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Grayling And How To Catch Them and Recollections of A Sportsman, by Francis M Walbran

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Reviewed by Terry Lawton

Francis Walbran, who was born in 1852 in Yorkshire, died by drowning in 1909. "A curious as well as a sad accident.' Walbran, whose earliest ambition had been to 'excel as an all-round angler', first came to the notice of his fellow anglers when he started writing for The Fishing Gazette in the 1870s. He started a fishing tackle shop in Leeds in May 1888. After some years of successful trading and lecturing, things started to go wrong. He was well-known as a fearless wader so it is strange that he met his death in the river Ure on the morning of 15 February, 1909. Tony Hayter, the historian, in his very interesting and informative introduction, dismisses his death as suicide and suggest that he was depressed and weighed-down with business and other worries and probably did not take enough care when wading a swollen river.

These modern introductions are usually a very good addition to the Fly Fishers' Classic Library's modern versions of classic titles.

In his preface, the author describes the grayling, of which he was so fond as the 'graceful, gliding grayling' and that writing the book was a labour of love. As seems to be the case with most period works on fishing for grayling, lists of fly patterns and their dressings are a notable feature but here there are comments on each fly. As well as the traditional North Country patterns, Walbran lists patterns of FM Halford and some of Marryatt's flies. He described Marryatt as 'probably the best dry fly-fisher in the kingdom'. Some of the materials may be hard to find, for example a steely blue feather from a merlin hawk, feathers from brown owls, the slatey blue feather from a tern's wing. Obtaining these is likely to have the RSPB taking leave of its senses. Also water rat fur will not go down well in some quarters. Maybe somebody will start a captive breeding programme of water voles, specially for dubbing for fly tiers.

Walbran had the pleasure of fishing with Halford both in Hampshire and showing him his home waters in Yorkshire. When he saw the Test for the first time, he stood 'up in the trap to admire a lovely gravely shallow below the bridge' at Stockbridge where he stayed with Halford. For his second day on the Test, he and Halford were joined by 'M', the famous Marryatt and Walbran wrote: 'for the first time, I saw an angler who could anything he liked with rod and line'.

The second part of this very readable and enjoyable book, his sporting recollections, ends up with him sea fishing at Redcar on a family seaside holiday. Anyone who is interested in the history of angling for grayling and wants to tie and fish some classic Victorian grayling flies will thoroughly enjoy this book.

Grayling And How To Catch Them and Recollections of A Sportsman, by Francis M Walbran, published by The Fly Fishers' Classic Library in a limited edition of 250 copies. 168 pages fully bound in leather and supplied in a slipcase. £69 or US $120. UK postage and packing £4. To order on-line go to www.ffcl.com or telephone: Int +44 (0)1647-441046

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