The Stone-Walker Letters
Letters between famous anglers are always read and re-read by serious anglers, but do not seem to achieve wide sales generally. “Drop me a line” by Ingham and Walker was a classic example of this.
I hope this book does well, because it is both excellent in content, and excellently produced.
I was lucky to see this tome at an early stage in connection with my biography of Richard Walker (now finished and in press). The Walker letters are all there, but somehow the Stone letters (the originals that is) have gone missing. Now that I am familiar with Dick Walker’s files I must say that I am surprised about this. He did keep seriously good correspondence as a rule. However, before Peter Stone died he wrote a text to go with the letters, explaining what each one was about, and then setting it in the context of the day. It is a marvellous achievement and a great pity that Peter is not here to see how the final work goes.
It is a super read, fit for any keen angler. And it covers all sorts of topics but especially chub, tackle rigs, and bite detection. There’s a lot about photography too, although this loses a little because it is all pre-digital.
Some of the nicest memories in the book are of the Beachampton water where Dick had his hut and allowed many anglers easy access to superb chub and perch fishing.
There’s a great deal of discussion about drag (or resistance) of tackle to fish. It’s of particular interest to me because I think its one of the very few areas where Walker went wrong. And Peter Stone too! Maybe not on chub though, because I don’t have the experience there to be sure, but with other species I’m not sure they give a toss about how much weight they have to drag around when taking a bait. It often used to be said that, with bolt rigs, the carp was spooked by the drag and scurried off fast, maybe even hooking itself in the process. In reality, if you watch a carp that has picked up a bolt-rigged bait it swims off in quite leisurely fashion, no doubt wondering what the drag is about. But it ain’t spooked. It just seems that way because the reel handle is back-spinning, fast. But the carp is travelling quite slowly. Both chub and barbel will pull heavy leads around, albeit it in brown water conditions. Peter and Dick viewed all this in entirely the opposite stance so it will be interesting to see who is right in the long run.
A lot of the discussions in the book are about how to actually fish the rigs in different conditions and how to devise better and better end rigs. Of course, today we have reaped the benefits of all this thinking. I hope we have not stopped thinking, for in this book they never do stop, and therein lies the real value.
Both Peter and Dick were accomplished fly fishers, so quite a few pages here and there are on that subject. Walker’s own contributions to fly fishing are, arguably, second to none, so you can imagine that these pages are highly informative and as relevant today as they were then (the letters cover 1956-1983, i.e. until two years before Dick died).
Finally, the humour. Walker always had a humorous touch in his writing and this is especially true in his letters. Both Peter Stone and Dick Walker were opera buffs and there are some quite amusing remarks in this context too.
The last letters are at the time of Dick’s illness that was to prove fatal two years later and Peter is noticeably upset. Emotive reading.