Dear Jim

Reflections on the Beauty of Angling



Beauty of Angling


Alexander Schwab



Dear Jim

Reflections on the Beauty of Angling

From a lively pub in Ireland to the heat-vibrating Seychelles, from a boy’s float on a canal to an impossible tangle in flyline: this book finds a common theme in hundreds of different fishing experiences and in the paraphernalia that surrounds fishing. And that theme is beauty. The stunning black and white photographs which illustrate Schwab’s line of thought are a startlingly fresh look at familiar things. Has ever a hook or a fish scale looked so lovely? Alexander Schwab shows us this beauty, and he challenges us to discover why this is so, in this thought-provoking book.

Dear Jim is published by Merlin Unwin Books and is another treasure from the author of Hook, Line and Thinker, covering angling from a pub in Ireland to the sunny climes of the Seychelles with some stunning photographs by the author.
It isn’t just about the mysteries of fly fishing but has some wonderful tales of tangled lines and bobbing floats covering hundreds of magic fishing moments.
Alex has a gift for making us realise that a simple fishing hook is not just a dull piece of metal but a thing of beauty and he challenges us to see it, and other fishing paraphernalia, for more than just their base materials.
Give yourself a treat and get a copy.

I get a lot of pleasure from my collection of books about fishing. Some are old and valuable and some were written by friends, while others are by famous anglers.
Despite having this wealth of knowledge always available to me I still find it difficult to make those who do not fish aware of just how wonderful our hobby is and how it can at times make you so happy that you fear your heart will burst with excitement. Not any more though, for the writer of a new book has explained it all in a way few other people could have done.
It all began when a Swiss writer called Alexander Schwab was approached by a young student called Jim who wanted help in writing a paper on his hobby of fishing. The result was a book with the unusual title of “Dear Jim. Reflections on the Beauty of Angling“. The writer has captured in a very astute way the very essence of the sport and all of its pleasures. He includes sections explaining why angling is a healthy outdoor pursuit besides being relaxing and fascinating and one that keeps the boys off the streets while satisfying a primitive need. Also character-building and fun, it inspires an understanding of nature. To quote the author:”When going fishing you don’t get away from it all, you come to terms with it all.”
There’s truth mixed with humour in the book too that anglers will understand. Alexander writes of the three laws of tangles as follows. The first law of tangles is that it is dead easy to get your tackle into a tangle. The second law of tangles is that fish take left right and centre while you disentangle. And the third law of tangles is that when you are ready again the action is over.
Illustrated with many unusual, sometimes fascinating photographs by the author, mainly in black and white, this is one book that I can truthfully say has changed my life for the better.

If I’d a coin for every time some cynic had asked me to define the allure of angling, I could have afforded a Porsche Cayenne Turbo and a pipe of port. Usually, my riposte to such enquiries is:”Well, if ignorance is bliss, I guess you must be Mr. Happy”, which tends to get me off the hook.
But authors have been cudgelling their brains about this conundrum since the Middle Ages and it is a brave chap who enters the list these days on something as aesthetic as the pleasures of fishing. Most pundits are too preoccupied with telling us how to catch more codling to cast their minds over matters philosophical; but that is exactly what Alexander Schwab has done. If his attempt was doomed as trying to describe a perfect freehand circle, he has managed some splendid investigations of areas that British Sportsmen, being emotionally restrained, seldom seem to visit.
Here, we have both an analysis and a celebration of this ancient pastime, and the book covers everything from the beauty of knots to a Poussin painting. Along the way, there are digressions on the hook, personal anecdotes about piscatorial fiascos and allusions to Heisenberg and the Big Bang. We glimpse our author smashed on hooch and meet an ancient Hungarian who spent eight years laying siege to one particular carp. The black-and white photographs are superb.
This is a lovely book: it is, by turns, intellectual, whimsical and nicely weird – and my heart goes out to any fellow lover of kitsch. Perhaps, inevitably, it just misses its mark – close, but no cigar minnow.

