Lyme Disease: Bloody Patients And why they’re always wrong.

Lyme Disease: Bloody Patients And why they’re always wrong.

Many thanks to Richard Wilson for sharing his wise word from his substack musings.


The first time I didn’t have Lyme disease was back in 2016. I took a tick bite with a classic circular Lyme rash into my local doctor’s surgery and was told it wasn’t Lyme because it was the wrong sort of round. It wasn’t a bullseye.

There then followed several years of not having Lyme disease, despite symptoms that suggested otherwise. So I was sent for scans, endoscopies top and bottom and saw specialists in everything except Lyme.

Controversially, I wondered out loud about Lyme (bloody patients with Google, eh?) and, over the years, asked for 2 tests which came back negative. Nobody told me how inaccurate the Elisa test can be (15-25% false positive/negative).

Then, early last year, my aching guts put me in front of 2 different gallbladder specialists. Why two? Because our chaotic health system sent me to 2 consultants, about a week apart. Both agreed that my gallbladder was full of stuff called sludge which explained all my ills. So it was true: I didn’t have Lyme Disease (again). I had sludge.

Unfortunately, the only way to get it removed, without waiting several years for a National Health Service operation, was to pay. So I saw a private surgeon, who confirmed that my bolshie gallbladder was indeed to blame for all my ills (see! no Lyme!) and, for the price of a small car, duly whipped it out.

I woke up post-op with no gallbladder, considerably poorer and with a full set of Lyme symptoms.

A few months later I paid, privately, for a 3rd Elisa Lyme test. This one came back positive. OK, almost 7 years had passed, but it seemed urgent to me. Although, as I soon learned, not to my healthcare providers. Which is where my problems now coalesced. My doctor’s surgery is guarded by reception staff whose mission is to keep the Bloody Patients at arm’s length. They told me that because I had arranged the test privately, I couldn’t see my own doctor and would have to wait 30 days for a phone call with somebody else’s. The official Lyme guidelines say that Lyme should be treated immediately. So emails were exchanged which included words like ‘unethical’ and ‘breach of guidelines’. My doctor intervened, a blood test was booked for the next day, and within 48 hours I had another positive Elisa backed by a positive, confirmatory Western Immunobolt. Suddenly I had Lyme. It was official, something would be done and I was going to get better. The sense of relief was enormous.

Ah. Not quite so fast, pal.

I was prescribed 4 weeks of Doxycycline and then 4 weeks of Amoxcyline. My symptoms subsided, somewhat.

Within weeks it was all back and worse than before. My blood pressure went through the roof, I was covered in a skin rash and my heart was intermittently, rhythmically deranged. I felt like shit most of the time, and it could get especially bad at night. Sleep became elusive. Since then my blood pressure has dropped and become erratic while my heart is more regular, but little else has improved.

My doctor is a decent, overworked man who I rather like. He referred me to the Infectious Diseases unit at the Big City Hospital. Sounds good doesn’t it? Experts. What could go wrong?

It turns out that this specialist unit seems to have a Lyme Guru romper room where they share spliffs and blend mind-wave communications with milk-shake flavours.

These experts reached out to me via the cosmic aura of the aether-net. They didn’t need to see or talk to me. They’re so good at this that I didn’t even notice they’d made contact. Anyway, they inhaled long and deep, and then they sent this to my Doctor:

“Mr Wilson has had adequate treatment for possible Lyme disease and further antibiotics would not be beneficial. There is no need for our service to see him. If the referral to the Care of the Elderly Team does not help then please consider referral to the ME/CFS service.”

This is real. Seriously. It’s not a joke. The appropriate anagram is: What a bunch of Fickwuts. Curiously, there are no amusing anagrams of the word ‘morons’. And how was I to know that if you ask a gaga old geezer (me) for an anagram of 2 random words like S**t*m**d and Hospital the answer would come back Medical and Negligence. Crazy! Bloody Patients, eh?

I think there are 4 reasonable comments they could have made, but didn’t:

First, that the bacteria are dead and I’m suffering from the damage they did. It’s going to be unpleasant, but my condition will improve. 2nd, I’m experiencing an overreaction by my immune system. 3rd, tick bites very often deliver bacterial co-infections. Let’s test. The 4th is a possibility acknowledged by leading medical academic institutions: The Lyme bacteria may have survived. With time, the little bastards can dig in deep and are very hard to get at (medically). If so, further antibiotics are suggested, even by our regulatory authorities.

Unfortunately, the Big City space cadets have now tied my doctor’s hands. So I’m back on the referral treadmill. I have 3 new appointments upcoming in the next month or so:

  1. I’ve been booked in to see a Gallstone specialist. It seems my gallbladder may be playing up.
  2. Next will be the Care of Older People and Specialist Falls Clinic. When they ask me why I’m there I’m going to have to say I don’t know. Which gets me halfway to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
  3. I’ve been referred to a Gastro-Intestinal clinic. Perhaps to investigate the missing Gallbladder? I may never know because the health service ap is blocking the booking.

