When the Out of the Blue first came out in hardback in 2008 I didn’t rush out to buy it as I might have for any other new work from Chris Yates. In truth, I had been a little under-whelmed by his offering 2 years earlier - How to Fish. Not that this is a bad book, in fact by any other yardstick of modern angling writing it IS an excellent read. It was just that I didn’t consider it to be a first rate Yates. How to Fish covered much that he had written about before (and better) in some earlier works - notably The Deepening Pool and Casting at the Sun. I thought How to Fish was the poor relation to all his earlier books and that maybe the maestro had been getting a little complacent!
So Out of the Blue passed me by and would have stayed unread and un-bought but for a recommendation from a friend on the IAC list who really enjoyed it. Thus, with the paperback version just published (Feb2010) and available on Amazon for little more than a fiver I really had no excuse not to avail myself of a copy!
Firstly, let's get the book’s name sorted out!! The hardback published by Hamish Hamilton was entitled Out of The Blue. Confusingly, the paperback version from Penguin goes out under the title On Fishing at Sea - which was also a subtitle of the hardback version. Hardback, Out of the Blue; Paperback, On Fishing at Sea - it’s the same read!!
The book is a slim volume of some 200 pages - though with a blank title page for each of its 22 chapters even this is padded out somewhat! This really is my only criticism; it’s too short! And whilst I also long for some of the wonderful photography that graced books like The Deepening Pool, I appreciate that this would push the cover price up somewhat!
On Fishing at Sea charts Chris’s discovery of sea fishing, especially for bass. It chronicles early childhood trips to the coast when sea fishing was limited to seaside holidays to a more recent introduction to bass fishing from a fellow Avon barbel angler - Matt. Much of the book was written in a small cottage on the Wessex coast cut off from civilisation (well no TV or mobile phone signal) and sees Chris get into a routine of sleeping, fishing and tea drinking (in any order and at any time of day or night!).
Early chapters (called casts in the book) have a reflective, slightly melancholic air to them but this is soon washed away in the pursuit of bass from shore or boat. The sea provides a new palate for Chris’s literary talents and gives him every excuse to deploy his keen eye for detail and his wonderfully evocative writing. Yates manages to capture on paper the sea and the coastline in all its moods. Chris Yates back to his consummate best.
On a personal note there is much in the book which I identify with. From the Wessex coastline which I know well and have loved all my life to laying on a beach watching the Perseid meteor shower on an August evening. Something I too have down a few times - I feel our paths must have crossed at some stage! The book has also inspired me to have a go for bass - though I’ll need to re-discover my sea legs before I go boat fishing for them!
“As we drifted east on the running tide, the sea rouged its cheeks for the coming sunrise. The first gulls of the morning sailed quietly overhead and we heard the superbly dolorous tolling of a bell buoy echoing from another more distant reef.
‘A bit of sea swell must’ve disturbed it,’ said Matt.
Or perhaps a whale had passed by.
I was only conscious of these things because nothing was happening at the end of my line, so it was completely startling when, after a slightly half-hearted cast, the rod thumped down violently on the side of the dinghy. Following the inevitable aquabatics, I eased a three-pounder over the net, and, afterwards , the plug began to fly so much more gracefully on the cast and swim more seductively on the retrieve.
‘That was a big one!' Said matt, as a fish came up behind my lure and wallowed heavily away.
Next cast another fish - or more probably the same one followed the plug all the way back to the dinghy. We could see the smooth wake of something tracking the lure as it wove and skipped across the surface, but whether I reeled quickly, erratically or dead slow, the fish remained undecided. A few casts later, a bass took confidently almost before I’d begun the retrieve, and after another rod flattening tussle I piloted a gold-sheened five-pounder into the net.”
From the Eighteenth Cast - The Hour Before Sunset. You’ll have to buy the book to see if he gets a bigger one!
On Fishing at Sea. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-141-04445-3
CLICK HERE to check the current price of Out Of The Blue with Amazon UK
CLICK HERE to check the current price of On Fishing At Sea with Amazon UK