Displaying items by tag: books

“This lovely book chronicles the rustic ramblings of two extraordinary characters through a Britain that has all but disappeared, where there is still a real quality of life and man is altogether kinder to his fellow man”.
Chris Tarrant

“Invigorating . . . a most refreshing read.”
Ronnie Corbett

Endangered Species: The Bart & The Bounder's Countryside Year"They may look like poachers and talk like rogues, but ‘the Bart’ and ‘the Bounder’ are impeccably classy chroniclers of Britain ’s rural traditions… Like a pair of disreputable Victorian villains… they have confessed their sins in [this] wonderful book… What makes the tales in their book such a treat is that the pair not only ransacked their long memories and old game books for anecdotes but actually went out on the road together… travelling Britain, ferreting out old acquaintances - gamekeepers, gypsies, coal miners - and quizzing them about the secrets of the countryside."

"Thanks to this diligent, pub-based research… it is not just terrific sporting history they have unearthed but social and natural history, too… In their research, they did stumble on a significant hidden truth. Rural writers from Harvey, through Chesterton and Betjeman have taught us to accept with mournful certainty that we are seeing the final passing of a rural race along with its way of life... [The Bart and Bounder's belief is rather that] "The English countryside is so magical that it makes new countrymen every generation, and the new countrymen are in every way as much a part of the country as the old ones were 100 years ago. You don't have to be born there to be one of them, you only have to find a way of enjoying it when you live there."…

"Country people are not really an endangered species at all and they will never die out, at least until England's very last green acre goes under concrete. It is even possible, then, that the next generation will throw up a pair of exuberant aberrations like the Bart and the Bounder. Lord help us."
Sandy Mitchell, Daily Telegraph

"You many already have encountered The Bart and The Bounder on BBC2 last year. The programme featured the two cousins, lifelong friends and conspirators, tickling trout, telling tall toff tales and taking in a audience of some three million on the way. Their convivial style caught the imagination of their soon-to-be editor and publisher and the suitably long and jolly lunch that ensued has resulted in this fascinating book."

"The ‘ endangered species’ of the title are the rural people and ways of life of the British Isles but rather than a reverential Sir David Attenborough-like approach, think more of the hearty Clarissa Dickson-Wright and her adventures with both the late Jennifer Paterson and with countryman Johnny Scott. The reader joins the Bart and Bounder, whose love of their topic is matched only by their passions for whisky and women (the former indulged, the latter wistfully recalled) as they catch rats, poach salmon, shoot game, hunt boar, carouse in pubs, try their hand at netting in coracles and attempt to paint a true picture of our countryside, from the river Towy in Wales, to the Inner Hebrides, Yorkshire, Ireland, Hampshire, Sussex, Norfolk, the Midlands and places in-between…"

"To this end, their year is spent travelling month by month… to these intriguing areas of our land, meeting old friends and making new ones – poachers, gamekeepers, dukes and estate owners – winning over even the most wary… The Bart and the Bounder’s sincerity, integrity and love for the countryside and its laws are always evident. And informative… This book is huge fun, written with vivacity and peopled by characters whom politicians and political correctness would rather airbrush out of modern life. I’d recommend this as an ideal gift for the cantankerous, the inquisitive and the open-minded – teetotallers and vegetarians excepted."
Penny Meyrick, Daily Express

"To read the hilarious tales of the Bart (Sir Richard Heygate) and the Bounder (Mike Daunt) is to meet them. That they are equally at home on barstools or with barmaids – busty or blonde – is a double joy. They may have been weaned on the works of ‘BB’ (Denys Watkins-Pitchford), but they have brought modern countryside writing to a new, higher and more relevant level. I do not simply recommend this book to every sporting household, but that readers try their hand at some of its eccentric sporting forays…

"It is an uncomfortable truth that only men can write about the real countryside. They understand its camaraderie between mammals, the elements, humour, the pub fireside and each other. In this, the Bart and the Bounder have produced a five-star book, which is a blazing beacon on a distant hillside."
Rory Knight Bruce, Country Life

" Endangered Species [is] a book in which the duo record their colourful encounters with numerous horny-handed sons of toil – poachers, rat-catchers, gillies, game-keepers, spud-pickers, fishermen – and present readers with glimpses of a vanishing but still vibrant rural community… There are some fine descriptive passages and many amusing anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed reading about Bart’s Christmas visitor, Mariga, Princess of Urach, estranged wife of Desmond Guiness, heir to the brewery fortune. Living in a house on the Antrim coast without electricity or heating, she was caught driving over the limit and lost her licence. She lent her clapped-out Citroen to a farmer to use as a chicken coop. On recovering her licence she wickedly parked it, covered in chicken muck, on the driveway of her ex-husband’s castle. Amusing, too, is the scam of a Yorkshire ex-miner who paints supermarket eggs to resemble rare osprey, golden eagle and other forbidden collectors’ species and sells them on eBay. Even the experts are fooled."
Val Hennessy – Critics’ Choice, Daily Mail

"Mike Daunt and his cousin Sir Richard Heygate embarked on a year-long journey across the length and breadth of the British Isles. This book, which is perfect for dipping into, describes their adventures as they sought out the eponymous “endangered species” of countrymen. Learn from their mistakes (such as eating hedgehog) and laugh with them over a pint of real ale. Their tales provide a fascinating insight into country ways of life that are more usually hidden. You should be left feeling, as Daunt and Heygate do, that you have been privileged to discover such a rapidly fading aspect of the world."
Mary Skipwith, The Field

Where to Buy:


For further information please contact:

Anya Noakes / Rebecca Dix

020 7483 2005 /

Submit a sale item:
UK Fisherman would be delighted to here from you if you would like to comment on any of our sale items. To do so, use the comment box below.

Alternatively if you would to submit a sale item of your own, please visit the CONTACT page.
Published in Fishing Book Reviews
The Incomplete Angler by Robin Shelton

One Man's Search for his Ultimate Fishing Experience

A warm and funny account of one man's attempt to discover why fishing is so important to him.