It should all be funny. But isn’t and I’m stuck.

A lot of people have emailed me to say I should fly to the US and see a specialist. I would, but it’s very expensive and the gall bladder surgeon’s partner is now driving around in my savings.

Bloody Patients, eh? I really should be more grateful that, for example, I haven’t got Lyme Disease. And, in the last 8 years, I only had it for 10 weeks. Phew!

Don’t you just love a happy ending?

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Cold Comfort in a Polar Vortex And the climate deniers reducing global warming.

Many thanks once again to Richard Wilson for sharing his thoughts with North Devon Angling news for more of Fishrise click the link below :-

Cold Comfort in a Polar Vortex

And the climate deniers reducing global warming.

Real Men, Real Cold, Real Fishing and Fake Global Warming?

Extreme weather in the form of a Polar Vortex is hitting the USA, Canada and Northern Europe. I see that while most sensible people are staying indoors, the climate deniers are out in force declaring the death of global warming. One moment it was all thaw and uninsurable ice-fishing tournaments, now they say it’s too cold for the delicate greenies to go outside.

So are they right? On the one hand, they insist climate change is all bull-feathers while on the other it’s ‘Do you remember the good old days when we had real winters’? To try and steer a path through the confusion, here’s a handy little cartoon strip that explains what’s happening:

Zero degrees F = -20C. ©xkcd  

So nostalgia wins. Winters really aren’t what they were back in the day.

Which begs a question: If the climate is getting warmer, and it is, then what does the future hold? After all, these same climate deniers are both stridently pro- their nostalgic old-cold winters and pro-coal, which is where a lot of the warming CO2 pollution come from.

Well, the good news is that our prospects for containing the worst excesses of climate change are improving. We are fast approaching peak carbon (maybe this year, maybe next) and coal is looking a bit, well, limp.

The world’s green energy generation increased by an astonishing 50% last year (IEA). Solar accounted for three-quarters of this. In the US, utility solar power is expected to grow by 75% in the next two years while coal is in steep decline.

Consider also that the amount of energy each of us consumes has fallen sharply. Everything from fridge-freezers and washing machines to TVs, cars and keeping our houses warm is more efficient. We might have more gadgets, but they consume a fraction of the power of what went before.

They may not know it, but the carbon footprint of climate change deniers is shrinking – so give them a pat on the back. Well done! They’re doing their bit (non-consensual wokesterism – whatever next?).

The global flight of investment capital out of coal and fossil fuels and into renewable energy is becoming a stampede. This is not about greenie sentiment. Renewables have plummeted in price while their technologies have become more and more efficient. Simultaneously, the huge and long-term investment needed for new coal mines and oil refineries is very risky. Would you sink $5-15 billion into an oil refinery with increasingly uncompetitive pricing and diminishing demand? How will you get your money back?

The IEA expects a 250% growth in global green power production over the next 4 years. The COP target is 300% by 2030, so it’s starting to look doable.

And while we are now certain to overshoot the 1.5C warming set at the Paris COP, 2C or thereabouts is looking achievable. This is better than many expected, and will still be disruptive. But, even so, we can do a lot to adapt to 2C, whereas the 5C+ we were heading for would have been calamitous.

We’re getting there. To be sure there’s a lot of work to do – but I’ll back us to get it done.  The direction of travel is set, King Coal is fading and the denialists are coming along for the ride (shh…). Just follow the money.

With thanks to Not the End of the World’ by the brilliant Hannah Ritchie. A great read about positive outcomes. Thanks also to Andrew Kessler for using the cartoon before me – which is how I found it.

Grave Gods – Mr Crabtree needs a drink


Many thanks to Richard Wilson for sharing his writing with North Devon Angling News.

Click on link below for more Richard Wilson



A Happy New Year and a big thank you to all you readers who’ve found and subscribed to my scribblings. Also, a heads-up: I’m going to embark on an erratic and very occasional mission to restore doggerel poetry to the heart of global cultural life. Be warned! The first missive will be arriving soon. Meanwhile – have a great year.

But not this time … here I’m wondering where all the young fish scribes are:

Why are so many of the best fishing books written by dead people? OK, a lot of old dross has been winnowed out by the passing of time and there are a few giants who are still with us. But it’s true: In fishing, the author pre-amble is all too often The Late, Great … (but please, not Izaak Walton).

Much of this can be blamed on the recent arrival of a burgeoning genre of how-to-fish clones. Templated school essays, corralling a rod, a reel, this knot, that fly, a perfect cast and, pause for breath, how to think like a fish.

Think like a fish? Why? Fish brains are an evolutionary also-ran from the times when amoebae were the smart kids on the block.

Not that it matters. This entire genre is redundant because the definitive how-to-fish book was first published in the 1940s and, some 5m sales later, has no need to evolve any further. Mr Crabtree Goes Fishingremains a work of genius and awesome artistic merit. The unattainable benchmark for all that followed. Nothing else comes close.

