Jon Berry author of coarse fishing books
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JON BERRY

When the publisher rang me and asked me to write a barbel history book, I was delighted. He didn’t warn me that I would eventually have my own page on the revamped website, and that it would necessitate penning one of these awkward, indulgent autobiographical things. Instead, he alluded to ‘a small advance’. I accepted. A year later, this needed to be written. I sought the advice of a friend, an accomplished angler who can sniff out pretentious waffle quicker than a carp can smell scopex. "Don’t fret," he advised. "Whatever you write, you’ll come across as an idiot."

In a couple of hundred words’ time, you’ll see that he was right. I strongly advise you to skip this part, look at the pictures, order the book(s) and click on whatever link takes you to the Chris Yates' pages, or perhaps John Langridge’s. If John has written an honest chronology, which includes all his traipsings around the world, it’ll make for a much more interesting read. Still here? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My fishing life began thirty-three years ago, in the company of cousin Ricky and brother Chris. We were standing on a bridge above Bodle’s Burn in Alness, Scotland. It was unremarkable unless you were there, and a full account exists in an early Waterlog. I caught a trout, and knew that I wanted to go fishing for the rest of my life. So far, I have. Most of it has not involved wee Highland streams, though I go back there whenever I have a car that might be up to the journey. I haven’t been there in a while.

The 1980s for me, as for many, were a smoky haze through which one might occasionally glimpse carp lakes, lost weeks and excessive camouflage. I worshipped Rod Hutchinson, and succumbed to all the worst excesses of the sport. Later, university intervened. The facial hair, silly hats and bivvy were discarded, and I sold my buzzers to buy a Stratocaster. Three years in Canterbury trying to become a famous historian/psychedelic blues hero proved ultimately fruitless, and since then I have taught in state secondary schools, largely in Hampshire and Wiltshire. Early in the 1990s I fell in with the Golden Scale Club. They were exactly the sort of crowd my mother had warned me about, but my angling life has been all the more fun because of them.

Most of my fishing has been for barbel, chub and pike, but there were three or four years of ferox fever; that episode cost me the love of a good woman, a perfectly acceptable flat and part-ownership of a vintage Beetle. It was worth it. I enjoy fly fishing, but can’t claim even a slight degree of dexterity.  I have written for Waterlog, Carp Catcher (a very long time ago) and local angling guides. I have also been an editor of Barbel Fisher magazine. This should not, under any circumstances, be taken as evidence that I know what I’m talking about. My headstone will say something along the lines of ‘Teacher and Fisherman. Inept, but bloody lucky’.

After finishing A Can of Worms, the publisher got me working on an anthology of barbel stories (Great Barbel Stories), a similar collection of carp and pike tales (More Great Pike Stories and Great Carp Stories) and a rather grandiose fishing/travel book (A Train to Catch). Outside this curious fishing life, I have many guilty pleasures, including (but not limited to) fried breakfasts, whisky, financial irresponsibility, unreliable cars, Southampton Football Club and the music of Captain Beefheart.

That’s all you’re getting. Happy fishing.