Who am I?

My photo
An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the 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, 25 May 2017

Really looking forward to this

In mid-May I changed from weekly to monthly pay - no big deal but, as I also received my annual profit share bonus, all of a sudden there was a lot of money in the account. I knew it was coming and had booked a week off well in advance. However, because Bev and I had no idea as to the actual amount, we'd not looked at any holiday scenario seriously. All of a sudden we knew exactly what we had to play with and Bev was straight on the case. Hence we're off to Tenerife for a short break and I'm surprisingly excited by the prospect. Bev's never been there, I visited the island in the early 1980's, but not since. It will be a nice change of scenery, if nothing else?

Southern Grey Shrike - Gran Canaria Jan 2004
We had our honeymoon on Gran Canaria, in January 2004 (bloody hell - time flies!) and I was still full on birding at that stage. I remember being fascinated by the subtle differences in the Chiffchaffs, Blue Tits, Kestrels and Yellow-legged Gulls (I wasn't aware of the "atlantis"  sub-group at that time?)
The other thing I recall was the numerous "rare" moths I encountered - yet another manifestation of my complete ignorance of such concepts. They were only rare because I was limited to UK (Kent) records - elsewhere on the planet they were as common as muck!

It's true that I no longer "digi-scope", my camera kit is hardly cutting edge despite the monumental advances in digital photographic technology which has occurred during the intervening years. My gear is functional and, more importantly, robust, thus well suited to the treatment I dish out. I still carry my 8 x 42 Bausch & Lomb "Elite" bins which, although rather tatty, remain superb optics. So, for one week only, I am hoping to rediscover some of the magic that new experiences are able to bring to birding. I'm even more drawn by the challenge of capturing images that are significantly better than those which I took in 2004 with a Nikon Cool pix 775 through a Kowa TSN 823?

African Blue Tit (?)

A bird with which I'd love to spend some more time - Spectacled Warbler
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since 2004 - I still would like to think that there is something more to add to my appreciation of the natural world, beyond sun, sea and copious amounts of "light ale"

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

On a lighter note

I'd just popped out to get a loaf of bread from our local shop and flushed a Painted Lady, butterfly, from the Red Valerian that grows along our driveway. Task completed, toast made, I was able to spend a bit of time with my camera kit grabbing some images of this smart little insect. It's the first one I've seen in the garden this year, although there were several along the track from Preston churchyard, to Deerson, last week end.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Liars for a living

The desire to be one should prevent any individual from ever becoming one - an observation by Billy Connolly ref: politicians. On 18th April 2017, Theresa May announced her decision to call a snap General Election in order to strengthen her hand whilst dealing with the "Brexit mandate" negotiations following the triggering of Article 50. Seemed pretty straight forward from where I sit - Jeremy Corbyn is hell-bent on leading The Labour Party into oblivion, UKIP  in melt-down and the Liberals a total joke - she had pulled off a masterstroke? A win at a canter - easy peasy!
But no! Let's forget the Brexit deal and introduce some other policies which will assist our cause and make our party so popular as to be un-assailable. The Conservative Party has scored the greatest "own goal" in the history of politics (during my life-time) with their ill considered social care manifesto policy. Let's think about this for a nano-second? We want to win a general election, what should we do to make ourselves as popular as possible? Yeah, I know, let's threaten to impose a stealth tax on the entire generation of home owners who fell for the "right to own their own home" gag of Maggie Thatcher. Fucking genius - NOT! All those hard working, Tory supporting, ordinary people. Paid into the system for their entire lives, now being targeted as a problem because we are getting old and will need looking after in our latter years. Maybe if the money we've contributed to the system had been better managed, then the problem wouldn't be there? The Conservative Party has never, and will never, be about the working man - but then again, none of the alternative options are any better. They will say exactly what you want to hear in the run up to an election. Once ensconced in their comfy chair, nothing they promised will be of any consequence, they've made it to self-serving utopia.
In the aftermath of the shameful, cowardly, terrorist attack in Manchester, I have seen politicians, of all persuasions, singing from a single hymn sheet. The problem of social care isn't going to disappear because Theresa has had a change of mind  about the detail. If our politicians are able to unite in times of crisis, then it might be possible for the same unity when dealing with problems which will affect us all. If it's a good idea, why does it matter which party thought of it? It's still a good idea. On June 8th I want to vote for a strong and stable government not a "smoke & mirrors"circus act!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Hobby time

I have spent four hours wandering around in the Stour Valley and, particularly, the ridiculously over priced and over hyped, Wingham Coarse Fishery - a syndicate for people with more money than sense? Everyone away from angling knows these waters as Seaton Gravel Pits, situated just outside the village of Whickambreaux, thus nowhere near Wingham, in the valley of the Little Stour.
Plenty of bivvy dwelling hopefuls surrounding the main lake and a couple of hardcore carpers on the carp lake, funnily enough.

