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

The Guides Dilemma

- By Graham Waterton

During the Second World War, Major RD Baird received a letter from his brother who was incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp. The letter implored him to write about his fishing experiences on the upper beats of the River Itchen. He started writing his memoirs, entitled  A Trout Rose,  well after the war by which time he had fished the river, mainly above Winchester, for about 40 years.

This wonderful wild fishery, is now known as The Grange and is where the Itchen, Candover Brook and Arle all meet

'so the three, having found one another journeyed together down to the sea'

It was then owned by Bairds cousin and their river keeper, Walter, lived in Itchen Stoke

 'the dearest and fairest of all Itchen Valley villages'

In those days river keepers often acted as guides for their employers guests and as a guide myself I particularly liked this passage about Walter ... I'm sure all guides will recognise this:

'How Walter managed sometimes to control his feelings used to be a source of amazement to me, for, to the good fisherman the most infuriating of all possible things is to see a fish hopelessly bungled and put down through ineptitude and real bad fishing; in such circumstances he cannot help but long to snatch the rod and get busy with it himself. Walter, expert fisherman as he was, often had to watch this happen, yet never once did he betray what he must have been feeling. Rather would he encourage the bungler to do better next time, help him in every possible way to catch a fish, which he knew would mean so much'.

He couldn't possibly have been thinking about his tip, could he?

It's a charming little book

Nothing as fragile as a fishermans confidence

- By Graham Waterton

A long time ago when I was in my early twenties I fished a tiny stream on the Devon/Cornwall border, my first experience of West Country brown trout fishing. I arrived mentally and physically equipped for the chalkstreams. Oodles of chalkstream overconfidence. How difficult can this be? Rod too long and too heavy; wrong flies, wrong nylon; wrong attitude, no idea. I left to calm down after two hours utterly belittled by this silly little stream.

In his book The Accidental Angler, Charles Rangeley-Wilson describes a day on a bonefish flat...

' Dickie is spotting fish I can't see and soon I begin to feel useless. Rich is anxious for me to have a good time. We pole from one spot to the next, the water a curtain of grey into which only Dickie can see. I don't catch or properly see a fish all morning. When I think about it I hate bone fishing from a boat. Fishing is largely about getting into the natural world on your own, and the more in touch you are the better. The insulation and social cauldron of a boat is a second grade version of the sport. Plus Rich's anxiety - which may or may not be in my imagination - is making me tense. My casting is crap. I can't see the fish. After a few hours I can only think about the flat and the fish I missed yesterday. I'm itching to get back there. Overhead the sky is an unbroken field of grey.'

When I first read this I new I had been there, to be honest more than once. I  entirely recognised the steadily mounting frustration as normally reliable skills crumble faced with apparently simple new challenges. Nothing is going right. Deep pessimism is setting in. His mood much the same colour as the sky.

Nothing as fragile as a fisherman's confidence.

I still fish Devon streams, now a bit better. The season down there starts this weekend and I just can't wait.

After the floods, how long to recover?

- By Graham Waterton


Frank Sawyer was many things: innovative river keeper, inventor of classic trout flies and fishing writer to name but a few. All of these, I believe, came from his acute observation of the river he spent so much time tending and loved so deeply.  With the news so dominated by flooding I remembered this extract from Keeper of the Stream:

'It distresses me to see the flooding of a valley for with it sometimes comes tragedy, not so much perhaps for the aquatic creatures which live in the river and streams but for the thousand others which are part of the valley life. I think sudden flooding is a thing for which nature did not prepare all her family, and a quick rising and overflowing of the river finds some of them at a disadvantage.'

He goes on to describe one particularly significant flash flood which spread down the valley

'It all happened so suddenly. Water swept over the river banks of reach after reach, and flowed out across the meadows like a tidal wave. As the vegetation of the valley was covered, so the surface of the water became alive with panic-stricken, struggling creatures. Moles, shrews and field mice swam side by side, moving from one dry patch of land to another amidst hordes of insects of many descriptions that were milling about and drowning.'

Nature has admirable powers of recovery but what are the short term effects of this significant loss of life? Let's not forget that some water meadows have been underwater for nearly two months. It must have an effect on the food chain of the river valley and how long will it take to recover? I suspect, and hope, surprisingly quickly.

Salmon and water temperature

- By Graham Waterton


In 1975 two of the gods of fishing writing combined to produce a book called Freshwater Fishing.

Nearly 40 years on, some of it is clearly dated and old techniques have evolved and new ones created as tackle has changed, but much of this book remains good fishing common sense. Fred Buller was the freshwater all rounder and Hugh Falkus the game fishing specialist. It is not surprising that the game fish and fishing chapters are lengthy ... clearly Falkus's influence. I have always been curious as to how these two characters collaborated on this book.

One of the decisions for the spring salmon fisher is the size of fly and the depth it should be fished. Much has been written but as far as those decisions and their relationship with water and air temperature go, this extract still has the nub of it.

'Whether he fishes a big fly or a small fly depends on the air and water temperatures. As a rough guide, the big fly is fished when the water temperature is below 48-50 degrees F. The small fly when the water temperature is above 48-50 degrees F. But the air temperature too is important. When the air is warmer than water the small fly is always in with a chance, even with a water temperature as low as 42-44 degrees F. When the air is appreciably colder than the water, the big fly will take fish even when the water temperature is up to 52-54 degrees F. Generally speaking, however, from April/May until late Autumn only the small fly kills.'

So far so good. In my view it is so often the relationship between air and water temperature that is most relevant.  For instance I have caught fish in Iceland in early September in water well under 40 degrees F  but where the air temperature was just higher, on small skated flies.

Slightly more confusing however is their statement:

'Fishing in mid-water with either fly or spinner is seldom profitable'

Not sure about that. Even in warmer water, fish will hug the bottom in deeper pools and will rise up to a fly fished mid water but not to one just under the surface.

Just when you think you're getting the hang of it ...

Days of big chalkstream salmon

- By Graham Waterton


Just as those who participated in The Great War have all gone, so are those who enjoyed the days of large numbers of big chalkstream salmon. Roderick Haig-Brown wrote A River Never Sleeps in 1948. He was born in England in 1908 and spent much of his childhood in rural Dorset on his grandfathers estate. After a spell in British Columbia as a young man, he returned there in the early 1930s to live permanently.

His father fought on The Western Front and was killed at Bapaume in March 1918.

His fishing mentor in Dorset was H M Greenhill and with his labrador Dinah, they fished on the beautiful River Frome. Imagine this:

' "Gosh", I said. "What does it weigh? forty pounds?"

Greenhill shook his head and smiled. " Not quite thirty. We'll see when we get back to the mill." He began to mount a new prawn. "You get on and fish before it's too late. You won't get many days like this one."

So I fished out the rest of the Salmon Water, and near the tail of it an eighteen pounder took me, and I killed him, properly and alone as a salmon fisherman should, even gaffing him myself. As we walked back up towards the mill along the railroad, I felt my face hot and my knees weak from sheer joy; the thirty pound weight of salmon slung clumsily on my back was something I remembered only because it was salmon - salmon Greenhill and I had caught.

I fished many more days with Greenhill. Once I gaffed a forty pounder for him, and within an hour of that he gaffed a twenty-eight pounder for me.'

He wrote 28 books but this one is seen by many as one of his best. The twelve chapters are named after the months but each one rambles across the calendar and the world of fishing. Another lovely read.

He tells of more adventures with Greenhill. Great bonds are formed between boys and their fishing mentors.

'Three weeks later Greenhill went up to shoot pigeons in a wood on a windy hill. He died there, and Dinah howled beside him through the night and part of the next morning'