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Fishing books for Christmas

Traditionalists of a certain vintage, myself included, brought up before the invention of electronic devices, love nothing more than to sit down with a paper book or two over the holiday period. If you are on the look-out for a last minute literary present for the angling friend in your life, here are four options that are likely to appeal.

Fishing books

The Trent Otter by Peter Rolfe

This is not a book about story of the fall and rise of a population of indigenous piscivorous mammals. It is however the fascinating life story of arguably angling's first global superstar in an era when Britannia ruled the waves. Born into poverty in rural Lincolnshire and losing his father at a young age, the Trent Otter, real name John William Martin was as famous an angler in his day as the likes of John Wilson, Matt Hayes, Richard Walker and Ivan Marks to name but four, subsequently became in more modern times. How did a young kid forced to leave school at the age of 10 achieve such global angling success from incredibly humbling beginnings? You will have to read the book to find out the full details.

Jack Martin's story was a combination of the ability to pick up angling skills quickly, hard graft, an understanding of the marketing methods of the day and perhaps a little slice of good fortune. Sadly, this good fortune didn't extend to his finances in later years, his passing coming in his early 60s at a time when his financial circumstances were at a low ebb, a circumstance still commonplace today. Many of our younger readers will not even have heard of the Trent Otter, but he deserves to be much better known by the modern angling public. This book covers everything you could reasonably wish to know about the great man.

Bounce by Matthew Syed

Next up in a book that isn't about fishing per se but is an essential read for anyone with ambitions to improve their skills, whether that be in fishing, the coaching of fishing or becoming more proficient in any sport. The themes of the book are based on a plethora of published research plus Matthew's own experience as a world class international table tennis player.

Perhaps his biggest life lesson of all was his disappointing, almost disastrous Olympic adventure when he blew genuine medal prosects by losing badly to a much lower ranked player in the first round. One of the many fascinating themes is the deep exploration of the value of natural talent verses the merits of practice and hard work. The evidence presented will surprise a good many of the readers. I found Bounce to be one of those books that you just couldn't put down.

Fish & Fisheries of the River Thames by David Solomon

If you have ever fished the River Thames or any of its numerous tributaries, then this book is for you. The book describes the history and development of fish stocks and fisheries throughout the Thames both historically as a supply of food and more recently for sport.

It is lavishly illustrated with old engravings and photographs with a wealth of anecdotes and stories that will delight the angler, natural historian, and fishery professionals alike. There are chapters focusing on the twelve main fish species including an especially interesting section on the gudgeon and Victorian gudgeon parties. These unique social events were perhaps the sports first attempt at increasing female participation for gudgeon fishing was consider a respectable pastime for Victorian ladies.

Simon Willsmore's 2010 phenomenal Lower Thames Championship gudgeon catch gets a mention too. Those with an interest in all things eely will be fascinated by the extent of the commercial fishing activity for those wriggly Sargasso born specimens. Solomon also puts to bed one long standing Thames myth, but to find out the truth about that, you will need to acquire your own copy.

The National Championships by John Essex

Throughout the world, every sport or hobby worth its salt has its annual national championships. Who in their right mind would not want to aspire to be considered proficient enough at their chosen pastime to take part? The title of national championship can never be taken away once earned. And earned it must be, for national victory is something that cannot be bought or claimed on social media by the acquisition of a few thousand loyal followers.

With nearly 120 years of history, the National remain the largest attended angling participation event in the country. At what other angling event do between 400 and 500 participants line the bank. Equally importantly, most of them come back to the headquarters to hear the live results announced and to congratulate the winners whilst pondering their good or bad fortune on the day and how they can improve next year.

This fascinating book not only records all the winning teams and individuals but looks behind the scenes to provide a thorough account of the social history of coarse angling. There are numerous amusing anecdotes too, from the ice cream van that did a roaring trade behind Billy Lane's peg through to the incredible eight mile walk that Jimmy Randall faced on the 1974 national after missing the official bus. To make matters worse, poor Jimmy recorded a dry net.

All of the great teams and anglers are covered in this Medlar Press published encyclopaedia, from the Beale Brothers and Jim Bazley in the early years right through to the great teams of the modern era. These include Barnsley, Dorking, Starlets, Shakespeare and even Barnsley's great rivals Ossett, not forgetting the famous battles between Ivan Marks Leicester team and the star studded Birmingham Anglers back in the 1970's. There is a fantastic review of the book by up and coming young match man, Alex Clegg (Angling Trust) here.

In its close to 120 year history, just four participants have been selected by their teams to have taken part in more than 40 of these national championship events. We are hoping to be able to pay special tribute to each of them during 2022. More national history will be created in 2022 when an all-female team of Let's Fish coaches take part in the Division 2 event on the Warks Avon in September. Will your club be represented to witness this historic occasion for female angling? Let's hope so.

Last Edited: 15 December 2021

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