Who am I?

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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!

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Friday, 17 November 2017

They were on the munch

I've just got home from a ridiculous session, out on the marsh. Arriving just after 14.40 hrs; I had three rods fishing within twenty minutes and was to experience the most hectic feeding spell I've ever known out on these drains. In 90 minutes I'd had eight bites, resulting in five pike visiting the bank. Big baits and small pike have a history of coming adrift and so it was today.

She weighed 12 lbs 6 oz today. 
The up side of this, hectic, action was that it confirmed the effectiveness of my tweaked bait presentation and my choice of flavour enhancers. However, there were three recaptures involved so, feel it is time to call it a day at this particular venue and seek to continue the challenge elsewhere. I'm rather taken with The Stour as the next choice - I'll have a little look, over the weekend and see what I think?
I'm getting more confident with the Fuji kit, for my self take photos.
It does mean that I have to carry a tripod with me but, I would rather do that, than
have no option other than to get a shot of my capture laying on
the unhooking mat/sling.
I weighed all the fish today and they were as follows, and in this order, 8 lbs 6 oz, 9 lbs 0 oz*, 12 lbs 6 oz*, 10 lbs 8 oz* & 7 lbs 5 oz - the * marks the recaptures, that nine was for the third time! It's not fair on these fish, plus I am learning nothing new from these events, so it's for the best that I move on to other fisheries.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

I'm on a bit of a roll - bear with me

"Blogland" is a fantastic place to inhabit; to be part of. Kindred spirits collide in cyber space and associations are formed with complete strangers, from places we've never been, yet know intimately through the postings of these virtual diarists. I now have friends whom I've never met, yet exchange views and comments regularly via this network. One big benefit of being part of this community is the ability to draw inspiration from the writing of fellow bloggers or from those other contributors who are moved to pass comment following something we've posted. It's a very fertile place, if you've the mind to search around.
I've been doing just this and stumbled across a post which was an advert for this bloggers book, "A year chasing big fish" or something along those lines. I won't offer a link, or name the guy, because I have no reason to promote such things. I had a little peruse of the site and checked out a list of PB's that had been proudly displayed, alongside a gallery of digital images. A very nice blog, well presented, but it didn't work for me. Why? Because, basically, the angler hadn't caught many (other than carp) "big fish"! And a year is a very claustrophobic timescale. My angling isn't solely about such captures, as important as they are, it's also about a lifetime's interaction with people and the enjoyment of places. That there's a pleasure to be gained from a plan coming to fruition is beyond doubt, however the frustrations and disappointment when things don't go your way is also part of the journey. The incredible high when that special fish is finally within the folds of the landing net and you are reduced to an adrenaline induced, gibbering, wreck is what keeps us coming back for more! Only a small percentage of anglers will understand this viewpoint - the vast majority, of which, being on the wrong side of fifty; at a guess?
Is it really possible to recall a lifetime's "big fish" angling highlights in a single blog offering? Probably not unless I take several weeks, to produce it, going back over my angling archives. Therefore I am going to give it a go; as a one off - might get messy? What species are included is purely arbitrary, they're the ones I have been successful in capturing unsurprisingly. That they span a period stretching back over four decades is probably the best indication of my journey and my belief that angling isn't a hobby, it's a way of life.
Tench

It is impossible to remove this fantastic species from my angling - their pursuit being my entry into specimen hunting. 1981, on the banks of Wilstone Reservoir, the very start of my apprenticeship, although I'd caught decent fish in the past. The anglers that crossed my path were at the top of their game and extremely generous in their advice. My confidence grew from the fact that these guys were happy to offer advice - I'd become accepted within the clique? Looking back, I was probably such a twat that I posed no threat on their own reputations as catchers of "big fish". It didn't take long for this to change. I learnt quickly and soon became very proficient at extracting tench from this venue. In the thirteen years that I was a member, over one hundred tench over 7 lbs made it into my landing net. The most prolific and happiest days of my early angling efforts. The members of The Tring Syndicate reading like a "who's who" of the very best speccy hunters of that period. It was a very special time, and place, to be part of - I'm very lucky to have been there.

Wilstone Reservoir in the 1980's - I was there!

