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.
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