In 2002, Tony Hayter published a well received biography of F.M. Halford, but this deals with a much more difficult subject. Halford left a lengthy autobiography, and more than 200 articles in the angling press, but Skues was an extraordinarily private man, and although he too, was published very widely and wrote many letters, his life story has been hidden until now, largely because that was his wish. Tony’s biography traces Skues’ life as an angler through the trail of clues his lonely and occasionally tortured subject unwittingly left behind him. So many years have passed since Skues death that for many of today’s fishermen, the question is “Who was this Skues, and what did he do?” and Tony shows how the subject of this new biography did more than anybody else to develop and publicise the practice of fishing the nymph. The catch is that Skues did so in the claustrophobically inward-looking environment of the chalk streams and had to spend much of his life manoeuvring around either Halford, or the man’s shade, which dominated the dry-fly ethos right up to the Second World War and beyond. This factor severely constrained Skues’ freedom of thought, never mind action, a good example being the difficulty he found writing about the use of the downstream nymph, a topic Skues could not easily approach for fear of falling foul of the dry-fly thought police, all of whom fished upstream - and who, by definition, could not tolerate any form of downstream cast. By Skues’ time, this way of thinking had been integrated into an entirely spurious and self-referential code of ‘dry fly ethics,’ the unwritten aim of which was prevent anyone coming along and spoiling the party by challenging any of the many logical flaws which bedevilled the whole system. Into this hothouse walked the shy and awkward Skues, an outsider who was going to do exactly that; and having read Tony’s account, I doubt any reader will forgive him for taking the best part of thirty years getting the job done. Thanks to his persistence, Skues opened the door to nymph fishing, and we have a great deal to thank him for, because he was the man who fought all the hardest battles, and he fought them almost alone. If this very fine book helps to preserve his memory, then it will have achieved its aim.
A most interesting biography covering G.E.M Skues' childhood days, his sometimes horrific education at the private College at Winchester through to his career as a top London Solicitor, and most of all his inquiring mind both as an author and master of Nymph. His many 'literary battles' had over many years with F.M.Halford, are covered in the most articulate and detailed manor. Showing up the most dogmatic purist attitudes at the time, in the era of Dry Fly only, on the hallowed chalk streams rivers of Southern England. Tony Hayter, has carried this epic task extremely thoroughly, ending up with a biography which has been researched in the most finest of detail, a truly fascinating read. It is a book that every 'thinking fly fisherman' should read.
An amazing insight into the mind of the man who changed the course of flyfishing. The sheer volume of research, so obviously undertaken by Doctor Hayter is apparent on every page. This book should be on the bookshelves of every flyfisher, alongside the author's previous book on Halford.