SONG OF THE STREAMS By Michelle Werrett


By Michelle Werrett

         Michelle Werrett’s book ‘ Song of the Streams’ is set to become a classic of its genre painting an evocative portrait of Exmoor’s rivers and streams as they are today and comparing them with their glorious past. The prose flows throughout the book reflecting upon days with rod and line spent beside the bright waters that flow through Exmoor’s landscape. Pausing frequently to savour chocolate along the way and glimpse dippers, wagtails, kingfishers and other wildlife.

         Joyful Spring and Summer days are described in enchanting detail making it perfect reading for those long winter nights beside the glowing embers of the fire. The book highlights the “ ‘Shifting Baseline Syndrome’, which basically means we have short memories. As the world around us changes we come to accept the new state of things, constantly updating our expectations of what is normal.”

         Michelle draws upon the writings of earlier generations to highlight the abundance that we have lost from our rivers. The beauty that remains is recorded within the pages of this book as we wander and wade the streams, rivers and paths of fishers from a different age. The beautiful wild brown trout may not be so plentiful as in Claude Wade’s Exmoor Stream days but they still offer tranquil days and escape from the modern world.

           The monochrome images taken by Robin Baker give the book a timeless essence that links to the past.

         The sterling work of angling groups in conservation efforts is described giving a glimmer of hope for the future. On a personal note; I could connect closely with the book and the locations it describes so vividly having grown up to walk and fish the waters frequently over the past fifty years. I bought a first edition of Exmoor Streams at an auction in Dulverton over thirty years ago and conclude that ‘Song of the Streams’ is a worthy companion.

         There are few books that bring a tear to the eye but as I finished reading ‘Song of the Streams’ I could not help but feel moved as the book could almost be an epitaph to the once prolific salmon that are now endangered and could be extinct within our lifetimes.

                  Wayne Thomas

Hours Spent in company with the river are always enriching and life affirming; relaxing in times of stress, reviving at times of staleness, cheering on days of sadness and always brightening as reflected sunlight sparkles from the shimmering surface. And like the best of companions, the river often makes me laugh and sometimes laughs at me”.


Memories of past glories effectively highlight the process of change and loss our land has suffered. Losses of some things – cuckoos and nightingales for example- are obvious to almost everyone but only fisherman notice the loss of the fish.

Vellacotts Pool on the East Lyn – Image Robin Baker

‘Song of the Streams’, Michelle Werrett’s first book, is in stock now! Priced at £26.

Michelle will also be signing copies at Lance Nicholson’s shop in Dulverton, on Saturday 18th November from 10am to 12.

The perfect Christmas gift to yourself, or any other angler in your life!


Reserve your copy now…

Introduction by Medlar Press

Fishing and Conservation on Exmoor Streams

Inspired by tales of the past gleaned from old fishing books, the author sets out to fish those same waters, to cast the same flies on the same pools, to explore how fishing the streams of Exmoor might compare with fishing them over a century ago, whether those streams have changed and how they might be faring today. Exmoor rivers and streams appear pristine, barely changed since Claude Wade described them in his 1903 book Exmoor Streams, yet the numbers of trout he and other long-ago writers reported catching seem unbelievable today. Those streams must once have held an astonishing abundance of fish.

Modern problems affect even upland streams, yet many good folk are dedicated to their restoration and there is much we can do to help. River conservation work can be fascinating and rewarding as we develop a deeper understanding of river habitats through, for example, managing a balance of light and shade, monitoring aquatic invertebrates and cleaning riverbed spawning gravels then watching for their use when migratory salmon return home from the sea.

Those nail-booted, greenheart wielding fishermen of the past have gone but the streams still run on their wild ways, singing their endless songs to the moor. This book is for all who share concern for the wellbeing and conservation of our rivers and streams as well as those entranced by the rise of a trout to a well-placed fly.

Richard Wilsons Fish Rise – Summer Reading: Hemingwhy?

I am delighted to be able to publish Richard Wilson’s regular articles on North Devon Angling News. This months is close to my own heart with angling books and authors on the agenda.

