I have deliberately waited until the horror of Black Friday was over until coming forward with some recommendations for Christmas treats for us fisherfolks this year. My idea of hell is traipsing round a crowded shopping mall, particularly on days when I feel the fish might be feeding in my local waters, but it’s always good to hear of films or books that can transport us to another, less crowded world, when real life keeps us away from the bank.
First up is a trip to the magnificent Himalayas in search of the mighty golden mahseer – not the expedition I went on earlier this year but one undertaken by barbel specialist and film maker Stu Walker. Best of all this fantastic film won’t make any sort of dent in your wallet as it’s available free of charge on Vimeo and YouTube.
The Fish of my Dreams – In Search of the Himalayan Golden Mahseer by Stuart Walker
Like Stu I got the mahseer bug big time, and, like many of this tiny band of fishing adventurers I can trace it back to pioneering exploits of Paul Boote, the man who rightly deserves credit for ‘rediscovering the mahseer of India’ as a sporting quarry. In my case it was the fantastic book that Boote wrote with Jeremy Wade entitled Somewhere Down the Crazy River which was published in 1992 and chronicles “journeys in search of giant fish”. Some four years later I found myself on the banks of the River Cauvery fishing the same pools and rapids that the authors had explored a decade or so earlier. I was lucky enough to land a 76 pounder on my first trip and it was this fish, more than any other, that lit the flame that turned me into a travelling angler.
Around the same time a young Stuart Walker watched a documentary called Casting for Gold with John Bailey and Paul Boote about an expedition for the slightly smaller, but sleeker, Himalayan Mahseer on the River Ganges.
“It blew me away and left a lasting impression – never in my dreams did I ever think I would fish in such a place. I have been wanting to make this film for a very long time. Its been a rollercoaster journey and on this last trip I really had to push myself to make it happen. I put my heart and soul into the fishing and filming.” said Stuart
‘The Fish of my Dreams’ is a journey of adventure into the Himalayan foothills of Northern India. The filming is top quality and the scenery is as magnificent as you would expect in one of last remaining wilderness areas left on the planet. We follow Stu as he tries to catch a big Golden Mahseer at the end of the monsoon season – a fish that has somehow eluded him on his previous visits to the region.
Ten years ago Stu fished on the River Giri in Himachal Pradesh. On this trip he met a friendly local village boy called Bobby. Bobby was only young but had the makings of a great fisherman. Now at 24 he has become a very experienced Fly fishing and Mahseer guide. With help from Bobby and friend Kanu, Stu targets the mighty Kali and Sarju rivers on the border between India & Nepal. This film is a labour of love and follows the highs and lows of a fishing adventure of a lifetime as he tries to finally catch the Mahseer of his dreams.
Reflections on Still Water by Peter Rolfe
This delightful work, which shows how fishing and conservation can go hand is actually Peter Rolfe’s third book, following on from The Net on the Garage Wall (Medlar 1997) and Crock of Gold – Seeking the Crucian Carp (MPress 2010). As the winter wind begins to bite what nicer form of escapism could there be for the angler than to hunker down in front of warm fire and dream of balmy days beside a beautifully restored pond in whose depths swim golden crucians and olive green tench?
I got to know Peter when the Angling Trust agreed to take the lead in establishing the National Crucian Conservation Project and have been privileged to visit, and on one occasion to fish, the lakes at Pythouse Estate that he helped to restore. I went there in the company of my good friend and wildlife film maker Hugh Miles who is an enthusiastic supporter of Peter’s work. Peter is a lovely man with half a lifetime of experience in fishery management, pond restoration and in the lives of the creatures that inhabit these waters. It is not without some justification that we call him ‘The Crucian Guru’.
