Author: Jeremy Wade
Published: 18 October 2012
Summary: A fascinating, engrossing read whether you’ve ever cast a line or not.
We’ve all heard a fisherman’s tale before – those far-fetched stories concerning ‘the ones that got away’ shared in the corner of dimly lit pubs by liquor-soaked men with missing teeth. Well, oddly enough, it turns out some of them were true.
Of course, zoologist and extreme angler Jeremy Wade has known this for a long time and, for the past twenty-five years, he’s been travelling the world collecting the stories of ferocious freshwater attacks previously written off as folklore by the masses. From tales of sharks attacking horses at river crossings (yes, sharks in rivers!), to spiked fish lodging themselves inside gentlemen’s nether regions, it really is incredible how many of the myths Wade investigates in River Monsters turn out to be fact.
From the opening sentence, it’s clear Wade can write (he’s previously been employed as a copywriter and reporter) and he works intrigue and imagery into his prose with a skilled hand. It’s a good job he’s able to, as well, because River Monsters is far, far more than just a transcript of Animal Planet’s primetime television series of the same name. It’s the story of Wade himself, of a man who wandered through his early adult life lost, until his passion for adventure and the natural world was reignited, and, with it, his sense of direction and purpose.
And what a passion he has. You can feel it coursing through every sentence, and when he’s stalking creatures with names like the goliath tigerfish, the alligator garr or the Illiamna lake monster, it’s easy to get caught up in Wade’s enthusiasm. His knowledge of the creatures he’s hunting and the history of locations he hunts them is brilliant, too; one particular highlight is Wade’s recurring comparison of his exploits to those of past explorers, including none other than Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt (after an election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt left America in order to explore a perilous tributary of the Amazon River).
Naturally, the question that comes to mind with a book like this is; what’s here for non-anglers. Well, the emphasis is on the fauna and exotic locations, not on bait rigs or tackle selection, and those solely interested in the natural world will much prefer it that way. But the passages on local peoples – tribal and otherwise – and the personal accounts of Wade’s experiences with them are the book’s surprise strength – they’re arguably more fascinating than the river monsters themselves.
- A 2009 poll revealed fishing to be the most popular participation sport in the UK.
- The largest scaled freshwater fish in the world is the Amazon’s Arapaima Gigas, reaching a maximum size of 14 ¾ ft long.
- The UK has a few bizarre fish of its own.
- Watch Jeremy Wade take a bath with a shoal of piranha.
Does anyone have any similar book recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below.