After a lifetime of fishing, Millard tired of the well-stocked carp lakes that have become the mainstay of British fishing and longed for the feelings he had as a young boy when he stood beside his grandfather pulling perch from the Fens. So he set off on a journey around Britain's less-explored waters, allowing the fish to guide him - perch, pike, salmon, eel. Going where Facebook groups and internet forums suggest they might be found.
He sees fishing as a foil to the modern world. ‘A random, often chaotic, collection of environments, species, methods and possibilities… You can’t always win, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily lose.’ His journey takes him from rural idyll to motorway lay-by and from a Scottish lodge to a service station hotel – ‘with a floor that’s more stain than carpet’ and the last guests appear to have had, ‘a massive fight with a full cafetière right before they left.’
This is post-modern nature writing that embraces beauty where it finds it and marvels at nature’s tenacity – salmon leaping over a weir in Cardiff’s city centre, squadrons of bass advancing under the M4. Millard’s learning is hard-won but lightly worn. Long hours on the bank have taught him the difference between the tap-tap of an enquiring eel on the end of his line and the thump and head shake of a predacious pike.
But there’s more here than just fish. This is also a book about growing up, about how to retain a connection with those who raised you while forging your own identity – what to keep and what to discard. And it’s about men. The strong surges of emotion that both draw them together and keep them apart, and the shared pastimes which recognise that intimacy and meaning aren’t always accompanied by words.
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