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Chronicles of a Billfisherman

Written by John Angus

Published by Halcyon Press, New Zealand. 2010

Star rating: ****


I was recently staying at a Country House Hotel in Madeira, and in the guests' library, found a signed copy of 'Chronicles of a Billfisherman' by John Angus.  As an angler, I had a keen interest and rapidly devoured this book which charts the fishing of John Angus, the book's author, and the introduction of billfishing to his sons, Robbie and James so I decided to review the book for the River Reads' website.  I hope the following overview will fuel your interest in the sport of billfishing.


In the book, John suggests to his wife that he takes their boys fishing as a way of maintaining family harmony by giving her some free time, and assuming a measure of parental responsibility.  That's his theory, but the practicalities are not so straightforward.  This reminded me of the time when I very nearly gave up fishing.  I used to take my eldest son with me - he was around 13 at the time - and he was constantly  active, asking questions (quite rightly!) but that destroyed the contemplative peace I find when fishing.  Thankfully, this was a temporary phase and he went on to become a good angler with an appreciation of nature and the quiet countryside.  And, as with my son, as the time passes and James and Robbie's skill levels rise, John begins to enjoy fishing with his sons as a team, and their progression leads to them catch many IGFA record fish in different age groups and line classes.


John initially focuses on the Kings area of New Zealand and progresses onto the Barrier Reef and Hawaii as his quest for larger specimens drives him on. But in the final chapter he returns to New Zealand to an area for which he has great affection, and a skipper for whom he has great respect.  His approach to catching fish has changed; the size of the fish doesn't matter any more as he experiences sheer enjoyment simply from catching fish, but this becomes tinged with sadness as his long-time skipper decides to decommission his boat 'Primetime'.


The author's descriptive prose really hooked me from the start and you really feel his pain and exhaustion as he writes about playing a swordfish for ten and a half hours!  This book is written in the style of the renowned game fishing writer, Zane Grey, and you really don’t have to be a billfisherman to enjoy it.


However, I would like to know a little more about the author who appears to be based in Europe, with a home in New Zealand, and his family seem to be located in both places.  A short biography of the writer would help set the scene, as would a map of the New Zealand fisheries which would give some ideas about the places he mentions. One last point is that some explanation of 'short end' and other terms used may make it more understandable to non- big game anglers and broaden its appeal. I understand that this book is a sequel to “Confessions of a Billfisherman” and maybe this information has already been covered, but as a chance reader of the sequel, I would have liked to read more on the author and his background.


In summary, this is an excellent book which I encountered by chance and it really inspires you to travel further and experience the thrill of marlin fishing. On a more practical note, it does give an indication of the costs involved in pursing the fabulous sport of billfishing.  A great read and I have no hesitation is recommending this book.