Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Thursday 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? 

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Mission accomplished

Dawn this morning, as seen from my swim on Black Dyke

Knowing that Bev's cancer treatment will be getting underway very shortly, my session down on Black Dyke, this morning, might just prove to be the final one of this Pike season? I had been down to this same stretch yesterday and blanked, although did have a dropped run. The bait being rejected before I got anywhere close to the rod. Because it is such an intimate venue, last night I decided to ditch the centrepins and use the Okuma CBBF 5000's with open bale arms instead. Indication would be provided by my home made drop-off arms in conjunction with the Siren R3's. 

My homemade drop off arms are as simple as it gets? 
That's a champagne cork (painted orange) on a length of carbon rod with map pins for the line clip.

I will never know if the switch from centrepins to open bale arms had any effects on my success because the Pike are incapable of passing on such information. What I do know, however, is that I landed two fish this morning and one of them was to see my "double" from Black Dyke challenge ticked off. The first one might have weighed six, or seven, pounds, the second one was an absolute beauty of 14 lbs 7 oz and ensured my journey home was with a huge smile on my face.

To quote James Denison - "That's a wrap!"

Although conditions were rather gloomy, I kept the polarizing filter on the 18 - 55 mm lens and am very pleased with the results. I had the camera set in manual mode, 1/125 th sec exposure with auto ISO setting, it being mounted on a bank stick, via a Gardner adaptor. Always happy to learn, so Youtube isn't such a bad place to seek advice, if camera techniques are concerned, as no Pike are harmed if the information is inferior.

Monday 26 February 2024

Confidence is key

If my Black Dyke "double" challenge is to succeed then I need to go there, whenever possible, fully confident my tactics are the best I have in the locker. Little more than two weeks isn't a particularly lengthy period, thus experimentation won't be part of any plans. I know what has worked for me down on the RMC and, also, at a couple of adjacent drains much closer to the section of Black Dyke I now intend to target. No; this is going to be a  full-on effort based upon what's worked previously. However, I am forever scouring Youtube for anything Pike related just to ensure I'm not missing a trick? Sure there are many hundreds of lure fishing "vlogs" to peruse, yet it is the dead baiting offerings which I seek. All I can say, having no desire to get into any further exchanges of opinion, is that some of what I've watched causes me great concern for the safety of our Pike stocks, yet also confirms that my approach retains a considerable edge over what the "Johnny cum lately", unthinking, carp clones are presenting. 

Benno and I with a couple of Loch Awe "doubles"
Wild Pike from wild places.

Obviously, I have absolutely no intention of sharing details about my dead bait presentations via this cyber platform. Those who need to know are all within the close knit ranks of the Canterbury/Thanet PAC Region plus a few, very close, friends (my son and brother included).  When, in the late 1980's, Eddie Turner told me I needed an edge for my dead bait presentation, little could I have imagined where it would lead? Today, almost forty years after that exchange, most of what I am seeing on Youtube is bang average yet there is some content depicting techniques which would have been frowned upon back then. This is not restricted to individual, "please like and subscribe" contributors, even recent mainstream manufacturer offerings have content which is dubious at best. The safe return of Pike to the water is all I care about thus some of the stuff I've watched on Youtube makes me cringe. I have absolutely no idea how these offerings would be received if the anglers were fishing for, and handling, Carp in the same, contemptuous, manner? 

Since retiring, in April 2021, I've now almost completed three Pike seasons, the catch returns being way beyond anything experienced previously. There can be no doubt that my ability to go fishing whenever conditions are favourable, opposed to availability of holiday entitlement, has played a huge role in the subsequent upturn in results. Forty-seven "doubles" and eleven "twenties" have fallen to my dead bait tactics since that fateful date. Even if I say so myself, that's pretty good going. Every one being from wild stock. and this simple requirement has played a major part in my approach to Pike angling since picking up the rods again in 2011. 

