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!


Sunday 28 January 2024

Simple things

It was the RSPB's "Big Garden Birdwatch 2024" this weekend. My step-daughter, Debbie, and my grand-kids, Emily and Harry, wanted to get involved and asked if I could help? An absolute no-brainer! The garden feeding station was topped up with an additional fat ball feeder, the bird bath given a clean up and some fresh water. I gave it an hour, early this morning, although we didn't actually conduct our count until mid-afternoon. Obviously there were differences in the two sessions, yet the vast majority of species were seen on both occasions. A pair of Chaffinches were most welcome, yet it was three Greenfinches which stole the headlines! The fact that our garden faces westward meant that my best opportunities for using the camera came early with the sun behind my position. 

The top bird has a metal ring on its' right leg.
Absolutely pointless, for data gathering, unless I shot it!

I've not made much effort to do any nocturnal feeding station watching, although I did see my first Hedgehog of 2024 on January 3rd. Last night, just prior to calling it a day, I spotted my second. This time the camera kit was to hand and I made an effort to grab a token shot through the double glazed window of the study doorway. Foxes are still very vocal around the Newlands area, yet have failed to provide any photo opportunities thus far. 

The newly acquired lens has been a revelation and the resultant image quality risen to a level which I couldn't have hoped for with the old Sigma version. I have the additional lighting kit available to attempt some better, after dark, images so await a time when sitting in my study, with the door wide open, doesn't result in hyperthermia. 


Not so fast you twat! Less than an hour after posting the blog and there's a Hedgehog at the feeding bowl, well illuminated by the Core LED work lite. I had nothing more to do than open the back door and lie on the study floor to obtain a superb series of images. Red eye compensation might apply in further attempts, yet I'm well pleased with this effort!

Friday 26 January 2024

Over thinking?

Back indoors after a superb session down on the RMC, today. A stunning day, weatherwise, with bright sunshine and clear blue skies, yet a rather frisky westerly blowing directly along the canal causing a few issues with the bite indicators! It seems incredible that I was on the bank from 06.20 hrs until 13.45 hrs and only saw four other people taking advantage of the glorious conditions. However, Baz was one of them and we had a really nice chat about this, that and so much more. He's still catching a few Carp at Beachborough and enjoying his retirement in much the same manner as I am. 

It was after the events of Wednesday that I had a serious think about how I'm approaching the RMC campaign this winter. I couldn't begin to guess how many miles of the canal bank my rods have been leapfrogged since November? What actually happened on Wednesday was that I moved the rods almost immediately after landing the only Pike of the session. The result of this, pre-planned, approach being that there was no further action on the rods. Had I located some fish, only to go through the leapfrogging ritual, and moved away from them? Today I was intent on staying put in my chosen area and seeing if the "bait & wait" tactic would pay dividends. Although less than a quarter of a mile away from where I'd fished on Wednesday, this particular section of the canal hasn't seen one of my baited rigs since March 2023. There is logic in this decision making, but it's not something I'm willing to explain. 

Bite No. 1 - 14 lbs 2 oz

Three rods were fishing by 07.05 hrs, sunrise was at 07.42 hrs, yet it wasn't until 09.20 hrs that my right-hand alarm finally signalled a bite. Under normal circumstances I'd be getting ready for a second move of the morning. It was a fairly dour battle which resulted in a Pike of 14 lbs 2 oz visiting the unhooking mat. It looked like it had seen a bit of action, so it was placed in the recovery sling prior to getting some photos. 

Bite No. 2 - 16 lbs 4 oz

I was "umming & ahhing" about getting the camera kit set up when, at 10.50 hrs, the same rod was away again. This time it was a far more spirited tussle which produced a lovely Pike of 16 lbs 4 oz. So now I'm in a dilemma. There's a Pike in the retainer and another, bigger fish, in the net. Photo time. I managed to get the original fish photographed and was just in the process of getting the second fish transferred from the net into the retainer when my left hand alarm burst into song. 

