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 23 June 2024

With (more than) a little help from my friends

 I was out, in the back garden, before 04.15 hrs in order to get the moth trap switched off and stored away before the hoards of marauding Magpies could get a beakful of insects from the periphery of the MV trap. Job done. it wasn't until after 09.30 hrs that I actually made the effort to see what had been attracted, overnight. It had been a very productive session with three Hawk-moths (two Elephant and a Lime) plus my first Swallowtail and Shoulder-striped Wainscot of 2024. The moth which stole the show was on the second to last egg tray and was certainly new for me. I tentatively id'd it as a Coast Dart but, as insurance before I made a complete pratt of myself, sent an email to a couple of other Kent "Moffa's" to assist my id.Fortunately Ian Roberts (.Folkestone birds ) came to my rescue and provided the correct id. It was a Sand Dart, so nowhere as rare as my initial guess, but is still a very good Kent record and certainly a new species for the garden.

Sand Dart - a garden tick!

It was then time for a drive across to the flatlands to check out the drain which I am hoping to concentrate my Tench campaign around. The two Canterbury lads were bivvied up, as they had been since the 16th, with just one lost Carp for their efforts. I have nothing but admiration for their fortitude and determination. We had a really nice chat and are happy to give each other the space required as we seek our personal targets.

Not a monster, but probably never seen a baited hook?

I saw plenty of small Carp and Tench in the adjacent dyke, as I made my way out to the drain and was happy to point the long lens at a couple of dragonflies as I wandered around the venue.

Scarce Chaser

Emperor Dragonfly

It's certainly not going to be a walk in the park, that's for sure, but I'm really enthused by the challenges ahead.

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Way outside my comfort zone

It was last Friday, down at The Belle Vue Tavern, where Gazza and I had arranged our rendezvous to talk about all things Tench and flatlands, that I bumped into a certain Mr. Solly. Franny and I have known each other for the best part of thirty years and he is, undoubtedly, the finest all-round naturalist I've ever met. So it turned out that the, now three way, conversation revolved around not only fishing but birds, moths, butterflies, climate change, politics and bloody flowers! 

Now I make no secrets about my thoughts on looking at flowers. They exist just to stop my shoes getting dirty. Obviously, since the original lockdown, I have become more involved in the gardening aspect and now spend some considerable effort ensuring that my garden contains blooms which are attractive to moths, yet if I were asked to name the plants involved, would be hard pushed once past Nicotiana, Red Valerian and Buddleia. So I have to state that when Francis spoke of some Bee Orchids being present nearby, I wasn't overly excited. However, as this site is not too far away from my grandson's school, I made the effort to take a look, yesterday afternoon, before I  picked Harry up. I allowed myself a forty minute window to peruse the area and was staggered by the number of plants I saw. In excess of one hundred Bee Orchids, although the vast majority were well past their prime. 

Pyramidal Orchids

Common Spotted Orchid

It didn't stop there as I continued to wander around the area finding decent numbers of Pyramidal Orchids to be present. The best discovery, from a personal perspective, was that of a very smart looking Common Spotted Orchid. This being the first one I'd ever, knowingly, seen. I also discovered another orchid which I haven't id'd, It could quite easily be another Common Spotted, although the flower patternation is not consistent with the original specimen.

Quite a heavily cropped image to show the flower paternation. 

I did get back down to Black Dyke, yesterday evening, for a short session into dark. Two bites, both from Carp, resulted in one small scamp being landed and the other one throwing the hook by diving into a Lily Pad. One more outing this week, although my thoughts are already turning towards the other drain way out on the marsh.

Monday 17 June 2024

Right size, wrong species!