Flatlands Pike action circa November 2011

Over this period I can only recall one Pike fishing session which lasted from dawn to dusk, most of the others have been in the form of getting my baits into position some thirty minutes before sunrise and fishing up to 11.00 hrs, noon at the very latest. I've mentioned, many times, my use of "leapfrogging" the rods along sections of bank to cover as much water as possible. This technique has it's origins set way back in the early 1980's when we employed the method out on the Fenland drains in search of Pike and Zander. Because my sessions are relatively short, I have no excuses if doubt enters the equation. If I think that something isn't right I have to change it. Absolutely no way can I sit and wait to see if anything happens? 

Probably not the finest image of a "back-biter" set-up?

To end this rambling mix of thoughts, I have to say a massive thank-you to the guys of the Canterbury/Thanet PAC Region for voicing their honest opinions about the subject of bite detection and line drag. It started out as a discussion based around "safe" rigs yet quickly evolved into the requirement for the optimum bite registration. I don't recall a single member offering any other opinion than, wherever possible, the use of a float is the most sensitive method available. Under no circumstances could I find fault with this consensus opinion, they are a very accomplished group of Pike anglers. For what it was worth, I then offered my slant on this issue. There is absolutely no way I could stare at a float(s) whilst out on the bank. There is so much else for me to enjoy that I have the attention span of a demented Gnat! What with binoculars around my neck and a camera/long lens hanging over my shoulder, the wildlife experience is just as important as the fishing. So it has to be electronic bite alarms every time. The visual indication might be provided by a drop arm system or a simple monkey, on an angled needle, the bottom line being that I am not required to stare intently at a single spot but, instead, have the freedom to enjoy the surrounding environment safe in the knowledge that my alarms will immediately alert me to any Pike activity. And from this subject we then went on to exchange opinions about the effects of drag to a taking Pike. I have never used a "bait-runner" system for Pike fishing, yet am perfectly happy to use centrepins with the same revolving drum technology. Open bale arms on fixed spool reels has always been my go to method and I don't see it changing at this stage in my journey. The outcome of this particular avenue of thought revolved around the need of constant resistance to the taking fish. So a centrepin spinning, or a bait-runner doing similar, and line just peeling off the drum of a fixed spool, doesn't make too much difference to the drag experienced when that Pike first takes the bait. Much food for thought and something I will make an effort to play around with next season?

Yes I know I've used this photo on many occasions previously.
This is my favourite image of any Pike I've ever been fortunate to capture.
November 1982

Although I like to think of myself as an allrounder, there can be no escaping the very obvious bias my angling has towards Pike, their capture and safe return to the venues from whence they came. . 

Friday 23 February 2024

Not entirely to plan

 The opportunity was there, Bev perfectly happy for me to go, so I'd hoped to get the Black Dyke caper underway this morning. The weather gods, however, weren't playing ball and that, after two days of rainfall, it ensured, on arrival, it was immediately clear that the venue wasn't fishable. Fortunately I had a plan B and within ten minutes my loaded barrow was back where I'd been on Monday, two rods fishing by 06.45 hrs. Little more than an hour after casting out my right hand set-up was away. A really weird bite which, if I hadn't hooked the Pike, I would have put down to Eel activity. It was a fiesty battle with the Pike actually "tail-walking" on one occassion, and ended with me netting the twentieth "double" of the 2023/24 campaign. It was a stunning fish, tipping the scales at 17 lbs 8 oz - oh, how I wish it had come from Black Dyke!

