Going Fishing by Negley Farson

Published by: White Lion Books
ISBN No: 1 874762 26 0

Negley Farson was the son of an American Civil War General, and was born in 1890. This book is as much an autobiography as it is about fishing. And what fishing…

Jack Hargreaves a long-time friend of Farson described the book as the ‘best book of fishing gossip ever written’. I always looked up to Jack Hargreaves as a child, but I think he has sold this short.

As a newly married and struggling short story writer living in the remoter parts of British Columbia often he simply had to catch fish in order to put food on the table. He recalls the fish and the people he encountered, especially a German neighbour shortly after WW1 who showed great friendship but was treated with hostile suspicion by other towns’ people.

Going Fishing - by Negley FarsonHowever, once he started selling stories and articles, funds became more consistent and he took a post as the London correspondent of the Chicago Daily News. Such was his love of fishing, however, that his tackle was as important as the typewriter.

There are chapters about Pacific Salmon, The Shetland Islands, Uxbridge, and The Hebrides (in the same chapter!), Ireland, the Caucasus, Moscow and the Danube. Another chapter invokes comparisons between fishing for trout underneath erupting volcanoes in Chile, rural and urban life in England, rural and cosmopolitan life in France and Norway. A chapter about Yugoslavia and poaching, and my personal favourite – the chapter about small stream fishing in the West Country.

The book is memorable for the accessibility of the writing – there is, for example, so much to hold the fascination of the non-angler, that fishing, game, and Farson’s life are inextricably intertwined simply adds to the reader’s pleasure. After the Second World War, Farson came to England and settled in Devon.

His love of small river trout fishing shines through, as does his love of pastoral England. Originally published in 1942, the writing has not dated at all and puts many modern journalists to shame. And not just angling writers.

Negley Farson, a confirmed anglophile to the end, died in rural Devon in 1960. As he described it, ‘the perfect place for a journey’s end’.

This book deserves a wide readership. It is not sensationalist or brash, but is a romantic evocation of times sadly past, yet still manages to carry the reader on at a lively pace from start to finish. This book carries the original C F Tunicliffe illustrations that are thoroughly evocative and add much to the enjoyment of the book. A fishing tutorial it is not, nor does it aim to be. A wonderful read about a man who saw the disintegration of the world order, knew he disliked it, and ensured time to go fishing. Rather like many an Anglers’ Net contributor.

Going Fishing has a cover price of £17.95, but click here to check the best price for this book on Amazon.


Alan Stubbs

July, 2001