with the surgeon and cancer nurse, at QEQM Hospital, Margate, yesterday. The outcome is that we now have an idea of what, and when, to expect the surgery and follow up treatment. What we didn't get, due to some uncertainty surrounding another patient's treatment, was an exact start date. All we know is that the earliest date will be 20th March, thus I now know that Pike fishing can continue right up to the 14th! We are going back, on 6th March, to have further discussion with the nurse, who will explain in more detail, what we will have to deal with as treatment progresses. Obviously, much of the timescale will depend upon how Bev reacts to, and copes with, the medical procedures involved. 

I went back down to Black Dyke, this morning, landing just one small "jack" for my efforts. The gale force winds, howling across the flatlands ensured I didn't stay much after 09.00 hrs. This followed a brief conversation with a lady, out walking a couple of magnificent Red Setters (almost certainly show dogs, judging by their prancing stance and gleaming russet coats). After exchanging the regulation "Good Morning" she said "you're brave". My reply went along the lines of "No; the word you should have used is "stupid". She laughed and agreed, all the persuasion I required to call it a day.

As I had said in an earlier post, I am going to keep a garden list whilst we deal with Bev's medical situation. I decided that it would start when we did the RSPB's "Big Garden Birdwatch" on January 28th. So far I have amassed a total of just thirty two species, yet have some glaring omissions which should easily be added once I finish the Pike season and set about getting the garden planters on the go and firing up the Robinson MV Moth Trap.for the first time this year. The feeding station is attracting good numbers of birds, with both Chaffinch and Greenfinch being daily visitors. Something quite interesting is the number of ringed birds turning up. Absolutely no way I can read these BTO-type metal objects, but would be interested to know if there is any ringing going on in the local area? The closest two ringing schemes, I am aware of, are at Sandwich Bay Obs and Reculver.

Thursday 29 February 2024

Half a million - truly humbled

 Whilst I am well aware that so many of my fellow bloggers are capable of attracting interest from a much larger audience it was my post, of yesterday, which saw my visitor stats pass the half a million mark. Absolutely mind numbing. I am incredibly humbled by this statistic. My blog, at best, is just a diary of my journey through life and the angling/wildlife encounters experienced along the way. That it has been of interest to so many others is extraordinary and I will never take this for granted. 

I took a photo of my computer screen to record this epic event (for me!)

My content is fairly mundane, my opinions are those of a guy who has worked on the factory floor for nearly fifty years and ain't gonna change anytime soon! So I would like to thank each and every one of those who have made the effort to peruse my ramblings and hope that I can continue to produce content which is of interest for a few more years yet?