In Praise of Negley Farson

It’s that time of year again – summertime, holidays, excitement! I can hardly contain my inner grouch. Everything is a Buster … bonk-, bunny-, block- and so on. Book lists proliferate, making it clear that a lot of people only read on a beach (or at Christmas).

I think beaches are for avoiding and Christmas is for grumbling. Reading, on the other hand, is one of life’s great pleasures and needs no encouragement. Just do it.

This summer my off-the-beach bugbear is Hemingway and can be summed up in a single word: Why?

For a growing number of people it takes 3 sentences to explain him: “He was selfish and egomaniacal, a faithless husband and a treacherous friend. He drank too much, he brawled and bragged too much, he was a thankless son and a negligent father. He was also a great writer,” Prof Angela O’Donnell. Or you can have it in one: Great writer, shame about the man.

In recent years Hemingway’s character and grand-standing private life have taken a battering. Now, amidst the wreckage of character assassination, just the mighty wordsmith is left standing: Hemingway the Great Writer.

Well, maybe. Back in the heyday of hard-living literary narcissists, Hemingway had rivals.  Among them was Negley Farson, an all-American adventurer, iconoclast, much-loved author, arms dealer, star foreign correspondent, fly fisher, sailor and raging alcoholic who ended his days in oblivion (drunk in rural England).

When both men died in 1960/1, Hemingway ruled the roost. Not now. Online, Farson’s Going Fishing is out-selling Hemingway’s Big Two-Hearted River by 4:1.  This is an unreliable snapshot taken as I write this, but it’s well deserved. And while students buy Hemingway because they must – he’s on the syllabus – people read Farson because they want to. They do it because Going Fishing is one of the finest fishing books ever written and because Farson’s non-fishing books, once best sellers, are also on a bounce.

Farson was a glorious, swaggering misfit.  Born in 1890 and raised in New Jersey by his grandfather, a cantankerous Civil War general, he lived for writing, drinking, travelling and fishing. And then again.

He was a First World War pilot for the British and then headed to Russia for the Revolution as an arms dealer. He was a rock star among American foreign correspondents back when foreign correspondents were household names, interviewed Hitler and reported from Germany as a Nazi mob stormed the Reichstag and felled German democracy.  He witnessed Ghandi’s arrest by the British, was there to see John Dillinger’s corpse and, in-between times, there were Franco, Mussolini and global travel by boat, donkey and on foot.

He modestly billed his 1942 ‘Going Fishing’, as “just the story of some rods and the places they take you to.”  It arrived, as only a Farson book could, with a review by fishing writer and fighter pilot Hugh Falkus.  This might seem routine, but Falkus was incarcerated in Oflag IV-C, better known as Colditz; the prisoner-of-war camp where the Nazis locked up Allied troublemakers. ‘Going Fishing’ got into Colditz.

Farson drank Hemingway under the table, partied with F Scott Fitzgerald and confessed “I would never have believed it if anyone had told me so; but even the sight of a nude girl at the piano was beginning to pall.” More Hemingway than Hemingway you might think, and you’d be right.

Yet Farson is cursed by Hemingway’s shadow. Even his biography was patronisingly titled “Almost Hemingway”. This was as undeserved as it was offensive and wrong; Farson was the real deal while Hemmingway was striking a pose.

Both men were headstrong and deeply flawed characters who learned their craft in newspaper journalism. Hemingway picked up his minimalist ‘Iceberg Theory’ of writing as a junior reporter at the Kansas City Star. The paper’s newsroom stylebook (a feature of newsrooms worldwide) laid out a modest set of rules which I’ll rehash briefly: Write stripped-down sentences using Anglo-Saxon words. Take care with adjectives because they can reveal more about the writer than the subject.  For a modern take on this see the Economist Style Book, available from Amazon and good bookstores. These rules are timeless and are as true today as they were then.

It’s also a long and well-trodden path. Here’s another former journalist: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”  Only Churchill’s last scornful word is French. Read it out loud and Google the speech for a masterclass.

Churchill’s words are as fresh now as they were in the darkest hours of the early 1940s. Likewise, Farson’s writing still leaps effortlessly off the page with the direct, no-nonsense clarity of a celebrated newsman honed on the Chicago Daily News, then a world-leading newspaper orbiting high above the Kansas City Star.