Stunning images will hook readers

Fishing enthusiasts in Shropshire are bound to be hooked on a new book which aims to highlight the beauty of angling. And even if like me, you’ve never understood what attracts people to the sport, then a read of this latest angling publication will give you a different perspective on the issue.


The book entitled “Dear Jim, Reflections on the Beauty of Angling” has been written by Alexander Schwab and published by Merlin Unwin Books in Ludlow. It contains stunning photographs taken by Schwab which illustrate his line of thought – giving a fresh look at familiar things. Have you ever looked at a fish scale or a hook and thought it was beautiful? Well if not then Schwab aims to change your way of looking at them.
The exploration starts in the Lobster Bar in Waterville, Ireland and journeys via coarse fishing in Europe’s canals and stillwaters to angling in the Seychelles, back to Ireland again.
The book combines philosophy, art and fishing and finds a common theme in hundreds of different fishing experiences and in the paraphernalia that surrounds fishing. Karen McCall, managing director of Merlin Unwin Books, said it was the most unusual angling book they were publishing this year. His previous book, Hook, Line and Thinker, received excellent reviews.


Charles Clover, from the Daily Telegraph said:”I cannot recommend this book enough, it will at the very least, give us anglers the philosophical ammunition to answer those who want to see the sport banned.”
Dear Jim, Reflections on the Beauty of Angling, is available from all bookshops or direct from the publishers by telephoning (01584) 877456 or visit the website at

New angle on fishing

From a lively pub in Ireland to the heat-vibrating Seychelles, from a boy’s float on a canal to an impossible tangle in flyline: this book finds a common theme in hundreds of different fishing experiences and in the paraphernalia that surrounds fishing. And that theme is beauty. The stunning black and white photographs which illustrate Schwab’s line of thought are a startlingly fresh look at familiar things. Has ever a hook or a fish scale looked so lovely? Alexander Schwab shows us this beauty, and he challenges us to discover why this is so, in this thought-provoking book

It is not a guide to fishing – it doesn’t tell you which float to use or which line, rod or reel – but it does open up a whole new world for anyone who has an interest in angling. When you’re not fishin the author will keep your interest alive with his tales and make you keener to take up your rod and stake your claim on your favourite river bank or lakeside for a session of piscatorial pleasure.

Dear Jim, Reflections on the Beauty of Angling

Alex’s exploration starts in the Lobster Bar in Waterville, Ireland, and journeys via coarse fishing in Europe’s canals and stillwaters to angling in the Seychelles, back to Ireland again. The theme of the beauty of all types of fishing is illustrated with his quirky but moving black and white photographs.

He has created a book which combines philosophy, art and fishing.

Alex Schwab is particularly interested in the issues behind angling. His first book, Hook Line and Thinker, examined whether man has the right to fish, and this latest one, Dear Jim, looks at what makes fishing such a beautiful thing – in both words and stunning photographs.

This is an unusual book. At the time of writing I’ve only had the chance to skim through it so can’t comment in depth. It is a thinker’s book which will be enjoyed by those who accept that there is far more to fishing than simply trying to catch fish.


Dear Jim: Reflections on the Beauty of Angling

Don’t be put off by the title. To the suspicious among us, it’s reminiscent of Nigel Molesworth’s Fotherington-Thomas (“Hello sun, hello flowers!”) This is, in fact, a hard-nosed philosophical examination of why we fish, what justifies angling (leaving the antis case in intellectual ruins), and yet wonderfully good-natured, intensely readable and often very, very funny. Without exaggeration this is a great book which all of us should read and reread.

The author examines the arguments for angling. My review notes mention a healthy outdoor pursuit, relaxing, fascinating, character-building, not a game (so you don’t win or lose – you achieve), and the road to achievment is often paved with failure and disasters which teach you much.

He examines the scientific basis of the Roslin Institute’s apparent claim that fish do feel pain on the basis of nociceptors (which detect noxious stimuli, not pain) and gives clear arguments for rejecting that claim on the basis of Dr. James Rose’s research at the University of Wyoming – and on grounds of both logic and sense. The distorted anthropomorphism of the antis is summed up:”A fish is not a human being in disguise and must not be thought of as such.”

