Fishing from the Rock of the Bay

by James Batty

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I hardly remember life without a rod in my hand, writes James Batty in the opening sentence of his autobiography in fishing. When his American wife moved with him to Cornwall, she saw his family photo album and commented that there was hardly a single picture of him in which he wasn't fishing.

This witty, wacky account is James' tale of his obsession with his hobby of fishing, wherever his work took him around the world, seeking out lemon sharks in the Gambia, Striped Bass in New York and salmon in British Columbia. James' genre of writing is a mixture of John Gierach and Bill Bryson: his style is wry, witty and incisive.

The end result is an entertaining insight into the mind of a dedicated angler, full of fishing anecdotes, tips and thought-provoking ideas.

Extracts from the book

  • The great thing about anglers – especially when we meet fellow anglers – is that we don’t try to hide our nuttiness. Pointless, I’m holding a rod, so are you, game over. We both know we’re talking to a person who’s a few bananas short of a bunch.

  • When you reckon you’re going to catch something, you make more effort. If you think the session’s a lost cause, ‘one last cast’ translates into, well, one last cast. Unthinkable. If you feel you’re in with a chance it reverts to its normal meaning: half a dozen chucks with the diving plug, then a few with the slider just in case, and ten minutes on the sandeel shad because you really never know.

  • Guiding is not a job I’d do again, not as long as there’s alternative employment cleaning out the grease traps at fast food restaurants or hand sorting the output of sewage farms.

  • They’ll take jelly-fry under an inch long when the water’s full of plump sandeels, and I don’t know why. But it’s the mysteries that keep us fishing.
  • The fish can’t see my modest reel or my battered rod until it’s too late to say, ‘I have my pride, I refuse to be landed on that old shite’.

  • My financial situation was as tight as a toreador’s Y-fronts.

  • Wave and weather are a mystery, like who’s going to win next year’s Grand National, where the stock market’s going, or why people watch television shows about forgotten minor celebrities eating baboons’ foreskins. Long range forecasts are as reliable as horoscopes, just less entertaining. Maybe the Met Office should juice them up, ‘The month will be marked by deep Atlantic lows, even deeper discounts at your local supermarket. Don’t be too proud to pick up some sausages.’ Or they could tell the truth: ‘Expect a combination of sunshine, rain, freezing fog, calm days, violent storms, blizzards, and perhaps a plague of frogs. Dress warmly but don’t forget to pack a swimsuit.’


Angling Times

For anyone who likes a good laugh, along with a weather-beaten slice of angling life, James Batty’s second book is a rare treat. Would appeal to non-anglers as much as the converted. It’s the ideal volume to dip into as the mood takes.


Big Game Fishing Journal

If you’re looking for an easy read between bites, you won’t be disappointed.

 Dominic Garnett 

What a joy to read an angler who not only knows their own mind, but is old and weather-beaten enough not to care what we make them, and knows how to deliver a great one-liner. The chapters themselves are succinctly organised without detracting from the anarchic sense of fun. Seldom above three or four pages, each section starts with a line from music or literature before a departure into something pithy and amusing. This keeps everything punchy, and whether the next section is on making your own lures or angling and drinking in Dublin, it’s a supremely entertaining and 'dippable' read.



26 Black & white illustrations


Sep 02, 2021


About the Author:

James Batty, known to his international army of online followers as ‘Leakyboots’, started fishing at the age of four. In the sixty-some years that have passed since then, he has lived in the Sudan, Tanzania, the Gambia, Botswana, the USA, and the UK; and it goes without saying that a rod never has been far from his hand. He funded his fishing habit by working as a teacher, an accountant, and an international management consultant. Born in Cornwall, James came home about twenty years ago to the rocks and beaches of his childhood, and to the bass he loves to pursue.

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