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A Can of Worms - The story of Barbel and the men who fished for them.

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Steve Williams

Senior Member
Author: Jon Berry

Reviewed by Les Darlington

Let me at the outset say that I have never before been moved to write a review about anything - let alone a book. Neither, must I add do I have any affiliation to Jon Berry, this is just my opinion but one that I hope will encourage others to buy, beg, steal (well maybe not to that extreme!) or borrow a copy to decide for themselves.

Jon himself reveals in a post on this site that in his view <quote> It might not appeal to most anglers and that's fine <quote>

It is what it says - a story of barbel fishing and the men who fished for them. Don't therefore expect any tips on how to fish for barbel or suggestions to use this or that wonder bait or rig or you will be disappointed.

I do though think that there is something for every barbel angler in it's content. Painstakingly researched, Jon manages to combine his obvious passion for barbel fishing with the reality of historical fact and the odd piece of circumstantial evidence.

At times this was not an easy read and I found myself retracing steps to re-read a page or fact just to make sure I had taken in what was laid out before me. The detail is though what makes this book so absorbing - no speed reading here and in the end to do justice to the effort that has gone into this book you just have to take your time - a bit like fishing for barbel really.

Each chapter stands on its own and whilst occasional reference are made by the author to earlier pages or chapters you can easily dip into any chapter and not be concerned that you have missed something along the way.

The references to our social history are weaved into the development of angling over the ages. More importantly for any self confessed barbel nut the book charts the natural and sometimes controversial human aided spread of barbel through our river system.

I particularly enjoyed Jon's profiles of the characters that made their indelible mark on angling, either through their techniques or the development of tackle that is still revered to this very day.

Having read the book I have now moved from a state of unconscious incompetence to one of conscious incompetence as I realise just how little I actually knew about the history of barbel fishing. In the wrong hands this could have become a dour academic reference book but the deft touch of the author has ensured that this is not the case. Lightening the content when needed and neatly summarising when referencing the work of others - Jon Berry has in my view delivered a great book.

I should also praise Medlar Press for the excellent quality of the finished book that in its self is a pleasure to hold and read.

By the way - forget begging, borrowing or stealing my copy, its under lock and key!

Anyone interested in history generally and more to the point the history and evolution of barbel fishing will find this book an essential part of his or her fishing library.

Currently available from: Medlar Press and Coch-y-bonddu books at £35

Update December 2011

Since writing my review 4 years ago and as the result of a successful bid via a Barbel Society Research and Conservation Auction I can claim to have had the pleasure of fishing with Jon. Over the past 4 years I have come to know him as a valued and respected friend and whilst clearly I can no longer declare that I have no affiliation with him, my views on his work remain unchanged. Jon is a talented writer and if you do not possess a copy of this book then there has never been a better time to buy, why I hear you ask, well the great news is that Medlar are now selling this book at the very attractive price of £25 +p&p

Les Darlington

Les (TemeLAD) Darlington
Dec 2007
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