In pursuit of wild trout

We are delighted to publish a guest post from the author and blogger of Dartography. To read more of his musings on the pursuit of wild river trout in Dartmoor, click here.

IN ITS UPPER REACHES the East Dart flows out of high moorland, past the remains of Bronze Age hut circles scattered in the grass. The river tumbles over granite boulders in the wild valleys, as the land softens to rough grazing the river softens too. It winds under thickets of yellow flowered gorse and purple foxgloves. It carves out pools and glides in the peat.

At the head of a pool the river runs fast and shallow over gravel. At the tail it narrows again and the surface of the water is rough and broken. In the middle it is deep, the flow of water slow. In the food-poor water of a spate river fish can’t afford to be fussy eaters. The shortage of food is the likely reason many trout leave the river for richer feeding grounds at sea. They return as silver sea trout to spawn in the gravel beds of their birth.

The banks of the East Dart are high from the torrent of floodwater that ploughs through the course in winter. The summer level is lower, making it hard to stay out of sight. The clear water and many predators make the trout flighty. It is vital to keep out of sight if you want to see or catch them. The deeper water, shaded from the full strength of the sun, should hold the better fish. I crouch between the tall grass and watch. An olive mayfly drifts in the current, trapped by the surface film. A trout rises and it disappears.

Even in July the evenings are cool on Dartmoor. The sun sets early behind the tors. I slip into the river in the noisy fast water at the tail of the pool, hoping it will mask the splash from my wading boots.

I wait to see if I have disturbed my fish. It rises again to another trapped insect. I unhook an olive pattern from the cork handle of my fly rod, pull some line from the reel and flick it out in front of me. The rod comes up and the line peels out behind; I push it forwards and send the fly through the air towards the bend in the river beneath the gorse.

It lands a little short. I let it drift back to me so as not to disturb the pool, strip off a few more handfuls and cast again. The fly lands in front of the rising fish, drifts for half a second on the current and disappears in a swirl of broken water. I set the hook with a flick of the rod. The line zips tight and cuts the water as the trout takes off around the pool.

I bring him to the net and move into the shallows where I can slip the barbless hook out. A quick photo and back he goes. I hold him in the current to recover his strength in my fingers until he flicks his tail and shoots upstream. A blur of red spots on brown and gold flanks.

The ancestors of my trout swam up the estuary from Dartmouth as far back as 20,000 years ago. Some stay in the river and others follow the current back to saltwater and richer feeding. Under the stars on short summer nights the sea trout come back to the river.

A revolutionary new edition of Operation Sea Angler by Mike Ladle and Steve Pitts will be published by Adlard Coles Nautical in summer 2013.

Ten films that float our boat

Guest blog by ArrJimLad

Tired of being stuck ashore? Restless to get out on the ocean waves?

Here at Adlard Coles, understanding seamen that we are, we know how fighting the urge to hoist anchor can sometimes seem unbearable. Fear not though, help is at hand…

We’ve put our heads together to compile an absolutely non-definitive list of sea-themed films for you to trawl through – a veritable life raft for those of you unsure of being able to cope without the water’s ebb and flow until you’ve spoken to your boss and booked some time off work.

There are, of course, dozens that didn’t make the cut (some rather controversially, although few tears were shed over some of the other omissions) but that’s where you come in. If you’ve got your own take on things, if you think we’ve got it wrong or you just downright disagree, feel free to post any of your thoughts below. Right, let the debate begin!

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10. Titanic

Let’s get this one out of the way first, shall we? Yes, we know it’s not cool. Yes, we know it’s received more than its fair share of press this year. And yes, we know its existence comes hand in hand with Celine Dion going on and on… but all of that, dear cynics, would mean overlooking a few bare-faced facts.

Made directly before James Cameron holed himself away to create Avatar, on its initial release Titanic did the following: earned over $600 million at the US box office; launched Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet onto the A-list; and possessed some genuinely (and under-rated) spectacular special effect sequences that left audience jaws on cinema floors.

Yet, beyond all of the Oscars, tears and an ability to put bums on seats, arguably Titanic’s greatest achievement is that it has continually managed to capture the imaginations of a worldwide audience on a scale rarely encountered before. And for that reason alone, it’s got to be on our list.

9. The Little Mermaid

It’s easy to forget that in the few years leading up to Pixar’s game-changing computer animation hitting our cinema screens, Disney were producing smash-hit traditionally animated films that captured the imagination of audiences all over the world.

The Little Mermaid is as bright, colourful and, dare I say it, twee as you’d imagine, but it would be ludicrous not to acknowledge its standing as a firm family (and office!) favourite responsible for taking generations under the sea for the very first time.

8. Das Boot

I haven’t seen this. People in the office tell me I should. That is all.

7. Jaws

Understandably criticised by marine biologists and shark enthusiasts the world over for demonising one of nature’s greatest surviving predators, but it’s impossible for this almost entirely sea-based film NOT to make our list.

Adapted from Peter Benchley’s novel, Jaws was Steven Spielberg’s big screen breakthrough and was directed on a smidgen of the astronomical budgets his productions now command. Assisted by John Williams’ iconic score, Spielberg creates a Hitchcock-like thriller-horror via clever use of underwater camera shots which left audiences lifting their feet onto their chairs in fear of being gnawed on by an eternally hungry great white shark which, for the vast majority of the film, remains unseen.