Yet, in contrast to Farson and Churchill, Hemingway’s writing can sound pretentious (a French word, of course) to modern ears. For example, the grating and self-indulgent repetitions:

“The trunks of the trees went straight up or slanted toward each other. The trunks were straight and brown without branches. The branches were high above.”

The Big Two-Hearted River

For modern readers, Hemingway has lost his fizz. Much of what once seemed innovative is now tired, and those repetitions wouldn’t have passed the sub-editors’ desk in Kansas.

Then there’s the image: Hemingway’s projected mid-life persona was aspirational for the age he lived in.  But, nowadays, strong storylines and tight prose amount to nothing set against all those gloating pictures. The great white hunter, the slaughtered Marlin and machine-gunned shark are seared into our collective psyche. He’s the journalist who claimed to have killed German prisoners of war. That would be murder. So a new generation of readers think he’s the braggart poster boy for toxic masculinity and misogyny. That some of his writing is still great doesn’t matter.  A trashed image trumps everything and that this is self-inflicted makes it worse.

So, if you’ve never read Negley Farson, please do.  For the many who have, including me, Going Fishing is the finest autobiographical fishy book in a crowded field. His friend, F Scott Fitzgerald, confessed that while he had relied on imagination for compelling stories, Negley could simply draw on life.

Farson is still a great writer with an indelible legacy. And he’s long overdue a return to the limelight.

So, to whoever writes his next biography, the correct title is “Better than Hemingway”.

“Farson lived each day as if it were a door that needed kicking in.“

Rex Bowman, co-author of “Almost Hemingway”, getting it right.

Why Hemingway? I don’t know – no good reason I can think of. But I can tell you why Farson: He’s a great writer who has passed the test of time.

For more of Richards wisdom click on the link below

My own thoughts on books and authors.

Reading and writing are fascinating topics and I try to do a bit of both. Books are wonderful and good ones do indeed stand the test of time remaining in print and relevant for decades or even centuries. The rapid expansion of the internet and digital produce caused concern that the book in its hardback or paperback form had had its day. Fortunately, the book in its printed form is going strong and looking at the shelves in Tesco and Waterstones is testament to the longevity of the books and readers preference for something tangible and tactile. 

When I write I try to entertain, inform and record memories or moments in time. Angling authors abound and I have my favourites and these are perhaps those who manage to capture the essence of angling in prose that flows easily from the page. Choosing favourites is almost impossible but Chris Yates, H.T. Sheringham and BB have to be close to the top of my own list. Richard Wilson touches upon the characters and what type of people they were. To some extent this is determined by their place in society. Hemingway, Farson, Zane Grey, Hugh Falkus and Mitchell Hedges are all author’s that I would guess were rather arrogant larger than life chaps who liked a beer or two and lived fast and loose. The typical swashbuckling movie idol of the time? Chris Yates, BB and H.T. Sheringham are writers of a more genteel and idyllic prose who paint a different picture with their pen. To link waters with the psychological profile of the author is perhaps a little deep but could however make for a fascinating read.

Wayne Thomas


SONG OF THE STREAMS – Michelle Werrett

Song of theStreams

Michelle Werrett Photography by Robin Baker

Fishing and Conservation on Exmoor Streams

Vellacott’s Pool – East Lyn – Image Roger Baker

Inspired by tales of the past gleaned from old fishing books, the author sets out to fish those same waters, to cast the same flies on the same pools, to explore how fishing the streams of Exmoor might compare with fishing them over a century ago, whether those streams have changed and how they might be faring today. Exmoor rivers and streams appear pristine, barely changed since Claude Wade described them in his 1903 book Exmoor Streams, yet the numbers of trout he and other long-ago writers reported catching seem unbelievable today. Those streams must once have held an astonishing abundance of fish.

Modern problems affect even upland streams, yet many good folk are dedicated to their restoration and there is much we can do to help. River conservation work can be fascinating and rewarding as we develop a deeper understanding of river habitats through, for example, managing a balance of light and shade, monitoring aquatic invertebrates and cleaning riverbed spawning gravels then watching for their use when migratory salmon return home from the sea.