 I was on my way shortly after 04.00 hrs, this morning. I had planned to be casting a baited rig on June 16th, but didn't because I didn't feel too sparkling, first thing and then there was the England footie match in the evening which put a spanner in the works. I did, however, get down there mid-morning on Sunday so was able to do a bit of extra prep work and introduce a bit of bait in some likely looking spots. One swim really stood out and that is where I began my Tench quest today. As advised by Gazza, I used worms for my bait but fished over a bed of groundbait (mixed with molasses) and hemp seed. This baiting strategy is due to a recent Vlog by Mark Erdwin, on YouTube, so a big thanks must go his way.

I  fished with one rod, a 1.75 lbs t/c,, 12' Specialist Barbel model, fitted with my Alcock's Match Aerial centrepin, loaded with 12 lbs b.s. Diawa Sensor mono.A flying back lead, behind a length of lead core on which a running 1 1/2 oz cubic lead was fitted, ensured the end presentation was pinned to the bed of the drain, whilst the hooklink was a 9" length of uncoated braid (dyed green) with a size 10 Nash "Flota Claw" fished blow-back fashion. My bait presentation was the "worm kebab" which I certainly don't use on a regular basis. 

I was fishing by 05.00 hrs and it was little over an hour later when the alarm sounded as the swing arm smashed up to the blank and the centrepin began to spin. I was on the rod within seconds and found myself connected to a very spirited adversary. In the gin clear water it became apparent, very quickly, that I had a Common Carp to deal with and not the Tench I so desire. It proved to be a right gnarly old character, tipping the scales at just over ten pounds. My first "double" from the venue, so something to be grateful for. I continued fishing for another couple of hours, seeing several other Carp plus a lone Bream feeding in my general area. No other action to report, but at least I hadn't blanked. All things being equal, I should be able to get three sessions/week in so am reasonably confident that a Tench, or two, will grace my landing net at some point.

Saturday 15 June 2024

Tight lines & wet nets!

With the clock ticking down, the start of the 2024/25 "Traditional" angling season commences at midnight tonight. To all of those, who still hold this date in some form of respect, I wish you everything that you wish for yourselves. My kit is assembled, although I'm not going to be on the bank until dawn tomorrow.

A single rod, with a centrepin, plus my new back pack
is my kit for the upcoming Tench campaign. 
The only items missing are my chair, a 5ltr bucket of 
groundbait and a tub of worms!

The start of yet another new adventure and the ritual first cast will still be as exciting as it always has been. I'll probably be in bed when the clock announces the midnight hour, but I will certainly raise a glass to the memory of Izaak Walton and all those other characters who've impacted upon my own angling adventure.

The legend and inspiration to my generation of anglers.
Dick Walker - the main man!

I am really happy that my chat & beer with Gareth Craddock, yesterday afternoon, was so useful. The info that I was given will mean that a couple of  avenues won't need to be explored because of Gareth's input. "STUDY TO BE QUIET" to quote Izaak Walton, resonates as much with me in 2024 as it did when I first picked up a copy of "The Complete Angler" Tight lines guys! - Dyl

Thursday 13 June 2024

Valerian visitor

Whilst I readily admit that recording moths isn't a major priority in my life, there is no getting away from the fact that I thoroughly enjoy any encounters with Hawk-moths. To this end my gardening efforts revolve around the propagation of flowering plants which are attractive to this particular group of insects. Quite obviously, any scented flowers will also attract many other insects but this is a spin off from my main objective. The multitude of Red Valerian plants which adorn our off road parking area and the shared drive are primarily there to attract Humming-bird Hawks, a species which has been completely absent so far in 2024!  It was quite warm, although rather cloudy with a fresh breeze, this morning, but I still made a few visits to see if a "Hummer" had been attracted to the flowers. It was around 10.00 hrs that I spotted a small bee species which I certainly couldn't id. I grabbed the EOS 70D, fitted with a Sigma 55 - 200 mm lens and did my best to obtain a few images which might assist my cause.

