Red Letter Days

Published: 1994
Author: Peter Rogers (Ed.) Illustrated by John Searl
Reviewed by: Chris Plumb

“Great triumphs do not come often in angling, and this is a blessing. When they come they have their flavour partly because they are rare. If they were to come often and reliably the flavour would go stale. Failure can make an angler despair, but it gives intensity to these triumphs.”
Bernard Venables


This is a book of such occasions (triumphs not failures that is!) and is another of my all time favourite angling books. I’ve just read it for a third time, having borrowed it, yet again, from my good friend, and partner in crime on the bank, Paul Goulbourn. I keep hoping that one day he’ll forget I’ve got it – in fact I once had it on loan for so long I DID forget that it was his!

Red Letter DaysRed Letter Days is a collection of essays from the great and the good of modern angling. Each tells the story of a special day on the bank. A day of celebration – a red letter day. And each author contributed their story for free.

The book was put together as a tribute to Bernard Venables and all the royalties generated by it went to Bernard – at a time, late in his life, when he might otherwise have had to leave his tied cottage. The contents page reads as a Who’s Who. The narratives are listed alphabetically, by author, and represent an A-Z of great anglers of these shores. From Len Arbery to Chris Yates (ok – an A-Y!!) there are nearly 50 different contributions. Just about anybody who was anybody in the world of angling has put pen to paper or, more likely, finger to keyboard to tell their tale.

What I particularly like about the book is that all the major coarse species are represented. (As well as single, ‘Salmon’ story). As might be expected the reader is regaled with stories of large Pike and Carp, of Barbel, Chub, Tench and Bream. More ‘exotic’ species such as Ferox, Zander and Catfish are included. We have tales of big Eels being caught, favourites such as Perch and Roach. Jaw dropping Rudd and a single tale each, pertaining to three of my favourite species; Crucians, Grayling and Dace. (The latter, gives me particular ‘resonance’ as, having targetted and caught a number of 1lb dace from the Kennet over the past few winters, I have a pretty shrewd idea which particular swim this author was fishing!!) No one reading this could be failed to be sated.

The book is delightfully enriched throughout with John Searl’s drawings. Each chapter starts with an illustration much in the style of ‘BB’s scraper board work, and also includes a line-drawing of the author with his relevant capture. (A real ‘Pen Portrait’!) There are also 4 (5 counting the cover) lovely colour paintings. You get the sense that whole work was a ‘labour of love’ for Editor, Illustrator and Contributors alike. For me, it’s the perfect Close Season read. A book to well and truly whet the appetite for the coming months.

Paul paid a mere fiver for his copy in a ‘remaindered’ book shop in Charing Cross Road. (Jammy git!!) If I want a copy of my own I will have to pay at least five times that and probably a bit more – it has quite rightly become a collectors item.

Red Letter Days; Crowood Press, 1994, ISBN 1 85223 783 X.

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