Those nail-booted, greenheart wielding fishermen of the past have gone but the streams still run on their wild ways, singing their endless songs to the moor. This book is for all who share concern for the wellbeing and conservation of our rivers and streams as well as those entranced by the rise of a trout to a well placed fly.



Heddons Mouth – Image – Robin Baker


An exciting new book – MAKO! A History of encounters in the British Isles

posted in: Sea Angling, Sidebar | 0
Lee Armishaw of Watersmeet Publications has provided me with details of an exciting new book due to be published at the end of May. I will update fully closer to the release date. I am sure the book will be a valuable addition to any keen sea  anglers bookshelf. The history of shark fishing in the Uk is certainly full of evocative tales.
A few key points about the book are : –
-focused on shortfin mako sharks caught in the British Isles.
-written by Ian Harbage, former Northampton Saints professional rugby player and a chap who has caught hundreds of U.K. sharks.
-the captures are listed in chronological order from the 1950’s to current day.
-it’s the result of decades of extensive research by Ian.
-It has drawn interest from the scientific community as means of learning more about the species.
-There are 95 captures listed in the book and several previously notes makos that were misidentified as porbeagle’s and corrected.
-It includes anecdotal stories and accounts of ‘ones that got away’ and additional sightings not covered in the capture list, including accounts from Trevor Houseby, Simon Thomas etc. It also includes background on SACGB from creation to current day, info on prominent female anglers such as Hetty Eathorne and Joyce Yallop etc and skipper Robin Vinnicombe, the record holder for numbers caught and nicknamed ‘the mako man’.
-Southwest port towns make up the bulk of the records, such as Looe, Mevagissey and Falmouth. There are a few from other areas such as Wales and Ireland too.
-sales available via Watersmeet Publications directly and River Reads bookshop.

Musings on Angling literature from Richard Wilson

Many thanks to Richard Wilson for sharing his latest musings on angling literature and the realities of early season excursions.

Sex, Drugs & A Perfect Snake Roll

Some of the finest fishing literature is drenched in sun-kissed hedonism and fuelled by drink, drugs, sex and fighting. So what am I doing wrong?

It’s early March and, at last, I’m on a real river. It’s the moment of transition out of my close-season daydreaming. A rude awakening.

Every year this re-entry induces a psychological shock as a churning ice flow crashes into my expectations. So why, after so many years of winter prepping, is this always a surprise?

Before we go chasing fish, please come back with me to my close-season habitat. My den is a place of comfort, clutter and a friendly armchair.  There are plenty of fishing books, very few of which are of the ‘how-to’ genre. Real books offer tactile pages and vicarious riverbanks.

Meet the righteous stuff of my Dreamworld: From my armchair, I can prepare for the coming season with a dabble in Hemingway’s knuckled prose, sun-kissed marlin and drunken machismo.  Surely (I hope) he would have been knocked senseless by Norman “A River Runs Through It” Maclean and his brawling brother.

And, from my playlist, what exactly did Louis Armstrong mean by his summery “Gone fishin’ – I’m real gone man” Or how about John Gierach’s story of meeting a familiar face, knowing only that it was last seen “under the Haight-Ashbury sign” in a late ‘60s summer?

For more context, I could turn to flamboyant jazz maestro, author and fishing junkie George Melly. He was truly well gone, but back then the only snow in the jazz clubs went up your nose. And let’s not forget the Great Gonzo angler-provocateur Hunter S Thompson whose sun-soaked drink and drug-crazed fishing exploits would have been fatal for most of us.

It’s heady stuff and, back in my den, I’m left wondering if self-medicating my lengthening midlife crisis counts as exuberant hedonism. On reflection, I decide probably not – but live in hope.

Many of the best fishing books live hard and fast, mixing the profound with the earthily profane.  And nowhere do these two primal urges collide with more urgency than in the timeless prose and jaw-dropping life story of Negley Farson, author of Going Fishing. He was the real deal; a buccaneering, hard-drinking, hard-living, hard-fishing all-American writer who really did drink Hemingway under the table. And, whisper it quietly, isn’t Hemingway’s branding looking a bit past its sell-by date? Just sayin’.

