Sunday, 15 November 2015

More history

If you had nothing better to do in March you may have seen a review of Graham Booth’s “History of Pike Fishing Volume 1”, which I thoroughly enjoyed so it was only a matter of time before I picked up a copy of volume 2.

As might be expected, volume 2 picks up right where the first book left off, the chapters begin at number eight to reflect this.  The first period covered is between 1951 and 1971 with characters like Bill Giles and Dennis Pye featuring strongly.  The heyday of Norfolk Broads features, peaking with Hancock’s forty followed by the Prymnesium disaster of 1969.  Something all modern visitors to Broadland are only too aware of.  The figure of Dick Walker also looms large as although not truly a Piker his influence on “specimen hunting” in general is massive.  It was in this period that Pike angling ceased to be a purely mobile, active approach and one of patience with multiple rods, mostly sat in one spot became more popular.

The chapters that follow deal with the period from 1971 to the present day.  They begin with the characters that set us on the course of ‘modern’ piking.  Fred Wagstaffe and Bob Reynolds were anglers I was aware of but I didn’t realise how influential and ahead of their time these two were, particularly with their use of lures.  I was well aware of Ray Webb and the great Barrie Rickards.  These two men were masters of all piking methods and produced probably the most influential Pike fishing book ever.  I can’t explain why but somehow I have avoided acquiring a copy of “Fishing for Big Pike”.  Another famous Piker of this time was Fred Buller who is probably more influential as an author than a Piker.  His “Domesday book…” certainly had a massive effect on me.

From here on in the book is covering ground familiar to me, modern Piking history from my own lifetime.  I remember much of what is covered although in most cases I can remember bugger all else away from fishing through those years.  Graham Booth takes us through the birth of the ‘Pike Society’ and its eventual transformation into the PAC.  It is impossible to understate how much these organisations changed attitudes towards Pike.  Without PAC in particular, Pikers in the modern era would not have been able to enjoy the quality of Pike fishing that have been privileged with. 

The rise and fall of British Pike waters is charted; The Fens, The Broads, Gravel pits and Trout waters.  All of the famous captures, faces and places are given due recognition.  There are chapters dedicated to Scottish and Irish piking too.  Inspired by the likes of Wagstaffe and Buller English Pikers ventured to these places and over the years the locals developed a love for Pike fishing too. 

 Pike fishing in the eighties, That would have made a good book title?
The rise, fall and rise again of Lure fishing forms the subject of chapter 15.  We Brits have been slow to recognise the worth of lures but eventually caught on.  In the final chapter Booth asks whether Pike is once more considered a “Game fish”, particularly following the rise of fly fishing in the UK.  In my opinion Pike aren’t game fish, they are better than that.  Few species can be fished for with such a wide variety of methods in such diverse waters.

Although the history is now complete, happily the book itself isn’t.  We are taken back in time to the golden age and its “Champion Pike fisher” Alfred Jardine.  Graham Booth’s extensive research has exonerated Jardine and put his 35lbs ‘Maidstone Pike’ back where it belongs as the first English “Mammoth” and first record Pike in our sport’s wonderful history.  It occurred to me that although I had enjoyed the whole history of Pike fishing it is this golden age that has intrigued me the most.  This is the exact opposite to what I had expected before I began reading.

A History of Pike Fishing is published by Harper Fine Angling and it goes without saying that the book is of the highest standard and beautiful to behold.  As I said in March, Graham Booth has done anglers a service in documenting our sport, not just Pikers, all anglers owe him a debt of thanks.  Pike fishing has a great history and these are two great books.

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