That said fish actually turns out to be quite a turgid rubber-tyre of a creation when you get a closer look at it matters not; packed with classic cinematic moments, Jaws deserves its inclusion.

6. Master and Commander

Now to a film lauded for its accuracy. Starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany, Master and Commander (based on the novels of Patrick O’Brian) raked in ten Oscar nominations and countless plaudits from the critics. As gnarled and gritty as you’d expect the Napoleonic Wars to have been, this epic portrayal of soldiers’ lives at sea during the early 1800s comes with humanity, but isn’t for the faint of heart.

5. Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

Not technically sea-based for the majority, but it’s difficult not to mention a film that comes loaded with the idea of the ocean’s supremacy and how it can, if it so wishes, leave one at its mercy.

Actor Dan O’Herlihy received an Oscar nomination for his interpretation of Daniel Defoe’s most famous character in a story that has inspired countless other productions to employ the ocean’s strength as a means of throwing characters into seemingly unassailable, despairing situations.

4. March of the Penguins

Not since The Shawshank Redemption has Morgan Freeman put his silky smooth Tennessee voice to better use. Freeman narrates the English version (the original documentary is in French) of a stirring story of the annual hardships the emperor penguins of Antarctica must face in order to mate.

There has, of course been other successful sea-life-based schmaltz on our cinema screens over the years, but March of the Penguins trumps them all because, not only does it manage to tick the ‘oh sooo cute!’ and ‘heart-warming romance’ boxes, but because it’s real.

Take that, Keiko.

3. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

It’d be difficult not to include a submarine-based film on our list, so we’ve gone for a classic. Other films might lay claim to being tense, successful sub-based thrillers in their own right, but the impact of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea had on its audience shouldn’t go underestimated.

An adventure based on Jules Verne’s novel, it has become regarded as one of Disney’s classic non-cartoon productions which, alongside adding greater intrigue into the wonders of the sea, also brought about a terrifying monster of the deep onto our screens.

2. Treasure Island

Back when Johnny Depp was still in short trousers little could he have known how his bank balance would prosper from a story to which all other pirate adventures owe their pieces of eight.

Jim Hawkins, Billy Bones, Long John Silver, yo-ho-ho, fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, parrots, wooden legs and bottles of rum… this film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel is the cinematic blueprint for every pirate who’s sailed the seas ever since.

1. Finding Nemo

The Little Mermaid looked spectacular on its release but the animation seems stone-age in comparison with this, a sensory overload that’s, arguably, Pixar Studios’ greatest work.

By deciding to cater for the adults of the children clamouring to see their films, Pixar’s productions are known not just for their heart, but for their intelligence too, and Finding Nemo is no exception (for example, how many average 5 / 45 year-olds knew about anemones or the EAC before Nemo and Dory showed them?). A production that makes you want to go out and explore for yourself what the depths of the ocean have to offer, this masterpiece deservedly floats to the number one spot on our list.

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How to Get Published

The others thought I was the most appropriate person to write an entry about getting published by Adlard Coles, not only because I am the first point of contact for unsolicited manuscripts, but because I’m also an Adlard Coles author. In fact, next January sees the publication of my third book with Adlard Coles – Final Voyage: The world’s worst maritime disasters.

Unlike many publishers Adlard Coles will happily consider unsolicited book proposals. However, before you rush to the post office to send us the log of your fortnight’s cruise off the Gironde, here are some things to consider:

Has your book got a strong hook? Can you sum it up in a single sentence? This isn’t about dumbing down, it’s about grabbing people’s attention. Publishers receive dozens (if not hundreds!) of book ideas every week, but they only publish a handful of new books each month. Readers have an even harder time – they have millions of books to choose from! But grab their attention with one sentence and there’s every chance they’ll want to read the next 5,000 too.

Use your single sentence to sum up what is unique about your book and why a reader will want to pick it up, what your book offers (whether it’s practical advice or an absorbing tale) that no others do. For example, one of our most successful books, Left for Dead by Nick Ward, could be summed up as: The true story of a teenage competitor in the disastrous 1979 Fastnet Race who was knocked unconscious on a sinking yacht and awoke to found his crewmates had fled in the liferaft without him.

How big is the potential readership for your book? Adlard Coles is the largest nautical publisher in the world, but nautical publishing is still a pretty specialist niche. We don’t expect to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of every book, but we need to convince our sales and marketing teams that there are enough people out there to make the investment of producing the book worthwhile.

Publishing is a business like any other and unfortunately sometimes we have to reject books that are wonderfully written simply because we don’t think we could sell enough copies to cover the costs of publication.

We reject a lot of sailing narratives that fit into two categories: memoirs of careers in the merchant navy half a century ago, and what we call ‘my holiday on the water’-type books. The market for the former is very small (too small for us) and the market for the latter is even smaller. Please appreciate that what might have been a fun, exciting, fascinating trip for you doesn’t necessarily make for a fun, exciting or fascinating book. Remember: what’s your hook?

So, having read this, do you think you’ve got a book for us? We’re particularly keen on receiving proposals for practical guides about any and all aspects of boating, as well as strong narratives (non-fiction only please). If you think we might be interested in your book please send us 2–3 chapters, along with a summary of the whole book and some information about yourself to adlardcoles@bloomsbury.com.

Last year Justin Ruthven-Tyers did just this, and this year we published his book Phoenix from the Ashes. Could your book be next?