If ever I fail to derive pleasure from watching sights like these, it's time to throw in the towel!
I was down there on the look out for year ticks and wasn't to be disappointed. There were a dozen, or so, Hobbies hawking over the North Lake, out of bounds to the anglers, and two Nightingales were belting out their magnificent song from lakeside thickets. I was really enjoying the simple activity of birding. Common Buzzards are now a gimme in East Kent, doesn't stop them being great fun when viewed through my optics. I did a massive circuit, starting at Hearts Delight, via Seaton GP's, on to Preston Marshes, Preston Church - looking for Spotted Flycatcher; nothing doing and then back to my car. Corn Bunting made it onto the list and I enjoyed some time with a pair of Yellow Wagtails as they bathed in a puddle.

Looking rather bedraggled after emerging from a puddle
As I was already in the area, I took the opportunity to have a quick walk around Grove Ferry. Sand Martins were numerous and also a year tick, so a result of sorts. A couple of male Cuckoos were calling from around the reed beds and I witnessed a spectacular food pass by a pair of Marsh Harriers. The brisk westerly breeze kept many of the small reed bed species out of sight. Odd Reed Warblers flicked across the paths and Cetti's belted out their raucous song from hidden perches within the hawthorn and willow scrub. The only Turtle Dove, I came across, was purring away in the paddock, right beside the Grove Ferry entrance track. Great fun and rather rewarding with five new species added to my pathetic year list.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Red sky learning

Bev's hurt her back and, needing to care for Harry on Tuesday, I took an emergency day off - a major plus point of working for Fujifilm - no problem, no guilt trip mentality involved. You need the day off - have it! So grand-dad spent the majority of his day entertaining his grand-son. We went to two parks/playgrounds, stroked the horses, watched the pigs, smelt the flowers and wandered through Rod & Rex's collection of WW2 stuff - Spitfires, tanks and assorted military hardware - it's a pretty weird place, but we enjoyed it. Just to put the cherry on the cake, we then popped into The Coach & Horses, for a well deserved chocolate ice-cream, a pint of the finest Stella Artois, and a check up on the dress code for Mike & Penny's 25th anniversary bash? Tough life being a grand-dad.
Back to the bungalow by mid-afternoon, we sorted out a bite to eat and some You-tube entertainment before Debbie (Bev's daughter) came to collect her youngest.
A quick check with Bev - ensuring everything was OK and I'm off out down to the local club water. Could I catch a carp in two and a half hours? The answer was yes, but I struggled for it, missing four good chances before eventually setting the hook into the lip of a lively little scamp common. There was a very positive lesson to be had from my time at the fishery, however, I spent the vast majority of my time watching these small carp and their reaction to my floating freebies and hook baits. I was fishing in a small secluded bay in the NE corner of the venue. What wind there had been had died away and the surface remained glassy calm, allowing me a great insight into the behavior of these feeding  fish. It was a real eye-opener to see the violent reaction when coming across any bread. Fish would physically bolt away from the bait, even when it was free floating. In open water; attaching a hook and line ensured total failure, despite the fish being happy to feed from the surface on other offerings. The only situation where these fish felt confident to accept bread was in the margins and/or snags. My only success came by utilizing an old trick from a by-gone era. I cast my free-lined cube of crust under an overhanging willow, ensuring the line had passed over a thin branch, en route. This allowed me to tighten down, ensuring no line was in/on the water, thus present a bait without any obvious signs of a hook being involved.

