I’M AN angler by compulsion and a History teacher by trade, and have always thought that the two complement one another. Angling’s past fascinates me.
For this reason, I’m often to be found in junk shops, respectable antique emporiums and anywhere else where dusty tomes are gathered, priced in pencil and patiently waiting the attention of an oddball like me.
My favourite book shop is in Inverness, in an old deconsecrated church that has been sacrificed to a different faith. Its two floors are piled high with natural history, fiction, antiquarian maps and, of course, countless tales of salmon and trout. I’ve lost whole days in there.
The books I found this weekend were closer to home, within a cast of the River Severn, and were reassuringly cheap. Among them was Come and Fish by Michael Shepherd. It was first published in 1952, the year when a new Queen lost her father and, more significantly in my view, Dick Walker proved that the giant carp of Redmire Pool could fall to rod and line.
I’ve not read it properly yet – the present is keeping me busy enough – but a glance has assured me that my pennies were not wasted. In particular, Shepherd’s final chapter has caught my eye. In it, he writes about fishing a river in flood.
His observations give me that warm, timeless reassurance that in fishing, some things never change.
He writes of the futility of pike fishing when the river is high (which I’ve mentioned here, bitterly, more than once), of the need to find the quiet slacks and eddies, of the formidable potency of the humble worm, and of the potential for a great day when the water laps the tops of the banks. It’s all good stuff, and his optimism is timely.
He writes also of an unnamed accomplice who would bait the fields by the river when a flood was imminent, removing any snags or bushes, and return a day or two later to catch fish from the now-submerged banks. It sounds improbable, but dafter things have happened in angling’s past and present.
It is certainly not a method that I have tried, but I may well do. The advice of our angling forefathers, quaint as it may be, can often turn a blank day into a one of the red letter variety.
Catch reports: firstname.lastname@example.org.