Published Dec 7. 2019 - 4 years ago
Updated or edited Dec 15. 2022

Book review: Reflections on the Loch

Tales, tactics and top flies for loch trout

A book on UK style lake fishing for trout, written in a personal and entertaining - but still very informative - tone

Stan Headley
Coch-y-Bonddu Books
Publishing year: 
Reviewed by: 

The first few lines of this book set the tone:
If your are planning on a trip to Scotland this year for some real trout fishing, there is a list of things worth bearing in mind:

  • Every adult male is not called Jock.
  • The staple diet is not haggis and porridge.
  • Only eccentrics, wedding guests, and people from Edinburgh wear the kilt.
  • Real wild trout don't behave like stocked trout of any species.

The chapter is called "Real trout" and emphasizes the difference between wild browns and rainbows in particular, but basically the difference between the wild fish and stocked fish, be it rainbows, browns or other types of trout, artificially introduced to a body of water.
As the book title implies, this is about lake fishing. Loch as it's called in Scotland, lough in Ireland and simply lake in England and with most other English speaking people like myself. You will also hear lake fishing referred to as reservoir fishing, indicating that the lake is artificial, typically behind a dam.

So the tone in the book is set early on, and keeps on through the book. It's slightly ironic, tongue-in-cheek and respectfully teasing in some places. And highly entertaining! It does have the word "tales" in the subtitle after all.
Don't get me wrong, the book is very serious in many ways, conveying facts, giving advice, being very precise and specific, all solidly founded on facts and experience.
The book offers advice on basically all things concerning lake fishing the "British way". Most of it is certainly useful in other parts of the world, and I have been using teams of several flies, bungs and fishing wind lanes when fishing for (stocked) trout in Danish lakes.
The book covers many of these subjects, lists patterns, discusses how to select them, has advice on how to fish from a boat and all the things you need to get to be a good lake angler. But you will have to read the book to find them. OK, I know that is kicking in an open door. Of course you have to read the book to get what's written in it! Duh! But that's not what I mean. The book doesn't have a structure where it covers gear, lines and rigging, flies, boat handling, finding fish etc. in a structured manner. Although all these subject are touched upon, they are found mixed into the aforementioned tales. It's a fun ride to read your way through the book, but it's not a handbook in any traditional sense, where you pick a subject and read about it. The only subjects that can be found readily are the fly patterns – thanks to the pictures of some great looking flies – and chapters on C&R and line retrieve – thanks to their titles. The chapter titled "Twenty Top Tips for Trout Angler" quite obviously also lists 20 tips.
But apart from that, you get the information from this book by reading it. Essentially all of it.

I do desperately miss an index

I do desperately miss an index in the rear of the book. Most chapters carry creative titles such as "Less is Often Best" (about the fly the Half Hog), "Hoggin' it" (about the fly the Hedgehog), "Stay Calm" (about fishing calm and smooth water) and "Hope Springs Eternal" (about sea trout).
These titles are really excellent and very much in line with the tone in the book, but running your fingers down the table of contents to find a chapter on a specific topic, they aren't much help… unless you have read the whole book and have a very good memory for what you have read.
I love the titles, but the love would have been deeper if my navigation in the book had been aided by a good index. Being able to find content about "wind", "drifting", "buzzers" or any other relevant subject without having to skim the book, would have been great.

This isn't a lavishly designed or illustrated book, but more modest when it comes to visuals. It has way more text than images. The photos are beautiful and the illustrations informative, but the book as a whole does not follow the most recent fishing book paradigm where photos are used extremely generously and creatively, and layout is an important part of the book's assets. This is more traditional in that sense. To the point, not overdoing anything.

But all that said, this is still an excellent book, and I'm sure than many lake fishermen will enjoy it immensely, like I did, and some who haven't wet their flies in lakes, loughs or lochs yet will want to do so after reading it. It presents a wonderful image of a kind of fishing, which has a very distinct culture and set of traditions, and large parts of it can be read as a collection of short stories, giving lots of hands-on insight into lake fishing in the process. With a price tag of UK £25.- or about 30.- US$ for slightly more than 300 pages, it's not expensive either, and it's definitely a title that should be on the wishing list for lake anglers worldwide.


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