When Robin was a boy, fishing with his father was an integral and much-loved part of family holidays, but as an adult he fished infrequently, with terrible technique and rare success. Until one day, feeling inspired to supplement the vegetables from his allotment with nature's free bounty, fish, he tentatively decided to try again. Full of dizzy excitement at all the equipment available - the rods, the reels, the rigs, the lures, the tackle box complete with light in its lid, into which everything packed so beautifully - he embarked on his journey as a born-again angler.

What follows is a funny, touching and (even occasionally) informative book about Britain's most popular sport. From beachcasting off the stormy Pembrokeshire coast to flyfishing for trout in tranquil Hertfordshire, Robin shares his experiences, his successes and failures, and even some of his favourite recipes. Along the way he discovers exactly why anglers feel so passionate about their chosen sport.

The perfect book for anyone looking for a moment of calm in this hectic life.

Title: The Incomplete Angler by Robin Shelton
Release date: 4th April 2008
RRP: £12.99
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Chapter One: Gear, Gadgets, Gizmos and Geeks

"The fisherman loves his tackle. It is an obsessive love and, like most obsessions, irrational. Golfers do not, after all, talk fondly about their three irons; footballers don’t hurry home after a game to polish up the ball. Yet anglers will spend hours debating the relative merits of rods, reels, lines, bits of metal, plastic, fur and feather which to any impartial passer-by look nearly identical"
Jeremy Paxman, Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life

Most men, if pushed, would grudgingly (or in my case quite enthusiastically) acknowledge that they are gear freaks. What is perhaps less well understood is that, by some strangely apposite spooneristic quirk, the admission of this trait automatically confirms us as much freer geeks. I wish to inspect some of the reasons for this predominantly masculine characteristic (the acquisition and categorization of gadgets often seemingly for its own sake) later on; however, I should like to pause for a moment here to consider the notion of the ‘geek’, with particular reference to its largely derogatory overtones.

I don’t think that a great deal of new ground is being broken when I suggest that the post-feminist male has become confused, emasculated and, well, a bit screwed up. Rightly or wrongly (overwhelmingly the latter – I am all for equality), until the mid twentieth century, men generally ‘controlled’ women and, since the advent of feminism, women have, rightly or wrongly (overwhelmingly the latter – I am all for equality) increasingly taken an upper hand. A friend of mine has a lovely phrase to follow ‘As much use as a . . .’ (‘chocolate teapot’, ‘one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest’, etc.). His is ‘a man in an advert’. At times I think this is funny, but at others it makes me want to weep. At least it would do if I felt entirely comfortable about weeping. It strikes me that men have been shovelled into a corner where we are implored to show our feelings, but when we do we often get branded as weak, lily-livered and oversensitive. We get the sense that we should be ‘real men’, but haven’t got any idea exactly what that is any more. We have, rightly, lost our previous ‘control’ over women; however, instead of the two sexes achieving some kind of mutually beneficial equilibrium, the pendulum seems to have swung the other way. When I was a teenager, it was deemed perfectly acceptable to bandy the phrase ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ around like some kind of whimsical charm. This sort of glibness may well have spelled liberation for a generation of women. For my generation of men it has spelled redundancy. Besides, it is a phrase that seems to desert women’s mouths when they can’t get the U-bend back on underneath the kitchen sink. So, men have not only – rightly – in one sense lost control, but have also – wrongly – been made to feel in some ways outcast, superfluous and belittled. If one more person remarks to Jackie, my girlfriend, on seeing me cooking, washing up or doing the laundry that she’s got me ‘well trained’ I swear on my father’s grave I shall clout them. Ladies, you wanted out of the kitchen. Well, that’s fine, but who did you think was going to fill the space – a fish on a bicycle?

Spleen vented, my point is this: there are precious few activities that a lot of men feel justified in being involved in right now without having a snort and a ‘Huh – typical man!’ fired at them. Drinking until they fall over, brawling, meaningless sex, swearing and having farting competitions spring to mind, but women are even catching up in these departments, it seems. Is it even a small wonder, then, that us blokes have an unquenchable urge to scuttle off to our sheds (literal or metaphorical) and fiddle with stuff – organize it, clean it, play with it, practise using it, talk about it with our similarly disenfranchised mates? And what do we get labelled as by women as well as by less enlightened men (those with the thumbprints on their foreheads) when we do? Geeks. Anoraks. Saddos. Losers. Not very-well trained ones at that.

So, to prove my manliness once and for all, I needed to do something dirty; something atavistically motivated; something primal – I was going to be needing some porn. Okay, so in the context of fishing I naturally don’t mean the various mags which are usually ranked over the top shelves of newsagents, furtively hiding behind each other like the giggling, pointing schoolboys who are too timid to buy them, and that contain usually tawdry photographs of bored-looking women clutching and staring at a breast as if vaguely surprised at having just found it. No – when I say ‘porn’, I mean in the sense conjured up by my dear friend Jeremy: ‘geek porn’. Jeremy should know. He’s got mountains of it, and what he doesn’t know about railways isn’t worth a hump-shunter.

Geek porn is the paraphernalia – magazines, books, videos, DVDs and now, of course, the unfathomable depths of the Internet – that surrounds any given activity. It is the stuff with which the geek cossets himself (or, more rarely, herself ) with in the absence of the real thing. It represents access to a vicarious experience of an unavailable activity. The similarities in format between the top-shelf flesh-fetish mags and those of less corporeal interest are staggering. Alongside graphic, well-lit studio shots of models, there appear less professional, but equally well-intentioned, grainy photographs of the readers’ loved ones. In the text are to be found ‘real-life stories’, swapping opportunities and small-print advertisements intended only for the most hardcore and hard-to-satiate reader. However, enough of Model Railway Journal, or indeed the singling out of any one discipline or publication. For virtually any pastime, hobby or occupation there is a periodical that underpins and informs it. Teddy bears? Yup. Cross stitch? You bet. Investment banking? I’m afraid so. All these publications feature, in full detail and often in lurid colour, the techniques, tackle and terminology associated with the activity in question.

