‘Angling’, Dr Johnson famously remarked, ‘I can only compare to a stick and a string, with a worm at one end and a fool at the other.’ He might more kindly have said ‘an optimist at the other’, because fishing is the act of maintaining hope in the face of the most discouraging setbacks. Tom Fort is certainly an optimist. One of his previous books is called The A303: Highway to the Sun, and you can’t get more optimistic than that.
Fort’s writings cover a wide range of subjects. He therefore brings to this book a more practised pen than most angling writers bring to theirs and avoids the main pitfalls of the genre: cod philosophy, close-to-nature mystic vapourings and the banging of factional drums (of which angling yields far more than its fair share). He is scrupulously even-handed and refrains from taking sides in the bitter dispute – almost entirely void of purpose or substance – that once racked the world of trout fishing on chalk streams: floating fly versus sunk fly. He is equally impartial when it comes to the far more important and prolonged feud between netsmen and rod anglers on Britain’s salmon rivers.