I stayed until dusk, the fish activity increasing as the light fell away. Much to my surprise, many of the fish involved were Ide, not the carp for which I'd introduced the floating cat biscuit freebies. It was a fabulous evening, a Turtle Dove purred from adjacent farmland, a Cuckoo perched atop many of the fishery high-spots, calling constantly. There were numerous Reed Warblers, a male Reed Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler in the immediate vicinity. I enjoyed the session immensely, despite the lack of fish to the net. The sun set was a magnificent affair - all reds, gold and shades of yellows in a deep blue surround; my camera failing to capture the splendour of the moment - sadly!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sandwich Sunday social

With deadline pressure growing, Benno, Bryn & I met up on the bank side of Victory Lake, at the Sandwich Coarse Fishery complex, for a last gasp attempt of getting some more material together for next month's offering. I manned the camera whilst Ben provided coaching for the youngest member of our angling gang. It was a really nice touch when Luke turned up to join in with the session. Although he had started off using a quiver-tip set-up, the wind was making the job of spotting bites a little tricky, so we swapped over to a whip to hand and float fished maggot. This proved to be the turning point and Bryn then succeeded in catching a string of small roach and rudd - one a chuck, so very pleasing. I got my photos, Bryn caught his fish and learned a few more lessons about the hobby which might provide a lifetime of enjoyment?

Bryn with the whip to hand, Benno & Luke look on. It was a cracking afternoon session at Sandwich Coarse Fishery
Only small "silvers" but when they are coming "one a chuck", very enjoyable
Luke will testify to the thrill that a hooked fish can provide. He is the only one of us who has a thirty to his name, yet it was a 13 lbs 4 oz common which left him an adrenaline induced mess late on Saturday evening. It's not my story, so I won't tell it, but it is great to know that such things occur and I am amidst kindred spirits.

A very wet, but happy, Luke with a 13 lbs 4 oz common

Friday, 12 May 2017

Progressing slowly

When I think back to the summer of 2011 it seems like eons ago, yet just six years have passed. What were very casual and light-hearted encounters with Longshaw Farm carp have been catalyst to the evolution of a completely different challenge.

A scamp common from Marshside Fishery - a wonderful little day-ticket venue just like Longshaw Farm (July 2013)
When I got back into "specimen angling" carp were probably the least likely species to spark any desire. I'd done with carp fishing; a very successful period in 1983/4 had seen me target the species and have a right result at a municipal park lake in Welwyn Garden City. Instead it was to be pike that captured my attention during that initial period of rediscovery. Then came barbel, what a roller coaster ride that turned out to be? Chub and perch haunted the periphery of my angling effort and eels made an incredible impression during that crazy winter project of 2015/16. Yet there can be no getting away from the fact that, since July 2015, carp have become an increasingly dominant factor in my angling.

February 25th 1984 - Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City (23 lbs 14 oz - still my PB!)
My diary notes make fabulous reading - looking back?
"The fish came to a single boily (as per Kevin Maddocks) relying on the quality of
my bait/rig...... these fish are heavily pressured and although wary, keep returning due
the supply of anglers baits that are regularly deposited in the general area."
It was a revelation when I read my accompanying diary notes which describe the capture of that fish, along with the tackle, and tactics, I employed. Did I really use a single hook bait with any confidence way back then? As for the description of, or implying that, my bait/rig being of exceptional quality is stretching the boundaries beyond breaking point. The bait had a base mix of semolina and soya flour. If we were cutting edge, then the dietary supplement "Complan" was also added to the mix before we over dosed with Geoff Kemp's Cream flavour and a spicy enhancer that I'd been asked to try by Keith Sellick - proprietor of Middlesex Angling Centre. If we wanted colour, then custard powder was the norm, although Rod Hutchinson was already selling bait dye and red was dominant during the period.
And so onward to the 6th July 2015 - a monumental day in my angling adventure and, as is so often the case, a complete accident due to events way beyond my control. I'd planned to go barbel fishing on The Stour in Canterbury, but EA weed cutting had made it impossible. A quick change of venue, although not bait or tackle, was to see me relocate to a small East Kent drain where I thought I might have a chance of a decent tench? With just a bucketful of mixed particles for attraction and some 14 mm halibut pellets as hook baits, I sallied forth and set out my stall. My efforts were not in vain, although it was not tench which responded to my tactics but a magnificent wild carp of 18 lbs 2 oz. (plus a 3 lbs 6 oz eel!)