As I mentioned in the previous post, my lack of extension tubes doesn't allow me to obtain particularly good close up, "macro", images yet, on this occassion, I'm not too unhappy with my results. My quest for an id took me on a very interesting journey through various natural history offering on the internet. My conclusion (although I'm perfectly happy to be corrected) is that this individual is a Green-eyed Flower Bee (Anthophora bimaculata). Until today I'd never heard of this species, let alone seen one. Crazy how simple encounters can create such interest and emotion?

June 16th is rapidly approaching and, I'm glad to say, my prep work is almost complete. A local equine supplier provided me with a 5ltr bottle of molasses and the grain store a 15 kg sack of hemp seed. Groundbait from Sandwich Coarse Fishery, sweetcorn from Aldi (72p/tin) and worms from the back garden should be enough to get the caper underway. I think that a fortnight will give me plenty of time to snare a Tench from Black Dyke, size being a very secondary factor, before the serious mission gets underway out on the marsh.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

A Scorpion Fly and another new spider

My latest session down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery proved to be a total blank. Only one Carp being caught, between seven other anglers, whilst I was on the bank. It was still a very pleasant way to waste away a few hours and it was warm, if a little overcast on occassion, sat there awaiting the alarms to sound. One of the major spin offs, that I enjoy, from using electronic bite indicators is the freedom allowed to look at other wildlife whilst at the waterside. 

It was the discovery of a (female ?) Scorpion Fly, devouring some hapless prey item, that first made me get the 18 - 55mm lens on the camera and grab a few record shots. I have no extension tubes to allow proper "macro" photography, so the images are nothing more than a token gesture. It is certainly something which might well change over the summer, because I'm really enjoying this type of encounter with invertebrates. The one obvious result of my looking is the realisation of just how little I know about such a wonderfully diverse group of creatures. And so it was again the sighting of a spider sp. which provided me with another encounter that I've not previously had. 

To the best of my ability, this spider is from the "stretch spider" group, has been, tentatively, identified as Long-jawed Orb-weaver (Tetragnatha montana). Closer inspection revealed there to be numerous individuals on the leaves of the Stinging Nettles directly behind my swim. All good fun and a clear demonstration of why it is better to look, and be amazed, rather than worry about the fact you don't know  what it's called? It could be that such an encounter ignites the spark which opens up a whole, new, field of interest because, as everyone knows, you're never too old to learn!

Monday 10 June 2024

Excitement levels building

Due to circumstances, way beyond my control, I didn't manage to get down to Black Dyke until mid-morning on Sunday. I was confronted by a scene of total neglect. Lush bankside vegetation and rather neglected footpaths, plus ample Lily Pads and cabbages actually in the drain itself. I probably surveyed around a mile of the fishery, discovering plenty of spots where it will be possible to present a baited rig, yet seeing very few fish. Those I did see were small Carp, plus a couple of Sticklebacks! 

The one to beat!
My PB, of 9 lbs 2 oz, from Wilstone Res. Tring

Although Black Dyke won't be the focus for my Summer's Tench campaign, it is where I intend to get the gig started and, almost certainly, will team up with Gareth Craddock for a few sessions at some point later in the year? My other venue is much further off the beaten track and will require quite a bit of prep work before I can confidently present a baited hook. A couple of young lads, from Canterbury, are going to be Carp fishing on this same drain, so I'm happy to let them get their rods out early on, knowing that I've got time on my side once the initial enthusiasm has dwindled. To their credit, they were still out there, chasing Carp, all through last Winter, so certainly deserve everything they achieve. 

I am formulating a plan, based upon previous experience and input from some modern anglers (via YouTube) which I feel will put me in good stead. Fortunately, next Friday, Gazza and I are meeting up for a beer and chat, so I will certainly get some sound advice, based upon experience, from our conversation. I'm back down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, tomorrow morning, for what might well be my final session for a while. I've got a few bits and bobs I need to assemble, prior to June 16th, which will see me visit some rather strange retail outlets in order to obtain those items/ingredients required. 

I don't remember much about this fish, but know it went over 7 lbs.
The farm in the background was hosting a Red-footed Falcon, thus a Herts "mega" back then.

