Book Reviews

Well Christmas is coming and i’m sure a lot of wives and girlfriends will be looking for that special little present for you. Well, in case she doesn’t find it you can always point her in the direction of a good book. Or better still the Barbel Days and Ways DVDs

But enough of the plugs for Barbel Days and Ways, there are some cracking books around this year. Take a look at these new releases:

Scroll down and you’ll find my personal views on:

Carp Fishing Science – Jon Wood

Be My Guest – Dick Walker

Silver Season Golden Memories – Tony Miles

A Carp To Begin With – John Nixon

Blood Knots – Luke Jennings

Willow Pitch – various contributors

Carp Along The Way – Rod Hutchinson

For The Record – Lee Jackson

Carp For Life – Len Arbery

Carp Stories and Other Tales – Peter Mohan

501 Fishing Tips – John Wilson

I was rather hoping to include a review of Martin James’ new book At The Waters Edge but I’ll do my best to squeeze that in as a bonus in the next week or so. The best I can do for now is to point you towards here.

Anyway, on with the recommendations.

Carp Fishing Science – Jon Wood – Fishing Booksender

Now here’s a book that’s not for the ‘Gizza rig!’ generation, indeed far from it. Carp Fishing Science is a book I can see me reading about 7 times before half the messages sink in properly. It’s a veritable text book, a technical tome with answers to questions most carp anglers haven’t even thought about asking yet. By heck it’s thorough!

Wood makes it quite clear in his introduction that he’s not a big ‘name’ angler. He’s a scientist with a passion for carp rather than an angler looking for glory. If I say he spends the first 29 pages explaining what water is then you might begin to grasp how thoroughly he has treated his subject. On the other hand, don’t go thinking you might just skim through the pages and become an instant expert.

His goal is to provide you with sufficient information for you to anticipate the behavioural changes in carp. By delving into biology, physiology and environmental science he sets out to highlight some of the carp fishing myths; How a carp uses its senses, for instance, and how a carp’s nutritional requirements change through the year before going on to identify which substances are actually proven to cause a positive feeding response.

The bibliography at the back of the book lists more than 200 scientific papers used to support his conclusions and I am so glad he’s saved me the bother of reading them all!

One thing I’m absolutely certain of is that the findings within this book will lead me to a greater understanding of other cyprinid species. For starters it will help me understand the waters I fish and how the water behaves. The carp itself doesn’t really come into things until chapter 6 but the following 60 pages will probably tell you anything and everything you ever need to know about the species itself.

At over 300 pages long this is not light reading but if you’re a dedicated carp angler I’d venture to say it is essential reading if you wish to truly understand your subject.

Visit the web site to see a sample chapter or to download a digital copy. Copies of the book can be ordered from the fishingbooksender price £19.99 plus £2.95 P&P.

Be My Guest – Dick Walker 1918-1985 Edited by Peter Maskell.

I grew up in the Walker era and like a lot more I reckon it was a golden age. Forty years from now some kid will probably be saying the same about Hayes or Bowler. That’s the nature of things. We’re more easily influenced in our younger years. Just don’t let me get so jaundiced and biased that I spend my life on Internet fishing forums bemoaning the new breed, or commercial fisheries, or, well, the list goes on.

The world changes and if we want to remain happy we have to change with it. Fortunately books like this at least allow us to reminisce, to relive an era when we were young and the world was our oyster. I don’t go in for this, ‘Walker was the greatest angler of all time’, any more than I think Wilson is, or anyone else who, like myself, appears regularly in the media. You don’t have to be a brilliant angler to get your mug in the papers and you certainly don’t have to be a good angler to catch big fish.

Being in the right place at the right time and doing the simple things right is what matters most. Doesn’t mean you’ll have influence, though. When I watch Wilson or Hayes on TV it doesn’t influence me. It doesn’t make me think. Walker did though. Moreover Walker inspired me.

I was fishing my local ponds, catching a bus to these God-awful ponds that held next to nothing of any great size yet I carried a pair of Little Samsons and the specimen fish entry coupons cut out of the Mail and Times, just in case…

Just in case a miracle happened if we’re being honest.