Fishing is no exception. I found myself one day browsing the shelves of WH Smith’s in Winchester (it’s more anonymous than the local shop), and found the array of publications devoted to fishing in general to be quite overwhelming. After considering buying Total Carp merely for the sheer genius of its title, and perhaps to ascertain whether there might be a market for a sister, sea-based journal entitled Utter Pollack, I reminded myself that I was, at that time, interestedly solely (however much I try to avoid fish- and fishing-based puns, some are inevitable) in sea angling. Happily, this reduced the choice from approximately the twenty mark to exactly the two mark. There was a brace of mags that were dedicated solely to sea fishing, and I was tempted to snap them both up right there, but I remained daunted somehow. A glance at their covers suggested that their intended readership might have had a little more knowledge at their disposal than knowing what mackerel look like. I had a basic grasp of fishing techniques from boyhood, but felt that I may be wasting my time and money by buying a publication whose cover kindly promised to help me ‘Understand Magnetic Brakes’ when I didn’t know what they were. Besides, I just didn’t feel I was ready to have ‘Pro Worm Digging Secrets’ revealed to me. I left Smith’s feeling horribly inadequate and uninformed – as if I was missing something that everyone else took for granted. I needed to have someone point out the very basics to me before I could buy with any degree of confidence a magazine that reviewed ‘six stunning reels’ without assuming that they would be discussing the relative merits of half a dozen devices that you throw at fish in an attempt to knock them out.

Bearing this in mind, one sunny, chilly and breezy half-term day, I told my two sons that we were going to trawl the charity shops for ‘whatever we fancied’. I gave them a fiver each and proceeded to lay out the rest of the ground rules in an attempt to disguise the fact that this trip was, in fact, a way of bribing them into accompanying me on a hunt for fishing books. I explained that, with the exception of real porn and hard drugs (not likely finds in the average Cancer Relief shop) they could spend their money on pretty much anything they liked. The pay-off for this fiscal autonomy was that as soon as they had spent it they would then have to lurch from one famine/cancer/poverty/injustice-of-some-kind-or-another relief shop to another while watching their old man looking for books about fishing and reminiscing about his happy boyhood holidays and his two-piece fibreglass rod with a cork handle. If there is a better way of teaching your children the value and benefit of being cautious about how – and how quickly – you should spend your money, I should love to hear about it. I’ve found that it works even more effectively if you have previously spent a good deal of time with them standing ankle deep in mud on your allotment and spouting misty-eyed twaddle about your dead dad. Scares them stupid.

Gabriel, then eleven years old and teetering over an ever-lowering cusp between boyish enthusiasm and adult maturity, chose a rather fetching dark-grey and red hooded jacket that I had a suspicion Dylan was also eyeing up for future use after Gabriel had outgrown it. Gabe also found himself a ‘so achingly dull we are giving them away with a magazine’ edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He also bought, in a gesture that made my nose tingle and my eyes swell with proud tears, a mug for Dylan glazed with a cartoon of two aliens and the words ‘Best Brother on the Planet’. Finally, I think he cheated and spent a pound on sweets but what the hell – I made sure that they were chewy ones, which would at least keep him quiet for a bit while I made grumbling noises about the lack of fishing books.

Dylan was also faring a lot better than me, largely because his criteria were as broad as the open ocean. Whereas I was targeting a definite species – fishing books and only fishing books – he was casting a great big net with tiny small holes in it with the sole intention of bagging himself some ‘stuff ’, and when you are seven, a fiver can get you an awful lot of it. The stuff he got himself, like Gabriel’s practical, educational and altruistic purchases, perhaps spoke more about him than some clunky words ever will. He bought himself a toy similar to a Rubik’s Cube but with about twenty-three sides, much more fluorescently coloured stickers and, it turned out, far less stamina than its original inspiration. He then found himself a pair of hand-knitted red and light-grey fingerless gloves for 79p (I have a feeling that he was bearing Gabe’s coat in mind as he did so – they’ll go nicely together). Next was a ‘100’-piece dinosaur jigsaw puzzle, which actually turned out to contain 96. I toyed with the idea of taking it back under trade description and fitness for purpose legislation, until I remembered that it had come from a shop that funds a children’s hospice. I don’t know, it just seemed kind of mean and churlish somehow. He also desperately wanted to find something for Gabriel in return for his mug. I tried to help him, but we couldn’t really find anything that we thought he would really like. I reassured Dylan that there was no need to reciprocate immediately. I also put a gentle, paternal arm round him and whispered that you should only buy something for someone when you really feel the urge to do so, if you are sure they will like it and if there really is absolutely nothing else that you fancy for yourself. Superdad was on form that day.

I became distracted by, and more than a little tight-lipped about, the fact that, in Winchester , there is apparently no such thing as fishing. In the past I have stumbled across, and occasionally bought, some wonderfully arcane and unusual titles in charity shops – Famous People and Their Illnesses, Sewerage Apparatus or, a personal favourite, Fangs – The Life of a Gardening Dentist – and that day I could have added a couple of blinders. I was sorely tempted by the dropped-stitch logic of Ferro-concrete Boat Building, and could easily have been distracted by trying to find out whether the rhetorically entitled What is my Horse Thinking? really needed any more involved an answer than ‘Please get off my back and stop whacking my arse.’ However, I held out. We were in the second to last shop of the day, and I had still not found any books on fishing. There were, I guessed, two explanations for this dearth. The first was that, in this corner of Hampshire at least, fishing was a marginal, minority pursuit and therefore the demand for any related literature was negligible. I mentioned this possibility to Dylan, to which he retorted that this was a specious, almost certainly erroneous and fallacious assumption that demonstrated scant regard of the statistical trends concerning the per capita distribution of individuals locally involved in the procuration of foodstuffs or sport by atavistic, if relatively sophisticated, means. Not bad for a seven-year-old.

