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Reflections of a Game Fisher by John Goddard

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Reviewed by Terry Lawton

Good fishing books should inspire. What make an inspiring fishing book? Subject and content are obviously important, as is the way a book is written. While the subject and content of John Goddard's latest book, Reflections of a Game Fisher, do inspire, I find his writing style is less than inspiring. The book is a compilation of his magazine articles and while they, as I know from personal experience, do read well as such, put together and read one after another, they do lack a bit of inspiration. This is a book to read in short sessions, two or three chapters at a time. Equally it is a good book to have beside your bed to dip into every now and then, or read-up on a specific topic, for example The Curse of the Smutting Trout.

Having said that, I do feel inspired to try some of his fly patterns. One problem here though is the lack of photographs of his flies and the fact that what there are are black and white. Why are they not in full colour? (There is a section of colour photos of places and people.) Flies that I intend to try include the PVC Nymph and the Super Grizzly Emerger. For anyone who has wondered how the G & H Sedge got its name, it is named after Goddard's long-time, late fishing friend Cliff Henry: G and H are the initials of their surnames.

John Goddard is a thinking man's fly fisherman and someone who has advanced fly fishing by his practical skills - particularly entomology - and his writings for magazines as well as his many books. The articles in this collection cover the years between 1965 and 2001. The interesting and informative Introduction, as well as giving the reader some background on John Goddard, covers the author's thoughts on the developments in the different fields of fishing - coarse and sea as well as fly fishing - over the last 50 years. That John Goddard was a passionate sea fisherman was a surprise to me and will be, I am sure, to many others too. The last part of his book, Deep Sea Around the World between 1965 and 1978, covers his many adventures in pursuit of big game fish mostly in the days before the current boom in saltwater flyfishing.

I was interested to read the articles Trout Without a Net (1973) and Net Loss, Net Gain (2001) as I spent an evening fishing a friend's river without my landing net which I had left at home. I was able to land as well as release a number of fish during the evening without any trouble. I was helped by fishing a river with low banks so I could kneel down to get hold of a fish in the water. Admittedly Goddard's technique, in the later article, of using the tip ring on your rod to unhook a fish in mid-stream does have the advantages of releasing fish quickly as well as without handling them. Next time I forget my net, I will try this technique.

As has been hinted at, the book is divided into four sections covering Fly Patterns, Fly Fishing Techniques, Fly Fishing Worldwide and deep sea adventures. Fly Fishing Worldwide will be of interest to the travelling angler as Goddard has 'been fortunate to fish all over the world for anything that swims from trout to marlin...'. The 14 articles cover the known fishing world from north (Norway) to south (New Zealand and South Africa) and east (Christmas Island) to west (much of the USA, Canada and Mexico). As well as being informative, many of these articles are full of good, practical advice.

Reflections of a Game Fisher by John Goddard. Published by Robert Hale at £25. Hardback 287 pages.

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