A Train to Catch by Jon Berry
A review by Nick Small
Warren Zevon, Frank Zappa and teenagers engaged in marathon, anaerobic snogging sessions are not necessarily what you’d expect to find in a fishing book (or a book about railways for that matter). However, Jon Berry’s odyssey, around a rail network which once catered for itinerant anglers rather more handsomely than it does now, is full of such colour.
Back in the age of steam, before Richard Beeching’s rationalisation and Maggie’s nationalisation of our rail network, there existed a symbiosis of anglers and train companies, the latter keen to exploit the former’s desire to fish new and distant waters. There were specific routes up and down the Thames, down to the South West and even an established Grand Tour of Scottish game fishing waters for the well heeled Londoner. Jon Berry’s book is his travelogue, re-visiting those anglers’ routes as far as the modern railway network would allow.
There are charming Victorian hotels, countless disused and unmanned railway stations, lines re-animated by steam enthusiasts, missed trains and, of course, lots of fishing. Whether he’s writing about the tempting trout streams of the Peak District with old friends, shark fishing with gnarly boat captains or serenading loch trout with highland reels, the author manages to paint a picture of his adventures which are seductive in the extreme. I defy any reader not to be afflicted with wanderlust at least once during the journey.
It’s the personal reflection of getting drunk, playing guitar or fondly imagining the youthful exploits which earned his Dad the monicker of “The Coiled Spring” amongst the lads and lasses of Southsea, which make this book so readable. There’s plenty of angling detail besides but the vignettes that frame the pursuit of fish are perfect bed-time material, inviting slumber and dreams of shimmering water, in good company with the promise of a pint to follow.