What he actually said was, ‘Whatever. D’you like me gloves?’ while waving his hands in the air, but I did reckon that it was a whole lot more likely that killing (or at least catching) scaly things either for sport or for the table was actually going to be pretty high on the agenda of quite few people in this part of the country, and the real reason why there weren’t any books on this subject in the charity shops was that they wanted to hang on to them. Miserable bastards. I bet they’re the sort who’d take a 96 piece jigsaw puzzle to a children’s hospice shop as well.

I had an ace down my waders though. The Oxfam Books and Music shop in Parchment Street is largely staffed by aspiring First Gulf War poets and faded First World War muses. It does tend to charge a little more for its books than the average charity shop, but again, it does seem churlish to complain about this. I know it does – I’ve tried. This shop also has a huge plus point going for it in that its books are arranged by category, and some sections have even been alphabetized. In fact, when you have trudged in and out of the doors of all eight of the other charity shops in your town and all you’ve got is cold, empty, gloveless hands, tired feet and kids with no money left, this is more than a plus point. It is a joyous relief from having to scan shabbily-spined titles on sugarcraft, the politically correct use of a fondue or how to knit your own wheelbarrow only to find that there are no bloody books on fishing. In Oxfam Books and Music in Parchment Street , all I had to do to find out that they had no bloody books on fishing was to go and look in the ‘fishing’ section. This is actually something of an exaggeration. There was one book, The Compleat Angler, by Izaak Walton. Now, there are some interesting and, to me, pertinent things to know about this man. The short biography at the beginning of the Penguin Classics edition of this book tells us that Walton (1593–1683) was an ‘ironmonger, biographer and writer’. It goes on to say that he was ‘born at Stafford , lived much of his life in London (where he was a parishioner of John Donne) but spent the last twenty years of his life at Winchester where he is buried in the cathedral.’

This passage interested me for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most pressingly, what the bloody hell does an ironmonger know about fishing? He couldn’t even spell ‘complete’. Numpty. Secondly, Stafford was where I grew up, which, combined with the fact that, thirdly, I now live near Winchester, should have made me feel some kind of new-agey, ‘some-things-are-meant-tobe’ kind of connection but didn’t. It merely made me raise an eyebrow and a half-mouthed smile at what is a mere coincidence. Fourthly, why was he at Stafford and Winchester , but in London ? From what I could gather The Compleat Angler is about being a trout called Piscator or something like that. The point is that I simply cannot read it. I tried a paragraph or two that day in Oxfam, but even the imagined imploring eyes of some really hungry children who might find relief if only I bought that book could not stop my mind from wandering, as I tried to scan its pages, to more interesting subjects such as the colour of porridge or how long it would take to collect enough belly-button fluff to fill the shop. This was actually a bit of shame, because for a moment I had hoped that a copy of this book might perhaps inspire my own travels with rod and reel. Having read only a brief snippet, however, I felt that I would far rather sully these trips (which I was otherwise looking forward to wholeheartedly) with the ordeal of eating my own belly-button fluff. Or even porridge if things were going really well.*

Apart from having had a lovely time bimbling around town watching the boys being really nice to each other, the afternoon had been an unmitigated waste of time, so to salvage something from the day, and to assuage my mounting guilt about all those hungry children’s eyes, I did buy The Sporting Gun referred to in the Introduction. Not that I was particularly interested in shooting by this point, but because the title would serve as a consistent reminder of the elasticity of some words in the English language. I do wonder just how ‘sporting’ a chance a wood pigeon has against an unchoked twelve-bore at twenty yards.

* I think Ed Zern had it about right when, in To Hell With Fishing, he said ‘Izaak Walton pretended to be an expert on fishing. In his introduction, he refers to “the honest angler”. That’s how much he knew. ‘The Compleat Angler is chock-full of useful information for fishermen. For example, in Part 1, Chapter IV, it says: “And next you are to notice, that the Trout is not like the Crocodile.” Walton was observant. ‘In Chapter VIII, he tells of a man who caught a pike by using a mule as bait. Fortunately for Ike, it was several hundred years before anybody read beyond Chapter One.’

Despite the fact that my initial attempt to go shopping for porn with my kids had proved so unproductive, I remained resolute. A couple of weeks later, my stomach full of the trepidation and anticipation that always accompany the purchase of a large, brand-new hardback book, I slid out The Complete Encyclopedia of Fishing from one of the solid, thick, black ash shelves of my local branch of Waterstones. There is something comfortingly beautiful about a virgin, unbroken, unsullied hardback. It was fifteen quid, the price of maybe half a dozen to ten charity-shop finds, but in this case ‘finds’ had turned out to be something of a misnomer. Not only did this book promise to be a ‘comprehensive guide to coarse fishing, sea angling and game fishing’, not only did it weigh nearly four pounds and could kill a fish with a single blow of its spine, but it was also written by people who knew how to spell ‘complete’. Much more like it.

‘Complete – free from deficiency: perfect: finished: entire: fully equipped: consummate.’ That’s what Chambers says. To claim a book to be ‘complete’, or even ‘compleat’, somehow seems to convey an imperious air of self-importance – arrogance, even. It is as if to say, by implication, that you yourself know absolutely everything about a subject and, consequently, after every page has been digested, so will the reader. To claim ‘completeness’ is to imply perfection, which in turn is to invite ridicule. Most ‘complete’ encyclopedias merely deal with the technicalities: the equipment, the locations, the numbers – the prosaics. They are (often indispensable) guides to the practicalities of an activity. My fishing encyclopedia is indeed most informative in terms of knots, rigs, rods and reels, etc., but what it does not even begin to convey is what the juddery thump of a good-sized bite-and-run from the obscured depths feels like in the palms and in the pit of the stomach. It gives no clue to how a landed fish will flip, slippery, spastically and staringly on the scaly, salty, brown bloodstained bench of a boat. Nor does it tell me what it is like to take the life of a fish – to feel its slimy contortions shudder to a stiff, gawping halt in your hands as you club the back of its head. It never even begins to tell me how it feels to sit on a warming stone wharf a million miles in time and space from the rest of my life on a breezy summer afternoon while dangling for coalfish and barbecuing a mackerel whose guts were still warm. No book is complete.

