The Best Fishing Books

A selection of our favourite books about salmon and sea trout…

– their miraculous journeys, their impact on our culture and what we can all do to help them survive.

Mostly I read about fishing during the winter.  A stretch of long months where swinging my fly across the tail of a pool, hoping for a savage interruption, seems so far away that the best I can do is read about it and wistfully remember days gone by. 

But in summers like this, when the heat and sun can confound the fishing, finding some cool shade, pouring a well-iced G&T, and settling into some fishy literature can often save the trip.

Sam Carlisle, Head of FishPal.

A River Runs Through Me: A Life of Salmon Fishing in Scotland
Author – Andrew Douglas-Home
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‘The perfect fishing companion … his book is a delight.’ JEREMY PAXMAN

Against the shifting moods and seasons of Scotland’s River Tweed, A River Runs Through Me tells the story of a lifelong relationship with one of its most iconic denizens: the Atlantic salmon. Through vivid vignettes and family memories, Andrew Douglas-Home spins a homely yet dryly witty narrative, placing this unique fish and river at its heart.

Woven into the decades, amid youthful adventure and memorable catches, are stories too of one of Scotland’s oldest families – tales of politics, friendship and stewardship of the natural world. This poignant and thoughtful book looks back at age-old practices and traditions but also forward to what we must do to secure the future of the Atlantic salmon and their rivers.

It is the perfect companion for any angling enthusiast.

Reviews: A joyous read. This book is on a par with the classic Harry Plunkett-Greene’s Where the Bright Waters Meet. A combination of dry humour, unique knowledge of and expertise at the subject and quirky characters, it is an easy joy to read – aided by short chapters and a helpful introductory paragraph to each. A must-have book for all who have rivers in their blood.

The Lightning Thread: Fishological Moments and The Pursuit of Paradise
Author – David Profumo
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David Profumo has fished everywhere man and boy, and come back with his creel crammed with adventures and misadventures – a memoir for every fisherman’s bookshelf.’ TOM STOPPARD

The Lightning Thread takes the reader on a journey of unexpected delight, personal pleasure and profound discovery. From angling with his father on a spating burn at the height of the Profumo Affair to knocking back mojitos while hunting for Permit, ‘the Robocop of the sea’, off the coast of Cuba. Much more than just another book about fishing, The Lightning Thread is an exploration of joy and a celebration of simple pleasures in a too complicated world.

A work of the passionate eclecticism, deep intelligence and virtuosically exuberant prose from one of our finest writers, The Lightning Thread is a future classic and the culmination of lifetime’s obsession.

Reviews: You will also find some of the finest descriptions of the thrill and agony associated with Atlantic salmon fishing in the great and lesser rivers in Scotland, Canada, Iceland, Russia and elsewhere as well as the stalking of bonefish and permit on the flats and saltwater game fishing in the South Seas. Even a chapter on tackle collecting manages to explore both the mania associated with stockpiling more rods, reels, flies, lures, and other fishing paraphernalia.

The Silver Invicta: Journeys with a Fly Fisher
Author – Tom Harland
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“A beautifully written paean to Scottish fishing” Richard Bath, SCOTTISH FIELD

The ‘Silver Invicta’ was the traditional fly which was taken by Tom’s first salmon and is also a nod to the spirit of Scotland’s embattled migratory fish. Tom has fished throughout his local Scottish Borders, England, the Western Isles and New Zealand (a country he lived and worked in for two years), but his real passion is for the brown trout of the hill lochs of Assynt in the North-west Highlands.

Reviews: A beautiful journal/reflection on fly fishing. Full of lovely writing, funny bits, advice and makes you want to get straight out on to the river.

Illuminated By Water: Nature, Memory and the Delights of a Fishing Life
Author – Malachy Tallack
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“Destined to be a classic, both as a memoir on trout fishing and, also, a meditation on life” WILLIAM MALLARD, author of the The Old Man

Illuminated by Water is Malachy’s personal attempt to understand that freedom, and to trace the origins and sources of that sense of wonder. He shares the appeal of fishing, its intense joys and frustrations, the steadying effect it has both at water’s edge and in the memory, and the contemplation of nature and landscape that comes with being an angler. He writes about fishing expeditions, from English canals and Scottish lochs to lakes in Canada and New Zealand, and he reflects on other aspects of angling, from its cultural significance and the emerging moral complexities to the intricacies of tying a fly.

Growing up in Shetland, with its myriad lochs, he and his brother would roam the island in search of trout, and in so doing discovered a sense of freedom, of wonder, and an abiding passion.

Reviews: Malachy Tallack writes as defly as he casts a fly. A delight! Luke Jennings author of Killing Eve.

Casting Shadows: Fish and Fishing in Britain
Author – Tom Fort
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‘All the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster, and then some.’ – THE GUARDIAN

This is a captivating study…Tom Fort is incapable of writing a dull sentence.’
– THE FINANCIAL TIMES

A Times and Sunday Times Book of the Year

Peer into the secret, silent world of the freshwater fish and explore evolution of the art and industry of fishing in Britain’s rivers and streams.

Lives built on and around fishing have largely faded from Britain, but fishermen and conservationists are working tirelessly to prevent the same fate befalling the fishes.