Bream

They're the species I'd joined Tring for; this reservoir complex having a history of producing "doubles" with monotonous regularity since the 1930's. I never came close, all the time I was at the complex, although witnessed a fair few for other members. The largest being a 13 lbs 12 oz for Alan Wilson, from Startops. I had to traverse the county border, into Bedfordshire, in order to get that "double" I so desired. One crazy night, in 1992, saw me land four Bream for 39 lbs - an 11 lbs 2 oz fish being the PB I'd sought for all those years.

Maggots, not boilies, were the downfall of this magnificent bream. I caught by design - not accident!

Catfish

The mid-80's and there is nowhere else I'd rather have been. Kevin Maddocks and Bob Baldock (God rest his soul) were on a mission to launch The Catfish Conservation Group. What they hadn't figured on was the fact that Cuddles, Sye, Me and The Mitch's were also fishing at Claydon during that same period. We weren't putting up with too much of their crap! The period is recalled with great fondness, the fishing was fantastic and the personalities immense - happy days and never to be equaled or repeated!

Benno with a 21 lbs plus cat from Claydon Middle Lake - 1992

Pike

The species which provides the name for my blog, the one that, to this day, is able to conjour some of the most intense memories from my school days. A small jack, caught on a live roach fished under a Fishing Gazette bung, was my introduction into a world of marvel. I'd caught plenty of decent pike before that fateful encounter with, a very young, Eddie Turner. His input was to elevate my pike angling to something which I'd never have achieved without it. He, along with Vic Gibson and Billy Hancock, showed me a direction that I'd completely no idea existed. Just to be able to call these guys mates is more than enough for me - I've been a very fortunate man to have enjoyed such company.


When everything comes right - Wilstone 1987

Carp

Kevin Maddocks has already been mentioned, but Duncan Kay, Rod Hutchinson, Richie Mc Donald, Roger Smith, Bob Jones and Rob Maylin had also played a major role in my discovery of these fantastic fish and the associated thrill of hooking a big one!  I  count myself very fortunate to have avoided the monumental rise to dominance that carp angling has exerted over all other aspects of freshwater angling, within the UK. My memories are of simple times and fantastic fish - thanks Kevin, for fucking it all up!

Benno goes close - 19 lbs 14 oz of commercial carp, on a zig bug!

Zander

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since I last cast a bait in the hope of catching a Zed. The 1980's, out on the Fens was a period of discovery, of madness, copious amounts of light ale and hilarity. The fishing was excellent and matched the company. Big Les Dudley is central to my recollections. Larger than life, he remains key to all that was great about that time during my life.

Cuddles with a Fenland Zed - Great times and sadly missed

Barbel

I'd have nothing to say if Benno hadn't been part of this story, however, long before he was born there was a guy called Fred Crouch who was to provide the spark. Barbel are, without doubt, one of the finest challenges which face any UK angler. That I can recall my apprenticeship, under the guidance of Mr Crouch is something of which I am very proud of. As I've already said, I'm a very lucky man to have made acquaintance with so many characters, within this hobby. My love of centre-pins and compound taper Avon rods is all directly attributable to this wonderful man. The fish that have come my way, since Ben and I started to fish The Stour would make Fred very happy, I hope?

The very essence of angling. A magnificent River Stour Barbel caught by design - but I have no idea how?

I have absolutely no idea if this post will work for others - it's taken far too long, in preparation, to change it now!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Stars realigning?

I'm back out on the marsh, for another after dark pike session. It's wonderfully still, mild, and overcast; the car display registered 13C as I drove across to the fishery. Just three hours, four bites, two to the right hand rod - both missed (eels?), one to the middle rod producing a pike of 7 lbs-ish and a screamer on the left hander resulted in an eel, of 2 lbs 9 oz, gracing the net.

My Fuji Finepix at it's best! I have absolutely no idea how anyone can get decent self takes of these bloody fish!
It's the middle of November, yet I am now confident that I can catch eels, by design, should I set out to do so. I make no claims to be an experienced eel angler, but I have spent the past six winters fishing for pike in the East Kent fisheries and have absolutely no reason to think that eels are any different from other species. They feed when the opportunity presents itself - my pike baits being attacked by these slimy nuisances, with monotonous regularity during the entire pike season.
I'm not thinking of another eel challenge, just yet! I will, however, take my night feeding pike project to another venue. It's a fascinating turn around in what I thought to be right and proper - pike in the dark and eels during the winter - who says we know anything about angling?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Late arrivals