However, just as any half decent page of prose is not possible without a good grasp of grammar, syntax and good old-fashioned spelling, so is any philosophical or aesthetic understanding of fishing not likely without having got to grips with a few of the practical basics. Which is what The Complete Encyclopedia of Fishing provides, and this is precisely why I bought it. It is a competent, readable and clear guide to sea, game and coarse fishing. What I knew I should do with it when I got home was to read each paragraph of the relevant sections, make notes and cross-reference the information that I did not fully understand. What I actually did was to scan some of the text, gawp at a few of the illustrations of knots, rigs and tackle and find out a couple of Latin fish names. My favourite of these was the conger eel – Conger conger – because this is exactly what I would be shouting whilst running around in frantic little circles and flapping my arms if I caught one of the toothy, snaky, evil little buggers. I also ogled at a few photographs of the sea with some people and fish in the way of it. After this, I decided that I was bored and surely knew enough by now to go and buy a couple of magazines with adverts, grainy photos, small print, reader’s fish and geeks in them.

Pretty much all men are geeks to some extent, and in one discipline or another. All the ones I know are anyway, and we all agree on one thing – that one of the deepest of joys about any obsession is that of poring over the advertisements in magazines and catalogues and comparing the specifications and prices of gadgets. For some strange reason (I’m not convinced I want to know) this activity is especially fascinating while sitting on the toilet, often carried out long after the original reason for being there has, erm, passed. I have lost count of the number of times that my legs have gone numb to the point of collapse-upon-standing after a good session of tracking down a particular camera lens, seed variety or, new joy of all joys, sinking bass plug.

I was not afraid, and I was not ashamed. I was, I unconvincingly reassured myself, a grown man and had every justification for what I was about to do. I was not going to feel embarrassed or belittled. I was going to walk into the anonymity of a large-chain newsagents and, this time, demand fishing porn. I was going to need to buy tackle at some point, and if was going to do that, then I needed to know not only where to get it, but also how to ask for it. Because it had been over eight years since I’d even tried to go fishing (and that was with someone else’s kit), I was pretty sure that its associated technology would have moved on sufficiently far to make walking into a shop and asking for ‘a rod, a reel, some line and some dangly bits’ look somewhat foolish. I figured that a magazine or two might provide me with a couple of answers to at least some of the more basic questions I might be asked in order to refine my request. ‘How big and shiny would you like your dangly bits, sir?’, that sort of thing.

I boldly plucked copies of the oddly unspaced SeaAngler and the strangely capitalled and similarly compressed TOTAL SeaFISHING from the shelves. Both covers were emblazoned with full-colour photos of really slimy and bizarre looking gaping-mouthed creatures, both of whom were grinning like idiots and clutching an enormous fish. I didn’t get much further with the decision-making process – these were the only ones on offer. I still didn’t understand an awful lot of the blurb on the cover, and, more to the point, I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck starting to stand up hotly due to all the disapproving looks from every single person in the shop. All I wanted to do was to get home, sit on the loo and start making some lists.

‘Would you like a bag for those?’

What was she trying to say? I’m sure I saw the cashier suppressing a smirk as I handed over my ten-pound note.

‘No, thank you. They’re fine as they are,’ I replied defiantly as I clammily fumbled to put my £4.60 change back into my wallet. I folded the magazines lengthways, the front covers facing boldly outwards, and scuttled back to the car and then home to drool over some pictures of stuff.

I don’t think it’s possible to claim to have fished in Hampshire unless you’ve at least tried a spot of fly fishing. However, having never done so, its complexities and complications seemed far too daunting and way too distant at the beginning – indeed, they appeared to be conveyed in a different language altogether. Coarse fishing had always been, and continued to be, an utter mystery to me. In terms of tackle (Which? Floats? Wake me up when something interesting happens), location (where? Canals? No thanks), companions (Who? I’ve spent half my life trying to get away from Brummies in combat jackets), species (What? You mean they’re not edible?) and motivation (Why? A day watching a float bobbing about on a scummy, stagnant ditch in the company of people called Nigel or Kevin trying to catch something that tastes like where it came from? Enough said), I had no idea what would persuade anyone into going coarse fishing. I thought that, to ease myself back into the sport as a whole, I should stick to what I knew. Or at least to what I used to con myself into thinking I knew a long time ago.

As far as sea fishing – and sea fishing tackle – is concerned, there are two main definitions: fishing from the shore, and fishing from a boat. Every time I have attempted it, the latter has made me feel so viridian-sick that I have truly wished to die. If it goes on the water, then I have felt violently and distressingly nauseous in it. From ferries lurching to Sweden to kayaks bobbing around the coast of Pembrokeshire , I have felt so gut-wrenchingly sick that I have truly desired nothing but drowning and peace. As far as initial kitting up was concerned, this, thankfully, narrowed things down further still.

As is often the way with these things, shore fishing can again be broken down into subgroups. These are classified as fishing from a beach or fishing from a mark – a jetty, pier or from rocks. There is, naturally, a bewildering array of methods of doing all of these things, especially when you start to think about exactly which species you are hoping to catch, and its inherent level of stupidity. For instance, your average thicky-thumpy mackerel (essentially the sea’s answer to sheep) will make the wily and seemingly epicurean grey mullet seem like a reasonable candidate for the average pub quiz team. As far as I could remember, getting a mackerel to leap out of the water and into the cool-box wearing a T-shirt bearing slogans such as ‘Shiny and smelly – please use as bait’ or ‘Great shallow-fried in extra-virgin with shallots and olives’ requires no more guile than standing near the sea and whistling for them. In order to stand any chance of coaxing a mullet to within a nautical mile of you, however, it appears that you require the planning skills of a team of architects, the patience of an inner-city teacher and the finesse, poise and stamina of a Russian gymnast.

