Author: Geoffrey Bucknall
Reviewed by: Steve Burke
Geoff Bucknall’s “Big Pike” is well-known and highly regarded, probably because it’s about one of our most popular species. However “Fishing Days” is one of those books that you rarely hear about, yet I reckon is the best of the many that the author has written. In fact I’d go much further than that • it’s one of my favourite books of all time, and one of those that I can read again and again.
This may partly be because I know many of the Kentish waters mentioned in the book - Furnace Pond, the home of the former record perch and which I’ve visited but sadly never fished; the three lakes at Frittenden House, which I almost took a lease on before securing my gravel pits at Wingham. (Unfortunately the waters had fallen into disrepair since Bucknall’s day and needed too big an investment to make viable.) Then of course there’s the charming River Teise, a neglected fast-flowing sidestream of the Medway that’s been very kind to me and where, like the author, I learned to fly fish. However, unlike him I caught more coarse fish than trout!
What I like best though about “Fishing Days” is the dry humour. It starts as early as the first page when Bucknall explains that his father disapproved of him going fishing, proclaiming that “…..fisherman didn’t rise high in their chosen professions and, while their colleagues were making fame and fortune, the anglers were possessed of some strange lunacy that robbed them of their wits……”
“To the deep despair of my parents, I went fishing. I resigned myself to being unsuccessful in life. Perhaps I was right, for many of my saner friends live more successfully on their stomach ulcers, and occasionally I take a day off to attend one of their funerals.”
“Fishing Days” isn’t an instructional book, of which Bucknall has written several, especially on fly-fishing. Yet the reader will pick up a number of practical ideas on which to ponder. Rather it’s a series of thoughts and anecdotes that will not only have you chuckling, but by the time you get to the end of the book will leave you with the feeling that you know the man behind the words.
In fact as the author writes in the final chapter: “The line on this spool has about run out. If I have written the sort of book I intended, it should be impossible to sum it up. I have let my mind wander back over my fishing life, recording incidents, opinions, and sometimes it has run off chasing butterflies. Places and faces have been recalled, catches boasted about, tales from village pubs retold. I have tried to write the sort of book I should have loved to read if you had written it. I have read many books on how to catch fish. But I’m just plain nosy. I want to know how fishing fits into your life, what the lessons are from the past, what fears you have for the future. Then, as you haven’t written that book for me, I have had to write my own for you.”
That, in finer words than I can compose, really sums up this lovely work. So rather than prattle on any longer I’d simply commend you to seek out a copy and enjoy.
Steve Burke - Classic Fishing Books