How to fish, and write amazing books

How to Fish by Chris Yates is possibly the best fishing book I’ve ever read. It contains no trout fishing, flies, waders or mention of the word ‘tippet’. He even proclaims himself as devoid of the trout fishing bug, preferring the Perch found in the sedate rivers of the south of England to the trout of the tumbling tirades up here in Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter. All of this is totally inconsequential.

As a writer Chris Yates has achieved something close to perfection with How to Fish. He captures the beauty, obsession, madness and gladness of fishing with the most fantastically simple, yet hypnotically engaging style I’ve ever come across. It sometimes seems amazing to me that a writer can have such a thing as their own ‘style’. After all, they’re only words, and how many ways can there really be of arranging ‘fishing’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘fell in’? Reading Yate’s offering I feel I’ve understood just as much about writing as about the glory of fishing. The pace of words, the construction of the chapters, it’s all brilliant and just draws you into a different world, populated by stripy fish and gently wafting weed.

The first time I picked the book up I had a slightly tentative feeling towards coarse fishing, born of several years of exclusively fishing flies. That feeling lasted about two seconds once I started reading, and it wasn’t long before my own memories of catching perch and tench as a child crept back. I now find myself in the position of feeling close to finally understanding something about the universality of fishing. It really is about a mindset, and the species and methods are almost meaningless beyond personal preference. Funnily enough I was reading John Gierach’s essay on ‘The Purist‘ just last night, which was rather timely.

If you want to read How to Fish for yourself, you can get a copy from here if you like. Mine is currently doing the rounds of all my family and fishing pals. For a sneak preview, I found the first chapter here in full. As a final aside, I recall downloading a podcast some time back featuring Chris Yates interviewed by Simon Mayo on BBC Radio 5 Live as part of the promotion for the book. It was very interesting to see how the pace of Chris’ voice seems nicely tied in to his writing style. I have a copy of it but have been unable to locate one online. If there’s any interest I’ll try and find a way to distribute it, if doing so isn’t illegal.

7 comments

  1. Alex’s avatar

    Hi Mike

    One of my favourite books is called ‘going fishing’ by a chap called Negley Farson. It regales his adventures in a bygone era, travelling around the world, with a fly rod often being his only visible means of support. The situations he finds himself in have to be read to be believed! He is also one of the finest writers I’ve come across.
    I didn’t learn anything technical about fly fishing. What it did teach me was that fishing is a lifestyle, an excuse for adventure, and a sure way to make friends along the way.

    All the best

    Alex

  2. scott’s avatar

    I picked up a copy of how to fish last summer after a few days walking/ camping and fishing on Arran, it is the only book ive read cover to cover in years! Like you say, the species/ methods involved are irrelevant, it’s all about the “feel” of a days fishing.

  3. mike’s avatar

    Thanks for the comments chaps. I’ve not heard of that book Alex, will have to check it out. That sounds terrific.

    Sounds like a cracking place to read a book Scott. Arran used to make one of my favourite bears. Used to…..Grrr….

  4. Tony’s avatar

    Must pick up a copy. Have you read The Sea Trout Diaries by RW Mountjoy?
    Incidentally are you running trackbacks? I couldn’t find the URL
    Tony

  5. mike’s avatar

    Hi Tony, I haven’t read that book, but I will definitely check it out. Sea trout are emerging as my new obsession, so that sounds like a perfect read. Thanks for the tip.

  6. mike’s avatar

    Oh, and I’m not sure what you mean about trackbacks…still learning this game, wot ho! But it sounds important, so perhaps you could enlighten me? Cheers.

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