TT Book Club: The Books that Defined an Angling Generation

John Bailey

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Little by little the boxes of books are being unpacked and placed in their new Herefordshire bookshelves. Many are, of course, on angling, my collection built over sixty-plus years, and I’ve been rating them unofficially in my head as I stack them. Most are okay. Some are more than that, but a few are, in my opinion, classics – volumes that have defined the angling lives of those of us born between 1940 and, say, 1980. These, in my opinion, are the books that have most influenced the sport during our lifetime, and here I make a tentative start in listing them.

But I know I am not some all-powerful, all-knowing judge on this. I know I have made howling omissions. I have not included works published before 1940, simply because though we might well love Chalmers or Sheringham or Walton even, I’m going to stick out my neck and say, lovely as they are, they have not shaped the way we fish today. Nor have I mentioned any writer who is not English, I think – bar one, perhaps. What!? No Moc Morgan, for example, you will howl. You are very probably right, but I have simply gone for those writers who have changed the scene… AS I SEE IT! Please, our Scottish, Irish and Welsh friends, put me right on this.

We all had to start somewhere, and I think I am on safe ground to say very many of us, over two million if the sales figures are to be believed, learned our trade from Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing (1949), so no surprises there. But also through the Fifties the How To Catch Them series also contributed hugely to the learning process of so many of us. Indeed, collect the series, and there is not much in angling that is not covered.

BigFishScene.JPG


Specimen hunting, in one form or another, has been a big influence the last sixty-off years, and two titans are, of course, Richard Walker (I told you there are no surprises) and also, I’d suggest, the recently departed Frank Guttfield. In Search Of Big Fish (1964) had all my teenage friends fired up, and of course he contributed to Fishing As We Find It (1967) which we have already ecstatically reviewed. And it was Frank that put together the hugely influential The Big Fish Scene (1978) that resonates to this day. I’m not sure what the sales figures were for any of these books compared to Crabtree, but they surely had a wide influence and ripple effect?

BBConfessions 2.jpg


CarpStrikesBack.JPG


Carp fishing exploded onto the angling scene in our lifetimes. Like carp or loathe them, we have to accept that they are the spine of the angling tackle and bait industry today. The spiritual origins of carp fishing, I believe, are found in Confessions Of A Carp Fisher (1950) by BB, but of course its intellectual roots were planted by Richard Walker in Stillwater Angling (1953). If any book has had a more powerful influence I’d be surprised… but a trout fisher might well disagree. For many of us of a certain age perhaps Quest For Carp(1972) by Jack Hilton was the bible that really fired us, just as it was The Carp Strikes Back(1983) by Rod Hutchinson that turned this branch of angling into a cult pursuit. For those of us a little out of Rod’s fast lane, Chris Yates’ Casting At The Sun (1986) will always be our go-to favourite.

CastingattheSun.JPG


ChrisYatesReflections 3.jpg


The carp equivalent in the game world was the stratospheric growth of stillwater trout fishing in reservoirs, pits and lakes from the end of the Second World War. There were, of course, great names in the early days like Shrive and Ivens (and Walker again), but for many of us the classic Stillwater Fly Fishing (1975) by Brian Clarke was the book that shaped the way we fished the fly for rainbows. His examination of fly life and the various trout rise forms remain startlingly powerful to this day. I’d also list his follow-up with John Goddard, The Trout And The Fly (1980) as an equally influential work that forced us to think just how trout behave. Can the Hugh Falkus tome Sea Trout (1962) really be beaten, even to this day? And I include Hugh’s on/off pal Arthur Oglesby here too. His 1971 work Salmon is a model of sound good sense from first to last. I doubt it has been bettered as a standard text book on the subject, for the beginner especially.

BigPike.JPG


JBPike.JPG


Carp, stillwater trouting and pike fishing have all advanced monumentally in our lifetime. Certainly all us young Norfolk pike bloods would have put Fishing For Big Pike (1971) by Rickards and Webb at the top of our own inspirations, even more than Fred Buller’s Pike a few years later. Mind you, Fred’s follow up, The Domesday Book Of Pike (1979) was the work that drove us to fish for monsters, however wet and cold we might be. I’m going to mention Pike, The Predator Becomes The Prey (1985) by Bailey and Page, simply because the world of piking exploded after Rickards and Webb, and this compilation was vital in bringing it up to date.

