The Fine Art Of Fishing

Rob Olsen diagrams for a JB book

Over the past year, I have frequently highlighted the artists of one sort or another operating around the angling scene.

I have also from time to time profiled a particular angler who deserves recognition of a special kind, in my view, of course.

Today, I am talking about Rob Olsen, who amply fits both criteria.

He is a man who can fish sublimely and who can write, photograph, draw, and paint everything about fishing with equal magic.

His website ( is a treasure trove, and I guess many of you will have read either his first book “Tom’s Book” or his follow-up, “Waterlust”.

Both are shot through with angling writing of the highest order. Olsen reminds me strongly of Chris Yates but, honestly, Olsen’s words and sentiments stay with me longer.

In fact, I can quote small chunks of Olsen I read years back, so in that he is up there in my reckoning with Patrick Chalmers, BB, and even Negley Farson.

Like the last of these writers, Olsen writes beautifully about angling abroad in Spain, France, Canada, India and Mongolia. His evocative photographs only add to the allure of these dream destinations.

Olsen is very much a man for remoteness, for untrodden banks, for fishing waters his inimitable way. That is why the river Wye suits him so well, and that is where I first met him a quarter of a century ago.

Since then, I haven’t fished with him as much as I would have liked, but I have a fair idea of what would be his perfect day.

He’d ideally arrive at dawn, whilst there is still dew on the pasture and the cattle are still drowsy. He’ll travel light; a rod, a waistcoat with spare this and that, a few baits (or flies) and a net.

He’ll watch the shallows especially, careful for barbel or trout still combing there for insects, but he won’t stop anywhere for long.

By 11.00am, he will have caught a few fish almost always, and perhaps met up with a friend for a Kelly Kettle coffee and quick chat.

By midday, he’ll be in the bar (the Red Lion I guess) and after a pint, he’ll find a good place, in woodland perhaps, where he can still see or hear the river, but have a good snooze ’till later in the afternoon.

As the light loses its intensity, Olsen will regain his, and be on the prowl for a last opportunity before the drive home to Cheltenham.

This is how Olsen has caught salmon, trout, barbel, chub and grayling on float or fly, rolling baits, and wheedling baits into nooks and crannies that no other angler even knows exist.

This might sound like artifice, like those angling groups that insist you fish wearing a tie and pressed underpants, but it is not. This man fishes his own way, and looks at fish and fishing his own way.

That’s what makes him special. It’s our luck that we can read his books, look at his photographs and drawings, and appreciate the entirety of the angling world he has created.

It’s a world well worth exploring, I can tell you.

Rob (extreme left), Phil Humm and JB tough it out in Mongolia
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