Better still, Crabtree and son Peter are digital misfits. AI can’t touch them and Disney will never animate them. Although Aardman might: Wallace and Gromit go Fly Fishing … I’d pay to see that. And, sadly, author Bernard Venables is no longer with us. Another one bit the dust. And nor is Peter, who really was Venables’ son. He was tragically killed while riding his moped.

None of which advances the cause of this essay – the pursuit of a reading list with some fresh new talent to showcase.

I am haunted by dead writers – Hunter S Thompson is pictured above. I’ve always thought his essay The Great Shark Hunt was a deliciously snarky take-down of Hemingway’s obscene fishing habits (also dead), but not everyone agrees – including, perhaps, Thompson – and, anyway, it’s yesterday’s story. Does anyone under 40 care?

So there’s the living Matt Labash (some 5 decades in) whose works include Fly Fishing with Darth Vadar in which he flashes a threesome of braggadacious ticks for an ambitious writer: Social endorsement in high society, intimate fluency with a fly rod and, as the pièce-de, consummated wordsmithery. In no particular order that’s sex and drugs and rock and roll (are very good indeed) and a link to another magnificent wordsmith, the late Ian Dury – who I don’t think was a fisherman. What a waste (link below). Meanwhile, Labash has an air of post-coital smuggery, which is both very cool and aspirational. If you’ve got it, inhale.

I’ve also skimmed some great essay writers from other genres in the hope I would find some unsung fishing talent and so great fish writing. It’s not too surprising that Tom Wolfe (dead) had nothing fishy to offer. I should have left well alone. But I was really shocked to draw a blank on PJ O’Rourke (dead). He lived deep in rural New Hampshire where he espoused Republican causes and shot things. So surely he was a fisherman? Maybe not – it seems he tried, hooked himself and quit. How can anyone who wrote an essay titled How To Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed And Not Spill Your Drink not end up in a river? And now it’s out and on my desk, Republican Party Reptile has hijacked my best attempts at getting back to work. Genius. Maybe his friend Matt Labash can set me right on this?

You’ve probably noticed that there’s an emerging theme here. That’s because dead heroes are a symptom of ageing. They are the people we look up to when younger – so of course they die first. Aspiration doesn’t work when thrown down a generation because there’s a strong whiff of paunchy creepiness about mid-life people running after the kids.

Maybe I’m getting old? At least I can still raise a glass to Mr Crabtree, who was old before I was born. Cheers. And yes, I’ll have another – thank you.

So I’ll behave myself and stay in my generational lane (must I?). I came across writer James R Babb (alive) later in life, which makes me wonder what stone I’d been hiding under. While he might be fresh to me (I live deep in the time-warp of the Somerset Levels), he’s probably well-known to you. He shows me things I think I’ve seen but never properly noticed – and thus gives me the gift of hindsight. He writes beautifully and knows absolutely everything useful. Really. He can hand-brake turn a sub-clause and restore a beaver pond in an afternoon. Then catch supper.

So why aren’t non-fisherfolk queuing up to buy Babb’s books? Maybe it’s bad marketing by his publishers? On his behalf I’d like to find someone to blame.

And still – where is the young talent?

Good writing is mostly a craft skill that is best picked up young and practised – not unlike a teen strumming a guitar. You hope your fingers will learn to make a noise somebody somewhere likes. Sure there are a few late-starter keyboard warriors who, from the get-go, sprinkle digital faerie dust – but very few hit the page running, let alone with a comfortable niche (branding, you might say). John Geirach didn’t come out of nowhere. So I think great writers emerge, forged in battle with the subs desk (remember them?) and beating their heads against house style guides, editors, publishers and, if they get through all that, the bloody readers who are so willfully off-message – what’s wrong with them?

It’s the process that delivered many of the late-greatsand continues to deliver through the likes of Tom Davis, David Profumo, Babb and more. None of whom could have been generated by AI, or not yet and I hope never.

And have you noticed? In fishing, nearly all men. This is not true if you look in the op-ed pages of our great newspapers and the topical essay-fuelled magazines where female bylines thrive. Mostly the places where writing is curated, published and paid for – a tougher gig than the interweb. Women succeed on the river bank and in print – but are mostly too canny to mix them. Maybe this last point is, well, the point?

There’s an awful lot of self-published male drivel online, with more made possible by the arrival of DIY vanity publishing. Don’t tell me – I’m not listening (guilty as charged).

I can at least claim a publishing first – you’ve now met Mr Crabtree and Hunter S Thompson in the same sentence. And, hold onto your drink, Mr Crabtree is still with us.

So I’ll raise a glass to wordsmiths one and all, and wish a happy New Year to you and yours. Thank you for reading.

Tight lines (that’s an editorial diktat) from a journeyman hack and bankside duffer.

Giant flies. Of course. I knew that.
Mr Crabtree © MGM Ltd

And for those who, like me, think the late, great Ian Dury was the finest poet of his generation, here’s a reminder: What a Waste, What a Waste, But I don’t mind


All the Cool Dudes – And why the fish don’t give a damn.