Whichever species it is, then, that you wish to enjoy with a squeeze of lemon and a slurp of white wine, it pays to do a little homework concerning the correct lures, baits, rigs, etc. The way I see it, the further your tackle gets away from the sea, the less the fish are going to give any kind of toss about it. So, I started at the end that effectively mattered least. Criteria for my rods such as casting distance, flexibility versus. stiffness, sensitivity, durability and many other factors gradually became less and less important the more times I saw an advertisement in the catalogue that slid out from one of the magazines I’d bought. All these technical criteria eventually dissipated like raindrops pocking the surface of the ocean once I noticed that two rods, two reels and two icing-on-the-cake, I’m-having-that, I-don’t-care-if-it-fallsapart-in-a-month spools of line had been reduced from £104.96 to an irresistible one penny shy of fifty quid. I reasoned that people, myself included, have caught good fish on worse equipment than that, and quite frankly I wasn’t sure if I would be able to tell the difference between a rod that theoretically cost £12.50 and one that would swipe three hundred quid out of your wallet before you could cough the word ‘gullible’. I was destined to be the owner of a twelve-foot beach-caster, designed for hurling heavy things long distances and an eight-foot spinning rod primarily intended to lob lighter things less far. In the package came two reels – an ‘Okuma 80 fixed spool’ and an ‘Okuma 50 fixed spool’ – and two bulk spools of line. To put it another way, I opted for a big rod and a big reel and a little rod and a little reel. Oh, and some line.

Having decided that my first trip should take me back to where my fishing career had first started in turn narrowed down which ‘terminal tackle’ (dangly bits: weights, lures, rigs etc.) would be accompanying me. To assist me further, I made a list of the fish I wanted to catch while I was there (pretty much anything that wasn’t going to bite/sting/scare me and/or wasn’t going to keep moving after I’d bashed it over the head) and chose tackle that was described in the catalogue as being suitable. The words ‘Great for big bass’ got a resounding tick, as did ‘Pollack can’t resist these’ or ‘Cod love ’em!’, whereas anything mentioning that ‘Conger will always go for these just before they take the ends of your salty fingers clean off ’ had me skipping to the next diagram.

The magazines had plenty of articles of interest about rigtying, locations, readers’ fish (no, really) and so forth, but the plethora of advertisements put me into a flat spin of confusion. Comparing camera lenses is one thing – I’ve been scanning the smalls of Amateur Photographer magazine since I was ten, so know my f - stop from my focal length. However, differentiating my Shads from my Hokkais was an entirely different arena. Of course, the guys who had produced my catalogue knew this damn well, and its free inclusion was a very smart bit of fishing on their part. It contained everything, it seemed, that I wanted, at what struck me as very reasonable asking prices. I calculated that I could get pretty much everything I needed, and probably an awful lot that I did not, for just over a hundred pounds. At that price, it wasn’t exactly disposable, but on the other hand, it seemed like an eminently justifiable expense considering that I could probably recoup that outlay in the value of the fish I was going to catch in the ensuing thirty years or so.

Ordering the tackle over the phone really did seem so much easier than going into a shop and dealing with someone who knew exactly what they were talking about (proper geek shops tend to be staffed by proper geeks). Face to face, shop staff would try to engage me in a conversation about a subject that I last pursued with any degree of seriousness just before my voice broke, I discovered that girls could be fun and that roll-ups made you look hard. There would be fewer awkward questions on the telephone, and what was more, I could field any that did come along without having to look anyone in the eye while I was bluffing. I could even glance at the catalogue for reassurance before concurring that 27 grams would seem about right for what I’m after, wouldn’t it?

The whole process was indeed a doddle. From beginning to end, according to the LCD. timer on my telephone, it took me twenty-eight minutes. Seven and a half of these were occupied by being informed that ‘all their lines were busy’ and would I ‘please wait for the next customer services representative’, and a further five of these were filled with silence while the chap on the other end of the phone tried to find the code number for the rod and reel deal. After that, I simply rattled off the catalogue numbers of my desired items and their quantities. The act of actually buying (if not choosing) all this gear, then, had taken only a quarter of an hour or so. I reckon that if I’d tried to do the same thing in a fishing tackle shop it would have taken me that long to pluck up the courage to ask for a long, stiff rod with a tip that’s sensitive enough to tell me if something’s biting.

At one point during the call, the salesman read out a list of the rigs that were being included in my ‘rig wallet and ten rigs for fourteen quid’ deal. As he enunciated all the names – ‘Flapper, Paternoster, Pennell, Running Ledger, Flish Flash Splish Splosh, Double Jiggled Knicker Twister’ etc. – I ummed and aahed my assent and approval. The Complete Encyclopedia of Fishing, along with a lengthy session with a copy of SeaAngler and a can of lager in the bath had acquainted me with these names, but not a great deal more. If I’d had to actually choose them, then I would have done so purely for what they sounded like. Similarly, the criteria for the lures I ordered were picked mainly for how pretty and shiny they were, and how good they would look in the new tackle box I was also treating myself to (£8.99 complete with, mark you, a light inside its lid). In the absence of any other criteria, I wanted my rigs and lures to have pleasantly shaped names that left a sweet taste in the mouth when you told someone what you were using. There was the option of tying my own rigs, and although this was tempting in a really anally retentive, fiddly kind of way, I reckoned that it was unlikely that fish were going to snub a bought rig in preference to one that had been hand-wrought by pixies. I also felt that it would be one step from making your own rigs to crafting your own rods and, let’s face it, fish don’t know a carbon fibre super-caster from a bean pole. The only piece of tackle a fish really gives two gulps about is your hook when it slices into their mouth. The final temptation when it came to these rigs, however, was the fact that they came separately from the wallet, individually wrapped with a card backing. At the time, I could think of nothing more pleasurable than snipping these open, removing the rig, and sliding it into the translucent sleeves inside the crisply velcroed wallet. This would, in turn, sit purposefully underneath the compartmentalized, regimented lures. Heaven.

