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Classic Angling magazine

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Reviewed by John Bailey

Keith Elliott is a real one-off in the world of angling publishing. He's a fascinating man to meet. A piercing mind, a quick wit, a slightly zany look about him, great generosity and an indefatigable passion for anything to do with fishing. Elliott is happy to sit on a bucket pursuing a silver fish and he's happy to hike into the Canadian wilderness to chase a pike. He'll cast a fly, he'll trot a float and he'll thwack out a lure. If he has any chance of meeting up with something wearing fins then that's the only excuse that he needs. If Elliott isn't fishing, he's talking about it, reading about it or writing about it. His mind probably has more piscatorial information packed away in it that you'd find anywhere else on the planet. No surprise then that a few years ago the magazine Classic Angling launched itself into the fishing world.

Classic Angling is a bi-monthly and in a way it reflects Elliott's fevered desire for collection. Anything interesting that Elliott happens upon is likely to end up in its pages. That's what makes the mag such a page turner, if you see what I mean. In it you'll find lots of reviews of sales and auctions - some of the most prestigious worldwide. You'll find histories of tackle makers often dead and long gone. There will be fond reviews of old brass reels and rods made of cane, tonkin or whalebone! Quirky book reviews mingle with in-depth features on world news. Obituaries are here of the great and the good and the often long-forgotten. There will be articles, always individualistic, cartoons, paintings and captions guaranteed to make you chuckle.

This cornucopia of goodies is put together at Elliott Towers - in his study embowelled in an ancient thatched cottage only a stones throw away from a juicy, meandering Cambridgeshire river. The room reflects the magazine: teetering columns of books from every age and every country. Prints and photographs everywhere. Files spilling their contents onto desks, draws and under bookshelves. Computers whirring. Elliott in full cry. All confusion and chaos it does indeed look but, from the flames, six times a year a magnificent magazine arises.

It's Elliott's investigations that we admire the most. Number 42 - a cracker of an issue - featured a long piece into the voracity of George Perry's record US bass. One thing Fish and Fly likes about Elliott is his fairness. You won't find him being judgemental about anyone or anything. Not so the angling world: over recent decades much doubt has been poured on Perry's claim. It was caught a long time ago - in 1932 - by a poor Georgia farm boy who sneaked off work to grab a couple of hours' illicit sport. There's no photograph of Perry together with the fish. And the bass, at twenty-two pounds four ounces, seems unfeasibly large. Holes everywhere it would seem. Not to Elliott. Typical of the Classic Angling sleuth, in four blistering pages, Elliott puts Perry back on top of the tree. Elliott knows how to research: Bill Babb, Bass Master magazine, Bassin', Field and Stream, The Augusta Chronicle…all his sources are credited in this satisfying piece of angling detective work.

Interestingly, in issue number 43, Elliott's at it again, this time defending Louis Spray's record muskies. And once again, Elliott takes the side of the underdog. He admits, "Spray was an easy target because he was such a colourful character: mechanic, lumberjack, bootlegger, pool haul operator, hunter of bounty animals and even an entertainer." He admits there are discrepancies in Spray's stories. Perhaps there are question marks over the methods stated, he admits and the places claimed. But, once again, Elliott has done his research and comes down firmly on the side of Spray and his monsters.

Perhaps, the magazine might be principally aimed at the serious antique tackle buff but there's enough interest and controversy in its pages to satisfy anyone who has got a brain and is interested in the art of angling. See what Elliott is doing at www.classictitles.com Classic Angling is an area of fishing literature you might well have never guessed even exits.

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