But that’s because Walker made me believe. You could target the biggest fish, he said, by design. And this is what I believed I was doing. He also enchanted me with his conversation pieces. These weren’t to everyone’s taste, not by a long way. they were romantic, fanciful tales, where he talked the reader through a trip with a friend, usually someone younger who looked up to him, as we did. When you read a conversation piece you were the second angler. The great man told you exactly what to do.

And you caught fish. Fish that wouldn’t turn an aye today. Four pound chub, tench and bream. ten pound pike and barbel. But to me they were real and what’s more, aspirational. I dreamed of catching fish of that size, not of 10lb chub and 20lb barbel. It was tantalising, just out of reach but definitely achievable.

These were my favourite Walker articles in a golden era. You know, I’m not even sure he was a great angler. What I do know is that he was a leader and it comes over on every single page. When I pick up this book and read what were in effect his weekly articles from the Angling Times, it makes me want to go fishing.

The Second part of the book, Rivers Of Memory will return you to a different era but alarm bells are ringing all around him as rivers fall into decline. I’d love to hear his views on our rivers today.

Be My Guest is a lovely read. What I call a toilet book because you can pick it up, read a chapter in a couple of minutes and that’s it. You can dip at random. There is no need to read chapters in order and you don’t need to read that last one to know what he’s on about in the current one.

With a foreword is by Chris Yates, Be My Guest is available in a limited hardback edition of just 570 copies with dust jacket, numbered and signed by the Editor and Publisher Peter Maskell. The 197 pages contain many period Dick Walker photographs which have never previously been published and is available for £25.95 plus £2.75 postage and packing.

A full leather bound Limited Edition of just 30 copies, complete with bespoke, handmade slipcase, numbered and signed by Editor and Publisher Peter Maskell is available at £165 plus £6.70 postage and packing (Special Delivery)

To order a copy, send a cheque, postal order or banker’s draft, made payable to Peter Maskell Publishing Services, to: Peter Maskell Publishing Services, PO Box 1163, STAMFORD PE2 2HJ.


Silver Season Golden Memories – Tony Miles – Little Egret Press

Tony Miles is an angler I have the utmost respect for, not so much for the fish he’s caught but as a man. He’s a complete gentleman and I can say without question that every minute I’ve spent in his company has been a pleasant one so it’s always a privilege to read one of his books.

Silver Season Golden Memories is not a new book. It was originally published in 1984 in a limited edition of 1,000 copies. These are now as rare as hens teeth and second hand copies change hands at alarming prices. If you’re a collector then I’m sure you will desire the original whereas I read for pleasure and for knowledge so a republished edition will suit me fine.

In any case, the new edition has more pictures, an updated introduction and it it draws conclusions from a modern perspective. Interesting to compare his conclusions in 1985 and in 2010 as well.

The book, written as a diary, charts Tony’s 1984 season, his 25th year as a specimen angler and he did rather well, as you might expect. What many budding specialists will be struck by is how versatile Tony was in that season. Everyone seems to wear blinkers these days. They are carp anglers, pike anglers or barbel anglers. So many anglers fish for one species exclusively to the detriment of all others and ultimately to the detriment of their enjoyment. Catching their targets overtakes the need for enjoyment. A successful day is measured only by results and that is not a healthy perspective to hold.

Where is the desire to explore, to encounter the unexpected, to face new challenges. A modern equivalent might read, Chapter One: Glued on pellet, cast out feeder, did same with second rod. Chapter Two: See Chapter One…

No, the era was very different, and I find myself harking back to what I said about Walker (above), we’re all more easily influenced in our younger years. Perhaps all budding young specimen anglers should read this and gain an understanding of how they arrived at where they are today before they get too influenced and carried away. Modern methods have been refined, all the accessories ready-made in a Chinese factory, the baits ready-packaged, the thirst for knowledge all-but extinguished. Back in 1984 the likes of Miles didn’t know the answers, but this is exactly what spurred them on.

It’s this insight that makes the book a great read. Big fish are much easier to catch today (providing you know where to go). But wouldn’t you just swap it all to go back to 1984 and live a year like this? I know I would.

