As a self-confessed lover of angling books, it’s always great to find one that is a genuine surprise. Not so long ago in the Angling Times, I wrote about the need to nurture wordsmiths from beyond the ranks of sponsored stars and household names. Because as thrilling as it might be to read about record fish or huge match wins, more relatable, high-quality storytelling is not always thick on the ground.
To some extent quarterlies like Fallon’s Angler and Fly Culture have come to the rescue, giving new and less familiar talents a platform to write with greater freedom. But finding new books that combine literary quality with a genuine connection to most anglers is less straightforward.
This is where The Magic of Fishing comes in. From the first couple of pages sent to me by author John Moorwood, I was struck by its quality and immediacy. Here was someone writing about the thrill of fishing not as a floppy hat romanticist or Chris Yates imitator, but with a rare directness and honesty. It was perhaps inevitable that I’d say yes to writing a foreword soon after, it was that good.
After all, most of us have stacks of fishing books that chronicle large fish, exceptional outings or glittering accomplishments we’ll never get near. If you’re lucky, they’re peppered with a few nutty characters or comedy mishaps along the way. Very few, however, are as authentically unfiltered as The Magic of Fishing. More like a cult IPA than a supermarket lager, it is a refreshingly potent brew. And unlike today’s tide of social media posts, so many of the rougher edges and more vulnerable, confessional details make the cut.
As you’d expect, there are good and bad days, along with one man’s journey from bright-eyed, semi-clueless schoolboy to avid all-rounder. But what really makes the book shine is its tenderness and attention to detail. The author’s relationship with his grandfather is beautifully drawn. So are the intensity and innocence of childhood; and any angler who grew up in the 80s is sure to smile at the jokes and references.
From daft childhood dares to unusual travel stories, there is plenty to amuse throughout. I particularly loved the author’s look at the world of tackle shops and fishing matches, to name but two topics. The competition circuit with a local angling club is particularly fantastic. The depiction of working-class anglers and their secret realm of impenetrable slang, endless jokes and cigarette smoke hit a particular chord with me. Perhaps I had a similar experience as a teenager, plucked from middle-class suburbs into a more exciting and less polite world of trials, tribulations and dreams.
Later on in the book, however, things get even more candid as we delve into subjects very rarely mentioned in angling books. Whether it’s the strain of balancing work, family and fishing, candid accounts of mental health challenges or the loss of loved ones, the author is brave enough to take us there.
It’s one thing to write an entertaining book about fishing, then, but The Magic of Fishing does so much more than this. It is funny, evocative and, above all, relatable. Far from being another angling CV from a big name, it’s a book that will warm your heart and make you feel more human. Here is an angler who can sum up the joy of fishing, not as a legendary angler but one of us, battling with life’s ups and downs, rolling with changing times and getting their fishing kicks whenever and wherever the heck they can.
So, it’s your choice what you read next weekend, but with a stack of excellently written angling tales and refreshing honesty, John Moorwood’s new book is a treat. It’s also well presented and very fairly priced at under £8 if you shop around! Why not grab a copy, and rediscover the magic of angling for yourself?