Caught by the River

Crooked Lines by Dominic Garnett

9th January 2016

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Crooked Lines by Dominic Garnett (DG Fishing, out now)
Review by Jon Berry

I like Dominic Garnett. I’ve not met him, and in the casual, this-means-nothing ether that is Facebook we have only recently become ‘friends’. But I can’t say I know him. I did review his last book, Tangles With Pike, for this website, though. When Crooked Lines emerged, I hoped it shared the same anarchy of its predecessor.

Crooked Lines differs from Tangles in a number of ways. The last book focused solely on the author’s pike fishing, whilst this is far broader, collecting together the best of the author’s angling experiences worldwide. The prose is funnier, darker in places, less about a fish and more about fishing. From New York urban bass to Polish bream, the much-written-about wild carp of Pant-y-Llyn to the townie trout of Tiverton, what emerges is an author who finds his fish wherever they are, and revels in the incongruence of it all. Here is a man that seeks out sport among the sordid detritus of humanity and enjoys the contradiction.

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With the emancipation of self-publishing (and the world of pain it brings), Garnett is able to write freely without the tyranny of editorial requests for ‘more carp, fewer squid’. As with Tangles with Pike, this book is all the better for it. At first glance, the layout, copious photographs and foreword from Matt Hayes suggest a book that conforms to the norm. The words suggest otherwise.

The anarchy is as prevalent as it ever was; we are treated to flies tied to resemble fried eggs, chapter titles that pun, among other things, upon Talking Heads lyrics and line drawings from Lord Bunn that are closer to punk fanzine than scraper-board BB. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does.

In his introduction, the author promises ‘crap cider and mosquito bites…blood, ink and the strange things that swim in Torquay harbour’. We get them all. In Hayes’ Foreword, he laments the current state of angling journalism, and hails Garnett as a free-wheeling exception. He’s not wrong. This is an angling book for those who know that fishing is not always idyllic, those who understand that dodgy vans and dodgier friends are as much a part of the fun as quivering lily stems on a June morning. There is beauty here, and the chapter detailing a lost pool in the spirit of Walker had me salivating, but there is realism too. I think you’ll like it.

Crooked Lines is available direct from the author. Price: £9.99

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