The Standard Edition costs £28.95 and is available online from Little Egret Press. Signed editions and leather bound copies are also available.

A Carp To Begin With – John Nixon – Little Egret Press

I have an issue with this book, not however in a wrong or bad way, I just feel the title doesn’t do it justice. I half expected a carp book and a few unsuspecting present buyers may fall into that trap, but it’s not. It’s far more than a carp book, in fact it’s a veritable odyssey of fishing around the world for all manner of species. It encompasses shark fishing, chub, tench, pike and carp with equal gusto.

Underneath the title in very small print is written: “The Adventures of an All-Round Angler” and so they are.

You see, Nixon succeeded Bernard Venables as the editor of Creel magazine in 1965 and his experiences include fishing with Walker at Arlesey Lake for monster perch, big pike from Abberton, Broadlands and Earlswood, carping at Redmire, of cod and bass and sharks, and trout from an Irish chalk stream. But  here’s more than this, far more.

It’s a book about people from an era, too. Characters who crop up include Venables and Walker, of course, but there’s also Bill Giles, Dick Kefford, Ian Gillespie, Fred Buller, Fred Wagstaffe and Leslie Moncrieff. Wonderful people, intriguing tales and wonderfully well told.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. On page 12 there’s the most evocative picture taken by Bill Giles at Parkdene Pool. John Nixon sits on the ground, rod perched on a forked twig, equipment stashed in a cardboard box, a flimsy tent for shelter. How times have changed. But is angling any more of an obsession than it was then? I doubt it.

Copies of A Carp To Begin With can be ordered from Little Egret Press priced £28.95

Blood Knots – Luke Jennings – Atlantic Books

Many an anglers Book Of The Year for 2010 and rightly so. Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, that fact alone should tell you this is no ordinary angling book. You won’t find any diagrams of how to tie the latest all-singing and dancing rig, nor bait recipes nor even a picture of the author with some leviathan in his arms. It’s simply not that kind of book.

Blood Knots is a journey, a story of friendship, honour and coming of age. It’s a book you could give to a non-angler yet be safe in the knowledge that they would become completelyabsorbed. It stands head and shoulders above almost every other angling book I’ve read because it is so superbly well written.

I said it in my  blog recently, buy it, you will not be disappointed. Nothing’s changed. However, for a change it’s an angling book you can purchase in both hard and soft cover (£16.99 & £12.99 respectively) – a novelty in itself.

And Here’s One I Prepared Earlier…

Well, that’s the latest pile of homework sorted but as it’s Christmas and I’m trying to suggest something for everyone let’s take a look back over a few titles that were released and reviewed on this site earlier in the year, books that are just as relevant but ones you might have forgotten about.

Willow Pitch – Various Contributors – Little Egret Press

I was recently asked to contribute a chapter to a special book that will honour the 10th Anniversary of Little Egret Press as a specialist fishing publisher.

The book is called Willow Pitch, a collection of articles, stories, chapters, poems, photographs and art work from some of the best names in fishing, both well established and new. As well as my own chapter it contains contributions from Peter Mohan, David Tipping, Dr Terry Baxter, Robin Armstrong, Graham Broach, Bob Price, John Nixon, Richard Walker, Jack Hilton, Fred Buller, Tom O’Reilly, Martin James, Richard Worthy, as well as a letter from HRH Prince of Wales.

And here’s what makes it a very special Christmas present. There will only be 100 copies of this hard back book, in full colour, which will be hand-bound in the finest cloth by ourselves in the traditional Old School Bindery in St Germans, Cornwall. Each will be numbered, and signed by publisher Tom O’Reilly. The cost will be a very modest £35.

In addition there will be just ten fully leather bound copies which will be decorated in an ornate style that Tom used recently for a large leather-bound book, now on display at the V&A Museum, London, at £200. Clearly these will become valuable collector’s items. Indeed I’d suggest they are a fantastic investment.

Pre-orders for Willow Pitch via the publisher’s website and also by telephone, or by post.

Although the past month or so has been pretty hectic, as it always is at this time of year with so many fishing opportunities to take advantage of, I’ve been trying to keep on top of my fishing reading as best I can.

