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

Flyfishing for pike

- By Graham Waterton

With most rivers high and mighty I recently had a session on the Test trying to catch pike on the fly. Counterintuitively, in these conditions it can be easier to find them as they tuck themselves into quiet eddies and hard up against the bank rather than all over the river in their ambush positions. My lovely day reminded me of one of my favourite books.

John Gierach's best fishing buddy was AK Best. By Gierach's many accounts, AK had a quiet, possibly miserable demeanour and a very dry sense of humour. However he made great campfire coffee, was a mean fly dresser and as he said little, a very good fishing companion.

He had some very straightforward views about the hierarchy of fish. Trout at the top, in all their various shapes and sizes and the rest at the bottom. In this brief extract Gierach was considering inviting AK on a pike fishing trip.

".....he doesn't think much of pike. When I pointed out to him once that northern pike not only take flies but are good to eat, he said ' Do me a favour, eat every one of the bastards you catch".

This appears in Trout Bum published in 1988. I came across it in 1994 during a trip to the Halladale, a north coast spate river which, for our week, wasn't.  An hour before breakfast and an hour as it got dark were all the river could take. The rest of the day, whilst a few of the others chased fur and feather across the heather, I tucked into the lodge library. I read the book in one sitting and smiled and chuckled from start to finish. I think he wrote better books but none had the impact of Trout Bum.

Will we ever learn?

- By Graham Waterton


Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing in the Tweed by William Scrope was first published in 1843 with a second edition in 1854. It remains a classic and first edition prices testify to its regard among collectors.

It is essentially a collection of stories with a fair bit of humour and nineteenth century fishing wisdom thrown in. It also has some interesting history but as you might expect their  scientific knowledge as it relates to life cycles for instance was relatively basic.  For some reason it was republished in 1921 with an introduction from one of that times fishing gurus, HT Sheringham.

I have not read the book for decades and I'm not sure I had ever read the new intro, until the other day and this passage struck me between the eyes.

In 1920 the river had what was considered to be the best spring season in its annals, though the autumn fishing was not at all good. But the total catch of fish is very much less than it was early in the last century. In 1816, the record year, the netting return was 54,041 salmon, 120,596 grilse, and 62,074 sea trout. The average return from 1845 to 1849 was 8909 salmon, 39,409 grilse, 35,641 sea trout. From 1895 to 1899 the average return was 7366 salmon, 8458 grilse and 23,746 sea trout. This indicates a serious decrease in the total, though the salmon have not fallen off so much as the others. Pollution, the increased land drainage (of which Scrope complained even in 1842), and the operation of the nets - all, no doubt, have played a part in the decline. Mr W.L. Calderwood*, who makes an interesting study of the Tweed in his Salmon Rivers and Lochs of Scotland (1909), is evidently inclined to think that the netting is the direct cause of it, though he speaks gravely of the pollution too. He is quite convinced that if the netting could be restricted the stock of fish would greatly increase, and that the Tweed, from being chiefly an autumn river, so far as the angler is concerned, would afford spring fishing to compare with that of the Dee  or Spey.

* Calderwood was the Inspector of Salmon Fisheries for Scotland.


Modern day comparisons are difficult and not that helpful. Those figures are for the nets only as rod caught numbers were not recorded at that time, there were more nets operating and almost certainly less rod pressure in those days. That said, a comparison with the net catches for 2012 were 1371 salmon and grilse, and 1162 sea trout. If you add in rod catches it is 14,556 salmon and grilse, and 3314 sea trout.

Of course a lot has changed and there are other contributory factors to our precious salmon stocks declining but isn't it frustrating that excessive netting was identified by the Inspector of Salmon Fisheries of Scotland a hundred years ago.

We must all do whatever we can to ensure the Thin enquiry has all the right information and comes to the right conclusions.

The fishermans weather obsession

- By Graham Waterton

In 1960 HM Bateman wrote a thin volume called The Evening Rise.

Henry Mayo Bateman, an Englishman was born in Australia and after a classic British art school education produced sketches and cartoons for many publications including The Tatler and Punch.

He was best known for his series of cartoons entitled 'The Man Who ...

In later life he lived in Berkshire where I guess he got to know the Lambourn and the Kennet.

In one chapter, ' The Glass' , he examines the fisherman's obsession with the weather, our efforts to predict it and its affect on our fishing. The glass he refers to is of course the barometer a gizmo less seen these days but a measurer of atmospheric pressure and if I had one I'm sure I would become an habitual 'glass tapper'.

'The Glass is our guide, philosopher and friend, as well as a wonderful refuge in excuse. Let us admit it, the weather hardly ever is right for fishing - by that I mean, according to our own ideas of what is right or wrong. On ninety-nine days out of a hundred it is either too bright or too dull, too dry or too wet, and so forth. It is remarkable how courageous and persistent we are in sticking at it. If we obeyed all the signs and orders, as indicated by the glass, we shouldn't go out more often than two or three times during the season'

My  modern equivalent of Batemans glass or barometer is my weather app or truth be told apps. I have become a slave to the weather forecast so kindly delivered to my gadgets.

Great little book, amusing, in an old fashioned 60s sort of a way and illustrated by many of his wonderful line drawings and cartoons.

However I have always stuck to the advice given in Fly Fishing for Salmon edited by Jack Chance.

'Never fail to turn up on the river bank however foul the weather conditions may seem'

Quite right, it is always deeply satisfying to defy the weather gods and catch fish in conditions most others would ignore.

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.