I have just come from the CLA game fair at Harewood House, just outside Leeds, where I was signing copies of a book that has just been published. The publisher is Coch-y-bonddu books and they sell and print books on an enormous variety of subjects. If you are interested in fishing, hunting, working dogs, falconry, natural history and all kinds of “outtdoorsy” things they are the people to go to.

The company was set up by Paul Morgan with whom I have collaborated on the book over the last three years or so and Paul was at the fair accompanied by Luke Edwards, Jane Kelsall and Marion Griffiths who are part of the Coch-y-bonddu team. They were joined by Ken Callahan who is another bookseller from New England and a longtime friend of Paul Morgan. Ken has a fine beard but not a whole lot of hair north of his eyebrows and he reminded me a little of Charles Darwin. It has to be said that, coming from a biology teacher, saying that a person reminds them of Darwin is the highest form of praise. Ken seemed to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the literature relevant to his work and no end of other things besides and was and was a pleasure to listen to. I´m sure the real Darwin would have had little to say about the shortcomings of American airline security or the worryingly reduced life expectations of professional American Football players.

While I was signing books I got to overhear the discussions between the booksellers and their customers and was very impressed by the intimate knowledge the booksellers had of their huge stock. It seemed that most books were on hand or could be found back at base camp in Wales.

Only one question stumped Luke:

“Have you got any books on lampreys?”

When the public leaves the event in the evenings the stand holders stay behind and the Coch-y-bonddu marquee became our temporary home. Over a bottle of wine I had a chance to get to know everyone a little. Marion hails from the Outer Hebrides and has a singing voice that we were all longing to hear but she was not well disposed towards the notion of singing. It was Marion who worked closely with me in processing the books as they were being signed. Luke would open a box and pile the books to my left, I would sign them and pass them to Marion on my right, and Marion would number them and replace them in the box. This we did for box after box until 500 books were finally done.

Jane was unfailingly cheerful. She is modest by nature but clearly very knowledgeable on the subjects of natural history. She is a bird ringer amongst other things. Luke spoke about guiding masheer fishing groups in India and sleeping in the jungle and the dangers of wild elephants. Paul always has a story or two and my favourite concerned his experiences in Tanzania where he went fishing for tiger fish. As luck would have it the river he wanted to fish had been affected by drought and reduced to a series of pools. In the middle of the pools hippos formed a kind of a circle. It just so happens that when hippos crap in the water the waste becomes a kind of gourmet banquet for a number of small fish. The hippos disperse the dung with their little tails and the fish snack on the fragments. Tiger fish are menacing looking predators with formidable teeth and they feed on the fish moving behind the hippos. The secret to success in catching them, according to Paul, was to aim a lure at the hippo´s bum.

You don´t get that kind of guidance in fishing books!

A motley crew. Left to right: Marion, Ken, Paul Morgan, moi, Luke and Jane

A motley crew. Left to right: Marion, Ken, Paul Morgan, moi, Luke and Jane