Here are my thoughts about some of the books I’ve managed to find the time to finish…

Carp Along The Way – Volume Two

Rod Hutchinson


Carrying on where Volume One left off, we follow Rod into the early nineties and it’s a real joy to share his irreverent humour. This, his sixth book is without doubt his best work since ‘The Carp Strikes Back’ and I heartily recommend it to every carper, inexperienced or otherwise because it allows us to understand how easy it is to become obsessed by carp.


Insights range from one extreme, where we learn how he was driven to chase carp all over the UK and beyond, to the other where he develops his own exquisite carp fishery in Lincolnshire, the fabulous Woldview.


Many carp anglers and most of the angling publications out there obsess on the latest rigs and bait concoctions. The latest rods, reels and shelters are as much fashion accessories as Prada shoes but here’s a bloke you would back to catch carp with an old cane and a bent pin. He practically thinks like a fish.


For instance, at any given time on any given day he will probably be watching the weather, relating high tides to high pressure, warm fronts to impending rain or whatever the prevailing conditions happen to be and predicting in his mind how carp on given waters will be behaving. Even when he’s not fishing.

Successful carping is not about having the latest gizmos and gadgets, it’s having the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time more often than anyone else on the water. Rod has that knack in spades.


I loved the characters he shares withus in the book and in particular ‘Big’ DaveWalker from Sheffield. I know Dave, have fished with him on occasion and he is the bailiff at Alderfen Fisheries near Wroot, but now I know him a whole lot better! Can’t wait to see him again, now.


I can fairly say that I enjoyed every single page of this book and will be eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

Carp Along The Way is published by Angling Publications Ltd with a forward by Tim Paisley and costs £24.99p. Copies can be ordered from the web site Or you can give them a call on 0114 2580812


Just For The Record – The Quest For Two-Tone

Lee Jackson


If you meet former dustman Lee Jackson he doesn’t strike you as a likely author but he’s come up with a cracking debut with his first ‘proper’ carp fishing book, Just For The Record. In the book Lee reveals how he became obsessed with one venue and one fish in particular, Two-Tone.


Lee spent seven years fishing at Conningbrook Lake in his quest to catch Two-Tone, a fish he eventually did manage to catch at a new British rod-caught record weight. The book charts his journey from the discovery of Conningbrook through his developing obsession with this one individual carp.


‘The Brook’ is without doubt a very special water, rich and clear, that doesn’t give up its treasures easily. Big fish, low stocking levels, high concentrations of natural food and lots of angler pressure all add up to a difficult challenge.


Lee’s obsession is dogged with frustration on each step of his journey but he tries everything in his armoury to fool the biggest carp in the land. The record books will tell you that he ultimately succeeded but along the way we get Lee’s personal perspective and share in some of the great friendships that were forged with others who held identical dreams and shared a common bond.


There are some 28 chapters within this 312 page hardback and many previously unpublished pictures of the Brook’s residents, not to mention those who fished for them. Besides Lee’s own personal story there are a number of guest chapters from the likes of Paul Forward, Lee Watson, Rod Killick, Ian Brown, Pete Regan and Simon Bater telling their own stories about this incredible venue.


If I’m being perfectly honest, I loved the first two-thirds of the book in which Lee charts his own campaign from initially discovering the water through to breaking the record. It would have been enough. I’m not sure that I needed to read several more accounts of how other individuals tried and (in most cases) caught the same fish. But then again you have to remember the common cause, the quest for Two-Tone, which bonded these guys together.


Just For The Record is published by Angling Publications Ltd with a forward by Tim Paisley and costs £29.99p. Copies can be ordered from the web site Or you can give them a call on 0114 2580812


Carp For Life by Len Arbery

Little Egret Press


Now in his seventies, Len Arbury proves that age is no barrier to writing. This, his sixth book, is about carp. Not just the species but the people, the places and the experiences garnered over six decades of fishing for them. Len is fortunate to have fished with some of the great names of carp fishing, particularly the late Fred J Taylor MBE, but I’m racing ahead.


