Autumn is not only the traditional start to the Pike season it also usually sees the launch of any new book releases and this year was no exception. For several seasons there's been at least one Stephen Harper production too and long may it continue! You know what you're going to get with with one of Steve's books, a high quality product that is beautifully laid out and a real pleasure to read. In the recent past Mr Harper has produced books for Neville Fickling, Eddie Turner and John Watson to name but a few. This years offering has Stephen's own name on the spine as under the title “Dream Pike” he has compiled a series of previously untold stories relating to the capture of Thirty pounds plus Pike by a wide variety of authors. The intention is to “entertain and inspire”, so does it tick the boxes?
The stories come from anglers of varying noteriety within the game and cover all water types from the wild loughs/lochs of Ireland & Scotland, Trout waters, gravel pits, drains, lakes, ponds and Broadland. With a book like this it's inevitable that the reader will enjoy some stories more than others. There were one or two that failed to move me and a few more that I could take or leave but on the whole most are highly entertaining. The ones that stood out for me were those by George Higgins, John Nunn and Stephen Harpers own tale. The eagle eyed reader will notice that one Pike in particular (at least) is pictured in two different stories whilst another is featured in a different book. If I was to split hairs to offer a criticism it would have been nice to see more “new” authors as opposed to some of the more familiar names.
Maybe I'm a little biased because I know several of the contributors but on the whole “Dream Pike” is a damn good read and I found it both entertaining and inspiring.
There was another book released this autumn. Derrick Amies has always been a controversial figure since he reappeared on the Pike scene in the early eighties. In those days he was notorious for being instrumental in the deaths of three massive Pike from the Thurne system. Since then some have openly questioned his integrity while many others have done so on the quiet. Would his long awaited book “Pike Fishing on the Norfolk Broads” finally answer all the questions and settle all the arguments? I read with an open mind hoping this would be the case. So what about the book?
Go straight to the introduction. Here DA states; “I have always said that this will be my only book, therefore I wish to make the best job of it that I possibly can.” If this is the case, why oh why did he not employ a proof reader? The first spelling mistake I found was in the second paragraph of the introduction of the book. The punctuation, grammar and spelling are absolutely appalling. The layout is amateurish and the photo reproduction is poor. However, I was trying to read the words of an angler, not a writer so I soldiered on anyway. Surely If I could fight my way through the “English” then there would be a reward? A genuine insight into Broadland Piking? Some good advice on methods or locations? Let's see.
I read through the chapters on the history of Norfolk Piking, including the defence of Dennis Pye and although certain things sat a little uneasily with me I was prepared to take Derrick's word on things. I carried on through Amies' account of his return to Piking in the eighties and again, there were things that didn't ring true. For example:- Derrick Amies DID catch a 42.02 Pike in the summer of 1985, no doubt. In the text Amies claims that he knew where the Pike would be because of his knowledge of the big fish movements post spawning. However, other writers who fished the system around that time contradict this. As I remember other people have stated that the fish were concentrated in the river at Somerton because of a Prymnesium outbreak further downstream. DA doesn't mention this at all.
Amies “Pike Foundation” makes sense but where is the solid, hard facts that back the theory? Studies made on Windermere regarding the food intake of a Pike do not necessarily mean a Broadland fish behaves in the same way. The chapter on location was also interesting but full of contradictions and not backed by evidence as far as I'm concerned.
By the time I'd reached this point in the book I was uneasy with what I was reading but my mind was still open. I was still prepared to go with what Derrick Amies was telling me. However after I'd read chapter six where DA talks about the methods he uses I'm sorry to say I'd lost it. I may not have Amies experience of fishing the “dumbell” float but I do know enough about the other methods he uses to know he was talking crap. From here on I had absolutely no faith in what I was reading and the inconsistencies were glaring out of the page at me.
Amies refers to his experience as a TV engineer and states his no nonsense electrical background means he relates his fishing experience in the same no nonsense style. No supposition, just facts and evidence. Unfortunately the book is full of theory without evidence & fact.
Also in the introduction Amies claims; “I have to date caught 157 twenties and 1/3 of these have been over twenty five pounds including nine thirties and two forty pounders”
OK so DA knows exactly how many 20's he's caught but can only guess at the number over 25 pounds?? A bit odd considering 25+ fish are the subject of most of the book???
OK reading that sentence DA has taken 9 30's & 2 forties making a total of 11 fish over 30 pounds. In the book we have photos of two forties , no problem there.
How about the nine thirties? We have photos and written stories of a 36.08, 30.04, 30.10, and 30.02. We also have a photo but no story of another 30.10. That's five out of nine thirties, what about the other four?
Surely if this is Amies' Piking autobiography he'd want to mention all of his greatest catches wouldn't he? Obviously not.
One of the missing thirties is the “Hickling 33” which was removed from Stephen Harpers updated 'Pike of Broadland' In chapter 2 Amies tells the full story of his honest mistake regarding the wrong photo being supplied. Harper excluded this fish from the update which clearly upset Amies so why hasn't he put the record straight by printing the photo of the 33 in his own book??? One of the biggest fish DA has caught and it's not there???
Throughout the book Amies is forever referring to watching Big Pike in clear water but the Broads are very rarely clear these days!!!!!
Most writers, whatever their skill, have a 'voice' that is their own. Derrick is trying so hard to sound clever, his voice is drowned out.
So Derrick Amies is unable to produce photo's for all of the big Pike he claims to have caught.
He is able to see into water that usually has visibility down to one foot at most.He can make a float fished livebait go where he wants, like a dog on a lead.
He understands exactly how and why moon phases affect Pike.
Sorry Derrick, I don't believe you.