Fishing Rod Decoration

Fishing Words

I don't have that many fishing books, perhaps a hundred or so, perhaps a few more, I've never really counted. Some of them I have not read; unwanted presents from well meaning relatives but some I have read many times. They never disappoint and real favourites are tattooed with notes, underlinings, highlights and margin scribbles, sacrilege to the bibliophile but a quick way to find old friends that constantly delight. I do so admire those who conjure with words. Here are extracts from some of my favourites.

Fishing Words

By Graham Waterton

Rusher or Sticker?

- By Graham Waterton


It never ceases to amaze me how many people who pursue and achieve successful careers have fly fishing as a distraction and manage to write, often only one wonderful fishing book. Perhaps it's true that we all have one book in us.

Howard Marshall, an Oxford rugby Blue, captain of Harlequins, pioneering broadcaster of the 1930s lived on the Lambourn and fell for its charms. In 1967 he published Reflections On A River.

Guiding and for that matter fishing on a small streams like the Lambourn requires a slow and more deliberate technique. As Howard Marshall describes


'There  are, I think, two main classes of fly fishers, the Rushers and the Stickers. The Rushers are haunted by the belief that there is always a better fish rising round the next corner, so they are ever on the move, rushing up the bank from rise to rise, confident that one day they will come upon Moby Dick. The Stickers are either more patient or more lethargic men, and having found what seems to them a promising place they stay there and wait for the trout to show themselves.

 If I am a Sticker, and I think I am, it is partly through laziness, and partly because there is no place for Rushers on the little river. They would go through it like a knife through butter, and put down all the fish for the rest of the day. You cannot take liberties with the little river or its trout. If you do not move slowly and stealthily, like an overweight Red Indian, the fish will scatter before you, sending their brethren to cover as they go. It is indeed wiser not to move at all for considerable periods....'

It is a nice book full of true fisherman's uncomplicated observations. He fished widely but his love of the Lambourn sings from the pages.

'When all is said and done, however, it is the simple things which strike most effectively at the fishermans heart. The smells of the river-water, weed and marshy ground-are part of his enjoyment no less than the stalking of a fish and the casting and hoped-for rise. Simple things - so many of them - make up the anglers true delight. And all of them may be found on the banks or the little River Lambourn.'

He was highly thought of as one of the first Test match ball by ball commentators. I wonder what he would of thought of the last debacle?

Information or understanding?

- By Graham Waterton

Brian Clarkes book The Pursuit of Stillwater Trout  was published in 1975, the perfect time in my trout fishing career. I was making a transition from small still waters to rivers and although had been catching my fair share, truth be told, a lot of the time I wasn't sure why. This book created a real understanding of what was going on.

Clarkes book essentially looks at stillwater trouts food sources, how to imitate them, then how to recognise when they are being eaten and to fish the imitation effectively. All done simply and clearly. Looks so obvious now but at the time ... a little light went on. As with so many good basic principles it could be applied to many other fishing applications.

He describes this cathartic experience:

   'But then I had a stroke of what for me, at least, seemed inspiration: I realised that the critical difference between the expert at anything, and the inexpert, is not information at all, but understanding. I came to see that the inexpert angler fails most of the time because his success depends upon meeting conditions which coincide with a fixed, and usually limited, range of mentally catalogued  techniques; whereas the expert angler, because of his fundamental understanding of what he is trying to achieve, in relation to the fish he is after, thinks more in terms of  how and why, than of what; and thus is able to devise specific techniques in response to the demands of specific conditions. Through understanding, as it were, he achieves a kind of infinite flexibility.'

The more you read that the better it gets.


'The world is full of infinite causes...

- By Graham Waterton

How ever much we practice, sometimes the excitement of the situation can get the better of us. For the solitary fisherman clumsy mistakes and cock ups go unobserved but there is one fishing situation which really freaks out some fishermen ... the presence of a guide.

Robert Hughes, author, art critic, film producer, Aussie and fly fisherman wrote one fishing book amongst many others. It is called A Jerk On One End and was published in the UK in 2000.  It is small, just over 100 pages and has only 3 chapters. It is a joy to read. Here he describes a not untypical situation on a tarpon trip.

Your fate is determined; it is all in the hands of the guide.

