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A Good Read by the Fire

New research seems to show what anglers have known for years - that warming yourself by a crackling fire after a freezing day on a river or lake has many health benefits. The soporific effects of a campfire are widely accepted, but scientists have now discovered that any open fire can have such benefits - and the longer you sit in front of one, the greater the effect it has.

Even when flames and a gentle crackling noise are simulated in a laboratory they are shown to ease blood pressure - which may explain why television programmes and internet sites showing a living fireplace for hours on end have proved so popular. An extensive study by a medical scientist has also proved that the more natural the flames, the better the benefits.

Open fires have always been vital in the evolution of humans - they allowed our ancestors to heat and preserve food, keep warm and scare off predators. They even enabled these early humanoids to spread into, and survive in, colder climates.

These days, of course, the fireside (preferably in an old pub like my local, The Jolly Anglers) is where fishers can gather together after being hounded from the river after an appalling winter's day chubbing or some such futile event, generally talk cobblers, lick their wounds and prepare for a fresh encounter the next day. The fact that they will inevitably stay up far too late and drink far too much malt always seems to get in the way of such enlightened thinking . . .

The pub fireside, therefore, was also a meeting place where anglers would congregate and any angling knowledge (if indeed there is such a thing) was passed on and shared round . . .

For the solitary angler, without a fireside companion to actually talk to, there is always solace to be found in a good angling book. And there are many of them. No 'How to Catch' tomes (especially after catching nothing all day) will be mentioned here. Just great angling writing, by really good authors.

Sure, reading by the fire can be escapism into another less real, but more appealing watery world, where fish occasionally do what they are supposed to, rivers sparkle as only they should (I know, I know, an alien concept these days) and a canoeist is only ever seen in Canada.

Reading an angling book by the fire is certainly relaxing and, in my non-medical opinion, does lower blood pressure and release stress.

I know it's traditional to go out on Christmas morning, bag a brace of pike or chub (trout often hunker down and salmon usually go abroad in winter - just like salmon anglers), but if the weather is bad, why bother? Just open that fishing book you've always wanted to try (by Sheringham, maybe, or Caine, or Venables, or Yates, or Plunket Greene, or Ransome, or Thelwell or Hargreaves - I did tell you there are lots of them), sit by an open fire and catch as many fish as you like. Whilst staying dry.

Here are just a few of our fireside angling books . . .