CrazyRiver 2.jpg


And why are we anglers at all? Probably because of books that have stimulated us and excited us and driven us to become better. For us oldies, perhaps we look back to Fisherman’s Bedside Book (1945) by BB as the work where it all began for us. I’d also plump for Going Fishing (1942) by Negley Farson, I Know A Good Place (1989) by Clive Gammon and Somewhere Down The Crazy River (1992) by Boote and Wade as books that have kept the spirit of the sport burning bright.

There you go, I’m done. Light on game I know. Non-existent on non-English writers… and women! Nothing at all on sea fishing. What about the match scene? Get stuck in. What should stay? What should go? And most especially, what of your own personal passions? If you have a moment, help broaden this list till we are all satisfied…
 

ejw

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Feb 2, 2012
Messages
577
Location
Helsby, Cheshire
Nice list John, Mr Crabtree was one of my 1st fishing books in the 1960's. My additions may be just outside your dates, but they made me think ?
Lou Stevens - The Adaptable Flyfisher
Ian Moutter - Tying flies the Parraloop Way
Darrel Martin - Micropatterns
Eddie
 

sabalos

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Mar 5, 2008
Messages
451
Location
Market Harborough
Little by little the boxes of books are being unpacked and placed in their new Herefordshire bookshelves. Many are, of course, on angling, my collection built over sixty-plus years, and I’ve been rating them unofficially in my head as I stack them. Most are okay. Some are more than that, but a few are, in my opinion, classics – volumes that have defined the angling lives of those of us born between 1940 and, say, 1980. These, in my opinion, are the books that have most influenced the sport during our lifetime, and here I make a tentative start in listing them.

But I know I am not some all-powerful, all-knowing judge on this. I know I have made howling omissions. I have not included works published before 1940, simply because though we might well love Chalmers or Sheringham or Walton even, I’m going to stick out my neck and say, lovely as they are, they have not shaped the way we fish today. Nor have I mentioned any writer who is not English, I think – bar one, perhaps. What!? No Moc Morgan, for example, you will howl. You are very probably right, but I have simply gone for those writers who have changed the scene… AS I SEE IT! Please, our Scottish, Irish and Welsh friends, put me right on this.

We all had to start somewhere, and I think I am on safe ground to say very many of us, over two million if the sales figures are to be believed, learned our trade from Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing (1949), so no surprises there. But also through the Fifties the How To Catch Them series also contributed hugely to the learning process of so many of us. Indeed, collect the series, and there is not much in angling that is not covered.

View attachment 37186

Specimen hunting, in one form or another, has been a big influence the last sixty-off years, and two titans are, of course, Richard Walker (I told you there are no surprises) and also, I’d suggest, the recently departed Frank Guttfield. In Search Of Big Fish (1964) had all my teenage friends fired up, and of course he contributed to Fishing As We Find It (1967) which we have already ecstatically reviewed. And it was Frank that put together the hugely influential The Big Fish Scene (1978) that resonates to this day. I’m not sure what the sales figures were for any of these books compared to Crabtree, but they surely had a wide influence and ripple effect?

View attachment 37187

View attachment 37188

Carp fishing exploded onto the angling scene in our lifetimes. Like carp or loathe them, we have to accept that they are the spine of the angling tackle and bait industry today. The spiritual origins of carp fishing, I believe, are found in Confessions Of A Carp Fisher (1950) by BB, but of course its intellectual roots were planted by Richard Walker in Stillwater Angling (1953). If any book has had a more powerful influence I’d be surprised… but a trout fisher might well disagree. For many of us of a certain age perhaps Quest For Carp(1972) by Jack Hilton was the bible that really fired us, just as it was The Carp Strikes Back(1983) by Rod Hutchinson that turned this branch of angling into a cult pursuit. For those of us a little out of Rod’s fast lane, Chris Yates’ Casting At The Sun (1986) will always be our go-to favourite.

