Written by John Angus
Published by Halcyon Press,
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.