I am fairly sure that my initial outings will be with a single rod and involve a very mobile approach, although this will obviously have to be flexible dependant upon what actually happens whilst I'm on the bank. I'm still toying with the idea, for the Black Dyke angling, to use a split cane Dick Walker Mk IV "Avon" rod with my Alcock's Match Aerial centrepin reel. The drain is less than six, or seven, yards wide and less than five feet deep for the majority of the stretch I intend to target. A bait dropper will allow me to present my freebies in a very restricted area and it will be a simple task to present a baited rig over the top. I won't need leads any bigger than 1 1/2 oz, in conjunction with a short 18" length of leadcore and a flying back lead, so not too dissimilar to Barbel fishing on The Stour a decade previous? My hooklink material is 8 lbs b.s. Fluorocarbon with a size 10 "Flota Claw" fished blow back style. My actual hook baits will be either sweetcorn or worms - well at least at the start!

It's been a very long time since I looked forward to the start of a new season with this level of expectation and excitement. Tench were the species which fired my enthusiasm for "Speccy Hunting" way back in those formative years and it was the giant leap of faith to move from Pixie's Mere, Bourne End, Herts and tackle the vastness of Wilstone Res. Tring, Herts which ignited the flame. So, it would seem, I've come full circle and am now about to embark on another voyage of discovery as I attempt to unlock the potential of Tench fishing out on the flatlands.

Friday 7 June 2024

Worth the effort

 It was a lovely morning so I decided to take a look at one of the drains that I am going to be Tench fishing this coming season. As I was out on the flatlands it seemed silly not to put in a bit of extra effort and take a look around Worth Marshes RSPB Res. whilst in the area. It proved to be a very enjoyable spin off as I bumped into a couple of other birders who were proper old school Kent lads. There were a few birds to point my binos towards, yet my camera efforts were woeful. Thankfully a couple of Dragonflies provided me with the chance to capture some images worthy of sharing.

The female Black-tailed Skimmer was very obliging, as it rested in some grass beside the main footpath. It was, however, a Norfolk Hawker which provided the best image of the outing. There were several of these, increasingly common, insects patrolling the various ditches and dykes around the reserve and I managed to secure some flight shots by reverting to manual focussing.

Overnight the moth trap was quite busy, although no more Hawk-moths added to the yearly tally. The highlight was the first Delicate of 2024 with a supporting cast including a couple of White Points, Silver Y's, a Pearly Underwing & a few Diamond Backs.

As the season gets ever closer, I am going through my gear in an attempt to reduce what I actually take to the bankside to the absolute minimum required whilst not going without. To this end, I have decided that the barrow isn't suitable for what I have in mind, so have purchased an AVID Ruckbag (thanks Camo) into which everything must now fit. I'm hoping to get out again, tomorrow, in order to check the other venue I have in mind and probably where I will begin this next chapter in the angling adventure?

Thursday 6 June 2024

Hedgehog fun

I spent yesterday evening/night playing around with my camera kit as I strive to obtain better images of the spiny visitors to the nocturnal feeding bowls. I deliberately placed a single bowl, at very close proximity to my study doorway, so that I could get my gear set up well before sunset. It proved to be a most enjoyable time, although only two individuals came to the bowl whilst I was watching. I hung it out until 23.30 hrs then called it a day.

The light from the garden MV moth trap provides a great help, enabling me to spot any activity around the garden well before the hedgehog reaches the spot, and I add to this by using my Core Work Lite at 50% power to illuminate the actual bowl. This simple ploy ensures that my lens isn't struggling to focus on a subject in the dark. I've still got a long way to go if I am ever to emulate the results of some of the folk on YouTube, but it's certainly great fun trying out new techniques from the comfort of my study doorway.

Sure I am still struggling with reflected glare from the eyes of these animals, yet feel it is a lack of software, not camera kit, which is the issue here?

