Throughout my life I’ve been a fairly voracious reader and also one with catholic tastes. I’m therefore a little bit puzzled that it is only in the last twelve months that I have come to realise that there is such a rich seam of writing about fishing. As an angling obsessed adolescent I read plenty of books on the subject, but they were wholly of the “How to…” instruction manual variety, and I completely missed those books that dealt with the subject on a more intellectual, even spiritual level.

Since taking up the rods again I’ve started to explore this literary vein. Reading back issues of Waterlog magazine has provided a good background to this. But it did make me wonder why Bernard Venables was held in such sainted regard. I just couldn’t see that his writing was that good. However it seems to me now that this was because he was in his twilight years, when writing for the magazine.

Recently I found and read his 1974 “Coming down the Zambezi.”

It opens thus –

“The last few yards were down a steep fall of stony track, out of sun into cavernous shade. Smooth boles soared to the rain forest canopy; sunny dazzle tangled the openings in the canopy and fuzzes of sun hung among the boughs. A host of yellow butterflies drifted like motes. It was still early in the day and it felt cool.”

Really good stuff. Unfortunately, it’s something of a false dawn. The book is purported to be a journey along one of the four great African rivers from the source to the Indian Ocean, but despite this premise just doesn’t feel very linear or complete. And whilst not without interest, the book itself doesn’t really hang together very well. At first it seemed to me like a bigger book badly chopped down, but the more I read the more it seemed like incomplete manuscript elements of a much fuller book, hived up into a smaller piece.

A shame. Love the cover though.

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