View attachment 37189

View attachment 37190

The carp equivalent in the game world was the stratospheric growth of stillwater trout fishing in reservoirs, pits and lakes from the end of the Second World War. There were, of course, great names in the early days like Shrive and Ivens (and Walker again), but for many of us the classic Stillwater Fly Fishing (1975) by Brian Clarke was the book that shaped the way we fished the fly for rainbows. His examination of fly life and the various trout rise forms remain startlingly powerful to this day. I’d also list his follow-up with John Goddard, The Trout And The Fly (1980) as an equally influential work that forced us to think just how trout behave. Can the Hugh Falkus tome Sea Trout (1962) really be beaten, even to this day? And I include Hugh’s on/off pal Arthur Oglesby here too. His 1971 work Salmon is a model of sound good sense from first to last. I doubt it has been bettered as a standard text book on the subject, for the beginner especially.

View attachment 37191

View attachment 37192

Carp, stillwater trouting and pike fishing have all advanced monumentally in our lifetime. Certainly all us young Norfolk pike bloods would have put Fishing For Big Pike (1971) by Rickards and Webb at the top of our own inspirations, even more than Fred Buller’s Pike a few years later. Mind you, Fred’s follow up, The Domesday Book Of Pike (1979) was the work that drove us to fish for monsters, however wet and cold we might be. I’m going to mention Pike, The Predator Becomes The Prey (1985) by Bailey and Page, simply because the world of piking exploded after Rickards and Webb, and this compilation was vital in bringing it up to date.

View attachment 37193

And why are we anglers at all? Probably because of books that have stimulated us and excited us and driven us to become better. For us oldies, perhaps we look back to Fisherman’s Bedside Book (1945) by BB as the work where it all began for us. I’d also plump for Going Fishing (1942) by Negley Farson, I Know A Good Place (1989) by Clive Gammon and Somewhere Down The Crazy River (1992) by Boote and Wade as books that have kept the spirit of the sport burning bright.

There you go, I’m done. Light on game I know. Non-existent on non-English writers… and women! Nothing at all on sea fishing. What about the match scene? Get stuck in. What should stay? What should go? And most especially, what of your own personal passions? If you have a moment, help broaden this list till we are all satisfied…
Clive Gammon was Welsh.
And an excellent book.
 

John Bailey

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It’s been great to read your comments on my tentative list of great “modernish” books and some of your comments I have to respond to if allowable! I also have to say straight off I knew Clive Gammon in his later years and loved the guy. The more he drank, the thicker his Welsh accent became so I sort of knew he didn’t hail from Slough. I see Clive as an angler and scholar of the universe.

I half agree that omitting Walker’s No Need To Lie was an oversight, but I still feel he was a better technician than poet. However, I can be excused for leaving out Plunkett Greene and Where The Bright Waters Meet because he is out of my time line. If I were to delve further back, where on earth would I or anyone else stop? Fly Fishing, Lord Grey? At The Tail Of The Weir, Patrick Chalmers? Summer On The Test, J W Hills? Richard Jeffries, HT Sheringham, Charles St John? There is no end to the greats of earlier eras it seems.

And as for the suggestion of The Living Mountain (on the Fishing Magic forum), don’t get me started. I have long believed anglers and nature lovers are, or should be, indivisible. I’d personally encourage anyone to read Our Place, Mark Cocker and The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel. There’s a lovely work by a shepherd, whose name I cannot remember, and whose books I cannot find in the boxes waiting to be unpacked – help please. When it comes to writing about fish in nature, I think The Run Of The River by Mark Hume is unsurpassed. It is all about steelhead, but blimey, read it if you can find it.

How about this for a thought? I have always felt fishing and cricket are very similar in some ways, especially in the depth of their literature. I was therefore infuriated to read that Tom Harrison, chief executive of the English Cricket Board is keen to promote Big Bash-type competitions at the expense of Test cricket. His stance is that Tests are beloved by “white males over fifty”, and even if so, what is wrong with that? Don’t over-fifties have any say any more? Isn’t Test cricket worshipped in India... it certainly was when I watched it over there, and my wife says it still is in her native Sri Lanka. And are not many more subtle pleasures made better by age? Test match cricket, fly fishing, float fishing, reading books by BB are perhaps delights thirty year olds today will come to appreciate twenty years into the future?
 