I always enjoy Richard Wilsons witty column of comment that so often resonates with my own experience.  I must admit I often feel a little outgunned when I visit the waters edge and open my small fly boxes of often bedraggled flys. I generally manage to catch a few though despite not having boxes full of every size and colour buzzer available. I often wonder if the the natural world has as many types of nymphs as the average anglers fly box. Got me thinking of an article on fishing fashion outfits. It has to be camo for carp and blue for Match fishing……


All the Cool Dudes – And why the fish don’t give a damn.

Wanna flash your fancy gear or check out the cool kit & kaboodle that other folks carry? Or maybe just keep up with the times, fishing-wise? Maybe you, like me, worry that you’re behind the curve; an also-ran in the thrusting world of fish-tech?

What to do? Who to ask? On my bit of the planet, I can spend all day on a river and never see anyone. The only other angler out there could be naked and who’d know? Not me – for which I am very grateful. But this isolation means I’m getting a bit set in my ways.

We all know that Silicon Valley mantra: move fast and break things. That’s not me. Of course not. Change, even keeping up to date, comes slowly. So it was a bit of a surprise when I crashed into a transformational Eureka!moment that mugged me, unexpectedly, in a car park full of fishing folk.

A few years ago I moved house and now live near a reservoir created almost 125 years ago. It’s big, well-stocked with hard-fighting rainbow trout and a place of pilgrimage for those who live further afield. By any standard you care to apply, it is well-bedded into its landscape.

The fun begins when the car park gate opens at 8 am and the arrivals parade from car to pontoon-catwalk and into the waiting hire boats. It’s showtime. The display includes uber-cool 4-wheel trolleys laden with fishing luggage, multiple rod tubes and more. All greenish, of course. It’s a scaled reminder of those swanky quay-side luggage displays from the golden age of transatlantic ocean liners. You’re only as grand as your bags.

This is competitive. Expensive tackle, of the pay-and-display variety, is on show to upstage the less well-off with their bargain-basement rods and reels. Increasingly the only way I can tell the two apart is by price and brand logos. The last genuinely bad rod I owned was an upmarket brand. And the one before that.

I’m also witnessing a demonstration of the first rule of fishing: All tackle expands to fill the space available to it. Here the carry-on luggage limit is set by the size of the hire boat or your wallet, whichever sinks first. My craft bobs along high in the water with just me, one rod, a net, a small shoulder bag for tackle and a plastic shopping bag with a few provisions. I worry that my fellow anglers are looking down on my feeble kit assemblage with the faux concern of the well-endowed.

Once we get out fishing there are at least 20 boats, well spread out but in clear view. Initially, I’m driven by anxiety that my tackle inadequacy means others will outperform me. I’m doing what the pros call ‘covering the water well’ which, to you and me, means blanking. Thankfully nobody is catching anything much.  So that’s OK.

Next my attention turns to how well, or not, they’re casting. This would be more interesting if I could see who’s doing what in the cheap seats and who’s fishing the posh logos. So all I learn is that some people cast better than others. Ho-hum.

As the fishless day gets longer, I start to wonder why everyone is wearing the same colour clothes.  Greenish, of course. By now it’s clear I need to get a life or catch some fish.

Despite their clear kit advantage, most of the regulars are struggling with the conditions. And so am I. Fish are not being caught.

But not quite. Because not everyone is blanking. There is a brazen exception that warms the cockles of my non-conformist heart. With a metaphoric single finger to convention, a solitary boater is breaking the dress code for just about every sort of fly fishing everywhere and ever. It’s the eureka! moment that lights up my day – and it’s up there with having an Osprey land on your ornithological hat.

A silver-haired gent in his late 70s is wearing a red Puffa jacket and hauling in yet another fish almost every time I look his way. He is vibrantly not in anybody’s herd. And whatever he’s doing it’s working with no reliance whatsoever on the colour greenish. His trousers are old and dull orange, probably corduroy, lightly paint-stained and discordantly at one with the jacket.

By chance, we both call it a day at the same time and step onto the pontoon a few minutes apart. We exchange greetings, his more chipper than mine.  My new acquaintance is tall and elegant – a picture of good health and a fine, Heston-esque model for his jacket. He’s also wearing what seem to be comfortable rubber-soled bedroom slippers.

I was quitting because nothing was happening for me.  He has had an excellent day’s sport and is in early because advancing years shorten the day.

I am awestruck and humbled. As an aspiring minimalist, I like to think my kit is inconsequential. My new acquaintance puts me to shame.  He carries no tackle bag. Just a nondescript rod and a modest but deep net, along with some spare nylon and a small fly box (all buzzers) which fit comfortably in one pocket of his iridescent jacket. I assume he also has nippers and some bits n’bobs tucked away somewhere.

