“Reading what I’ve written to date I’ll now make a promise. But for exceptional circumstances I will no longer describe in any detail the hooking and landing of a fish. No more ‘tight lines’ or ‘screaming reels’ - take them as read.”
The above paragraph appears on page 24 of George Melly’s autobiographical tome and pretty much sums up his approach to the telling of his angling life. If you’re a Jazz fan (and I’m not) these memoirs are not for you, but if you want to get a take on one persons insight to his angling and what it means to him, then it most certainly is!
Earthy, bawdy, candid (definitely - see page 4!!!) are not the adjectives you’d usually associate with an angling book but here they are entirely apt. Throw in a bit of wit and wry observation and you have a thoroughly readable book. Hooked! takes us from George’s first trout in August 1935 to the present day and the reader is only vaguely aware of his career outside of angling, though gets more thoroughly embroiled in his somewhat ‘Bohemian’ lifestyle. George mainly fish’s for trout or salmon but as this isn’t a book about what fly to use or how to Spey cast there is something for anglers of all persuasions to identify with.
Don’t approach the book expecting fine, poetic prose - Melly is no Sheringham or Yates (see below) though his style IS vibrant and highly engaging. Also, I think the book’s structure, with lots of short paragraphs, makes it surprisingly difficult to put down. I kept thinking ‘I’ll just read the next section’ and before I knew it I was half way through it. I practically finished it in one sitting!
The book was voted Book of the Year by the Angling Writers Association when it was released and turned up in my Christmas stocking the same year. I’m glad it did as it would not have been the sort of book I’d have otherwise bought but it was one a wholly enjoyed reading.
“Half way down the lane we stopped to allow a mallard and her large brood cross in front of us. People, and I have done it myself, tend to describe those moments, especially when connected with childhood and of no obvious significance in themselves but which nevertheless flash across the inner eye for no apparent reason, as ‘snapshots’. I now think of them, in that they tend to move, more like a few frames of film. In my memory those ducks still cross that lane, dappled by the sunlight of 60 years ago.
Of course it was a charming and touching sight and all of us , especially my grandfather who adored the more sentimental anthropomorphic aspect of Walt Disney’s early ‘Silly Symphonies’ made suitable gruff noises; but although I too saw the charm of this maternal spectacle, my principle feeling was of irritation. ‘Jemima’ and her pretty family were holding us up!”
Published in 2001 by Robson Books. ISBN 1-86105-447-5. Priced £7.99 (Still available from Amazon @ £6.39) Click here to view it.