Flyway

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Jun 4, 2009
Messages
49
Great thread John, I've got to say your own In Visible Waters made a massive impression on me as a 14 year old and certainly defined my angling life for some time, setting me off for more than 20 years of chasing specimen coarse fish before Trout Bum by a bloke called Gierach had a similar effect.
Lovely to see Mark Hume mentioned, his later work River of the Angry Moon is British Columbia distilled and transferred onto the page, I wish to god I could have come up with "The river is fed by the sky. It runs over a bed of shattered mountains, through the dreams of a great forest and into mouths of ancient fishies".

Honourable mentions to The Earth is Enough Harry Middleton, Somewhere Else Charles Rangeley Wilson and Meanderings of Flyfisherman Seth Norman.
 

easker1

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Henzells "Art of Loch Fishing" and Rambles with a fishing Rod By Roscoe, Nights on Tweed By Scrope easker1
 
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dodders

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Aug 28, 2010
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St Germans, Cornwall
I have read all your suggested books and agree they all rank up there with the best and most influential. Particularly Rickards and Webbs Fishing for big Pike, and ‘The Carp Strikes back’ as well as being hugely informative and well written, must be one of the funniest books on angling.

However, I am amazed that you have not included ‘quest for Carp’ by Jack Hilton. I still laugh at the thought of ‘clooping’ carp whilst eating bread chunks from a bowl of soup, or getting lost in a thicket of trees at night trying to find the lake! Unwhittingly spending all night fishing a swimming pool was also a classic.
1616084861091.png



I rarely fish for carp these days and find the modern literature cannot compare with the old classics.

Moving on to fly fishing, I agree with a previous poster that Kingsmill-Moores classic, A man may fish is one of the best and also I would add Brian Clarkes ‘The pursuit of stillwater trout’
 

knoonan

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62
A Man May fish by TC Kingsmill Moore, I read it late on in life but it gave ma a lot of pleasure, eaasker1
+1 for A Man May Fish ... the chapters about Jamesie are particularly nice writing.
 

3lbgrayling

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Central Scotland
Any fishing book by W B Currie.What a great advocate for angling..His chapter in the book'' Lets go Coarse fishing'' on perch fishing inspired me.,but of course he was a Trout and salmon (seatrout) angler as well(primarily)
Can I throw in a couple of authors who write about fishing but also field sports.
Iain Niall.Trout from the hills.-The poachers handbook. Both classics.
Colin Willock,''Landscape with solitary Figure.Outstanding.a Classic
Robin Ade.All books but his ''Season in Galloway'' is magic

Jim
 

ohanzee

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Most influential for me and many in that it guided me to places I'd never have gone.......and therefor the life changing experience of having been there......

30543502176.jpg


And most influential in terms of taking a modern look at catching trout, its hard to overestimate the seismic shift this book made for me.....

291098.jpg
 

splinters

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Co. Armagh.
So many to choose from, Peter O'Reilly's trout and salmon loughs and trout and salmon rivers of Ireland Took me to places I wouldn't have found. Ted Malone's Irish Trout and Salmon Flies changed my thinking about flies. George Daniel's Dynamic Nymphing got me catching trout on nymphs which for the first time didn't feel like an accident. Gierach got me thinking about returning to bamboo rods and Wayne Cattenach helped me build the workshop and start spiltting cane. Garrison, Carmichael, Howells et al were there helping as well. Patsy Deery's Irish Mayflies, the list goes on and on.
Simon.
 

sewinbasher

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Most influential for me and many in that it guided me to places I'd never have gone.......and therefor the life changing experience of having been there......

View attachment 38045

And most influential in terms of taking a modern look at catching trout, its hard to overestimate the seismic shift this book made for me.....

View attachment 38046
I totally agree, Bob Wyatt's book is one of the most important fly fishing books of recent years.

I had forgotten Frank Guttfield but he started me off with specimen hunting in the 1960s and I still have my original copy of Mr Crabtree, a birthday present in 1959.

Other influential fly fishing books for me that substantially influenced the way I fish are:

Nymph Fishing in Practice - Oliver Kite
In Pursuit of Stillwater Trout - Brian Clarke
Sea Trout - Steffan Jones

To be totally honest I actually learn more from watching videos one of the more educational being Strategies for Selective Trout by Doug Swisher.
 

easker1

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trout from all Angles By Eric Tavener, Tying flies for Salmon by the same author ,the Book of the Hackle by Frank Elder, easker1
 

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