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A Fool and His Eel by Mark Walsingham


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A Fool and His Eel by Mark Walsingham

Bob Hornegold reviews a book he considers to be quite ‘simply brilliant'’








The publishers say:

A Fool and His Eel’ by Mark Walsingham charts a life spent in awe of nature, and all it has to offer, but mainly spent in pursuit of fish – all manner of fish.

He is probably best known for his ‘Ashmead Diaries’ series in Carpworld, but this is far from just an extension of that. With his extensive work as a marine biologist, and his subsequent position as senior conservation manager with the National Trust, he has a wealth of stories to tell, and his love of fly fishing and old cane rods means that it’s not just carp that sink his float, there are roach, perch, barbel, tench, salmon, trout… the list is endless. From wild carp in secluded, Southern pools, to wild trout in remote Scottish lochs. From cold, lonely nights spent fly fishing for elusive sea-trout, to balmy summer days, trying to entice mysterious, monstrous carp into taking a carefully placed floater.

Mark’s use of the English language is as luscious and delicious as that of his long time friend, Chris Yates, and it takes very few words before you are magically transported to that lake, that stream, that very enticing pool, and his photography adds the final, definitive sensory delight to make you feel as if you are there, right next to him.

With some exclusive artwork by his good friend, wildlife artist David Miller, this book will be so much more than just another fishing book – it will be a literary and visual delight. We think this is going to be the most evocative, atmospheric and beautifully worded book since ‘Casting at the Sun’


Bob Hornegold says:

A Fool and His EelHaving never reviewed a book before, it’s with some trepidation that I attempt to do this wonderful book justice.

The book was published in 2012 and, when I Googled it, a number of well-respected angling names came up as having reviewed it before; I did not, however, read them as I wanted to put my own slant on the book.

I have never fished with Mark, in fact I have never even met him or spoken to him, I’m certainly not in the Golden Scale Club and am never likely to be asked to join.

I do however buy and read a lot of fishing books; some good, some bad and some indifferent but this book is  outstanding and I’m really glad I purchased it, as it has touched a part of me that very few fishing books will ever do.

I suppose being a very slow reader I judge a good book by not wanting it to end, dreading the last page, when that part of the story is over. Well ‘A Fool and his Eel’ is exactly that type of book, it’s beautifully written, it goes right back to the author’s earliest fishing trips with his friends and then threads its way through a wonderful life story of fishing adventures.

Mark is what I think we would now call a ‘traditionalist’ in his approach to angling and he is a brilliant environmentalist too, which he has incorporated through his working life into fishery management. I’m sure many of us have been involved with work parties over the years and I’m sure we can all sympathise with some of the things that have happened to Mark whilst working with willow trees...

Split cane rods and antique reels are the author’s main choice of fishing tackle and he puts them to great use, explaining why he uses them and how they can be far superior to some of the modern tackle many of us use today. I often wonder why I still use cane rods where possible and Mark explains it wonderfully well, it’s an insight and something I honestly had not thought about before, let’s just say it’s instinctive.

He uses simple rigs, but to great effect, and his catch results are proof of their effectiveness, and through his writing he explains how a simple rig can be worked both in running water and stillwaters to great effect.

Wildlife and an understanding of the natural world are very much in evidence throughout the book, the photos taken by Mark (additional photos by Chris Yates and David Miller) and the paintings by David Miller are simply outstanding and every page seems to hold a new delight.

Mark, or should I say ‘Skeff’,  the name his friends call him, takes us along  in his story of a fishing life, incorporating his work for the National Trust and his past occupation as a fishery officer. I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone so I’m not going into too much detail but  it covers so many different branches of our sport and it gives an idea of the beauty to be found in different areas of Great Britain.

For anyone who likes fishing books, this one opens your eyes to what so many of us miss whilst fishing, it’s often said that fishing is more about ‘being there’ than actually fishing and this book makes you feel you are with the author on some of his trips.

It has taken me a year, getting around to reading this book properly and it’s been a joy to read, the pictures of monster carp, the section on long lost salmon and the development of his own wonderful fishery are fascinating. I only hope more fishery owners buy and read this book, then take up some of Mark’s ideas on how fisheries could, and should, be managed and developed.

This is a big book and worth every penny, it is simply brilliant and I strongly advise anyone who likes a good read to get hold of a copy.

A Fool and His Eel, ISBN 978-0-9562497-8-4, runs to 416 pages, retails at £30.00 and is published by Freebird Publishing.


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Book Review, Bob Hornegold