No list could be complete without the soothing influence of Harry Plunket Greene. He was light on drink, drugs and fighting, even though he had a direct family link to Mary Quant without whom the psychedelic 60s would have been beige. His utterly charming 1924 book Where Bright Waters Meet is a page-turning delight about favourite beats, some of which I know intimately. He transports me to a time when it’s always June and the evening rise is dappled perfection.

That was then. Now I’m in northeast Scotland where, thanks to my winter book-worming, I have arrived primed to hit the water with rod loaded and dander rampant (that’s a Scottish heraldry thing).

This is the Oykel, a river I have long wanted to fish – but harsh reality is not quite the image I’ve spent the winter incubating.  Spring, it isn’t. The baby rabbits, lambs, migratory birds and the damsels a-dancing are nowhere to be seen. It’s immediately clear that my cock-sure arrival is hopelessly misjudged.

The view from the hut.

Today the river is vengeful and the gillie is insanely lightly dressed. I’m wearing every layer I have because the wind, rain, hail and even the top 6 inches of the foam-flecked water are all travelling upstream. Everything is flotsam except the salmon, of whom there is no sign – and who can blame them? They’re all tucked up warm, comfortable and far out at sea.

It gets worse. I am on the right bank fishing down and the only cast that might work doesn’t. So another cack-handed Snap T variant disappears upstream, a flailing line spun from angry eels. And I’m still in mid ‘Snap’.  I may remove the fly for my own safety and I’m starting to hallucinate with cold.

My face is blue, my hands are rigid and soon I’ll be the late departed and shuffling off to meet Isaac Walton. I think I see my fishing partner Charles float past, face down. Perhaps he’s a log. Whichever, I’m not going in to retrieve his corpse in this. Hopefully, he left his Winston rod on the bank. I can’t yet find the words I’ll use to tell his widow I’ve retrieved only the Winston, but I have 5 more days solo fishing to work that out – and enjoy the rod.

This, emphatically, is not the armchair fishing I have perfected over winter.  What was I thinking of?

It’s not just the books that have led me astray. I’ve also followed a lackadaisical close-season training routine.  I have occasionally sat in my armchair making perfect, minimalist Snake Rolls and Double Speys with, machismo alert, just my bare hands. Anyone who knows the mesmeric rhythm of Spey casting intuitively does this: Lift, roll and whoosh. Now try a Snake Roll.  Always a perfect cast. We all do this boastful in the bar after fishing and in private as an angle-maniac’s onanism.  Even when refined to the most compact of movements my imaginary rod loads and fires perfectly every time, if a little late in life.

It’s self-delusion of course and, worse, makes me look like an idiot in the eyes of my family.  And, damn the hubris, my indoor training has now dumped me bereft of talent in the maw of a blizzard.

A picture containing outdoor, ground, field, old

Description automatically generated
A break in the weather.

I retreat to the fishing hut and a mug of chicken soup, mercifully hot from the flask. Disappointingly, Charles is alive and already in here. So I won’t be getting his Winston, yet.  But he hasn’t seen or caught anything either, which is good.  Fishing is a brutal zero-sum game. My gain is your loss, and vice versa.

And where’s the gillie? Have we been abandoned? We wonder if a fishing party has ever been found, days later, frozen to death in a fishing hut with snow drifting into the eves. Is there any nutritional value in cork? At that moment the door opens: “Sorry lads, had to move the pickup.  How’s it going?” He looks pink, smug and warm. We exchange suspicious glances.

So whose fault is it that I always arrive bankside with plans-akimbo? Why, I wail into the gale, why didn’t someone tell me?  Well, I already know the answer to that and can name names. I have a rogue’s gallery of culpable bastards whose fishing worlds promise warm, cosy waters stuffed with hard-fighting fish.

So here’s the shortlist: Hunter S Thompson for dazzling my teenage years with aspirational derangement. Plunket Greene for living the dream at the expense of his marriage (no, I can’t).  Farson for showing that there’s no such thing as excess provided writing, fishing and drinking all travel together. The siren Taw Fishing Club for the sexiest fishing website ever. Simon Gawesworth for making Spey casting look ridiculously easy.  The Beatles for staying at a favourite hotel, The Edgewater in Seattle, and fishing from their bedroom windows.  And Led Zeppelin, who went one better and had a live fish in their Edgewater suite.  Although what they did with it is not entirely wholesome and their drug-fuelled orgy might still, even now, have legal repercussions.  Proper rock and roll fishing. So why wasn’t I invited? All bastards.

