Wild Fish, The Lightning Thread, and dates for your diaries

The most recent post on this website announced a major fundraising initiative being launched by Salmon & Trout Conservation to make possible a much-needed reassessment of Atlantic Salmon by the IUCN Red List. It also looked forward to a new magazine, WILD FISH.

It’s a delight to bring excellent news on both fronts. Thanks to the generosity of individuals and organisations, above all Salmon & Trout Conservation itself, the funding has been secured, and Will Darwall and his colleagues at the IUCN are now at work on reviewing global and sub-population data. Results are expected next spring, and should provide an enormously important tool in the ongoing fight for wild salmon and the waters in which they swim.

John Fanshawe and I are also thrilled to announce that, all the more dazzling for its second winter at sea, WILD FISH is now available as a breathtakingly beautiful ebook and in print — again thanks to the generosity and expertise of the Salmon & Trout Conservation team and the designer Jon Ogbourne. You can download the ebook here, or via the S@TC website.

The contents of WILD FISH reflect the structure of our conference in December 2019, and its ethos — to encourage the fisheries scientists, anthropologists, literary critics, conservationists, poets and anglers who spoke then and have written now to reach beyond their accustomed audiences in passionate defence of the scientific, spiritual and cultural wonders of the salmon and the importance of our relationship with him. But the power of the prose, poetry and scientific evidence it contains, the stories and videos and further reading to which you’ll find live links, go well beyond what we could have hoped for. From its first page to its last, WILD FISH also reflects the enduring inspiration of Ted Hughes, a reading of whose poem ‘October Salmon’ from his great collection River (1983) concluded our gathering in Cambridge, and which with the permission of the Ted Hughes Estate and Faber & Faber Ltd is reprinted here. Please enjoy WILD FISH, and help ensure that it reaches as many eyes and hearts as it can, by sharing it widely. Print copies are also available at £5 from immy@salmon-trout.org, and I have just this morning received mine through the post. It really is very fine: order yours now!

None of us who attended the dinner at our ‘Owned by everyone’ conference in Cambridge will have forgotten the wonderful speech which the distinguished novelist and journalist David Profumo gave about his own friendship with Ted Hughes, and the importance of fishing for them both. David was then deep at work on the dazzling memoir of a life spent fishing and learning, The Lightning Thread: Fishological Moments and the Pursuit of Paradise, which was published by Scribner on the very same day as Salmon & Trout Conservation released WILD FISH.

David’s title combines Dylan Thomas and the Irish fisherman-philosopher A.A.Luce, and the book as a whole is written out of a love of Izaac Walton, whose ‘watery discourse’ is clearly an inspiration. But it also reminded me of Hughes’s praise for Dermot Wilson’s Fishing the Dry Fly: ‘Wherever I open it my eye alights on a paragraph that is delightful to read, and that leads on irresistibly to the next paragraph that is equally delightful and that leads on irresistibly . . . ‘ David fished with both men, and with many of the other great fishermen writers from the nearly six decades in which he has been catching fish, and fish lore. He wears his immense and quirky learning lightly, shares many intensely personal portraits of the people, places and fish that have made David’s life on and in the water one of real  happiness, and throughout casts a beautiful line. And amongst his adventures you will find a strange and moving story from our Cambridge conference.

Or, I should say, from our first Cambridge conference. As John Fanshawe describes in his ‘Afterword’ to Wild Fish, plans are now in place for a second ‘Owned by everyone’, devoted to the ecological and cultural importance of chalk streams, their water fish, their fauna and flora, the manifold threats they have come to face over recent decade, and what we can do to remove all kinds of barriers — chemical, physical, political, economic — to their health and even their survival. This will take place in Cambridge from 31 March to 2 April 2022. Watch this space for more details.

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