He had launched with a rod, a light lunch, a net and tackle to fit in 2 modest pockets.  And he’s the most successful rod on the water.  So hurrah for that! If a red jacket catches fish, I’m getting one.  I might just get one anyway.  Just to be awkward while pretending to be nearly 80 and that I haven’t grown up yet.

So here’s a controversial thought: Maybe the fish don’t give a damn about the colour of our kit, as long as it doesn’t flash or strobe.

And what if trout actually like red? This could be tough for them because red light is very hard to see when you’re underwater. So if it doesn’t shout Boo! they may not even know it’s there. They can, however, see greenish very clearly. Brownish too. Are there two more dangerous colours for fish? When did you ever see a heron wearing red?

So, what are we waiting for?  I’ve seen the future: On my boat I want nothing that isn’t cheap and cheerful. I will keep all the necessary tackle trimmings, like flies, in the pockets of my Hawaiian shirt.  With my red Puffa jacket I’ll be sporting carpet slippers, a daft hat, plastic aviators and slobby trackies. And the rod will be jacket-matching red –  really cheap, much too short and loaded with a homemade shooting head. I can stun livestock on the far bank with that. And who’s to say I won‘t also catch fish?

Does anyone want to enter one of those competitive tournaments with me? Is one of you fishing pros up for joining me on this? I don’t think we’ll disgrace ourselves and, who knows, we might even win something. With no luggage aboard we could even find space for a Ghetto Blaster. So best play-list, maybe?

Move fast, break things and go fishing. And all of it while sitting down. Eureka!


Meet the Klutz – Richard Wilsons Fish Rise

Many thanks to Richard for sharing his monthly essay. Always humorous and slightly off piste

Meet the Klutz

You looking at me, kid?

What kind of creature bore you,
Was it some kind of bat?
They can’t find a good word for you,
But I can … TWAT.”

John Cooper Clark – Punk Poet

A few years ago the stranger (above) and I both arrived too early for check-in at the lodge on the fabled Gjöll River. A place steeped in myth and vengeful Norse gods.

It was a warm, late-summer day and the deck offered fresh coffee with a view of the river and mountains. The perfect setting to kill time with idle chatter. Our hosts were a fine and professional bunch of people and all was well with their world and mine. It was the sort of place that puts a smile on your face and fly-rod to hand.

My fellow guest greeted me with a sneering eyeball shake-down. Perhaps it was the triggering way I had said, “Hi, lovely day isn’t it?”.

Small talk? No. In rapid succession he declared that all forest fires are started by arsonists. That George Soros is Jewish (a terrible thing, he said), heavy snowfall proves global warming is fake, wokesters are provocative bastards and Anne Frank’s latest porn book for kids must be banned & burned (both) along with the paedos, Fauci, all UN scientists and foreigners (me?). And coal is king and should also be burned. It was a lot to take in. And if looks could have killed, I was dead.

Putting the threatening bigotry aside, for the moment, when did climate change become a right-wing wedge issue? The right’s talismanic icon Margaret Thatcher must be spinning in her grave.

I kept my head down for the rest of the trip, although it turned out that it wasn’t anything that I or Mrs Thatcher had said.  The next day Mr Wedgie’s newly arrived fishing party erupted into ear-piecing verbal abuse. Our misfit was now at odds with his buddies. I couldn’t work out exactly who he wanted to kill first, but I think Mike Pence was high on the list. Mostly he generalised: Scientists, environmentalists, whales, migrants and probably cute little kittens. You get the idea: Tough Guy v World.

That night found me thinking about Twats on Banks. The who, the why and the such-like. I have a bit of weakness for this sort of thing and, generally speaking, the weirder people are, the bigger their metaphoric car crashes and the more I rubber-neck. And there we were in a Norse fishing lodge with a hotline to 1930s Berlin and I’m suddenly thrust into team Thatcher – weird and weirder.

So with the worrying caution that maybe it takes one to know one … this is my essay, formally titled A Short Discourse on Fishing Twats. 

There are two fishing twat-types chewing away at the margins of my watery world. The on-line variety and the much more alarming physical version you hope never to find in your river.

The online twat is, at worst, a minor irritant. Mostly they rally around a pick n’mix of conspiracy theories and grievances with their own victimhood worn as the shared badge of honour.  They’re found in small and grumpy internet echo chambers, bickering and shouting insults at the heresies they find threatening: Science, for example. They go unheard even by the new-agers they assertively hate, which is a pity because they have much in common. Intolerance and a high rate of attrition from vaccine-preventable diseases, to name just two.

It is precisely because they heckle the twilight that our online fishing twats are mostly irrelevant and marginalised – for comparison, the online world of Chess players is properly vicious and ruins lives.

So that brings us to the real-life Twat of the sort that invades your space and makes Hotel and Lodge owners miserable. The angler from hell (or, in this story, the Norse Hel).

First, some background: I am not a digital native and hail from the era of flesh and blood – which means my formative years were spent face-to-face with real people. This tended to moderate some of our worst excesses. Maybe you know the song:

“Soon we’ll be out amid the cold world’s strife, Soon we’ll be sliding down the razor blade of life.”

