Caught by the River

Fisherman By Anthony Pearson

26th November 2012

A review by John Cheyne

When it comes to fishing books, I have a real bias towards the type that make you want to sit in front of a log fire with a nice glass of red or a tumbler of scotch. “How to” books are great when you need technical details of a method, but they rarely become old friends. Fisherman by Anthony Pearson has become one of the constants throughout my angling life. It inspired me as a boy. It reminded me of what I was missing when I was a girl obsessed student and it has got me back on track many times since when I’ve lost the real reason why I go fishing.

Fisherman is the autobiography of a passionate angler, but more than that it is a hymn to fishing. Pearson was a journalist of the old school, he covered wars in Africa and in the 1960’s wrote a regular angling column for The Guardian. He made his name in the sea bass fishing scene and his two books on the subject: Successful Shore Fishing (1967) and Sea Fishing, North Wales and Anglesey (1968) are still much sought after to this day. However it was his skills as a writer and his love of all types of angling that makes Fisherman so special.

Pearson was brought up in Bolton and encouraged by his father, he became a talented all round angler, equally as happy lure fishing for pike, match fishing for roach and surf casting for cod. When he left school he went to live in Kenya and learnt much about fishery work and the wonders of lure fishing by striking up a friendship with Major Douglas Smith, the Chief Fisheries officer for Kenya at the time. Here he caught black bass, Nile perch, tiger fish and exotic catfish and got his first taste of the big game fishing that would become his obsession. His fishing life and the book itself are not just about lure fishing, like many of us he loved to switch between disciplines and learn something from all types of fishing. However it was always the lure fishing chapters that captured my imagination the most as a young lad reading the book in the dark and austere recesses of Leith Public Library in Edinburgh.

So what of the book ? Well it’s a feast of fishing. There are stories of catching five big billfish in a day, tales of monster shark and of taming a huge tope from the shore. There are carp on par boiled potatoes and bonefish on the fly. There is gun running, rough shooting, war zones and roach. Above all there are stories of boyhood pike fishing. The four short pages of Chapter 17 are my favourite piece of fishing writing of all time. If they don’t stir you, then you didn’t have a boyhood like mine and fishing isn’t really in your heart.

Pearson has the terseness of Hemingway, the heart of Watkins-Pitchford and the adventurous spirit of Negley Farson. And if those names don’t ring any bells with you, get onto Ebay and do a few searches, you’ll discover a world of fishing writing that will lift your soul. Pearson stands shoulder to shoulder with them all.

Fisherman by Anthony Pearson was published in hardback in 1970 by Pelham books. It has been out of print ever since, but 2nd hand copies are around and will cost you between £10 – £25. Try Ebay or

John Cheyne is an all round angler who is as happy lure fishing for zander as he is fly fishing for pike or free lining for barbel. He has written for magazines as diverse as Waterlog and Anglers Mail, is the former editor of Lure Angler magazine and currently works full time for the Angling Trust. He has just started a new blog about his work for the Trust at