I could go on. There are many, many more and you may have your own to add (name some; it’s cathartic). In fishing, like politics and childhood, someone else is always to blame.

Finally, I would urge you to heed my favourite definition of fishing: “Getting away from everyone for a few hours to talk about stupid things and act like you’re catching fish.”

So next year I should spend February and March warm and cosy in my den reading stupid things and acting like I’m catching fish. So: Lift, roll and whoosh – then mend and … strike!

But I won’t: How else will I get the Winston?

A print version of this essay can be found in the March edition of the excellent Fly Culture Magazine. For the online North American take, please try this: The Hatch Magazine



Having read the recent book, The Catch By Mark Wormald I was keen to obtain a copy of West Country Fly Fishing by Anne Voss Bark. This book is referred to frequently in Wormald’s tome that reflects upon Ted Hughes his life and poetry much of which is West Country linked. My good friends Keith & Sandy Armishaw are owners of one of the countries top specialist angling book shops with a vast range of angling and countryside books. So it was a good excuse to call around for a catch up and browse through a vast selection of angling books.

I have not yet read West Country Fly Fishing but glancing through its pages and illustrations I am immediately struck by the richness of angling just 40 years ago and references to a previous golden era of fishing. It is tragic that our rivers have declined over the decades especially the once prolific runs of salmon and sea trout. Just forty years ago salmon were taken for the table as a matter of course. Today catch and release is the accepted normal as catches dwindle and anglers are determined to preserve the remaining stocks.

The many volumes of angling literature upon the shelves at River Reads are an invaluable insight into anglings rich history and very well worth visiting.



Watersmeet Publications – An Opportunity for budding authors

posted in: Articles, Sidebar | 0

Well known angling book publisher and conservatists River Reads, received very welcome news going into 2021.

Owners Keith & Sandy Armishaw of Great Torrington, responsible for high quality publications of works by authors such as Fred J Taylor, Chris Yates, Fred Buller, Charles Inniss, Des Taylor and River Monsters own Jeremy Wade (to name a few), announced that son Lee will be pursuing his life-long passion for all things fishing, by joining forces with the Devon based company.

In his fledgling company ‘Watersmeet Publications’, Lee will be working with River Reads and Angling Heritage to continue with more quality book productions that will help to preserve the contributions of some of anglings best known names.

With work already underway on further books, ‘Watersmeet Publications’ will combine the experience of the renowned publishing firm, with Lee’s passion for angling and knowledge of digital tools to develop the business, securing the long term future of the company and providing an excellent platform to produce more quality works.

If you haven’t already, then following River Reads & Watermeet Publicatons on facebook and Instagram is well worth doing to check for news, upcoming (and existing productions) and angling exploits.

The quote ‘’There is a book in everybody’’ rings true and whether you are a budding or established author, if you are considering publishing your book, then get in touch and explore what options are available to you.


Its over twelve months since the publication of my book “I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE” and I am pleased to say I have had plenty of positive feedback and appreciate this and the healthy sales the book has earned since publication back in September 2019. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book it can be obtained on line via The Little Egret Press. 

I  only have a few copies left with me so if you want to purchase one for collection or delivery please PM me via Facebook or email.

Since publication I have had many interesting conversations with North Devons anglers and have enjoyed sharing their memories. One thing I have learnt is that many fishermen paths are similar though they often fail to converge.

Looking for stories?

posted in: Articles, Sidebar | 0

With fishing off the agenda there is little to report on North Devon Angling news but with everyone at home I wondered if anyone would like to take on a challenge. Several who have read my book, “I Caught A Glimpse” have commented on how it brought back memories of early days at the waters edge and how our paths have been similar.

Its not easy staying at home away from the waters edge so I thought it would be good if a few readers could take half an hour to recall your earliest angling memories from North Devon. If you could send me your contributions via email or messenger ideally with an image I will have a read through and publish.  [email protected]

Of course if your at a loose end you could always settle down in garden and read a good book!