Winter thrushes have been conspicuous, by their absence, so far this Autumn. I'd heard a few Redwings, calling in the dark in early October but  it wasn't until the end of the month that I recorded my first Fieldfare of the season. Both species have remained low key ever since. I recorded a flock of, 30-ish, Fieldfare on Saturday evening, whilst out on the marsh, by far the largest flock of the autumn, yet Redwing numbers haven't even made double figures; all very strange? This isn't a Newlands Farm/Thanet thing, this is what I have experienced around the portion of "The Garden of England" which stretches from New Romney (to the south) up to Ramsgate, incorporating the Royal Military Canal and marshes in between. Basically, the parts of Kent where I have been fishing!
I'm no longer an "active" birder, so there will obviously be other pairs of eyes which can offer a very different slant on the autumnal migration of these, splendid, birds into East Kent. I now consider myself little more than a, very, casual observer - I honestly couldn't give a monkey's about official records and committees - a complete waste of a lifetime; from my perspective. (Don't bother posting a comment - I fully understand that this is the perception of angling for many other folk who, also,  derive pleasure from being outdoors). Doesn't prevent me from enjoying my encounters with the bird life which crosses my path, just of no importance to anyone else; never was or could be!
The bird sightings, plus occasional photographs, are nothing more than embellishments for a blog post, they certainly don't appear for the purpose of informing the masses (aka - Rare Bird Alert!)

How I wish that this had been taken a couple of days ago - sadly not - Jan 2013
In The Old Rose Garden before it was reclaimed as farmland - because we don't have enough acres of
cauliflowers on Thanet!
So there I was, making my way home past the remnants of "The Old Rose Garden" when I flushed a group of eight Fieldfare. Wow! Newlands 2017 and this is big news! I had no camera gear, but that made not the slightest difference. I was thrilled that such an event had been witnessed by myself during a very ordinary working day. Simple pleasure derived from the most ordinary of encounters - means "jack shit" to anyone else and long may it continue!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Feeding station conundrum

With the weather taking a, decidedly cooler, turn - so the action around the garden feeders has increased. House Sparrows continue to dominate, although Starlings are becoming far more frequent with a couple of double figured counts recently. However, the purpose of this offering is to pose a, hypothetical, question. Should I tolerate the presence of Feral Rock Doves around/under the feeders? I ask this because I am aware of other gardens where these wild birds are actively discouraged (shot!).
Before anyone get's all hot under the collar, shooting these "vermin" is not a crime, they have the same status as Brown Rats and I do shoot them if they appear around the garden/aviary.





A selection of the plumage types exhibited by the Feral Rock Doves that visit our garden.
The maximum count, thus far, has been sixteen.
It's that same old story of humans playing God! We like Squirrels, we don't like rats. Collared Doves are great, Turtle Doves are to die for - street pigeons? Not the slightest of interest, except perhaps on "Bird Race Day"? I actually quite like these feral urchins scratching about under the feeders. Their plumage is far from uniform and they have quite an intricate social behavior. So you can rest assured that they will continue to have a safe haven in our garden.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Coming along nicely

Another chance to spend an afternoon/evening session out on the marsh - so I did just that! I am really getting a feel for the place; enjoying the fact that I'm out there, as much as the fishing itself. I fished my usual three rods, but all four bites, today, came to just one; my left hand kit which was cast along, rather than across, the drain. I didn't connect with the first fish, although the teeth marks on my mackerel tail told the tale - I'd missed a decent pike, such was the space between the puncture marks. I re-cast and it wasn't fifteen minutes later than I'm in action again, this time the hooks took hold and, after a bout of tail-walking, a clean looking pike of 10 lbs 8 oz was in the bag (the same fish as responsible for the  earlier bite?).


I re-cast the gear, this time baited with a sardine, dyed green, and sat back to absorb the ambiance as the light started to fade away. A Barn Owl put on a fantastic show, as it hunted the surrounding fields, although I didn't see it catch anything whilst the light remained good enough to use my bins. A fox was also watched, hunting the reeds beside a feeder ditch - it was a real joy to be there to witness such activity.
It was well dark when the alarm sounded again, this time a rather dour scrap resulted in a pike of 9 lbs 2 oz visiting the landing net. A prominent scar allowing me to confirm it as a re-capture, from just five days ago, when it weighed an ounce lighter! The only other action, on the rods, was an ambitious eel attempting to snaffle a whole sardine - the rig came back looking like a clock spring!
I spent the remainder of my session awaiting an alarm to sound, but playing with the camera kit in an attempt to record some rodent action. I believe them to be Wood Mice, but they were mob-handed and continually drawn to my bait, which was in plastic bags beside my chair. Not the food choice of a vegetarian species, as I'm led to believe? Using the light from my head torch, allowed me to get the camera focused ready for one of these creatures to appear. Still not completely confident with this set up, I am happy enough with this result.