Tom Lehrer, Bright College Days.

The message is clear: Shape up, or it’s going to hurt.  So most of us reached adulthood with a basic set of social skills. For example; avoid inflicting your politics on strangers met on a fishing trip.

They say the boy is father to man, and I was a flawed teenager who, I hope, was more Prat than Twat. Not ideal, but it could have been worse and, like most teens, I have mostly recovered in the decades since. Sadly, some people don’t.

This Prat-predisposition set me in direct conflict with the biggest Twat in my teenage fishing life: My godfather – a groping, leering and utterly repellent misogynist.  He even carried a little black book of sexist jokes.  Like the man, none of the jokes were funny, and he made life miserable for every barmaid and waitress who had the misfortune to cross his path.

That’s not all: Unforgivably, he could also throw a line further and with less effort than me – something nobody else in my very limited circle could do (this was long before YouTube and Spey Casting brought me crashing down to earth). Being outperformed by such a groping grotesque annoyed me. Meanwhile, he thought I was a long-haired little jerk – and, with hindsight, I can see he had a point. We were not a good mix.

To make matters worse, every year my father would organise a week’s fishing for the three of us (for me it was free, so of course I went).

One year we were blighted by a drought so severe the fishing was impossible. Not that my teenage self was prepared to admit it. I took it all very seriously. Too seriously. So there I was, working my way inch-by-inch through a large, slow-moving pool which had some water, but no oxygen and no fish. Nobody else was making an effort. Just me.

Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of movement in the pool’s neck. Something was drifting downstream towards me.  Something blubbery and brilliant white. Something that, bizarrely, seemed to be a belly-up Beluga Whale.

The whale processed all stately and ceremonial into the main pool. I slowly realised it was wearing paisley-pattern boxer-shorts and had my godfather’s porkpie hat perched on its expansive stomach.  It was otherwise flabbily naked.

I was, by now, incandescent with rage at this invasion of my territory.  My pool.  My best chance of catching a fish. How dare he! I was raging with self-righteous afront.

The imperial and imperious Beluga drifted past me and, as it did so, raised a two-fingered salute in my direction. This put me in temper tantrum territory – which was presumably the Beluga’s intention.  It was only my awareness of this that kept the lid on my head. I don’t remember how it ended, but no rocks were thrown and I assume the Beluga joined us for dinner that night.

The point of this story is that I learned a long, slow lesson: That prats grow up. Admittedly, it took 20 years for me to realise, but the Beluga was perhaps the funniest thing to happen to me on a riverbank.  Had I not been such a pompous little prat I would have been rocking with laughter.

The author pratting around, back in the day.

So I learned some humility and didn’t grow up to be a Twat.  However, my godfather, being a fully grown Twat, continued his behaviour unchanged by his exposure to me. So by the time I had eventually realised how very funny the Beluga had been, he was getting a well-deserved visit from the police following allegations of a sexual assault.

So the moral of this tale is simple: Be tolerant of young Prats. They might grow up to be you.  But if you meet a full-blooded Twat just walk away. Don’t engage. They’re not worth the trouble and, sooner or later, they’re going to get hit by someone or something bigger and nastier than you or me.  Hopefully reality.  Perhaps the police. Or maybe guests at a fishing lodge. Thor could do it – but it won’t be me, although I did read somewhere that the pen is mightier than the sword.



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



Many thanks to Richard Wilson for allowing me to share his thought provoking prose on North Devon Angling News. This month Richard’s focus is climate change and the deniers and what we can for for our local rivers. For my part I spread the word and try to raise awareness of the threats to rivers from industrial farming, sewage discharge and over abstraction. I also undertake River Fly Monitoring, CSI Monitoring and volunteer with the National Trust assisting with wetland creation and conservation initiatives.

Where Are All the Climate Deniers Going?

Or: How to save your river.

Once upon a time, back in the day, just about all online mentions of global warming provoked CAPS LOCK outrage:


My response to this sort of behaviour has been to hunker down. I don’t want to be heckled – who does? So I’ve been watching from a safe distance … and I think I’ve spotted a change in key-banger behaviour.  Maybe you’ve noticed it too?

I wonder if they’re going a bit droopy – like that toy rabbit on TV with the wrong brand of battery?  I’m talking sotto voce for now because I don’t want to wake them, but do you think they’re getting – old?

Musk has turned their Twitter volume up to 12, which hides some of the decrepitude, but it’s increasingly clear that a generation is thinning out. Back in their pomp they stood proud among friends, bonding over beers and howling at bogeymen. It was fun, the company was good and they felt like an unstoppable force.  The world was theirs for the taking. Heck, they could even get laid. Those were days!

Then, over time, the group frayed and faded. Familiar faces moved away, some died and a lucky few retired to sunbeds by the sea.  Now, depressingly, the headlong rush of young lust is a dim memory, and wearily beating a caps lock key won’t bring it back. Age has got their number.