But the real strength of the book is in a positive affirmation (complete with examples from life) that angling is good for you, morally, physically and aesthetically. Do read it.


The final line in Norman MacLean’s classic book ‘A River Runs Through It’, ‘I am haunted by waters’, springs to mind when reading Alexander Schwab’s new book ‘Dear Jim, Reflections Of Angling’.

Anyone who loves lakes and rivers, will be enchanted by Schwab’s prose and by his knowledge of famous and not so famous fishing haunts. It seems appropriate that the first page in the book should begin in the famous Lobster Bar in Waterville, County Kerry, well known to anglers all over the world.

Lough Currane, near Waterville is famous for the quality of its sea-trout fishing, the river, Butlers Pool and Church Island are magical names to anglers.
As Alexander Schwab mentions Waterville, Waterville was a great haunt of Charlie Chaplin and one of his daughters still has a house there. A special tradition of The Lobster Bar, is that at the end of the day, each anglers catch is put on display in the pub. From time to time many celebrities gather after a day’s fishing in The Lobster Bar, including a mysterious Indian Prince.

In the most unusual circumstances, Schwab, in the final chapter in the book, tells of an amazing link with the mysterious Indian Prince of Waterville and Lutry, a picturesque little village on the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
There, when a model airplane being flown over the lake is accidentally ‘shot down’ by a 30 gram lead fishing weight, Schwab discovers that the owner of the model plane is none other than the son of the Waterville Prince.

There is much that will be of interest to Irish anglers in this book, including an encounter between the late Mrs Constance Aldridge, of Mount Falcon Castle in Ballina in County Mayo and a pair of fishermen, who did nothing but complain about everything.

Mrs Aldridge sounds like a very formidable lady, who kept her dignity and composure, until, after a volley of thinly disguised insults from these two gentlemen, she dismissed them from her table, her house and her river forever.
Mr Schwab is obviously a great admirer of Isaac Walton, the doyen of all fishermen and fishing writers, as there are frequent quotes from ‘The Complete Angler’. The story of the rat who stole a beautiful Dorado fish from a Hotel dinner table in the Sunset Beach hotel in the Seychelles, certainly gives a new meaning to the well known phrase ‘losing a fish’ and is just one of many stories from the world of angling that will enchant the reader.

Alexander Schwab is a very good writer, as those who have read his earlier work Hook Line and Thinker will know. But the real charm of Dear Jim is as much in the observation the thinking and the unembellished wit that Schwab shares with his readers as it is in the polished but uncluttered prose. Having read fishing books for more than half a century, I can hardly expect to be surprised by something completely new. This book caught me off balance. No, it would be fairer to say that it knocked me for six with its clarity and its wonderful insight into the psyche of people who fish and of people who don’t understand why so many of us do go fishing.
Read this book. You will learn a little about fishing, rather more about some intriguing fishing venues, quite a lot about the mind of Alex Schwab; and, if the book affects you in the way it did me, you may perhaps learn a lot also about yourself and your own attitude to angling (and hence about life, if not the universe and everything).
Particularly enjoyable are the many anecdotes, some funny, others deeply thought provoking, that illustrate the point the author makes so persuasively.
And what is that point? Well, what is the point of angling? The challenge? The anticipation? The fish? Not always… perhaps not often. But always potentially there is the beauty of it all, and Alexander Schwab brings this out so well both in his writing and in the remarkable photography that illuminates the text.
I am so glad I read this book, and I most heartily recommend it to all who think about their fishing, its traditions and its possibilities in the future.

Reflections On the Beauty of Angling

I met the author, Alexander Schwab, the other day. He joined Val and I for lunch and we had a long and lively chat. Alex is a business consultant by trade and a philosopher by nature.
The book’s fishing stories start in Waterville’s Lobster Bar (the centre of the universe – where gods like Zeus, Hercules, Mercury, Vince O’Sullivan and others hang out) and end in the Seychelles. There is a common theme in hundreds of different fishing stories, from a boys float on a canal to a tangle of fly line. And that theme is beauty.
Alex’s stunning black and white photographs give the reader a fresh look at familiar things. I found the book to be thought-provoking and a damn good read. Therefore I can recommend it highly.