I remained on the bank until 11.00 hrs, landing a second fish, of around nine pounds - I didn't zero the scales properly, but know it wasn't a "double", just before 09.00 hrs. Birding was pretty good with Peregrine, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier (3) and Kestrel providing plenty of opportunities to point the binos. Some forty plus White-fronted Geese remain on site and Wigeon are still present in good numbers. I managed a record shot of a Chiffchaff which paused briefly in the adjacent hedgerow before continuing on its' way

To be fair, it was a very pleasant morning out on the flatlands, I just hope that the weather will settle down so as to allow me to get a baited rig into Black Dyke before March 14th brings down the curtain on another Pike season.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

The Black Dyke mini project

On Friday, 1st March, Bev and I have a consultation meeting with our surgeon and the cancer nurse to discuss the plans for Bev's treatment. It will provide us with a clearer idea of timescale and sequence of events during this medical procedure. I need to be there purely because, in her current state, Bev will have forgotten 90% of what was said before we leave the hospital. Plus I'm her husband and there to provide any support I'm able, and some? Still, because she's such an independent character, I've been told that I can still go fishing, whenever it is possible, without conflicting with this situation. What I've decided to do, under these circumstances, is to abandon the RMC quest and, instead, embark on the pursuit of a lesser target. As inspired by Brian, over on The Pike Blog, a "double" from a new water will provide focus during the next twenty-two days which will see me to the end of this particular Pike season.

October 2018 - probably the last time
I fished this particular section.

The reason that I've decided upon this course of action is fairly simple. One, Black Dyke is little more than twenty minutes away from the front door, thus I am reasonably close to home should I be needed and, two, if it's suffering the effects of heavy rainfall there are a couple of side drains which will remain fishable within a few minutes walk of where I plan to spend the remainder of the season. Over this past decade I've dabbled with this venue, catching a few small Pike for my efforts, yet nothing much over nine pounds. I have seen photos of a Pike, which was claimed as a "thirty" by a complete Muppet (who killed it to have it set-up?) This being the unknown factor which makes these drains so appealing to me. If one Pike managed to attain such a size, there's nothing to prevent another from doing the same? 

A small Pike taken from this lovely venue.
One twice this size would provide a superb finale to the 2023/24 season

I'd hope to be able to get in a couple of sessions a week before 14th March yet, knowing what's in the background, must accept that things might change dramatically as the days pass. 

Monday 19 February 2024

I'll take that

 With the weather forecasts predicting more rainfall, from Wednesday onwards, I took a short drive out onto the flatlands this morning for my only outing of the week. As it turned out, a very good decision. Just two rods used on a small drain which has produced a few Pike for me over the years and today was to see this continue with three fish visiting my unhooking mat during the four hours I was on the bank.

Dawn out on the flatlands provided a nice opportunity to get
a bit creative with the camera kit.
Please don't be fooled by this image, the conditions rapidly deteriorated as the morning progressed

I leapfrogged along 200m of the drain whilst I was there and was rewarded with fish of 9 lbs 10 oz, 8 lbs 8 oz and finally a "double" tipping the scales at 12 lbs 10 oz. Not too sure if I'll go back there or, if the canal remains unfishable, might revisit Black Dyke to see if I can catch that elusive "double" from the venue. No pressure on me to achieve any targets under the current circumstances, I will just have to go with the flow if and when I can get out on the bank.

That red mark, just above the pelvic fin, might be due to previous bad handling or,
more likely, spawning activity?

With squealing Water Rails and regular Cetti's Warbler song providing the backdrop, I was very pleased to add another species to my year list in the form of a nice flock of White-fronted Geese which did a quick fly past. I was finally able to use the newly purchased polarizing filter for my self takes, yet under the gloomy skies I am not sure how much difference it made? 

Sunday 18 February 2024

A return to the "flatlands"

 With this crazy weather continuing to provide rainfall which the, already saturated, countryside is unable to cope with. Bev and I took a drive along the Alkham Valley, this morning, en route to the garden centre for a coffee and bacon bap. The flooded roads told me all I needed to know about the state of the RMC; enough said. Yesterday, I'd taken a wander across the marsh to see what condition the drains were in. Although the water was carrying a bit of colour, the side drains seemed to have enough water clarity and little flow which suggests that I'll be able to present a bait , for Pike, with a reasonable chance of success?