Reviews: I enjoyed reading Casting Shadows so much that I rationed myself to a chapter a day to spread out the pleasure. It’s a delight, fascinating in its detail, elegantly written and easy to read. Even those not interested in fish and fishing would be richly rewarded by reading it. Like Tom Fort’s other books, he casts a curious eye over the by-ways of British history and society, illuminating the lives of people whose stories rarely get written, and so informing mainstream history as well. Tom Fort is a wonderful story teller and has a gift for evoking time, person and place.

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
Authors – Bob Mortimer & Paul Whitehouse
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The Sunday Times bestseller. Two comedy greats talk life, friendship and the joys of fishing

Following the success of the BBC’s Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing series, this wonderful book by two lifelong friends is a love letter to the joys of angling, the thrill of the catch and the virtue of having a right daft laff with your mates. On the fish, the equipment, the food, and the locations, Gone Fishing is the perfect book for fans of Bob Mortimer, Paul Whitehouse and for anyone who wants to read a brilliantly written and endlessly funny joint memoir on life, friendship and joys of fishing.

Reviews: If you are a fan of the show, or just love Bob and Paul then this is the perfect book. Great humour that you will find yourself laughing out loud to so be prepared for some funny looks on your commute.

Silver Shoals: Five Fish That Made Britain
Author – Charles Rangeley-Wilson
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“Illuminating, entertaining and fascinating..the ultimate fish story” CHRIS YATES

On these rain-swept islands in the North Atlantic man and fish go back a long way. Fish are woven through the fabric of the country’s history: we depend on them – for food, for livelihood and for fun – and now their fate depends on us in a relationship which has become more complex, passionate and precarious in the sophisticated 21st Century.

Reviews: A book full of well-researched detail and data documenting the importance of fish to our culture and the gradual decline and fall in piscatorial abundance in our oceans and rivers around the UK. What makes this book gripping reading for anyone who has ever thought of going fishing are the stories of the authors search for some of these fish. Funny, grimy and triumphant

Silver Ghosts
Author – Will Shropshire
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Highly recommend! – JAMES MURRAY – Actor and Angler

Silver Ghosts tells the tale of Callum, a disengaged teenager initially most comfortable with his own company gaming or hanging out with his alleged ‘friends’. After some
encouragement, the reluctant Callum slowly discovers the joy of fly-fishing and the calm it brings him – as well as new, true friendships.

Having lost his father, Callum seeks guidance from his grandfather, learning the skills
required to succeed at fly-fishing, with the Atlantic salmon his ultimate prize. Along the way he encounters love, loss and conflict, but also discovers the true satisfaction and peace brought about by fishing on his beloved River Dee.

All proceeds will go to a portfolio of charities, River Dee Trust, Salmon & Trout Conservation and Atlantic Salmon Trust. The book has raised nearly £23,000 so far.

Reviews: Whether you’re a keen fly-fisher or someone looking for a good tale of personal discovery, Silver Ghosts will have you captivated.

Life of a Chalkstream
Author – Simon Cooper
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‘I loved the gentle flow of this book and the insight into both a pastime and a wonderful corner of the land.’ BBC COUNTRYFILE

From the remarkable spectacle of salmon, sea trout and brown trout spawning in winter, to the emergence of water voles in spring and the explosion of mayflies in the early days of summer, the author evocatively describes the natural wonders of the chalkstream. He introduces us to the fascinating diversity of life that inhabits its waters and environs – the fish, the angling community, the plant life and the wildlife. We learn how neglect threatens these inhabitants and why the fight to save the chalkstreams is so vital, not only for fishermen, but for anybody who values the beauty of rural England

Reviews: The right amount of natural history, personal experience and observations together to make a highly enjoyable book that details a glimpse into the life of a fly fishing stream. I have started to read it all over again, its like a good film.

Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of a Common Fate
Author – Mark Kurlansky
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‘What Kurlansky did for Cod, he now does for Salmon – a book not just for fishermen, but for everyone who cares about our world. A blistering account of “civilised” man’s blind obsession with bending Nature and its resources to his will.’– the late Geoffrey Palmer OBE

If we can save the salmon, we can save the world

Over the centuries, salmon have been a vital resource, a dietary staple and an irresistible catch. But there is so much more to this extraordinary fish.

As international bestseller Mark Kurlansky reveals, salmon persist as a barometer for the health of our planet. Centuries of our greatest assaults on nature can be seen in their harrowing yet awe-inspiring life cycle. Full of all Kurlansky’s characteristic curiosity and insight, Salmon is a magisterial history of a wondrous creature.

Reviews: This is an interesting and well written review of the history of the fish and its demise at the hand of mankind. As ever, Kurlansky has thoroughly researched his subject. I would recommend it to anyone interested in salmon and their future

Voices from the Shoreline: The Ancient and Ingenious Traditions of Coastal Fishing
Author – Mike Smylie
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Tracing and describing his own journey from North Devon, through Wales and up to the top of Scotland, along with interviews with many fishermen, both retired and working.

Though herring stocks have recovered from their late twentieth-century decline, the Atlantic salmon is now under immense threat and more danger of extinction than ever before.

Reviews: A very good read.

Leave a comment in the box below and tell us what your reading this summer.

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