Sometimes, however they do appear. The guide can see them but you cannot, because you hardly know what you are looking for until it is too late. "Five or six at one o'clock, 100ft out", he drawls, with the merest whisper of an exclamation mark. You must now try to spot them through the dazzle of light on the water, and eventually you do: slender, dark logs, much smaller than they ought to look, coming straight at you across the confusing moire pattern of the flat bottom. Meanwhile you are frantically stripping line from the reel, getting ready to throw the fly. What you should do next, calmly, deftly and without delay, is to put a 25 metre shot a couple of metres in front of the lead fish and then start stripping line in so that it sees the fly moving through the water, mistakes it for a small fish, and hits. Fat chance. Flooded with adrenalin and buck fever you do everything wrong. The line has got under your sneaker because, stupidly, you moved your foot, and it falls short. Or the fly drops behind the fish. Or the hook, thanks to your bad backcast, snags your shirt or your earlobe. Il mondo e pieno, wrote Leonardo, d'infinite ragioni che non furono mai in isperienza: "The world is full of infinite causes that were never experienced before".

All too true: the tarpon have gone.

And in fishing the causes and therefore excuses truly are infinite. I've heard a lot of them

What do I do now?

- By Graham Waterton

"What do I do now"  they scream.

I have, only on the odd occasion you understand, been guilty of not explaining to newcomers in enough detail, what to do if a fish is hooked and occasionally, the object of the exercise obliges earlier than expected.

Concentrating on getting attached to a fish has been the priority ... we'll worry about landing it later.

In 1910 AH Chaytor (1869-1939) wrote a book called Letters To A Salmon Fishers Sons. It is written, as the title suggests, with each chapter in the style of a letter to his two sons, Drewett and Kit. He was a lifelong salmon fisher and this was his only book (that is other than editing some published Law Lectures) and the fact that it has been published many times in many formats, witnesses both its readability and how relevant the content remained.

Letter 6 is entitled On Playing A Salmon. These short extracts do not do it justice but give you a flavour.  It remains great advice ... for most fish in most situations:


'Hold the rod well up. - This above all things, is what you must remember to do. From the moment after the fish is hooked until the moment he is gaffed you should never, unless the fish is in the act of leaping out of the water, cease to hold the rod well up...

Next, watch the fish carefully ... If  you feel a sudden rush, look out for a leap to follow it.

Never let the fish rest. When he makes a rush, let him go-even give him line pulled off the reel by your hand. But at the very moment he slackens his efforts, pull him and worry him into action, and in a very short time he will be yours.

Never hold his head out of the water.

Never let the rod point be directly above the fish to be lifting him out of the water, but keep it either down stream or up stream of the fish, so that the pull of the gut is not a lifting pull.

Never let him have a long line out if that can be avoided.'


As you would expect the language is old fashioned and the chapter ends as controversially as is possible in the early 1900s but I doubt there are too many experienced fisherman today who would disagree with the points he makes whether attached to a tarpon, a trout, a salmon or even straight sticking a GT.

The whole book is worth a read and not difficult to get hold of a copy.


Blagdon in the 1930s

- By Graham Waterton

 Donald G. Ferris Rudd, under his pen name, Jock Scott wrote a number of books including Greased Line Fishing for Salmon, Spinning Up to Date and Fine and Far Off. In 1936 he wrote Game Fish Records, a collection of facts and figures of fish and fisherman from around the world.

In the England and Wales chapter he very enthusiastically comes to Blagdon ...

'I have seen some stirring battles at Blagdon; have witnessed the capture of a seven- pound brownie and a six-and-a-half pound rainbow which fought with the concentrated fury of a demon! I have seen an angler, new to the lake, hook a large rainbow; have seen his reel stripped of line and backing, and the inevitable smash follow; I have had a five and a half pounder jump out of the landing net and grassed him at the second attempt, and I have known a hooked rainbow to dash wildly into the shallow water and beach himself high and dry! I have seen strong men turn pale, and reverend gentleman use language that was visible; I have heard ladies scream, and seen elderly gentleman reach for their flasks, and all because they have, for a few minutes of time, been tethered to four pounds of live steel and whipcord - a Blagdon rainbow! '

I think he liked Blagdon.

Blagdon has turned me pale a few times, normally my inability to touch a fish during one of those extraordinary and intensely frustrating  evening midge hatches.

He also lists a few casting records. The single handed trout fly overhead record set in 1902 was 46 yards and 2 feet! That record was set by one H. Golcher from San Francisco.

OK it's now about 80 yards but imagine the rod and line he had in 1902.

The book is a fascinating read, full of records and some great fishing stories but it has the  inevitable pictures of dead fish, salmon in particular; evidence of what was possible in that age of abundance.

I love these old books but the slaughter is enough to make you weep ... and feel guilty ... and a little jealous.