Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with the dates set for the current river coarse fishing close season I do welcome the opportunity to hang up the rods and have a break from this all consuming passion that has been such a huge part of our lives. But of course the fire never dies, it just flickers to life in different ways. Whether it’s sorting out the tackle shed, re-rigging the tench rods or buying yet more kit, I’m still going fishing if only in my head. And what better way to transport yourself back to the bank than to become immersed in a well written book by someone who shares this crazy obsession?
A Fish for Every Season (A chub angler reflects) – Stewart Allum
This is a book for the serious river angler. A book that chronicles the journey of one the country’s most successful chub anglers from his early days on the tiny River Eden in Kent to successfully tracking down chub of a size we once never thought possible on those modern day angling jewels – the Dorset Stour, Hampshire Avon and my home river, Old Father Thames. It’s up there with works of those other great, and much missed river anglers, Tony Miles, Peter Stone, Frank Guttfield and Len Arbery.
This homage to chub and chub fishing is beautifully illustrated throughout by Stewart himself, with help from Keith Linsell, Peter Stone and Nigel Witham and a foreword by his great friend and angling companion Matt Hayes whose own exploits with the species also feature in the 300 or so pages published by the excellent Little Egret Press.
One of many huge chub that Stewart Allum has outwitted in a lifetime immersed in the species
Early days on the tiny River Eden in Kent
Starting in 1966 on a trip to the Eden with his dad the young, and obviously annoying, Stewart finally accepts his father’s wise advice to use ‘a big bait for a big fish’ and promptly lands his first chub. It may have been less than a pound in weight but the boy was hooked for life. Some 50 years later, and after two marriages, several career changes and countless adventures we see Stewart gracing the pages of Angling Times with his first eight pounder. His is a remarkable progression through the rivers and streams of Britain in pursuit of what old Izaak Walton rightly described as the “fearfullest of all fishes”.
A Fish for Every Season gives us more than a chronicle of a man’s lifetime obsession with chub, it provides an insight into the world of Specimen Angling which was very much in its infancy when Stewart began his long journey. At the tender age of 14 he tried to form his own local ‘specimen group’ amongst his schoolmates but sadly this didn’t last long. However, some time later his youthful aspirations were realised when he was accepted into the newly formed Chub Study Group where, some fifty years on, he now glories in the title of Group Historian. Who ever knew that the humble chub merited such a thing?
I don’t just identify with this book because I share a love of rivers and chub fishing, although that is reason enough to pick up a copy. Over a similar time frame I have found myself on the same stretches of the Colne, Bourne, Lea, Wey, Thames, Kennet, Avon, Stour, Windrush and Test. And given that we’ve even fished with some of the same people it’s more than strange that we’ve never met on the bank. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to read how Stewart developed his uncanny understanding of where and when the big chub might be found and the vast array of methods that would lead to their capture. I for one have never seriously targeted them in stillwaters but some impressive catches are also featured from such venues.
Good to see our top anglers sporting ‘Anglers against Pollution’ hoodies!
While this is no way an instructional manual there’s plenty tips to be gleaned and the reader will be a better angler for learning what it takes to succeed in the world of specialist angling. However, unlike too many of us highly focussed fishing obsessives, Stewart has retained both his humour, sanity and a healthy sense of perspective. Chub may be his first love but the journey includes wonderful diversions in pursuit of roach, barbel and even the humble dace. All species that deserve attention and respect in a world where bloated mud pigs are too often seen as the pinnacle of angling prowess. As the author wisely observes: “All fishing is good fishing; and chub fishing is some of the best on offer”.
If you love running water and celebrate the diversity of this wonderful world of fishing then this book is for you.
A Fish for Every Season is available from Little Egret Press at:
Or from Amazon at:
My second Close Season read is by an angler you’ve never heard of and who, by today’s standards, has caught very few fish of a size to threaten the Drennan Cup. Yet it is one of the most charming books on fishing and life that you could ever hope to possess.
The Magic of Fishing – John Moorwood
Mercifully this is not another ‘how to fish my way’ book complete with grip and grin trophy shots. In what is undoubtedly a labour of love, John Moorwood takes us into a deep dive on the essence of fishing – why we do it, why it consumes us and why a childhood pleasure turns into a lifetimes obsession. It inspires and reminds us of what it means to be an lifelong angler. The stories of battles won and lost, friendships made on the bank and the trials and tribulations of trying to fish regularly whilst remaining both married and employed, will trigger many similar feelings amongst many anglers with more than a few miles on the clock.
Remember when we used to go fishing by the coachload?
I can absolutely identify with the coming of age moment when the author wins his first club match on the mighty River Trent, made all the more the special by the fact that he was still a junior. My own triumph came 150 miles south on the Thames but that feeling of pride on the coach trip home, sitting amongst the ever so slightly grumpy adults, is one to be savoured for sure. Much as some would have us believe, there’s not an angler born that is entirely self taught and most of us can point to an important mentor who helped kindle that childhood fishing flame. I particularly enjoyed John’s early memories of fishing with his paternal granddad, Joe Moorwood, a retired steelworker, who taught him all he knew about fishing while growing up in his native Sheffield. We are then taken on a nostalgic, moving and sometimes humorous look back at what some would consider a golden age before Facebook, WhatsApp, Gameboy, smartphones or carbon fishing rods.
The author as a budding young angler
Serious issues are also addressed as the author explains how his love of fishing, combined with adventures in the British countryside, have helped his mental health during the challenges of adult life and working in London and beyond. As John says:
“Getting out on the bank whenever I can has brought calm, forged strong friendships and eased the pressure of business leadership, which often entails long working hours and almost continual online demands. Angling is a pastime some may struggle to understand but I’ve tried to write something that will appeal to fellow fishing addicts while also entertaining non-anglers who feel nostalgia for the pre-digital, 1980s era or simply love nature.”
We have the Covid lockdown to thank for this book as it gave John Moorwood, a 48-year-old communications director and parent of four now living in Surrey, the time and space to finish his endeavour. This followed a difficult period for him including the loss of his mum to cancer, the physical agony of two slipped discs, which eventually required back surgery, and a period of unemployment. And through it all the love of fishing never left him.
Years later and this fine chub from the Wey in Surrey shows that the magic still alive
Much like the philosophical musings of Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer in the BBC’s popular Gone Fishing series, John realised just how much angling had enriched his life, and the lives of all those under its spell. On those cold, frustrating and biteless days on the bank this is a message we would all do well to recall. Certainly before we put our tackle on eBay and take up something unspeakable like golf!
Charming and magic are often over used descriptions of the written word but ‘The Magic of Fishing’ does what it says on tin. I defy you not to enjoy this charming romp through a world we’ve all been privileged to share.
The Magic of Fishing by John Moorwood is available in in paperback (ISBN: 978-1-914227-13-4) from all good book retailers. Limited edition hardback from www.gnbooks.co.uk. And on Kindle.