Book Reviews: Des Taylor, Matt Hayes, The Perchfishers, Jack’s Pike, Stritton, Hanson, Tomkins

I’ve been busy ploughing through a pile of books lately and maybe you’d like to know what I think of them. Perhaps you might even invest in one or more of them yourself….

Great Days by Des Taylor. Wye Angling Publications

I suppose when you review any book it is important to divulge any impartiality at the outset otherwise there’s always a lingering suspicion that it might not be a totally fair and honest review. After all, most folk will do a favour for a mate if they get a chance, won’t they?

Well, let’s set the record straight. I’ve known Des for two decades or more and fished with him on many occasions. I’ve stayed with his family, gone to parties and we’ve shared holiday accommodation with our wives. However, we’re both strong willed and have crossed swords over trivialities, most recently when I suggested his column in Angling Times should be about fishing rather than spectating the Bewdley Hunt at some God forsaken hour on Boxing Day morning and I mention this to establish that if I thought his book was crap I would say so and he would expect nothing less.

So what did I really think about ‘Great Days’. I’ll tell you. It is bloody brilliant. It exceeded every expectation I had and it’s better written than most of the tomes I’ve ploughed through in the past year. What’s more it is about his passion for catching fish, not ferreting for rabbits, basket weaving nor Morris dancing. This is the kid from the council estate made good. But what sets it apart is he doesn’t catch a fish and say how clever he was, that it was down to pure skill or that he used a Fred Bloggs hook or Gelignite Bait. Luck plays a big part.

Anyone who’s travelled a bit and likes to brag he’s caught a load of big fish because of his brilliance is not only conning the reader, he’s deluding himself. You can’t catch what isn’t there, timing and dedication do matter more than tackle and it’s the skill of guides that catches you fish in foreign climes more often than not. Any fool can catch a big shark or marlin providing they’re fit enough to hang on for long enough but you’ll only get a chance to hook it if you can afford to get there and the guide puts in the right amount of effort. Mostly you just have to sit on a boat and be patient and Des is open and honest about this, so on that score he deserves great credit for telling it like it is.

But not every capture is quite so easy and not all are made in exotic places. There’s enough space devoted to perch, pike, grayling, roach, chub, barbel, eels, tench and carp to nicely balance out the adventure trips but each and every one of the chapters should provide the reader with enough inspiration to have a go for at least one of the rarer species, even if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Des has enjoyed some truly memorable fishing trips in his life. This is your chance to share them.

The leather bound editions have all gone but you can pick up a hardback for £29.99 plus a fiver postage from Fishingbooksender

Jack’s Pike – Volume 2, Brian Roberts

It goes without saying if you enjoyed Volume 1 you’ll enjoy Volume 2. I said it last time and I’ll say it again. I cannot believe one of the weekly or monthly magazines isn’t running one of these strips in every issue. They are brilliant!

As well as Jack and Bob’s adventures Brian pays homage to Jack’s Caveman ancestors who take on the sabre-toothed pike plus there are some rather loud seagulls.

At £4.99 for the B&W version and £12.99 for full colour it’s a steal.

You can purchase the book direct from Lulu

Fisheye, A Guide To Angling Photography by Matt Hayes. Mpress

Another book that requires a declaration. Matt’s a mate. We go back to the days before he appeared in the media. We’ve fished together, made videos together, even taken our kids to Disney On Ice together (where does the time fly!). But Matt wouldn’t expect any favours from me in a review. He would demand honesty and I wouldn’t give him anything less.

Photography has grown into a huge part of our lives. Almost every mobile phone has a camera setting. Anglers in particular are obsessed with photographing what they catch and you only have to look at Facebook to see how folk will take pictures (usually quite badly) of the most trivial of things. Indeed I cannot understand why there are no programmes on TV about photography. It doesn’t make sense to me at all that such a popular pastime is ignored completely.

Matt Hayes is one of the finest fishing photographers around and through Fisheye he’s attempted to create a guide to taking better photographs and boy, does angling need a book like this. Ninety per cent of the fishing photographs I see are rubbish! Indeed, folk seem obsessed with taking trophy shots and completely miss those opportunities that present themselves every time we go fishing and if nothing else this book should make you consider what’s around you and what you’re doing.

Without doubt the book is crammed from cover to cover with stunning images and an explanation is given as to how each resulting picture was created but why, oh why, didn’t somebody put half as much effort into the text because it’s simply littered throughout with errors. This gives the impression the book was rushed and that doesn’t do it justice.

The foreword is written by a former magazine editor and had he read the book prior to publication surely he would have seen these easily rectifiable mistakes and pointed them out but when all is said and done I’m afraid the responsibility is Matt’s and Matt’s alone because on the front flyleaf it states clearly: Matt has always insisted on writing his own copy and taking the photographs himself wherever possible.. .

