Cast your net wide for the best talking books

Annalisa Barbieri on Fishing

As you read this I should be (depending on what time of day you pick up the sports pages) be either flying to, or be in, Jordan. For fishing? Oh no. I shall be visiting various archaelogical digs and researching Islamic art. After having had dinner with the King and Queen of Jordan. You see, there are many lines to my rod apart from fishing ones. Just as well because there just isn't much fishing to be done at present - almost everything is shut - and I just can't face another small water at the moment without four pocketfuls of chocolate.

As you read this I should be (depending on what time of day you pick up the sports pages) be either flying to, or be in, Jordan. For fishing? Oh no. I shall be visiting various archaelogical digs and researching Islamic art. After having had dinner with the King and Queen of Jordan. You see, there are many lines to my rod apart from fishing ones. Just as well because there just isn't much fishing to be done at present - almost everything is shut - and I just can't face another small water at the moment without four pocketfuls of chocolate.

Never mind. I have a new idea. For ages I've been meaning to get into talking books. I love the lulling sound of having someone read to you, although as adults this is a a rarely indulged in pleasure. And I must confess that I find some fishing books rather, um, difficult to get into. Although Pete has his nose stuck almost on the centre crease of one of my fishing books at the moment: The Longest Silence by Tom McGuane, which I have yet to read but which he declares to be truly fabulous.

Someone recently asked me about audio fishing books and I promised I'd look into it for almost entirely selfish reasons. I mean, what nicer way to wait for spring and the new trota season to open than listening to fishing tales? (OK, there may be some other nice ways).

The thing is, there isn't much on offer. I can think of loads of wonderful fishing books that are crying out to be read by some equally wonderful voices. Paul Whitehouse and his crew could read Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing; Anthony Hopkins could read anything; Kate Winslet could read the tales from Salmon and Women; Ben Miller (from Armstrong and Miller) could read Maurice Wiggin's classic, Teach Yourself Fly Fishing; Robert Downey Jnr could read the best bits of Jeremy Paxman's anthology Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life. OK, I added those last two readers because I have developed huge crushes on them (especially Downey Jnr - surprised me too).

In the UK I could find precious little indeed (and am so happy to be put right by any of you). The Beckenham Bookshop in Beckenham, Kent (020 8650 9744) were very helpful and they said they would try and source from the publisher - because they don't hold it in stock - Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler. Abridged this would cost £9.99, unabridged it costs £40.

To get any sort of choice one must, I'm afraid, turn to the American bookstores. I couldn't alas, find anyone who sells Pultizer prize-winner Howell Raines' book on tape, Flyfishing Through the Midlife Crisis - it's out of audio print. I'd heard it was very good and just might strike a cord with some of you!

But fret not, sit back and relax as I guide you through some of the talking books available. First there's Cape Cod Fisherman by Phil Schwind and read by Jonathan Reese, $40 (work it out yourselves, it's good to keep the brain working of a Saturday) which is all about a fisherman in Cape Cod in the 1930s. Then there's Maine Coast Fisherman by Charlie York and read by Harold Clifford, $30. This is all about the changes in the fishing industry at the beginning of the 20th century as seen through the eyes of... a Maine fisherman. Standing with Fishes, read by White Bear Woman (yes, really), $14 is full of old stories and parables on the sea and the life within it. The one I'm definitely going to buy is Jack London's Tales of the Fish Patrol, $20 and read by Jonathan Reese (he gets around doesn't he?). This tells the tale of London's time, as a teenager, aboard the fishing boats in the San Francisco's bay. He starts off as an oyster thief and ends up as a member of the Fish Patrol.

The prices I've quoted are very approximate - just a guide really, and don't include shipping tax and all that unfortunate stuff which makes shopping from foreign internet sites so much less appealing. But - as far as I can tell - you just can't get these books on tape here. The best site I found with the most comprehensive selection was www.talkingbooks.com but if you do have internet access then put "talking books" into your search engine (I like Google.com) and it will spew up various other sites and then you can search for what you fancy. If you don't have internet access then make friends with someone who has.

Can I just end by reminding you keen fishing folk that in this quiet time it wouldn't be a bad idea to ring your favourite reservoir to book a boat for when the trout season proper reopens in a couple of weeks' time. They get booked up awful early by fishing keenies. Now then, I must go off and practise what knife and fork to use and how to curtsey.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk">a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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