Bite No. 3 - 17 lbs exactly

Absolute chaos ensued as I landed my third "double" of the morning. At 17.00 lbs exactly, it was a lovely, clean Pike, yet extraordinarily skinny and covered in leaches. I got the fish sorted out, rod's recast, and then set about getting the selfies done.. As it turned out, that was to be my lot for today. I certainly won't complain about three bites - three doubles, but I still hanker after that encounter with a "fish of legend". You've gotta be "innit to winnit" and I wouldn't have it any other way. Just as an aside, it would seem that I might have to work a bit harder with the self take kit. It could just be raising the height of the camera or, maybe, the acquisition of a polarizing filter for the 18 - 55 mm lens?

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Preferable to a blank

 My first session down on the RMC, since last Wednesday, produced a single bite. The result was a very pleasant Pike, of 13 lbs 8 oz, visiting the unhooking mat but that was all the angling action in over four and a half hours on the bank.

Bev looked at this image and thought I looked puzzled? 
To be fair, I'll take that because one of the dog walkers said I looked "rough"! How dare they?

However, as with any time spent down on the canal, there were some quality conversations with various folk out walking their dogs or just enjoying the scenery. Birds were fairly predictable, although two Barn Owls just before dawn certainly provided the highlight. A flock of Mediterranean Gulls, circa 130+, moved westward just after sunrise and there were a few Redwing, Song Thrush, Fieldfare and Blackbirds to scan through as the morning progressed. A couple of Ravens put on a noisy display overhead and a sky dancing Common Buzzard was quite spectacular as the light levels got better. It was a pair of protesting Moorhens that alerted me to the presence of a hunting Mink, on the opposite bank. I managed to grab a token image of this sly critter before it slunk off back into the bankside reeds. Nothing too outstanding but, certainly, better than sitting indoors wondering what might have been?

Thus far, into January, blogging has been hard going. Let's hope that the crazy weather is now behind us and a return to, some form of, normality is possible?

Sunday 21 January 2024

Pre - Isha stroll

The doom & gloom merchants, at the Met Office, speak of the potential disruption (aka chaos) associated with the next "celebrity" storm which is predicted to arrive on Thanet just after sunset today. With this as the background, I took a stroll along the coastal footpath between Dumpton Gap and Broadstairs Harbour, early morning, in the hope of obtaining a few more additions to the 2024 year list. If I'm honest, it was rather disappointing with just Purple Sandpiper, two, and Gannet, three, providing the new entries. 

My search for a convincing "Scandinavian" Rock Pipit looks set to run for a good while yet. Only two "Rockits" encountered today, both very much typical of our local breeding population. A couple of Red-throated Divers moved south, well offshore, into the strengthening wind, whilst a few Brents, Oystercatchers and Curlews moved in the opposite direction, headed for feeding spots around the coast, as the tide started dropping. On my way home I took a short detour to Winterstoke where I spent a few minutes, in deteriorating light conditions, attempting to get some images of the local Fulmars. Safe in the knowledge that they will hang around for several months yet, I am confident that I'll grab a few images which do justice to these, tube-nosed, ocean wanderers at some point in the future. In the meanwhile this is the best I have managed!

Friday 19 January 2024

Enjoying the sunshine

Overnight temperatures were forecast to be around -5 C, and the widespread frost, first thing this morning, suggested that the Met Office hadn't been too far off the mark? Frosts on Thanet are fairly infrequent due, entirely, to the geographic location as we jut out into the mouth of the English Channel. With sunshine predicted from dawn to dusk, I decided to grab the camera and head off to the old hoverpad, at Cliffsend, to see what was about. Wrapped up warm in my regular angling apparel, I chose my Skee-Tex wellies over the more traditional walking boots, as this allowed me the option of actually walking along the shoreline, below the cliffs, if the tide was out. 

Thankfully, it was a very long way out and I went off in search of a Sanderling, or two, which I still require for the year list. As it happened, no sign of these smart little waders, so I had to make do with a Bar-tailed Godwit to push my tally to 88 species for the year. All the usual suspects out on the mud gave me plenty to look at but, it was a group of six Rock Pipits that provided the main distraction. Try as I might, none of them showed any sign of "Scandinavian" origins, thus the search will continue.

