Fishing books – anthologies

Since we are still tediously locked down, here’s a bit more on fishing books.

People have been writing about fishing for centuries, so we now have a huge volume of literature at our disposal. Fishing anthologies provide a way into it by pulling together extracts from many other books. This one came out in 1995:

Fishing anthology

The compiler Jeremy Paxman has selected stories from around the world, from ancient times to the present day, that capture the spirit and fun of fishing. The titles of just a few of them will give an idea of the book’s broad scope:

  • Chub Fishing on Christmas Morning
  • The African Tiger Fish
  • The Discipline of Carp
  • Uncle Silas Goes Fishing
  • Something Had to Give – An Irish Pike
  • What to do if a Shark Attacks
  • The Art of Lying

The Fisherman’s Bedside Book is a classic and was one of my favourites growing up:

Fishing anthology
Fishing anthology
Fishing anthology

First published in 1945 with a second edition in 1955, it was republished in 2004. It mainly contains fishing tales and reminiscences about salmon, trout, tench, carp, pike, various other coarse fish and some sea species. There are also odd pieces on fishponds, worms, knots and poaching. The carp stuff is interesting. In 1955 carp were not widely distributed and most anglers regarded them as virtually uncatchable. A few pioneers were starting to make progress however (including the book’s compiler BB). The stories collected here reflect those changing times and show where a lot of our modern methods originated.

The limited directly instructional material is badly dated, but there are more recent publications for that side of things (and the internet of course). These old books are more for your own enjoyment, although you will still learn plenty about fishing from the sheer wealth of experience they contain.

Fishing books for beginners

While we are all locked down at home, I thought it might be worth sharing some ideas on fishing books. Even in normal circumstances, most people find that work or family commitments mean they can’t go fishing as often as they might like. Not only are books an entertaining substitute for when you can’t get out by the water, they can also help you become a better angler.

Books are especially valuable when we first start out, helping us learn about the different species of fish and the tackle and techniques needed to catch them. I picked up a huge amount that way. Just as importantly, reading made me aware of the possibilities that exist in fishing, inspiring me to try new things and explore new places.

A good first book for a beginner is a fishing encyclopedia, like this one:

FIshing encyclopedia

Here’s another, in the form of a box set this time:

Fishing encyclopeda

You can usually find these encylopedias in the sports sections of bookshops (or online of course). Typically they cover the main branches of angling – coarse, trout and sea – with explanations, pictures and diagrams. Be aware though, some of these books have a rather international or US perspective. UK anglers can still learn a lot from them but will probably do better initially with something produced here. If you are buying online, you might get an idea about this by previewing the text or reading the reviews.

You will also come across more focused instructional books, covering just coarse fishing say, or maybe a specific kind of fish. Some are more aimed at beginners than others, but either way they are bound to add to your knowledge. In fact, nearly all angling books old and new should have something to offer. You can often them pick up second hand in charity shops for a couple of pounds.

Before the lockdown

Arriving for a coarse fishing lesson I found cold, clear conditions. There had been a frost overnight and I was worried the fish would be slow to respond. In fact I caught roach straight away. In the middle of winter I think it would have been different, but with spring kicking into life the fish were becoming more active.

Spring morning by the lake

When Jessica and Jana turned up, one of the first things they learned to do was bait the hook with maggots. This required concentration at first:

Baiting the hook

They were soon both catching roach using whips (short rods with no reel):

Jessica's roach
Jana's roach

They then had to unhook them. It is important to handle fish with wet hands (warm, dry hands damage the fish by removing their protective slime), so I always have buckets of water handy:

Unhooking a roach

The disgorger is essential for extracting the hook when it is inside the fish’s mouth, out of reach of your fingers. It is best to practice first using a towel in place of a fish, as Jessica is doing here:

Using a disgorger

Once we have unhooked and admired our fish, we return it carefully to the water. A gentle lob is OK with small ones, but keep low so as not to scare any which still lurk uncaught nearby:

Returning a fish to the water

Next we had a look at how to set up a rod and reel. First we attached the reel to the rod:

Setting up rod and reel
Setting up rod and reel

Then we threaded the line through the guides:

Threading the line up the rod

Jana did a dry land exercise on how to bring in a fish (played by Jessica!) without it breaking the line:

Learning to play a fish

Then Jessica had a go. It takes time to learn how to handle a rod and reel, but these exercises at least give you an idea what to do when a large, powerful fish takes hold.

Learning to play a fish

After that we spent some time waggler fishing with the rod and reel. My pupils both got the hang of casting and controlling the line, in fairly difficult crosswind conditions, and caught a few more roach. We finished off by learning some knots:

Knot tying

By the end of the session we were basking in the first properly warm conditions this year. Unfortunately the virus lockdown started the next day and I had to postpone all my bookings. Let’s hope we can soon get back out on the banks.

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