Illustrated by Marvin Huggins. First published 2020. Available from Amazon at around £9.50 pp164
A strange one this. It is subtitled “a lifetime’s fishing told in 52 tales” and it’s decorated by a liberal scattering of black and white sketches that I’d describe as endearing rather than high art. But, then again, the whole book is a little like this. John is a head teacher, raised in Sussex and working in Yorkshire. He’s a hard-working, family man with not a lot of time or money for exotic jaunts, so if you want to know about fishing in these two counties, this is the book for you. I do not mean to be unkind. I’ll tell you what happened to me as I read it.
At first, I thought this is a vanity project with not much to tell anyone with any experience whatsoever. Wrong. The more I got under the slim volume’s skin, I realised that this actually is the quietly charming story of an average angler’s life. In truth, there is little drama but that is its strength. Five pound chub, six pound sea trout, double figure pike, these are the monsters of John’s life and experience – as they would be for many of us who have to squeeze sessions in between work, shopping, household chores and putting the cat out! Perhaps because John’s fishing windows are comparatively limited, they are so precious, and it is this specialness he is so good at teasing out.
You are not going to learn much here about shotting patterns or Czech nymphing, but how much more do we need to know anyway? What you will learn is how to better appreciate a misty morning, the sighting of a heron, the exquisite joy of seeing a son catch a feisty pike. John is a teacher. He knows the important lessons of life. I guess that if you enjoy Mortimer and Whitehouse – Gone Fishing then you will get a lot out of this book. Simple pleasures. Modest targets. A reminder that fishing should be balm for the soul rather than a frenzied search for PBs. To be honest, this was a book that very mildly irritated me for two chapters (what did I need to know about this bloke?) and then without warning, crept up and grabbed me for the remaining fifty-odd. It was with genuine sadness that I reached the end and I felt John’s gentle world receding.
I guess I could have done with more words and fewer blank pages to fill in after a personal session. A nice idea, but a bit “teacherish” if you get my drift. I’m not completely sure the drawings add a great deal but these are minor complaints indeed.
For nine quid, I’d say this is a steal! (JB)