This blog has led me to write about a lot of interesting things, but one thing I never saw myself doing was writing a book review. I have to be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with both reading and writing, but I suppose it comes down to the subject and also whether my writing is for blogs and magazines or another essay for university. First, a confession - I’m awful when it comes to starting new books before I have finished another, I have 5 on the go at the moment. I wanted to share these though, because I never thought I’d enjoy reading about fly fishing, why read when I could be out fishing anyway? But I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about fishing, fish, and life itself from these books. A number of honorable mentions, such as the classic Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing and Fly Fishing By J. R Hartley. If I wrote a piece on angling literature without mentioning these two my name would be mud.
Anglers are a funny bunch, we seem to contemplate things a lot more than others. I put it down to either the isolation of being alone in the wilderness or our ability to see the finer details in life, such as the fly life or the currents of a stream. We see the world from another perspective, and I think it’s a shame a lot of others will never experience that. This contemplation leads me into the first book, Trout Bum, written by John Gierach.
I’ve only read a small amount of this, put I couldn’t put it down. For those who don’t know, the term ‘Trout Bum’ is quickly defined in the foreword. Someone who “commercially ties just enough flies, guides just enough clients, or sweeps just enough floors so that he can spend the rest of his hours on the water”, a man or woman who has rejected the idea of a wife/husband, children and the threat of bills in order to become the best in their discipline. A subculture, if you will, of anglers. Not just the hobbyist who need a glamorous escape, this is a way of life. That’s all I have on this one, but I needed to include it because I loved the foreword so much.
Next up is ‘Life of a Chalkstream, Saving the rarest gem of the English Countryside’. Written by Simon Cooper, I wanted to read this because although chalkstreams are an integral part of fly fishing history, I’m yet to fish one I’m ashamed to say that I hardly know anything about them! Throughout the duration of the book, a neglected chalkstream is restored. Follow the chalkstream through every season and learn about the ecology that depends on these unique habitats. Cooper writes in the most poetic way, stirring the imagination and inspiring you to get through winter to the full joys of spring when you can start fishing again.
Michael Wigan’s ‘The Salmon’, The extraordinary story of the king of fish deserves a mention. This book takes a more scientific angle, hitting on the issues of overfishing, poor stock management and degradation of habitat whilst teaching you tons of stuff about Salmon themselves. I consider myself somewhat of a fish expert, and I learnt loads from this book. Written with serious passion for the Salmon species, especially the Atlantic Salmon, I think anyone interested in natural history, fish or fishing will love it.
One of my favorites now, John Holt’s adventures and tales of traveling, camping and fishing across Montana in ‘Fishing Adventures, Montana’. In a strange twist of fait I actually read this book on a flight to California, although I was there for a university trip and never even made it into a fly shop, let alone got to fish, so its not like I should’ve been reading about fishing in CA anyway… Although this book is primarily based around describing the flies, tactics, accommodation and other essentials surrounding a trip, Holt does so in such a way that he actually reminisces and shares stories of such places. Immersed in the story, but still taking on the essential facts should you ever wish to fish there, this book has it all. John’s passion for the outdoors is conveyed throughout, making for an inspiring read which leaves you torn between going out on your own adventure or staying glued to the book.
Finally, just incase there are any philosophers amongst you I have bought ‘Hook Line and Thinker’ into the frame. Now we are talking angling ethics, do fish feel pain? Is our sport cruel and inhumane? You’ll be pleased to know that the author, Alexander Schwab, is on our side and recognises that the benefits of angling far outweigh the negatives. I’ll warn you now, this book is heavy, the philosophy is hard to process and well, gives me head aches. Nevertheless it is an interesting subject, and something I think all anglers should read to be aware of the concerns and issues behind our sport.
Short descriptions I know, but remember these are all books of a few hundred pages, so I was never going to get full detail in here. I want to share these because fly fishing is more than going out a ripping lips. There’s a thousand other things to do with fly fishing and perhaps reading a little will help you see some of these. It’s also a great way to keep you going in the off season.