The fish which kicked it all off - a complete accident! How much more of a part can fate play in my angling adventure?
If ever there was a spark which ignited a flame, then this was it for me. Back, just four days later, and my first carp over twenty pounds, since that fateful day in 1984, found itself engulfed in the mesh of my landing net. Another magnificent wild common carp - all fins and attitude! How stupid would it be if I ignored this opportunity? The chance to explore an unknown and un-tapped potential.
My early efforts were undertaken using my particle approach. Swims, once chosen, (these initial sessions saw me fishing to features, not locating fish before hand) were given a liberal dosing with my barbel "munga" mix. Which wouldn't have been too much different if I'd made it deliberately for the carp but, because all the ingredients were already present in my bait cupboard, it made no sense to go out and purchase more until I'd used all that I had. My local pet shop, where I buy the seed for my aviary and garden bird feeders, sells a pigeon tonic mix for 90p/kilo and this is the main ingredient. All I do, for added attraction, is put in hemp seed and away I go. Soak it for twelve hours prior to a six hour spell in the slow-cooker at medium setting (Cookery lesson over!). The resultant bait is further enhanced by the addition of liquidized sweetcorn, really cheap stuff that Tesco sell for 35p/tin. I've also played around with added sugar, rock salt and tuna in brine; there's no doubt that it changes the bait yet I can't honestly say that I've any noticeable improvement in results directly attributable to these tweaks? Conversely, it hasn't made the bait any less attractive so I suppose it's all down to personal opinion as to what does and doesn't make a decent "munga".

My back-up maize rig - that pop-up grain of Korda IB plastic is key to the whole presentation.
From the off my choice of hook bait was very easy, I'd used curried chick peas way back in my early days and was extremely confident that, given the circumstances, they would still do the job in 2015. And so it has proven ever since. It doesn't matter if I'm at a heavily pressured day ticket fishery or out on some remote drain, chick peas are always my first choice any time from early Spring to late Autumn. As a back-up, and a direct consequence of using pigeon tonic mix, I started to play around with maize (not sweetcorn!) in conjunction with a fake grain for added buoyancy. This simple ploy has resulted in the heaviest carp of the project, thus far. I landed "The Football" - it's called this because I named it - and came within 4 oz of my PB when this fish made the mistake of picking up my baited rig.

"The Football" - no need for an explanation?
I carried on fishing the East Kent drains but, was already aware of far larger carp than I'd been catching, inhabiting The Royal Military Canal. Why does size matter? In all honesty it doesn't but, being me, having made a promise to my father about catching a thirty on a sixty year old split cane rod (a family gift for my 60th) I have to fulfill my part of the bargain. When he passed away in August of 2016 I became focused on delivering my promise, with Bev in full support, I am now embarked on a mission. Obviously daily reality cannot be ignored - work, mortgage, bills, etc... have to be dealt with before this folly can take centre stage. I can afford it so much time and that is dictated by other family priorities. Yet, because it's there, I have purpose whenever I am able to cast a bait into the canal.

Of course there is always the chance that I've missed a trick and the (un-named) carp, I so desire, actually swims in the waters of The East Kent drains? With this at the back of my mind I have no plans to ignore them, but they are covered by the "close season" as decreed by the EA, so, all I have until 16th June, is the canal. These fish are a completely different proposition, as they are subjected to the attentions of a small group of very talented carp anglers. If I am to have any chance of achieving my target then I'll have to be at the top of my game. I'm finding myself rather enjoying the challenge. Am I good enough? Tough question, even tougher to take should the answer be "no" and I fail to realize my dream. So with these factors spinning around in my thinking it was inevitable that I would have to confront reality and attempt to utilize modern baits in my angling effort. It doesn't mean that I've lost sight of my original goal, or even that I have sold out. The best bait in the world won't catch fish if it's in the wrong place! Fish location, bait presentation and watercraft still have a major part to play in my challenge.

Casting a boily on a sixty year old split cane isn't something I ever thought about, during my original planning, it was going to be particles all the way. Strange things happen when you realize that time is no longer an ally. I am now fully committed to using whatever terminal tackle is required, be that rigs or bait, to ensure the best chance of delivering my promise to Dad. However, I have not yet completely abandoned the original project which required the fish to be of wild origins. I'm not about to go rocking up at some trendy day-ticket complex to catch "Wendy" at thirty-six - "she went thirty-four, seven last time out" - just to get a result. All the time I'm fit enough to get up for work, then I'm well enough to go fishing and long may it continue! Bait and wait ain't likely to happen, any time soon, either. The last time I did an over-nighter was 15/16th June 2016, the last time I used a bivvy was Scotland in April of the same year. If I am to achieve this ambition it will on my terms and under my rules. I hope that ability will allow me to by-pass the methodology of the time bandits and deliver a result due to an angling apprenticeship, learned, when all fish were equal?