 As I made my way, very slowly, back towards the hoverpad, I stumbled upon the two Twite which have been present for a couple of months now. Out on the saltmarsh, they were completely oblivious to my presence and allowed very close approach without any signs of agitation. I watched them feeding for a while and worked out their route along the beach margin, allowing me to position myself, low down on the frozen mud and just await them to come to me. It worked like a charm and I enjoyed some stunning views (and photo opportunities) as the pair steadily worked their way towards me. I gave it around fifteen minutes before deciding enough, was enough, and leaving them to carry on foraging along the tide line.

A cracking ninety minutes, or so, spent doing nothing more than enjoying myself. Looks like fishing's very unlikely until next Wednesday, at the earliest? Between now and then, the weather is predicted to take a turn towards severe storms, although temperatures are certainly set to rise significantly. A bit of seawatching might just be on the cards if the rods remain redundant.

This final image is almost as it appeared on the back of the camera. All I needed to
do was straighten it very slightly. The bird was within 3 or 4 metres of my position.

Friday 12 January 2024

Pike fishing and the passing of time

It seems unbelievable that I caught my first Pike, as a spotty little oik, from Pixies Mere, Bourne End, Herts, way back in October 1970. Certainly weighing less than five pounds, this single event has impacted upon my life more than any other ever since - in an angling context ! Way back then Pike were considered freshwater sharks and the angling press were quite happy to state that "the only good Pike is a dead Pike" such was the dominance of match angling during this period. Then along came the Great Ouse River Board (Authority ?) who randomly decided to introduce Zander into the Relief Channel and the rest, as they say, is now history! The spread of Zander, throughout Fenland and way beyond (due to illegal fish movements) ensured that these newbies became the target of match angling's venom and Pike, all of a sudden, became the ecological good guys in the predator stakes. Added to this was the superb work done by The Pike Society (which then evolved into The Pike Anglers Club of GB in 1977) and the safe return of our apex predator became accepted normal practice.

18th January 1988 - Wilstone Res. Tring
22 lbs 2 oz on 1/2 Herring flavoured with mixed fish oils.

It was during the early 1980's that I became involved with the PAC as a member of the Luton region. Our R/O (Regional Organiser) was Andy Windmill who, along with Alan Beat, had been working on a twin single rig. Although their dead bait presentation still involved free-lining, what they had already identified was the barbaric nature of the traditional "snap tackle" and their experimentation was driven by the desire to make unhooking these fish much easier for the anglers and safer for the Pike. I have to admit that I played around with this particular set-up yet failed to be convinced by the effectiveness of free lined presentations. Not long after this, however, I bumped into Vic Bellars at a PAC, or NASA, Conference. He was on the Partridge of Redditch stand, promoting his newly designed "double" hooks. It wasn't a long chat but, I came away convinced that Vic's ideas were the way forward. No free lining, Vic was adamant that the use of some type of lead arrangement was the best way to quickly registering a take. 

16th January 1990 - Pixies Mere, Bourne End, Herts
22 lbs 3 oz on 1/2 Mackerel

Whatever else happened during those crazy times, this basic set-up became my standard technique when presenting a dead bait. I continued to use trebles for my live bait rigs, yet had taken the decision to stop using live bait in the mid/late 80's, and have been slowly evolving Vic's basic methodology ever since. Obviously, having walked away from angling, totally, in 1993 it came as a massive shock, when I picked up the Pike rods again, in April 2011, to discover that twin treble set-ups were still the "go to" rig in the Pike anglers repertoire? Sad to say that another thirteen years down the road and this still remains the case. What is even more concerning is the fact that The Pike Anglers Club of GB doesn't appear to be able to recruit younger members of the angling community in enough numbers to ensure their catch and release message is being promoted. In my own region, over half the members who attend our gatherings are retired!

22nd September 1989 - Emberton Park, Northamptonshire
18 lbs 10 oz - had I no shame? Pike season was still eight days away!