A new dawn 

So that's my plan for the foreseeable future. I'd like to catch another two "doubles" (taking my season's total to twenty) before March 14th provides closure for this latest campaign. In simple terms, I have twenty-four days to catch two more fish! However, there has been a significant twist in events since Bev and I visited QEQM Hospital on Friday. The "C" word has entered our world and will be an issue we have to deal with over the next few months. The doctors, surgeon and nursing staff, are very upbeat about a successful outcome due, in part, to this very early diagnosis. 

Garden birding might just be the way forward?

All I can say is that we are truly grateful to the team at QEQM for their positive response to the issue and hope that we are able to remain as "normal" as is possible now cancer has entered the equation. If my bogging gets a little erratic - so be it. Absolutely no doubt, this will impact upon my angling but, hey-ho, I still have the moth trap, my camera kit and, as an aside, I'm also going to nick an idea from Stewart Sexton and keep a garden bird list for 2024. Just to make it clear, Bev has the problem, I have to be the "rock" who can deal with the emotional rollercoaster this situation will create. Not overly sure I'll be able to live up to expectations - only time will tell?

Thursday 15 February 2024

Back to square one?

Two sessions on the RMC, this week, two blanks.  Yet littered with Eel action as these slimy pests homed in on any offerings I placed into the filthy mess which is currently the canal. Heavy rainfall has, once again, turned the canal into a debris laden, mud bath, hence why the only fish still active are those bloody Eels. Even baits positioned 24" off the canal bed aren't immune from the attentions of these nightmare fish and so it would seem that my Pike angling has gone full circle and I'm back to where I was at the end of November; when I actually started the campaign? I took delivery of a polarizing filter last Sunday and have been hoping to give it a trial with some trophy shots. What a joke. Happily, the camera has seen some action even if the rods remained fishless. 

Birds haven't been that cooperative, or numerous, yet every now and then I have managed to point the long lens in the direction of one or two. My year list actually reached one hundred species, this morning, when I added a "calling" Little Owl to my tally. Three Barn Owls were encountered as I made my way to the canal, yet it was a pair of "prospecting?" Long-tailed Tits which provided the bulk of the entertainment today.

Bev and I, plus the extended family, were in Morden, Surrey on Tuesday/Wednesday to attend the funeral of my "Uncle Pete", the last remaining member of our parents generation. My cousin Ruth, did him proud with a superb ceremony and wake. We've now got a hospital appointment to negotiate before things can return to some form of normality - fingers crossed!

Saturday 10 February 2024

A real crowd pleaser

I took a stroll along the coastal path from Winterstoke to Ramsgate Harbour, this morning, just to get out with the camera and binos. The search for a "Scandinavian" Rock Pipit being partly responsible for the outing, it was just nice to be outdoors in some calm and brighter conditions. Safe to say, my quest for the continental Rock Pipit remains unfulfilled and, as such, is set to continue for the next few weeks. A rather showy Pied Wagtail posed for a few shots, as I stood overlooking the Fulmar nest site above the car parking area. 

I continued along the cliff-top, scanning the loafing Herring Gulls for C-R's, again without success, before taking the footpath down to the harbour, passing Peter's Fish Factory and Weatherspoon's as I did so. The harbour was very quiet, despite it being high tide. Just three Great Crested Grebes being out of the ordinary. Turnstone numbers seemed to be very good, with over thirty birds counted as I walked the western arm out to the Harbour Lights Cafe. Try as I might, there was nothing of note amongst the regular gulls and no sign of a Shag in the inner marina area, I decided to cut my losses and head back along the lower footpath to look for pipits. I hadn't got far past the small beachside kiosk, when I noticed a group of folk looking out over the beach. Many had their phones, in camera mode, pointed towards the sea. A quick lift of the binos quickly established what their attention was focussed on. An adult Grey Seal was hauled out on the beach, dozing right on the tideline, despite the dog walkers and other folk using this very popular area. I rattled off a few shots, just because I needed something to blog about. 

