Caught by the River

How We Fish

15th September 2023

In an extract from ‘How We Fish: The Love, Life and Joy of the Riverbank’, just-published by Mudlark, Paul Whitehouse dreams of the River Dee.

I wouldn’t say that I turn to fishing when I’m in trouble exactly, or even when I’m especially happy, but rather it has been a constant in my life, always there for me whatever. There have been times when I have been completely obsessed by it, but more often it’s been a refuge for me, a happy place in my mind that I can always access when I need to.

I’ve led – and I’m leading – a fast-paced sort of life, and my mind can race away with me to the point where I’m plagued with insomnia. Many is the night I wake up at 3 a.m. with my thoughts cascading all over the place, and I’ll lie there with some tune going round and round in my head. ‘Stop that, Whitey,’ I’ll say, and that’s where this blessed sport called fishing comes in.

In my mind I’m up on the River Dee, the river that’s been my hallowed place for quarter of a century. I’ll clear my head of worries, songs and everything else, and I’ll fish that pool down. There I am, physically in my bed but four hundred miles away mentally, executing a single Spey cast with my line pinging out like an arrow, in that comforting salmon fisher’s rhythm: cast and move, cast and move.

I never catch anything on these nights – I hardly ever do anyway – but that’s for the best. I wouldn’t want the excitement to disturb the harmony of my vision. It’s a glorious oblivion at odds with reality, where there’s never wind, rain or boiling heat, and I never get snagged or lose a fly. It’s just my perfect session, tucked away in my mind, that I can reach for whenever I’m in need.


‘How We Fish: The Love, Life and Joy of the Riverbank’, by Paul Whitehouse and John Bailey, and with foreword by Bob Mortimer, is out now and available here (£20.90).