So while I think we should feel some sympathy towards our denialists (we all get old), we should not be surprised by their plight. They are the original stay-at-home globalists, persecuted by malign world forces. This miserable everybody-hates-me-nobody-loves-me mindset also happens to be the signature trait of almost all conspiracy theories, so people who buy into one are predisposed to have a bucketful. If you know for a fact that George Soros and his glove puppet Greta can fake all the climate data everywhere, you also know that wherever you stash your cash The Global Elite will sniff it out (it happens all the time!).

It’s carnage out there in conspiracy land: Innocent bystanders are killed by 5G death rays, chemtrails, vaccines and fluoridated water, or abducted and raped by both real and false-flag aliens. The last generation of conspiracists had scary Reds under their beds and would be horrified to learn that today’s have Reds in their heads.  Stalin was satan, Putin is a buddy, Kennedys won’t die and some Americans want a breakaway Red State Caliphate. I hope you’re keeping up.

Then there’s The Fear:


In contrast, statistics and fact-checking are inherently dull – but they can make a succinct point 2&3.  Globally, most people believe that climate change is both a crisis and an emergency, echoing the language used by climate change campaigners. In the US, about 80% say climate change is happening, outnumbering those who think it isn’t by a ratio of more than six to one. In the UK, 90% think it’s real.  And another fact: 99-100% of climate scientists say it’s real and deadly serious. That’s a slam dunk (for people who do facts – but not so good with voodoo).

Other forces also conspire to undermine our deniers, not least their own eyes. There are only so many decades you can fish the same river and not notice something’s wrong. And is there anyone for whom freak weather isn’t the new normal?  So, according to the liberal wokesters at Forbes, hardcore denialist numbers have fallen to just 6% of Americans, which is still well above the global average of 4%. All of them hammering away at Twitter. Thanks again, Elon.

This climate data is, of course, all red-mist-inducing heresy for our remaining jihadi denialists, for whom an attack of heresy-rage is about as exciting life gets.


It’s a level of victimhood that‘s a hard sell among younger generations. More youthful movements offer rewards like happiness, cupcake recipes, glowing good health, a ripped body or, in Gwyneth Paltrow’s case, fragrant orgasms. Tik-Tok thrills mostly meet educated opinions. In contrast, conspiracy theories are gloom, doom and misery. Incels excepted, who’d double-click on that?

Back in my world, climate science is fact-based, measurable, progressive and has an off-ramp. We can slow down and change course.  And for the hard-core miserabilists, all is not lost. You can also get utterly despondent about the science of global warming. The so-called climate-doomersprobably outnumber the deniers by a lot, and I suspect their roll-over and die mentality is as damaging to planetary well-being as the cranky deniers. Maybe there’s some misery-laden itch deep in the human psyche that we’re desperate to scratch?

Nevertheless, I’m going to puncture the glum-fest because we can do something about climate change. There is salvation in the denialist’s climate heresy.

Here’s how: There’s no shortage of great organisations committed to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Some of these actions need the power and deep pockets of government, while others are small and local. That means there’s a level of contribution to suit us all. We can volunteer &/or donate, big or small and as best we can. For example, I support organisations that work on conservation and legal protection for rivers and their catchments. And because most of us think this is now urgent, most of us can surely do something, no matter how small, because every little bit counts.

So, please, let’s all get involved. And let’s do it for our future generations because they’re going to have to live here. Maybe Gramps and Grandma will donate if it’s for their favourite river and their own family? Would their peer group really cancel them if they funded some research into migratory fish?

And last, please say hi to Gen Z and the Millennials.  It’s their planet now.

I have a request: Who do you donate to or volunteer for? Feel free to give your favourite good causes a plug in the Comments below … let’s share some constructive actions and tell the kids we care. Good ideas are infectious, so let’s spread some.

FYI, I donate to The Atlantic Salmon Trust and Fish Legal. And I make losing bids in lots of good-cause raffles ….

Richard Wilsons Fish Rise -Humorous, edgy and thought provoking as always!

Many thanks to Richard Wilson for sharing his writing on North Devon Angling News.

Humorous, edgy and thought provoking as always!

Zuckerberg’s Fish-Floppery

This morning I popped into Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the future.  Call me vain, but I decided to lie about my age and be a 19 yr-old, which was lucky because everyone I met was also 19.  Except the Fairy Princess who was also the last person I saw there and, for all I know, might have been a 60-year-old man back in the real world.

Meta-time is erratic and distance is irrelevant, so I could go when and where I wanted. To make my trip challenging I went fly fishing for migrating salmon while standing on the lip of Niagara Falls

First, the good bits: I stayed dry because just about nobody in the Metaverse has legs (or waders). So I hovered Zen-like above the river, which was very, very cool. No treacherously slippery rocks to upend me, no raging torrent to wash me over the edge and no physical threat from the constant flow of thrill-seekers in barrels. The second matter of great importance was that I caught a very big Salmon.