Sneaky little sod. It's impossible to know if it was the fish or the fish oil flavours, that I use to enhance
my baits, which were the draw. Whatever the truth, there were a lot of these rodents active around my swim.
I've got a week of earlies coming up, so another session is very likely. However, repeat captures do nothing for me, other than confirm the very low stock levels in these drains and the effectiveness of my bait presentation. One more visit then it might be time to take this experiment to another venue?

Friday, 10 November 2017

Reality, perception and wild guesses

My recent blogging has been, very much, angling biased, and for good reason; it's what I've been doing for the majority of my free time. It's true I've made mention of some of the birds I've seen, plus a couple of late dragonflies but, the pursuit of fish has dominated my writing because that's what is providing the brain cell stimulus; at present. There's a "night feeding pike" project in the offing and my focus is on getting the most from the time I have available.
I was wandering around the marsh, at the end of October, and bumped into another pike angler (Steve) who was lure fishing. After we'd exchanged the usual pleasantries it became clear that we were of a very similar mind-set. We spoke about tackle and tactics plus our desire to do things our own way, avoiding the mainstream angling circus. Simply by being pike anglers we'd already alienated ourselves from the vast majority of the, carp dominated, UK scene. Seeking wild (not big) pike, in remote places, puts us in a niche alongside hard core dace fishers - we're well off the scale of normal? We talked about the drains, and their potential, having to agree that the likelihood of a pike ever making twenty pounds is highly unlikely. Comparing our captures of the previous season, twelve pounds seemed to be around the top weight. I recalled that first season, 2011/12, when I was to land a magnificent pike of 19 lbs 5 oz, only to hear that one of Steve's associates had also taken a "19" from another drain, in the system, during that same period. Parallel experiences, how weird is that? Well not weird, at all, in reality. We are fishing the same waters and carry a set of scales, thus able to, accurately, record the weight of the fish we capture.

Pixie's Mere, Bourne End, Hertfordshire.
16th January 1990 - 22 lbs 3 oz
Steve was a little anxious when I let on that I had a blog. "You don't name the drains, do you?" I quickly reassured him that I worked too hard to allow poncing, wasters to use my efforts to cut corners. He was on the marsh because he had a vision of what he wanted from his pike angling and had made the effort to get out there in order to make it happen. Exactly the same applies to my own efforts - I wish to make history, not chase it.
For pike to grow to a decent size, in a wild/natural environment, requires some very special circumstances. The number one factor being neglect. If  I publicize where I'm catching these fish then neglect won't remain a factor for long? For as long as I've used a camera to record my captures, that's over 40 years, images have been deliberately taken to make exact location of my swim very unlikely, given the backdrops.

British Aerospace Pit, Colney Heath, Hertfordshire
23rd November 1989 - 16 lbs 6 oz
Pike are a magnificent species which grow to length that is beyond the experience of most (club/match/pleasure, even carp) anglers. They are, therefore, at the heart of angling folklore. "Chinese Whispers" will be a massive factor in the hysteria which surrounds many a tall tale.  Even a modest pike of, say, fifteen pounds is a far bigger fish than the vast majority of anglers will have ever, regularly, encountered. I have lost count of the number of times that I've had verbal exchanges, usually in pubs, but also on the bank and even at the Tesco wet fish counter, with guys who claim to have caught pike far larger than my PB. There are two very common themes in all these conversations - it's the only pike they've ever caught and, no, they didn't have a camera/scales to record the event! Being aware of this fairy-tale nonsense, surrounding the existence of "huge" pike makes me very cynical whenever hearing second hand reports. Wild pike, in excess of twenty pounds, are as rare as hen's teeth. Yes I have been extraordinarily privileged to have landed a few during my life yet, in doing so, have also captured many hundreds more that didn't break this magical barrier. As Robert Palmer once sang "Some guy's get all the luck?" If I'd not put a weight, to the accompanying images, how big would be the guesstimation of a, scaleless, pike fisher when they recounted the story in the pub?