Environmental Quarterly of Sherkin Island Marine Station

Dear Jim

Schwab has looked into the infinite depths of angling and revealed with unique and often movin clarity much of what there are not words to describe. The scope of this book is so wide and yet precise it would comfortably fit under many categories in the bookstore. Fresh and timeless poetry and stimulating black and white photographs add greater levels of emotion to the text. But behind what is a relaxing, educational, thought provoking and beautifully crafted book lie issues of supreme importance that we should all address at this point in time. “There is more to fishing than catching fish”.

Although there is a little bit of the philosopher in every angler, few get into print and fewer still write well, so a new book on the subject from Mr Schwab is assured of a welcome. If you have read his previous work Hook, Line and Thinker you will appreciate his off-beat and discursive style and I am pleased to say that if anything, Alex’s singular approach to writing is getting more pronounced. The book begins with an email from a young friend asking for ideas to help write an essay entitles “What’s good about fishing?”” and then moves in very short order to the Lobster public house in Waterville. A page later we are angling on Lake Thun in Switzerland and just before the author gets us completely lost, dispersed in the fertile vistas of his mind’s eye, he (somewhat reluctantly) drags us back to a systematic list of the arguments for angling, highlighted with eye-smaringly scarlet titles. After a brief demolition job on the Roslin Institute’s intellectually-wanting paper on whether fish feel pain, we are off to Lough Currane to fish for salmon with Michael and to reflect on the dangers of moral relativism, a topic which Jon and I discuss often, and on which the office bluebottle contributes little, chiefly because it is still dead.
Just in case you think that Reflections on the Beauty of Angling is too stodgy to be a good read, let me reassure you that it is very amusingly and easily good enough to become a classic, though time will be the judge on that one. Buy it, read it, then lend it to all your friends. Great book.

Dear Jim: Reflections on the Beauty of Angling

This is a provocative and stimulating approach to angling offered by a philosopher who shares our common addiction and commitment.
he views angling from many perspectives, but always impressively objective, balanced, sometimes quirky and occasionally disturbing.
He declares our pre-occupation to be healthy, catering for body and soul, relaxing, fascinating, admirable for keeping boys off the street, satisfying our primitive needs, building character and fun.
Alexander Schwab, with a master’s degree in philosophy, demolishes the skewed results of research which attempts to establish that fish feel pain, evaluating the arguments with cool consideration. He deals with nociceptors – receptor cells capable of detecting noxious stimuli, which trigger off reaction, which is quite different from feeling pain – declaring that the “antis” are obsessed with anthropomorphising everything.
Fish are different from humans, with differing responses, he sensibly suggests. A fish is not a human being in disguise.
Why do people love angling? There’s more to fishing than catching fish – a bit like love. Fishing is part of human culture, he declares. Where there are fish there are fishermen. He rails against political correctness, the rebellion against tradition, including Christianity bashing and the significance of traditional values with their recognition of law and order. He warns against the threat to angling; after hunting and shooting complacency is a luxury angler’s can’t afford.
Knots and tangles are tackled in turn. The beauty of tangles evokes “a masterpiece of knotting exclusively blown together by the Greek wind gods.”
Discussing the beauty of nature, he points out that teaching youngsters to fish also means moral teaching in the most elementary sense that there are such things as values, and telling them about nature’s ways shows them the way to the beauty of nature.
Angling involves the participant moere than any other pursuit like bird-watching, walking, wind-surfing and golfing, he points out.
He rhapsodises about water – “the blood of the earth” – and reminds us that without water there would be no fish and that anglers are the guardians of our waters. Ask anti-anglers how many rivers they have saved lately?
His observations range widely, but space inhibits repetition.
Beauty is is his central theme, however.”Whichever angling topic you choose to inquire into, you’ll sooner or later discover beauty at the bottom of all angling matters”.
A thoughtful book from a champion of angling virtues.
His moody black and white photographic images were occasionally, but not invariably, brilliant.