The guy on the other end of the phone totalled the order up to £112.94, which included what I thought was a very reasonable five pounds worth of postage and packing. He also called me ‘sir’, and did all of it wrapped in a swirling Scottish accent that had all the soothing warmth of an Islay malt in a heavy-bottomed cut-glass tumbler. I assured him that £112.94 was just fine.

‘So, when do I get to stack up my lures in the box with the light in the li— Erm, any idea of delivery times?’

‘Usually about five working days, Sir.’ His ‘R’s were beautifully and softly burred.

‘Oh, bollocks. I wanted to do it tomorrow. Is that the best you ca— No problem, mate. Thanks for all your help.’

I put the phone down, and waited.

I am consistently intrigued by the huge variety of definitions it is possible to place on the term ‘working days’, as applied to the clearance of cheques or, in this case, the amount of time it takes for just over a hundred quid’s worth of fishing kit to arrive. I had hoped that, at a push, and considering that I had ordered it at just after nine o’clock on Monday morning, that it may materialize on, or even before, Friday. Five p.m. on Friday would have been five working days. Towards the end of the week, I fashioned a note explaining that if I was not in then the delivery could be made to Liz and Steve’s place two doors up, and pinned it to the front door every time I went out. And every time I came home, I did so to the quite disproportionate disappointment of it still flapping, forlorn and unread, in the breeze.

I reckoned that the following Tuesday afternoon would be a reasonable time to call the Scotsman to give him a gentle nag. Because I do at least a small amount of work on most days, I reasoned that by then it would have been eight working days since I had placed my order and, more crucially, only half that amount of days (industrious or otherwise) until my first fishing trip. I set my mobile phone to remind me, with a violently unpleasant chime, to call them at four o’clock on Tuesday.

No surprise, then, that first thing that Tuesday morning saw me dialling the Glasgow Angling Centre to check on progress. It was a different man I spoke to from before. He was most apologetic, but, ‘We’re still wettin’ on a coupla rugs.’

Luckily, before I asked him what relevance their urinating on domestic upholstery had to my order, I realized that they were, in fact, delaying the rest of my order until they had the full complement of rigs. What a relief – I could have made a right duck of myself.

‘It should all be wi’ ya tomorra mate.’

‘Cracking. Thank you.’

The word ‘should’ instilled little confidence, but I figured that to press for any more commitment than this would be a little unfair and unreasonable. As it was, though, he could have staked his children’s lives on it, because at eight o’clock the next morning I was roused from dreams of salt and seagulls by a blunt rap on the front door. Too early for the postman, and Steve knows better than to attempt any but the most basic forms of grunting with me before ten. This awakening, then, could only logically mean one thing. My rugs had arrived. I threw on the nearest T-shirt and pair of shorts and lumbered downstairs. My hapless hound Charlie skittered down with me as usual and greeted the delivery man in the way he greets everybody except me (i.e. with enthusiasm). The man with the box of new toys at his feet looked about as enamoured with being up at that time of the morning as I did.

‘Sign and print here, and here.’ He held a smeared sheaf of papers with one tired hand, and stabbed at two boxes containing my name with the forefinger of the other. ‘There’s another box in the van.’

As he disappeared to rummage for what I assumed to be the rods, I managed to gain sufficient focus and manual dexterity to do as instructed. After a minute or so, he still had not returned, so I entertained myself by glancing at the list of drops he had made already that morning. He must have been up and about for at least three hours already, and after about five minutes of absence I began to suspect that he had actually found himself a cosy nest inside some packages of soft furnishings – a coupla rugs perhaps – and dozed off.

He returned shortly afterwards though, empty handed and slightly sweaty from his exertions. As he approached, he shrugged with a raised eyebrow and shoulder, two open palms and two downturned mouth corners.

‘Must be under everything else. You in later?’

‘I’m going out in about half an hour, but should be back by twelve. Can you come back then?’ I had to nip out to put a pane of glass in Alex’s upstairs window which I had been promising to do ‘this week’ for about two months.

‘Will do.’

This was torture. It was true that I had some new gadgets to play with, to take apart, to organise and to break, but no rods? When I was a small boy, I would get so stupid with excitement about the impending arrival of Christmas (around September time), that I would occasionally ask my mother for a stocking, which I then proceeded to fill with some of my favourite possessions. I would leave this by my bed, and try to forget about it until morning, when I would wake up to find a stretchy, staticky, rustling and bulging form next to me, ready to be taken through to my delighted parents at around five-thirty in the morning. This anticipation of ritual, this desire to imitate a yearned for event has stayed with me. All I wanted to do that Wednesday morning was to remove a new reel from its just-large-enough box and slip it into the seat at the butt end of the rod via its simple screw-clamp mechanism. Then I could have threaded the monofilament line through the guides on the rod, attached a magnet to the end and tried to catch small pieces of steel in the washing-up bowl. But it wasn’t to be – I simply had to wait until the afternoon. A large part of me actually deemed this to be a good thing; I am not at my least clumsy in the morning, so playing with items such as fishing hooks is an activity probably best left until later in the day. Quite how and why I thought I would be any better off being fifteen feet up a ladder playing with six square feet of glass escapes me now, but that’s what I did.