There was a lady, who seemed to be taking charge of the situation, politely asking some dog walkers to give the animal some space. "I don't like to be bossy" she said "but the seal needs protecting!" She told me that the marine animal rescue crowd had been alerted to the situation and were on their way. I left her to it, she might not have liked being bossy, but she was obviously a natural? I continued right along the path to where it ends below King George VI Park. Very little to report, but I did spend a bit of time pointing the camera towards the Fulmars coming and going from the ledges in the chalk cliffs above me.  

As I returned to Winterstoke Steps, to get up to my van, I scanned back towards the harbour and could see, immediately, that the seal was no longer hauled out on the beach. I can only assume that the animal went back into the sea, of it's own accord, and that the marine animal brigade hadn't "rescued" it in the short time which had elapsed since I had been with it.

Tuesday 6 February 2024

On a hunch

 As predicted, yesterday, I returned to the RMC for the second day running knowing that the weather wasn't likely to be conducive for slumming it on the bank (no umbrella!). With the winds coming straight across Romney Marsh, gusting 50 mph at times, it certainly wasn't a walk in the park. Exactly the same set-up as I used yesterday, I dropped onto a section of the canal which I have walked past on many occasions, en route to my favoured areas. Why today? Well, over the past few weeks I have noticed that Cormorant activity has been focussed at this particular point. Now whilst I am no fan of these feathered critters, on freshwater venues, they are a fantastic help when looking for Pike fodder. It was a Canterbury/Thanet regional PAC meeting, probably ten years ago (when we used to meet in the C&DAA HQ in Sturry) that Ken Crow explained how, although not a direct threat to big Pike, Cormorants competed for the same food source. Their preferred prey size being similar to that of Esox lucius. Ever since Ken's input, I have used his advice, whenever applicable, to assist me with locating possible "holding areas" Obviously, given my recent results, I'm not struggling to find decent Pike along my chosen section of the RMC. This morning, with nothing to lose, I dropped onto this area just to have a look. Probably under a third of a mile from where I park the van, it is an absolute doddle to push the barrow this distance instead of the regular route march.

Two baits in the water by 07.00 hrs, I watched several groups of Cormorants attempting to land along the section, although being deterred by my presence. Surely they knew that there was a decent stock of sizable "silver fish" present, thus exactly what the local Pike will need to prey upon in the run up to spawning? Well, all I can say is it was never going to be hectic. It was just before 09.55 hrs that my left hand rod finally received a bite as the Siren R3 signalled the rise of a monkey up the angled needle. Quickly onto the rod, I went through the usual ritual before setting the hooks. Bloody hell, it was a very angry Pike on the other end of my kit. With the wind howling across the open expanse behind me, it was quite a surreal experience to crouch down on the water's edge and play this fish in the shelter of the raised bank behind me. Once netted, I knew it was another good'un. Quite how good would be revealed when I placed it in the weighing sling. 19 lbs 12 oz being the most honest weight I could register. With the wind playing havok, the scales hovered between 19.12 and 20.00 lbs, yet there was no way I needed to kid myself, so settled on the lower reading safe in the knowledge that I was lying to no-one.

It wasn't until I arrived back home that the magnitude of the capture actually came to the fore. It is the same Pike as I caught on Thursday, at 20 lbs 8 oz, some half a mile further along the canal. This Pike fishing caper has to be the craziest roller coaster my angling journey has ever experienced? It will probably be a week, or so, before I get back out with the rods, so birds and hedgehogs will have to step up to the plate?