The book opens with a look at the history of carp fishing and then devotes a whole chapter to the man credited with inspiring modern specialist angling, Richard Walker.


Numerous waters are featured but there can be no hiding his love for a small, less than 3 acres, water called Bernithan Pool, or as it is known to anglers far and wide, Redmire Pool. It was made famous by the capture there of a record carp, by Walker, in 1952. That record stood until 1980 when Chris Yates caught the UK’s first carp weighing more than 50lb from the very same place. Several chapters are devoted to his times there.


This is not a book that will teach you how to tie the latest rig, nor does it seek to promote the wares of certain tackle manufacturers. It’s about the spirit of fishing, it’s about friendships, camaraderie and about how we enjoy our times by the water with friends. He even writes honestly and openly about some of the fish he has hooked and lost, a far cry from the outpourings of those who fill books with nothing more than trophy fish and how clever they were to catch them.


What’s more, there’s more than a touch of down to earth realism contained within the 160 pages because Len doesn’t live on the bank as some of the sports rising stars appear to do. He’s normal, like the rest of us.

The book includes a 28 page colour section that features a number of people who I have been fortunate to share times with on and off the bank and many more who we would all, I think, like to have.


Available in standard edition at £26.95 (The full leather bound collectors edition limited to just 35 copies at £165 has just sold out) from The Little Egret Press, the Old School, Church Street, St Germans, Cornwall, PL12 5LH Tel: 01503 230057 Web site for on-line sales:


Carp Stories & Other Tales by Peter Mohan

Little Egret Press


This is an odd little book but I’m sure it will appeal to those who are familiar with and lovers of Mohan’s previous works, like Cypry The Carp.


You see, Peter Mohan likes to write stories and although the book weaves fiction and fact it’s left up to the reader to decipher which is fantasy.


I found myself feeling a little disappointed at first, but as his characters grew on me, so my enjoyment increased and I found myself rather warming to his descriptions of encounters with Russell Oates and Gillian, not to mention his conversations with A. Vole.


I rather felt a pang of empathy in a chapter he shares with Len Gurd called Carp Fishing Fashions Through The Ages when I read the line:


‘At around this time the personality cults started to grow, and the most successful carp anglers were literally followed around the country by those who could not find their own waters – and their big carp swims were invaded as soon as they stopped.’


Yep, that certainly struck a chord!


Whether the penultimate chapter was actually necessary, it’s an interview with the author conducted by Kevin Maddocks in 1990 that was slightly updated in 2006. If he felt it was necessary then surely a new interview entirely would have made more sense.


And then there’s the final chapter, a collection of true tales gleaned from 60 years of fishing. Short, to the point and fun, which might be a perfect decription of Peter himself! In all there’s 217 pages, black and white illustrations by Tom O’Reilly and Len Gurd but no photographs. Perhaps the lack of an image of the author on the dust jacket is a glaring omission on reflection.


Available in standard edition at £26.95 (the full leather bound collectors edition limited to just 25 copies at £165 has just sold out) from The Little Egret Press, the Old School, Church Street, St Germans, Cornwall, PL12 5LH Tel: 01503 230057 Web site for on-line sales:


John Wilson’s 501 Fishing Tips

Dennis Publishing Ltd. £5.99


John Wilson MBE is regarded by many as the UK’s leading angler and his latest publishing venture will appeal to almost every freshwater angler. 501 Fishing Tips is a magbook, something that sits somewhere between a book and a magazine, which is crammed full of thoughtful ideas and hints to improve your fishing.


If you’re not familiar with the term magbook or bookazine just imagine a magazine-sized soft back book that, unlike standard books, is meant to be sold on the magazine racks of WH Smiths, Tesco, Sainsbury and online at Amazon.


Priced at just under £6 it is certain to be a massive seller and it genuinely deserves to be so. The 132 beautifully laid out colour pages are crammed with tips and fantastic images.


Split into chapters on species, boat fishing, tackle and baits you can simply dip in anywhere and spend as much or as little time as takes your fancy. It’s not the kind of book you sit down and read all in one go, it’s a dipping book that will appeal to old and young, experienced and inexperienced anglers alike.