When I returned home, I was bursting with the energy brought about by the twin factors of having new toys, and of having survived what felt like a near-death experience (the combination of ladders and glass seems to be so diametrically opposed to everything I believe about natural selection). I had left the unopened box of goodies on my sitting-room floor, and returned to find that, remarkably, it had not moved. I somehow thought that it may have shifted slightly due to the vibration of anticipation and excitement, but evidently my feelings were not reciprocated. I sliced through the packaging as carefully as I could in the minimum amount of time possible, and as soon as I could get a grip, tore the box open. Despite my first and best intentions to painstakingly check off each item against the packing list as they came out, I did what any like-minded child would have done – I slid a reel out of its box, attached the handle and wound it round and round while grinning like an loon.

Sea-fishing reels fall into two broad categories: ‘fixed spool’ and ‘multiplier’. I had chosen two of the former for three reasons. Firstly, casting with a multiplier takes more skill than I felt I either had or needed at the time. They are capable of casting slightly further than fixed t in my hands they weren’t. I’d also heard horror stories that any lack of control on the operator’s part could result in what is technically known as a ‘bird’s nest’, a term that surely needs no explanation. The second reason for choosing fixed spools was because I actually didn’t have any choice as they were part of the package deal. Thirdly, and most importantly of all, the way these reels work and move is utterly mesmeric – simultaneously and smoothly rotating and reciprocating. At the front of the reel is a device called the bale arm, which assumes one of two positions: ‘cocked’ to allow the line to feed from the spool freely when casting and, for the lack of any better description anywhere I can find, ‘uncocked’ to allow the user to wind the line back in again. The bale arm is fixed via a hinge to a cylindrical housing that in turn orbits the spool onto which the line is wound. When reeling in, the bale arm spins snugly around the spool, which itself slides reciprocally along a splined shaft to ensure even winding of the line. I can watch this for hours, especially when combined with the reassuring ‘clack’ of the bale arm automatically returning to its winding position upon turning the handle after casting. This whole motion is beautifully concise in its function, and concisely beautiful in its motion.

After I had made sure that both reels went round and round, up and down and made all the right noises, I turned my attention to the tackle and the box with the light in its lid. I managed to resist the temptation of checking the candlepower (approximately three) of the torch until the darkness of later that evening when Liz and Steve came round for the inaugural lighting. They were – Lizzie in particular – quite disturbingly effusive in their excitement. Maybe they just knew how important it was to me.

Before truly making all this gear my own, I did check that I had been sent the correct amount of the correct tackle – evidently they had not bothered to wet on all the rugs after all, as some were missing. I didn’t judge this to be a problem, however, as I had no idea how to use them anyway. Apart from this, and having received an extra spool of six pound breaking strain line in place of something that should have been something else but I’ve no idea what, all was in order. Consequently I could get on with the crucial task of finding spaces in the tackle box for all the other bits and pieces.

Firstly came the lures. I may have been just a little too heavily seduced by their shininess and prettiness, having ordered a total of fourteen, but any fears were soon allayed by the fact that they all fitted perfectly and shimmeringly in the small compartments in the top tray of the box – ranked, purposeful and deadly for pollack, apparently.

Next to be located were the four different sizes of swivels I had purchased. These small pieces of kit comprise a central barrel from each end of which protrudes an independently rotating eye. These are tied between the terminal tackle and the main line. Fish, as a rule, don’t really like having a bloody great barb stuck in their mush and as a consequence tend to flap about a bit when it happens. The swivel prevents the main line from getting as twisted as a bag of eels when the fight is on. They arrived in small, crisp plastic sachets, adhesive sealed. This is obviously no good at all – with no method of resealing these bags, it would only be a matter of minutes before they would be rattling around the tackle box, and I would have no idea which size was which. Chaos. I found four small, square, polythene snap-lock bags that had remained from a previous stint as a stationery geek, decanted them and, having squeezed the air from the bags and written their respective sizes on some self-adhesive labels, stuffed them into a compartment in the lower tier. The hooks, the largest of which looked as if it had been designed to catch something the size of which I had no intention of ever landing, received a similar treatment, having somewhat inconsiderately arrived in some rather pleasant but hopelessly ill-fitting little plastic boxes. I again labelled the hooks and placed them in the compartment next to the swivels.

Also along for the ride, and largely to act as ballast on the journey to my Scotland , were one pear-shaped lead weight and three ‘breakaway’ leads. The latter have four hardened steel spikes pointing outwards and upwards from their bases. The dual purposes of these protrusions seemed, on first inspection, to be to make sure the weights did a really good job of getting tangled up in underwater seaweed and boulders and to make fitting them in the tackle box virtually impossible. However, I somehow managed to wedge them into the lower tray before realizing that these spikes were in fact fabricated from two pieces of bent wire which allowed them to be hinged backwards so that they pointed the opposite way. The idea is that they provide sufficient grip against a racing tide to hold the bait in one place, but will release with a good tug from the dry end. This didn’t make getting them into the box an awful lot easier, but did give me a thoroughly good idea of exactly why they were called ‘breakaway’ leads.

It was during the final stages of stowing and labelling all this stuff that I realized that the impulse to contain, arrange, control and personalize is common to all geek activities. What is a model railway, an allotment, a bag of camera gear or a box of fishing tackle if it’s not an opportunity to quantify and dominate our own microcosm of an otherwise unpredictable world?

Having said that, I was aware of the fact that I had spent the best part of an hour and a half arranging pretty and/or heavy things in a box. I felt it was really high time I got out a bit more. And did a spot of fishing while I was there.

Submit a Sale Item: UK Fisherman would be delighted to here from you if you would like to comment on any of our sale items. To do so, use the comment box below.

Alternatively if you would to submit a sale item of your own, please visit the CONTACT page.

Published in Various

Promote your Business

Promote your Business

FREE and PREMIUM fishery, fishing holidays, fishing club & tackle store listings.

Read more

Website Design

Website Design

Our friends at Angling4Business create and host quality fishing related websites.

View Website

Angling Newsletter

Angling Newsletter

News, reviews, competition details, tackle sales & more, direct to your inbox.

Sign up now

Sorry, this website uses features that your browser doesn’t support. Upgrade to a newer version of Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Edge and you’ll be all set.