Where is Pike fishing headed in these Carp dominated times, where social media plays an ever more significant role in our society? Youtube is swamped with offerings showing Pike being caught on all types of methods, yet very rarely does unhooking the fish feature. It follows, therefore, that other, inexperienced, anglers are inspired to chuck out a lure, or dead bait, in pursuit of Pike and therein lies the problem with the resultant increase in the number of fish I encounter which have suffered injury due to a lack of unhooking skills. Worse still, fish have their stomachs stitched up with twin trebles which have been left because of complete ineptitude. Apart from the odd session with my son, along with a couple of his close friends, and my brother I am very much a loner these days. If another angler asks for my advice, I am more than happy to oblige in as honest fashion as I know how, but actually using the blog to promote methods and venues, beyond the most basic use of the written word, isn't what I wish to do. 

3rd November 2018 - The RMC (somewhere!)
18 lbs 4 oz - popped-up 1/2 Mackerel

Big Pike are increasingly rare creatures in our fisheries and deserve all the protection they can get, in my opinion. To this end I recently passed comment upon a Youtube offering where a guy promoted using twin trebles in half smelt offerings which were fished free lined and bite indication provided by light Carp-type bobbins with bait-runner reels. Utter nonsense and why I offered the advice to join the PAC so as to learn how to do it properly. However, his reply went along the lines of "I've been Pike fishing for nearly thirty years. I've caught Pike to almost thirty pounds and loads of twenties!"  That someone else then commented with "You'd have thought you might have learned something in thirty years?" was as far as I bothered to follow the exchanges. My own response was to unsubscribe from the channel purely because I am unwilling to support such unthinking angling practice. Won't make the slightest bit of difference but I feel better having done so.

February 2013 - The RMC (somewhere else!)
19 lbs 5 oz - 1/2 Herring dyed red

As I look forward to more Pike angling over the coming eight, or nine, weeks. There is plenty still left for me to achieve. A "twenty" has to be the obvious target yet, somewhere in the background, that really big girl is lurking and I live in hope that she'll cross my path before this current campaign is over. It was a pity that our January PAC meeting had to be cancelled, due to the inclement weather, as there are a couple of subjects which I had been hoping to place into the mix. In the meanwhile, I will continue to do things my own way and report upon my results as, and when, they occur.

Wednesday 10 January 2024

One day at a time

On the road just after 05.00 hrs, I had three rods fishing by 07.15 hrs almost a mile away from where I'd parked the van. It was around 10.00 hrs, and three leapfrogs into the session, that one of my alarms finally signalled a bite. Certainly not what could be considered a classic, I felt sure that an Eel was responsible for the stuttering rise of the monkey up the needle. It was only once I'd set the hooks that I knew it was a Pike. Three times I had it to the net, only for it to surge off back across the canal. Eventually I drew it over the chord and my prize was secured. A cracking fish, tipping the scales at 18 lbs exactly, not a bad way to start my 2024 RMC tally. I continued to fish for another couple of hours, but that was my only action. 

I can make as many excuses as I wish, yet the reality is that I've not been able to find the bulk of the fish in the section I'm targeting. Hopefully, the weather will settle into some form of stable pattern and my experiences from previous years will stand me good stead? Until then, however, it would appear that I'm chasing the odd fish in areas where gut feeling and watercraft suggest I position a bait.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

January struggles

I endured my second, 2024, total blank session on the RMC, this morning, not even any signs of Eel activity but, boy, it was bloody cold down there! Fortunately my attire for these sessions is more than adequate, for the task, and I remained warm and comfortable all the while I was on the bank. Basically, I'm down there to enjoy myself, not on an endurance test. Still, even if the Pike wenen't playing ball, there was plenty of birdie action to keep me entertained.

Dawn brakes over Romney Marsh

I added three more to my year list plus getting plenty of chances to push my camera skills beyond what I'd previously endeavoured. Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit and Treecreeper were my additions, yet it was a morning where Great White (two) and Little Egrets (three) really dominated the show. 

I could probably do with a visit to a medical facility as I'm going back down tomorrow for another session. Surely, at my age, I should know better? Still, if I do eventually encounter that Pike of my dreams, I will certainly be able to say I earned it. As an aside, Simon Walker has emailed me with the news that the Dick Walker exhibition seems to be getting closer to a formal start date. I will post full details as soon as they are available.