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Still looking and learning

 June 16th is approaching rapidly and I am really excited about what lies ahead. A serious attempt at Tench fishing hasn't been on the radar since 1993, so I've an awful lot to do if I'm to get up to speed with current tactics and techniques. Still, in reality, they are simply a fish species which only has so much capacity for learning, thus, knowing that I have been (very) successful in the past should put me on a decent footing as I embark on this latest venture? 

My good mate, Ric F, suggested that I purchased some squirrel-proof feeders
because of the nuisance Rose-ringed Parakeets.
They had it sussed within a day but, I have to say that they aren't as wasteful with these feeders.

However, I have no desire to wish my life away so, in the interim, quite happy to fill my days with other experiences with whatever wildlife comes into my space. Yesterday, whilst Bev and I were at Westward Cross (the major shopping complex on Thanet) where we had to visit Waterstones to pick up a book that Bev had ordered, a Red Kite flew right over the car park. The local gulls went absolutely berserk, yet we seemed to be the only two people watching the spectacle whilst the other shoppers were completely oblivious to this natural drama occurring directly overhead. A sign of the times? And I'm betting that at least one person complained about the noisy gulls, because they couldn't hear their phone properly!!

Cypress Carpet

The moth trap continues to provide interest, even if nothing particularly unusual has turned up thus far in 2024. I was, therefore, rather surprised at the number of Yellow-spotted Tortrix (Pseudargyrotoza conwagana) which were discovered on the egg trays on Tuesday morning. Up until this moment, they were probably just about annually recorded in the garden so, to have in excess of thirty individuals was off the scale of what I'd expect and there were another eleven this morning!

Yellow-spotted Tortrix

A Small Elephant constitutes my fifth Hawk-moth species, whilst another nice surprise was the first Cypress Carpet of the year. Garden birds have been very predictable around the feeding station, yet I was completely blown away by a displaying male Greenfinch which appeared over the bungalow this morning. An adult Black-headed Gull went south, whilst two adult Great Black-backed Gulls drifted westwards during the morning. I finished the day off with the discovery of a male Field Cuckoo Bee (Psithyrus campestris) nectaring on Red Valerian along the drive. I managed to obtain the id, via the use of a pot, yet the bee wasn't prepared to pose for the camera so was released without any fannying around. 

Small Elephant Hawk-moth - a stunning little insect

One major positive I am able to take from my time spent watching the comings and goings around the garden is that the local Hedgehog population is thriving. I regularly see three individuals visiting the feeding station, but last night there were at least five visitors before I headed for kip at 23.00 hrs. I'm hoping to get some decent images of these fabulous creatures over the coming few nights, as I've sought further instruction from YouTube. Watch this space! 

This image was obtained, from my study doorway, with the camera hand held.

Monday 3 June 2024

Little things

 I managed to grab a short, morning, session down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery today. My aim was to try out the ABU Cardinal 44X's, complete with those new aluminium spools, prior to the commencement of my Tench campaign. I did manage to catch a single fish when a very fiesty Common Carp, of 13 lbs 2 oz, took a fancy to my 15mm wafter hookbait. The reel performed impeccably and I was also rather pleased with my homemade "Stow" bobbins which are also likely to play a role in the Tench caper during the summer. 

The complex is getting busier by the week and I'm not too sure when I'll be back? A session on the RMC is long overdue, so I will hopefully put this right over the next few days? One thing about the canal is that Tench are certainly a possibility if you have a bait in the water, which isn't so at Sandwich where it's Carp or nothing!

The highlight of today occurred when I got back home from my angling sojourn. I was in the back garden, checking the bird feeders, and found myself looking at a Flower Crab Spider (Misumena vatia). It is a creature which I've never, knowingly, seen before and I have to admit to being quite impressed. Sadly my macro photography is very poor, so the accompanying image doesn't do justice to this wonderful arachnid, but it's better than nothing - I hope.