November 18 2011
As the autumn evenings pass the equinox and the nights draw down with alarming speed, there’s already been one consolation for London-based anglers, besides the suspicion that it’s beginning to feel a lot like grayling season: the first of the Caught by the River Social Club’s winter fish-lit events.
Founded by Jeff Barrett and two other veterans of the UK's independent music scene in 2007, Caught by the River has become a quiet phenomenon of the internet age. From a standing start as a funkily-tweedy multi-authored blog, with a constantly-shifting mix of music, literature, fishing and nature studies, it’s already diversified into offline festival happenings, publishing (two anthologies to date), and occasional pubby evenings with the feel of low-key book festivals where shy and retiring angling authors shuffle out from behind floats, fly-tying vises and word-processors… to read to their own readers.
And so it was on this evening in the upper room of the Stag in Hampstead, appropriately poised somewhere above the upper River Fleet on its way down through the sewers from Hampstead Ponds to the Thames.
In an evening that was compered by Caught by the River regular John Andrews, Charles Rangeley-Wilson told us about the spooky confluence of dreams and reality in a park in High Wycombe. Luke Jennings ratcheted up the tension with his own tale of reservoir pike fishing straight out of a gothic novel, before Chris Yates told us what Mr Crabtree really wanted to say to Peter (something along the lines of “… you jammy little b*$#@#d!”), and revealed what his uncle caught at Redmire Pool before the Carp Catchers ever heard of it.
Then, after half-time visits to the bar, there were CR-W’s tantalising monster grayling from the Frome, a blast from the past with Howard Marshall’s French tench from Reflections on a River, and John Andrews’ account of the Elvin-Hargreaves contest: a timed fight to the finish between a champion swimmer and a celebrity angler’s greenheart salmon rod in Peckham swimming baths in 1949. (First time at least, the “human fish” smashed the rod and won, which is as it should be.)
Sure, we may not have the Brooklyn Rod & Gun club here in London. But as those chilly nights come on, the Caught by the River Social Club is probably bringing us the next best thing.