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Casting Shadows

Author:  Tom Fort

Publisher:  William Collins

Date:  2020

Rating ****


At the outset Tom Fort states that this is the book he has always wanted to write and this is evident by the excellent research he has undertaken which is the basis of each chapter. He explores many of the locations he refers to on his trusty bicycle and talks to people who were there or refers to books written by people who were there. It clearly is a labour of love.


Its opening chapter begins several centuries ago when salmon rose in popularity as a food source and details how this grew until the stocks were decimated by over-fishing through to the present day. He tells of the advent of salmon farming and the damage it is doing to the wild stocks; an ecological disaster to which politicians turn a blind eye.


Similarly when eels became a popular food they were also over-exploited. Even now juvenile glass eels are caught by the ton and shipped overseas.


As the centuries pass, so do the chapters of the book bringing it closer to the current day when people fly fish. Many rivers have been cleaned up but it is still a battle to protect river life from pollution and abstraction. Tom Fort has faith that given a chance, nature and rivers can return to how nature intended, but so much now is beyond the scope of the angler, who can only do his best to manage the rivers in the best interests of the fish.


He finishes his journey in a tackle shop where anglers down the generations always have something or someone to blame as to why the fishing isn’t any good. From pike to Eastern Europeans, cormorants, and the latest villains, otters.  He re-visits his angling logs to discover that the idyllic days of the past always seem better than they actually were.


This book is well researched, well written and definitely worth buying but what a shame the publisher used inferior materials unworthy of the book. The illustrations do not come out well on the paper appearing to be colour photographs printed in monochrome onto paper which absorbs the ink greatly reducing the clarity. A plate of vintage flies does not come out well in black and white as they all look the same.


Despite this, I have no hesitation in recommending this book for its content Tom’s writing has that magical ability to transport us to the venues that he writes about. The perfect gift for these times when were are on lockdown and unable to cast a line.