Monday 5 February 2024

Back to reality

 Another early morning jaunt down to the RMC, absolutely no way lightning was going to strike twice. A couple of tweaks to my kit were made due to spending time going back through my diary entries for this season. Out of habit I have been using three rods but, it would appear, the middle one has been almost obsolete, even when leapfrogging along various sections. So I've decided to stick with two, for the present time, and see if my results suffer any obvious decline. My other change was to swap from centrepins over to fixed spools. This is purely an experiment to gauge any benefit that an open bale arm offers over the revolving drum, thus resistance created, to a Pike picking up my baits. This morning I used drop-off indicator arms, yet know that I'll be back to using monkeys on angled needles when I return. Whatever else changes, the Siren R3's will remain my audible alert for any Pike related activity. Only one bite this morning which resulted in yet another "double" for my tally. A really nicely conditioned fish, of 12 lbs 15 oz, provided quite a testing scrap before being coaxed into the landing net. 

A smart, adult male, Goosander provided me with a bonus year tick, number 93, so it was a pretty good session given the grey skies and blustery conditions. Some fairly unpleasant family stuff to deal with over the coming week, or so, thus I might just grab another session in the morning, despite the gale force winds, before events way beyond my control dictate otherwise? I'll probably make a decision in the morning, if I bother setting the alarm for 04.20 hrs.

Sunday 4 February 2024

The Dick Walker Exhibition

I've recently received details of The Dick Walker Exhibition and have promised Simon, Dick's son, that I would post them on my blog. It will take place in The North Herts Museum, 14, Brand Street, Hitchin SG5 1JE. It will open on Tuesday 13th February and run until Sunday 7th April. 

If you have any interest in how freshwater angling has evolved since the end of WW2, then Dick Walker provided the inspiration for subsequent generations to understand big fish could be caught by design, not luck! The exhibition is to provide an insight into the life and mind-set of this angling giant. Please make the effort to visit if you are able.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Red Letter Thursday

Back down to the RMC, this morning, for the second session of the week. On Tuesday I endured a total blank and wasn't sure if my "sit and wait" approach was such a good idea after all?  Basically it was a return to normal and January ended with my "doubles" tally standing at fourteen for the season and six for the month. Not too much to moan about when viewed as numbers on a spreadsheet. If I'd achieved that level of success in the 1980's I'd have been writing articles for David Hall's Coarse Fishing magazine boasting about how brilliant I was! What a great leveller age is? I couldn't understand how I'd managed three "doubles" in three bites on the previous Friday, then nothing on my return to the same area of the canal, just four days later. I spent Wednesday with Bev, having a drive around East Kent. Coffee and cake at the Battle of Britain Memorial Site then across to The Ethelbert PH for "loaded chips" and a pint. (If ever you are in the Reculver area then this pub is a "must visit" destination) It was probably just what I needed, as Pike fishing wasn't on the agenda for the entire day. It was only when I was sat in my study, listening to the Liverpool vs Chelsea game, on Radio 5 Live, that my thoughts returned to the RMC Pike challenge. 

I had the kit in the van and was on my way just before 05.00 hrs, this morning, all three rods were fishing by 06.45 hrs. A fabulous display, pre sunrise, was to prove to be the start of a fantastic morning. I have no intention of divulging bait choice, rigs or anything else which might compromise my own results. What I will say is that I landed two Pike this morning. The first one came just before 08.00 hrs and was my first "twenty" of the season. A cracking Pike of 20 lbs 8 oz gave me a right scrap, actually taking out my middle rod during the epic battle, and I knew that I could pack up, there and then, and drive home very happy. 

09.20hrs and the same rod is away again, this time a very sedate type of bite with the line just trickling off the centrepin. Well, that was until I set the hooks. Absolute bedlam erupted as this fish tore off across the canal, causing a huge boil on the surface as it did so. I already knew it was a good fish as I played it. Only when I drew it over the net chord did I realise just how good it was. At 23 lbs 6 oz, it is my PB from the RMC.I was in total shock, never before have I landed two "twenties" in the same session. Happy daze!

I remained on site, packing up just around 11.30 hrs when I missed an absolute "sitter". No I don't know how I managed it either? Still, with two "twenties" in the bag, what's to worry about? There's always tomorrow. One thing is for sure, there will be a polarizing filter added to the camera kit in the very near future. Reflective glare is a self take angler's nightmare!