But away from that one niggle the basics of photography are thoroughly covered and then worked through to some fairly advanced stuff. It certainly helps if you can grasp your f-stops and your shutter speeds early on because there’s no shortage of technical content.

It’s a book I’ll revisit time and time again to drool over some of the images. They certainly make me want to go fishing and, as ever, carry my camera, because when all’s said and done, these images weren’t captured because Matt fishes under a different sky to you or I and the sunlight he uses comes from the same one as ours. He simply keeps his eyes open looking for that moment and you have to admit he’s got a hell of an eye for the right place and the right moment.

Fisheye costs £29.99 and is available from Calm Productions

The Biggest Fish Of All by The Perchfishers. Harper Fine Angling Books

There are books and then there are BOOKS. The Perchfishers second tome certainly falls into the latter category. ‘Biggest’ is immense. An astonishingly thorough book that put me in a huge quandary. I loved every chapter, indeed every single page, but I didn’t want to rush it for fear of finishing it. I wanted to make it last forever and the editors, Mick Stevens, John McAngus, Richard Chandaman and Tony Meers deserve the highest praise because pulling together a tome packed with the writings of so many contributors then making the copy flow must have been a mammoth task.

It’s a huge book. 372 pages no less and illustrated in colour throughout. The chapter devoted to perch paintings is fabulous, but then again, I’ve a Robin Armstrong print of a perch staring at me from my study wall so you could say I’m biased.

The technical content is thorough and thought provoking. The stories are atmospheric and enchanting. In fact everything about this book screams quality and my only regret is there probably won’t be another one for twenty years. Whew! That’s me done. I’m all out of superlatives. Just treat yourself to a copy.

It may seem expensive at £35 plus £6 postage but it is twice the thickness of most books and therefore worth every single penny. Dare I say it’s a bargain? It will now sit proudly on my bookshelf next to the original Perchfishers book, The book Of The Perch and be dipped into time and time again, of that I’m certain.

Copies can be obtained direct from the Perchfishers

Along The Margins, Mick Hanson. Fishing Booksender

If I were to move house it would probably be to Northamptonshire (but in the 1970’s or 80’s, preferably). It’s Britain’s overlooked gem of a county, reminiscent of the Costwolds but without the tourists, and like the Cotswolds it is littered with lakes and gravel pits. Not to mention the Nene (or Nen as the locals call it). Now there’s a river that holds some nice carp and even a few humongous barbel. Back in the days before cormorants and otters you only had to drive a few miles down the road to sample phenomenal roach and chub fishing on the Upper Welland. Head in the opposite direction and you have the Upper Great Ouse.

Along The Margins is largely based in this area. It’s a reflective book and such is the proliferation of waters in that area he was able to target a number of pits where you might never see another angler and catch fish that didn’t have names. Of course he also shares episodes on known circuit waters but it’s the idea of sneaking around a pit where there are no cut-out swims that really appeals to me. Hiding in the rushes away from all prying eyes, not knowing what might turn up when next you get a bite. Fishing was less predictable in those days.

Many of you will never have heard of Mick Hanson. That’s your loss. Pick up a copy of this book and make his acquaintance. If you like targeting big fish you won’t regret it.

Unfortunately this book has sold out but if you see a copy on eBay don’t hesitate to snap it up.

Too Many Rods, by Derek Stritton. Fishing Booksender

Another book that would have benefitted from a bit of green ink, but try not to let that distract from what is a great collection of carping stories. This isn’t the tale of some jobless yob who’s been there, done that and got the T-shirt with notches all the way up his rod butt. It’s real carping and spans 50 years of one man’s passion for carp.

Derek fished regularly with Fred Wilton in the 1970’s and was there during the HNV revolution. Indeed it was Derek who interviewed Kevin Maddocks when he applied to join the Carp Study Group and we can’t forget that Maddocks is the man accredited with inventing the hair rig, but he’s always had to balance fishing with a full-time job and a family, something many think they can do but fail miserably.

The book’s strap line is ‘An old school story’ and that’s exactly what it is.

To Many Rods costs £29.95 plus £5 P&P and is available from Fishing Booksender

Magic In The Water, by Alan Tomkins. Fishing Booksender

This is a real gem of an all-rounder’s book with pretty much every species covered from tench and crucians to roach and rudd via salmon and sea trout, a few predators and of course carp. He’s probably best known as a carp angler but there’s very little in freshwater that Tomkins hasn’t tackled at some point.

Lake many books, the carp tales, even those from the early 1990’s contrast dramatically with how that branch of the sport has developed and become popularised. Hard to imagine you could discover a water like Colne Mere today and only have to rub shoulders with the odd angler, but that’s exactly what it was like.

Again it’s a huge book spanning 384 pages and 300 photographs making it good value for £29.99 plus £5 P&P. If you’re interested then maybe you need to get your finger out as it’s well on the way to being a sell-out. Available form Fishing Booksender