I was so pleased about this that I jumped off the Falls and swooshed straight past the tourist boats into the visitor centre Starbucks where I flashed the plastic for a $1 Frappuccino. Cool entrance and cheap coffee, huh? I was soon joined by a gorgeous 19-yr old fishing tackle sales agent praising my fishing skills and suggesting that her big-brand 9-foot rod was much better than the one I was using.

She promised that with the most expensive rod in their range (just $1!) I was guaranteed to catch 3 Steelhead whenever I went fishing, and that a 40lb Steelhead would earn a bonus 120lb sturgeon. So I flashed the plastic again, the rod appeared to hand and my new friend vanished before my eyes. Just as I thought we were getting on rather well. Ah well.

Left to myself, I surveyed my surroundings.  At the end of the coffee shop was a huge fishing tackle store lit up by a neon sign that declared: Mega-Webba-Verse-Tackle-Company – All Brands Stocked and Everything Available Now.

I wafted in and found myself hovering next to a 19-yr old male wearing an old-fashioned blue and white hooped bathing suit.  We were both looking fondly at a magnificent Classic Fly Reel of the sort that costs $1000 in the reel world.  Here it was just $1. A bargain!

“Cool reel,“ I said to my new companion.

 “It’s amazing. And everything here is exactly the right size. It fits my head like a glove.” He replied.

“A head-glove?” I said.

“Don’t be an idiot’” he snapped, “It’s a barrel hat.” He was talking down to me as though I was a 19-yr old know-nothing. He then reached out and put the reel on his head where it was very obviously the perfect hat to enhance your selfies as you went over the Falls. The badge read, “I’m a Barrel-Head!”. He took it off and passed it to me.

“Oh,” he sputtered. “So now it’s a fishing reel. Isn’t this the Barrel-Riders-Kit-O’gasm Emporium?”

Pennies dropped and, in tandem, we said “Oh F**k it!”.  At which the store transformed itself into a pulsating display of sex toys and bondage gear as an inanely smiling, baby-faced Zucker-clone slimed into our bewildered company.

“OK,” it said, “which of you two is the leather-fetishist paddle-boarder?”

This wasn’t my kind of life experience, so I morphed off to the bank of a famous Scottish salmon river where I caught 3 big Steelhead in 5 minutes. The new rod worked so well I was catching fish that don’t exist in Europe.

“Och Aye”, said the Gillie, a hybrid Euro-stereotype wearing a kilt that was much too short for 19-yr old man, “Begorrah mate! Them’s Steelhead! I dare say that one weighs as much as the Blarney Stone of Scone.”

“How much does the Blarney Scone weigh?” I asked, breaking the rhyme.

“It’ll be 40lbs exactly,” he replied.

As he said it, my rod bent into a 120lb Sturgeon.

Dunno’ how that got up the fish ladder,” said the Gillie. And then, “This is crazy. I’m taking this idiotic headset off and going back to work. Don’t forget this is a catch-and-release fishery.” With that, he disappeared. Silently.

I decided I’d had enough of my new rod and threw it at the river. It de-pixilated in mid-air.

On the far bank was a pub called The Old Metaverse.  I drifted over and into the bar where I bounced repeatedly off a stool that was slightly too high for me.  The barmaid, a 6-yr old Fairy Princess, refused to serve me because I didn’t have an ID Card to prove my age. But never mind, she said, she would sell me one for $1.

At the other end of the bar a drunk was dropping his trousers while shouting that his willie was awesome and that it was his God-given right to fight us because he was right, we were idiots and this was a public bar, so anything goes.

“That’s just Elon being Elon. He’s only 19.” said the Princess. “He’s a free-willy absolutist. I expect he’ll grow out of it.”

Somebody hit him, a gun was drawn, furniture thrown and the Princess produced a machete. As the air turned blue and the floor ran red with fake blood I walked out through the wall, took the headset off and helped myself to a real cold beer from my own real fridge. It was very good to be home. Real good.

So here’s my conclusion: To nobody’s surprise the Metaverse is Zuckerberg’s even bigger bid to coral all the real advertising and marketing money everywhere, raid your piggy bank and then drain your data.  It serves no other useful purpose whatsoever, except to allow us to go fishing without legs.  Which is unbelievably cool. Sadly, Zuckerberg’s ambition will include monetising virtual waders and virtual wader accessories like boots and pay-per-use rescue services. So there will be legs.

The Metaverse sends a shiver up my spine. It’s a sugar trap for low-life – the perverts, shysters and fraudsters. The old men pretending to be little girls and AI faking it as seductive sales reps. It’s a shit-show platform for politicians, influencers and the wackadoodle self-delusionals. A place where everyone is welcome and all are victims because all of us, even the slime-balls, are there to be shucked dry by the uber-parasite Zuckerberg.

There is just one silver lining, and it’s the conclusion surely held universally by anyone sane who visits Zuckerland: If all the jerks are in the Metaverse exposing themselves and shooting each other, then while they’re in there the real world might be just a tiny little bit better for the rest of us.

That, and the wading.