Fishing from home and afar for Fallon's Angler

Words and pictures by Nick Fallowfield-Cooper


'To be unshackled by time and fish by the rhythms of nature is the manner in which I would like to angle, encouraged by a simple whim that today the conditions could be favourable. The ideal way to do this is to fish the same place on a regular basis, to spend time on the water and become intimate with it. Most anglers don’t have the convenience of fishing on their own doorstep; we have to travel to seek out good fishing. The process of sorting tackle, researching the water, reading-up on tactics and preparing your bait are all elements that is part of the experience to a planned fishing trip but by doing this you loose any sense of spontaneity. Picking up a rod and fishing without a plan is liberating, plus you can utilise opportune moments.


It was angler, John Bailey who wrote in his book ‘In Visible Waters’ about a three hundred year old mill house he bought in the late seventies on the river Wensum. He fished and walked the Wensum for three years observing the subtle changes on a day-to-day basis, over a period of time he noticed barbel had populated his stretch of the river and he became obsessed with pursuing them.  John could be spontaneous and fish on a whim, as he started to understand the river and the fishes habits he became more successful with his catches, eventually he caught more than half of the barbel population, but he decided he didn’t want to start re-capturing the same fish, the secrets of the river was unravelling, the sense of achievement had been diminished. Soon after he sold up and left the mill


Stephen Johnson was an angler and pilot who for a period of his life had no fishing at all, only dreams from the nightmare that he found himself in during World War II. In 1942 Johnson crash-landed his Mosquito into the Zuyder Zee, in Holland after a barrage of German fire struck his left engine.  He survived the crash (which was rare due to the design of the Mosquito) but subsequently was captured by the Germans where he was imprisoned until the end of the war. To keep his mind off the life threatening hunger and cold he managed to get hold of a pencil and notebook and began to write about his fishing life back in Britain, in particular his ancestral home on the Isle of Skye. During these desperate times he would write as a form of therapy a reassurance that one day he would return to his fishing, the people and the places. Johnson’s writing style had warmth that took the reader and no doubt Johnson back to the waters edge that he was so familiar with but unable to fish.  Here he writes of the river Tweed in autumn…


‘The sound of it just heard before the river comes in sight, gently murmuring in the distance but getting louder as one approaches. All the little noises of water pushing round and over stones, meeting other water in the restless certainty of reaching the sea. And what of the smell? The scents of an autumn morning crisp and clean, with fallen leaves, a distant bonfire, and the freshness of the river.  It is cooler near the river with the scents of water and all the plants that grow by it in the air. The good autumn days are among the best of the year. With these surroundings and a salmon rod in one’s hand, how could a day be anything but well spent.’


After the war the book Fishing from Afar was published but sadly didn’t make any large sales it deserved, the post-war era was enjoying the ‘how to’ style of angling book rather than the more pastoral prose that came about before and during the war.  In 1997 Fishing from Afar was re-published by Excellent Press, the same year of his death at the age of eighty-five. This is a book worth reading as it lovingly demonstrates that a passionate angler has their beloved sport with them at all times...'


The full article can be read in issue 1 of Fallon's Angler, available here