Back in 1989 Peter had the opportunity to restore two Victorian estate lakes that had fallen into disrepair. His book tells how the upper lake was brought back to life over two years, and how it was turned into a remarkable coarse fishery and haven for wildlife. There are chapters on the challenges of the restoration, the gradual return of plants, animals and birds to a once polluted and boggy area, the early days of stocking with fish, the management of the lake and its surroundings. There are many stories about the fishermen who have enjoyed the lake, including famous names like Chris Yates and his assortment of friends.
This is not a carp lake, though it has produced carp of over 30lbs; it is a mixed fishery that has become locally famous for its great roach, tench and crucians. How fishing of that standard was achieved makes for very enjoyable reading. Peter shares the worries and difficulties as well as the sense of achievement when things went well.
This is a book that is both lyrical and practical and there is much to be learned from it and much to be enjoyed with over 70 illustrations scattered throughout the text.
The book will retail at £17.50 at will be available on Amazon and direct from the publishers at http://www.calmproductions.com/acatalog/Reflections_On_Still_Water.html
More details on Peter’s website at http://www.crucians.org and you can find out about the National Crucian Conservation Project at http://www.anglinglingtrust.net/crucian
I shall be attending the launch at the Arts Centre in Shaftesbury, North Dorset on Saturday, 5th December, from 11am to 3pm with Hugh Miles, Chris Yates and Mark Wintle. Many well-known anglers will be there and as a bonus Peter will auction two of the last remaining copies of The Net on the Garage Wall as well as a signed copy of Chris Yates’s River Diaries and Shadows and Reflections, Chris’s carp anthology.
River Pike by Dilip Sarkar
Every winter I tell myself that I should take time out from chasing roach, perch, chub and grayling and have a go for a decent river pike. I never do which is crazy since I’ve got the Thames flowing less than a mile from my house and goodness knows how many club tickets on southern rivers famous for toothy leviathans. Now I really have run out of excuses because the publication of River Pike by my Angling Trust colleague and acknowledge river predator expert Dilip Sarkar is a comprehensive manual of modern pike fishing covering most of the major rivers of England including some of my favourites.
As well as Dilip’s own writing there are chapters by local specialists on Severn, Wye, Warwickshire Avon, Trent, Thames, Broads, Fens, Yorkshire Ouse and the Wessex rivers. Contributors include Neville Fickling, Chris Leibbrandt, Chris Fowles, Dr John Tate, Pat Henry, Denis Moules, Bill Rushmer, James Sarkar, Phil Wakeford, Jerry Lloyd, Martin Mumby, David Greenwood, Karen Sarkar, John Cheyne, Terry Theobald, Chris Wardle, Stephen Harper, Paul Belsten, Steve Bown making this a veritable Who’s Who of the piking world.
There’s a lovely foreword by Angling Trust Ambassador and Severn specialist Des Taylor:
“A ‘river pike’ book was long overdue, for since the John Sidley classic ‘River Piking’ of 1987, there has been very little written about piking in rivers; to be perfectly honest there are very few anglers who could write about river piking anyway. I’m glad to say that Dilip has managed to enlist a true ‘expert’ to write on every river mentioned in the book, which, added to his own extensive personal knowledge of the Midland rivers, makes this the most comprehensive work on the subject ever written. This is a book for the piker who wants to catch fish without a name, whilst dreaming that one day the mother of all river pike will take the bait. To quote Roderick Haig Brown, “A River Never Sleeps”, which is so true. For the river piker, the river is constantly changing from day to day and year on year – but as river anglers, we simply would have it no other way.”
River Pike has already had some rave reviews. As I said I’m no pike fisherman but I loved this book as it is a great read with some terrific stories.
Description: 204 pages, full colour throughout.
The cloth-bound edition is limited to 500 copies at £35 plus £5 P&P
To order your copy of RIVER PIKE, please visit http://www.harperanglingbooks.co.uk
So there you go, something for the travelling angling, the hardcore river pike specialist or the seeker of more gentle quarry in the ponds of Old England. I hope you get something as good in your fisherman’s stocking this Christmas.