The following great and good of the tall (or should that be long) fishy tale are more than just grey old men on the side of the bank endlessly waxing lyrical about the ‘one that got away'.
Among them are British spies, war heroes, teachers, newspapermen, artists, inventors, TV presenters, footballers – indeed, many have represented their country for reasons other than fishing. Their books are not just niche periodicals to their chosen passion, but love letters to the cold creatures they court.
Our series, written by one of their kin, Keith Elliot, himself having written 9 million words on the subject, shows these men to be analysts of the human condition. It's as if their prose anthropomorphises their not so tiny cast of thousands. Caught up between the ‘my carp is bigger than yours' machinations are the struggles to save fisheries and the environment. The years of searching for pisciform perfection. The friendships, the bonds, the discoveries and legacies that lurk beneath the calm seam between our world and theirs.
Choosing the contenders for the greatest UK angling writers is a thankless task. Ask 10 people, and you'll get 10 different answers. So we have set a couple of arbitrary rules to limit the vast choice.
- They must be UK writers. Being born here, then living abroad and producing most of their output elsewhere, does not count. So Roderick Haig-Brown and others miss out.
- We've taken into account where you're reading this. So those whose prime writing was about the sea have been discarded.
- We've limited the number of writers whose work, because it was produced 100 or more years ago, is probably unknown to most people reading this. Let's face it: you're not going to vote for someone you've never read.
- The writer has to be capable of producing more than one great book. They should be able to perform consistently, like Usain Bolt or Steve Gardener.
Our list includes a few journalists, because creating sparkling words to a weekly or monthly deadline is far, far tougher than having the luxury of months (sometime years) to fine-tune your prose.
We've used a qualification written by one of the people who actually appears on this list. (Wonder if you can guess who?)
He said: "My own touchstone for a classic is readability. I'm not talking about taking the odd, delicious dip, but a proper soup-to-nuts consumption."
Here's the acid test: would you pick up that book or article and read it again, and maybe again, and enjoy it just as much?
Our thanks go to the author of this series, Keith Elliott, whom we also decided to honour with his own place in the rankings. It was originally produced in 2017, with updates in 2020.