Saturday 6 January 2024

A bit of a mixed bag

 As I'd said yesterday, getting the Christmas decorations packed away was the top priority for today. Fortunately, everything went to plan and I was able to get out for a stroll just after mid-day. My plan was to have a wander across the marsh to check up on Black Dyke whilst also hoping to add a few more ticks to the year list. As it turned out, things couldn't have been any better. Not only have I managed to discover a section of Black Dyke which certainly offers a chance of presenting a bait, there were also seven additions to my year list. What's to complain about? The camera kit did me proud, with images of a few species which were encountered whilst on my wanderings. 

Stonechat was a year tick, the Dunnock being a species which is very
rarely the subject of birding images.

This was, however, just a side-show to the real content of my day. I received an email from Simon (Walker) telling me that the "Dick" Walker exhibition was to be up, and running, by the end of January! Bloody hell, doesn't allow much time to get things prepped. Simon has asked me to use the blog to find out if there is anything anglers would like to see included in any tribute to the life of this legend? It seems insane that neither Simon, nor his two brothers (Richard and Timothy) are anglers. If you do have any ideas please use the comments facility of my blog and I'll forward them to Simon without needing to publish anything here.

With the sun setting, in the west, I refound the flock of eight Cattle Egrets just
beyond where I'd parked the van.

Obviously, nothing is set in stone at this point but I can state that the event will be staged in the North Hertfordshire Museum, 14, Brand Street, Hitchin. SG5 1JE. I will provide more detail as, and when, Simon and the museum curator provide them.

Friday 5 January 2024

Ticking along slowly

 The current, erratic, nature of the weather ensures that any serious angling plans are a non-starter. No good moaning about it because it certainly isn't a situation unique to East Kent, everyone is in the same boat, or so it seems? With nothing better to do, I have set about filling in a few gaps in the 2024 year list and am happy to report that my tally now sits at a very acceptable seventy-two species. I've not been anywhere particularly distant, nor to a diverse range of habitats. No surprises, therefore, that there are some really glaring omissions at this point in time. Still; I feel confident that these will be rectified as the weeks pass. Stodmarsh NNR, the Canterbury ring woods and many other destinations will offer the potential to add to my score as nowhere is off limits. My list, my rules, it really is that simple. One thing I am hopeful about is the improved quality of the images I'm able to post on this blog. It certainly seems to be working OK thus far?

The Rock Pipits were along the coastal pathway near Winterstoke Steps,
whilst the Oystercatchers were on the shoreline below the Western Undercliff.

Twelfth Night tomorrow, so much of my time will be spent getting the Christmas stuff packed away and back into the loft. Hopefully I'll manage to grab a bit of time to have a wander with the binos and camera kit in the quest for another tick, or two? 

Little Egret over the "Garage Pool" at Pegwell NNR and the
Twite was just north of the old hoverpad.

Monday 1 January 2024

That'll do for starters

 I parked the van by the stables a little after 06.20 hrs and took a slow, barrow pushing, stroll out onto the marsh. I'd being toying with the idea of fishing "Black Dyke" but the water was pushing through and quite coloured so, instead, I took the easy option and fished one of the smaller side drains. Within an hour of casting out, the right hand alarm signalled a bite and after a spirited tustle I drew a lovely Pike over the draw chord of my landing net. An absolutely beautiful fish of 16 lbs 6 oz was placed in the retaining sling whilst I continued to fish on for another couple of hours. Because it was a rather dull morning, the patternation of this individual was really well defined when I posed for the selfies. 

My New Years bird listing wasn't up to much, this morning, and has only just reached thirty-six species as I'm sat at my laptop at home. One very obvious highlight was the discovery of eight Cattle Egrets in with a large flock of sheep. A passing dog walker caused them to take flight, although they only flew into the adjacent field. It was nothing untoward, the two dogs were barking at my loaded barrow and a few of the sheep spooked, thus doing the same to the egrets.

A token record shot of the eight birds together

I'm not too sure when I'll next get out with the rods? The weather is forecast to remain very unsettled and, as such, I'm not prepared to take the gamble and drive all the way down to the RMC only to discover it to be filthy dirty and unfishable. So my quest for a "double" from Black Dyke might just have to help pass the time whilst I await some settled conditions.