Without the people affiliated to Caught by the River such as Jeff Barrett, John Andrews, Will Burns and many many more, I’m sure The Tuesday Swim would not had found the depth nor the talented people that I have collaborated with over the last few years. CBTR has always held its integrity, a soft approach that people are drawn to – be it online, at a festival, or through books, music and film. CBTR supports and promotes like minded artists, there is no defining CBTR creative, it’s simply a place where their imaginations sit side by side.
The Pull of the River begins with the completion of Matt Gaw’s canoe by his travelling companion, James. It is named ‘Pipe’, a nod to Roger Deakin and his recording Cigarette on the Waveney, a journey by canoe. It is the Waveney where Matt and James begin their year-long adventure. The narrative is rich as they meander through each chapter, using historical references, folklore and first-hand observations to form a bountiful account of each river.
The canoe is like no other means of transport: it is silent, unobtrusive, and it offers the passenger time and space to observe and contemplate. Matt Gaw understands this. His canoe drifts silently into a scene, it passes through, the song of the paddle is slight, and the contemplative world is easily reached.
Roger Deakin’s voice echoes throughout the book, especially during the eastern adventures; his words drift in at opportune moments, offering snippets of poetry and advice. Gaw writes on Cigarette on the Waveney:
I listened again and again, soaking up his words, as well as the moments where he lets the river talk. Some of the most evocative parts of the recording are simply the sound of water under the canoe, chuckling drip of dipped paddles as Deakin eased himself into a hidden, more contemplative world.
The Pull of the River is a journey into the soul. The power of the water is a constant flex on the spirit – be it a storm brewing off the shore of Loch Ness or a riffle on the River Lark, there is fear and there is calm. On the final leg of the Stour, marooned on a salt marsh due to a strong tide, the pair are fearful. The only escape route will take them across mudflats, their other option being to return to the turbulent water of the estuary. They regain their composure and take the later option, and not only survive, but start to flourish in this watery world.
In the chapter ‘Alone on the Water’ Matt Gaw observes the re-wilding of the river Otter. This time he paddles solo, and the experience is wholly different. He seeks out the newly introduced beaver, and one evening is rewarded with a sighting.
Little by little, the author is synchronised with the river and the world around it. The river and the canoeist through osmosis are kindred.
Before the final chapter, where Gaw tackles the wilds of Scotland and Loch Ness, he takes a contemplative trip to his childhood river the Colne. It’s a telling tale – a river his father knew well – but The Pull of the River does not dwell on looking back. At heart, it is a book which encourages its readers to live in the present: to contemplate, to explore, to be lost, to lose control and to regain it again.
The Pull of the River is out now and available here, priced £14.99.
Nick Fallowfield-Cooper is a photographer, picture editor for Fallon’s Angler, and keen canoeist.
It’s the start of January, work is back on the agenda, rain is lashing sideways on my window, even a kestrel has landed on my window sill to shelter from the driving rain and lost opportunities in search of pike over Christmas play on my mind.
Only now the unemployed, unemployable, retired or just plain fortunate can benefit from a short mid-week session in search of Esox. At weekends with limited time the challenge is to leave the comfort of your own home or the lure of the local for a pint of brown and an open fire. January is a fine month for short sessions in the pub, while others take themselves jogging around the park, detoxing and stretching muscles they thought they never had, the January pub is a quiet place for the guiltless few to be enjoyed before the joggers return in a month or two…dissapointed, as predictable as the returning swifts!
But a far more rewarding day can be had venturing out for pike! Armed with gimp wire, a small bag of basics, a few sprats and some plugs, one can be lost in a darkened grey scene with only the orange or yellow of a bung to focus on. So my next excursion will be on the Regents Canal where my friends narrow boat is moored for the winter months. It’s a spot that holds pike, only a few months ago I watched a young eastern european lad (wearing a jaunty placed grey/silver Trilby) spin for pike and although not connecting with one, managed to lure two away from their lair, only at the last-minute the pike veered off, maybe the pike saw that silvery hat!
So without Trilby I shall be on the Regents and The Hertford Union Canal around Victoria Park in E3 in the month of January and February in search of Esox with the added bonus of a wood burner and hot tea to make the experience a little more comfortable.
For those who don’t make it out this winter for pike may instead want to read ‘On Nature’ the second compilation by the Caught by the River crowd. Part of that crowd is John Andrews who has written (with a lot more skill than I can ever hope to) a piece titled ‘Winter Pike Fishing’, this short, sums up the pike and the pike angler perfectly for me. Other writers include Chris Yates, Dexter Petley, Luke Jennings, Bill Drummond and Charles Rangeley-Wilson.
Just as I write this an email has come in from John Andrews also supporting the January social scene with a gathering at The Stag in Hampstead on the 24th January with the first Caught by the River event of 2012. See you there?
For those in the area of Hampstead, four days into the traditional pike season, may want to ditch the floppy hat and instead stroll proudly, Dennis Pye cap set at a jaunty angle, into The Stag to hear John Andrews, Luke Jennings, Charles Rangeley-Wilson and Chris Yates, all in conversation. So put down your Chapman’s 700, detach your pike bung and gimp trace, roll up your shirt sleeves and enjoy a pint or two in some marvellous victorian surroundings…
An introduction to Caught by the River, with a Q&A session will take place at Rough Trade East, ‘Dray Walk’, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, tomorrow evening at 6.30 (Sept 21st).
Those attending and chatting about CBTR include the proprietors, Jeff, Robin and Andrew, along with John Andrews and Bill Drumond.
Rumours have it that real ale will be served later at Mason & Taylor concluding in a raucous east end knees up… DJ’s verses the old Joanna!