Gone Fishing. By William Nathan

(Little Egret Press, 2014)

Isn’t it lovely when you enjoy reading angling adventures for the pure joy conveyed by a skilled writer? Nathan is a man after my own heart. Like most anglers, his catches are largely  unremarkable; what makes them stand out is the way in which he sees the world, and puts that into words. The simple things in life are illustrated beautifully through his crafted use of language, wit, and insight. He writes because he loves to, the same reason he fishes. His enthusiasm and eagerness shine through.

Gone Fishing, first published in 1960, has been republished tenderly by the caring hands of the Little Egret Press. It exudes quality, and asks the reader politely for the time to be fully appreciated. It divides itself, for the most part, between London and Wales, but wherever he wanders we share in his adventures as if we are his friends. Fishing (and poaching) as a young lad on Hampstead Heath, chasing mullet in a Pembrokeshire mill pond, catching bass from the Gower Peninsula, pinching trout from tiny Welsh brooks, hunting sea trout from the Sussex Ouse… all are handled with the gentle caress of an artist.

Interspersed between geographical diversions are more contemplative pieces, on subjects such as ‘Talking Shop’ (an imaginary angling conversation in the Anglers’ Arms), ‘Women and Fishing’, and ‘Aspirations’. Here we time travel into the mind of a man of the 1950s, where the language and opinions reflect the times. It is often here that we get to know the author more intimately, and where his thoughts and sense of humour shine through.

Often while reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of nostalgia as I read of 10lb bass being hunted from the rocks, and London tube passengers in bowler hats reading their morning papers. It seems a simpler time, and as such, this book is perhaps best read by the fire, accompanied by a glass of something delicious. But it is not just for those who wish to remember the past. It is as relevant today as it ever was, in that it conveys an angler’s love for the natural world and the fishing it provides, and espouses the virtues of angling for the sheer pleasure of it.

Review by Garrett Fallon, Dec 2014

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