Category: Books and stuff

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. Continue reading

It has been a very hot summer here so far. It can seem sometimes as though opening the front door is like opening the door of a blast furnace. Outside, our dog Brutus is panting away. He lies in the shade but it is not  cool even there. Brutus is a campo dog and he has never been in the habit of being indoors but even he will sneak in just a little and lie just inside the front door where the tiles on the floor are a little cooler.

The heat has also put the brakes on fishing to a large extent. The river is warm and the fish are in the same kind of torpid mood as Brutus, the other dogs and the rest of us. Where it is deep enough on the reservoirs the bass will leave the shallows for much of the day and early morning and late evening are likely to be the optimum times to catch them. Continue reading

A few years ago an unusual thing happened on the Guadalhorce, my local river. The river dried up completely over nearly its entire length and there was, as a result, a great loss of fish. I visited the river regularly during this period and saw the river shrink down to some isolated pools which were alive with struggling fish. Later even these pools dried out and the fish they held died in their hundreds.

The river thins each summer (it is thinning now) but it usually continues to flow, albeit with reduced volume, until the autumn rains arrive and breathe new life into it. Continue reading

Mark´s Trout

for some strange reason I seem to spend a lot of time painting pictures of trout. Some people say painting is therapeutic. Who knows?

A former colleague painted a beautiful bird some years ago. She brought it into the lab to show me. It was a great painting and I told her that she was a gifted artist and should stick at it but she said that painting the damn bird, far from being relaxing, drove her mad with fury. Maybe the supposed therapeutic value of painting depends on the subject. Trout might be relaxing and beneficial but birds should be avoided! Continue reading

A couple of summers ago, before I began to write this blog, I joined a group of bird watchers on a trip into the Straits of Gibraltar in order to see what we might find by way of birds and cetaceans. We left Tarifa by yacht and spent some time in the straits, crossing to within spitting distance of the Morroccan coast. It was during the homeward leg of this trip that I was lucky enough to see a whale spout and when we approached, we chanced upon a sperm whale at the surface and had the rare privilege of taking a close look at it before it sounded and returned to the cold depths where it spends most of its life. Continue reading

My friend Norman Smith loaned me a couple books last week, one of which was written by GEM Skues. The book is called The Chalk-Stream Angler, Sidelines, Sidelights and Reflections. It is probably not his most important book. That particular accolade should go to “The Way of a Trout with a Fly” published way back in 1921 and “Minor Tactics of the Chalkstream” published even earlier, in 1910. Until now, I have I known Skues only by reputation and through the writings of others so it was quite a treat to be able to read the words of the great man himself.

What was so interesting about Skues? It was Skues who was involved in a quiet revolution whose ripples spread even beyond the esoteric world of fly fishing. A London lawyer, short in stature, Skues may seem an unlikely revolutionary but nevertheless he was one. From 1887 right up to 1938 he regularly fished the Itchen, one of the England´s exulted chalk streams. When he started out the prevailing orthodoxy was to fish the dry fly upstream, a practice followed almost religiously by Halford and his disciples. But then Skues put his mind to it and suggested it might be time to think again.
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