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Hooked on fishing: East End lad creates anglers’ paradise
2:00pm Sunday 20th January 2013 in News
YOU might think a lad from the East End of London would be like a fish out of water in the rural backwaters of south Worcestershire.
But you would be surprised. Because this is a story about three Fs – fishing, fashion and Farey – and how one man’s passion for the sport of angling has taken him all the way from top clothes shops in the capital to a converted cider mill near the village of Fladbury in the Vale of Evesham and a lifestyle he’d dreamed of for years.
John Farey, and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying this, is almost your storybook East Ender.
Warm, affable, with a ready smile and a welcoming line in hospitality which saw him disappearing to the kitchen to make tea and pancakes topped with marmalade before I’d barely put a foot inside the door.
But parked outside was a green Land Rover Discovery with fishing rods in the back and mud on the wheels and I bet you don’t get many of those down the Mile End Road.
John might have been born in The Smoke, but he’s a countryman at heart and he’s happy as a pig in muck surrounded by the paraphernalia at The Fisherman’s Emporium, which he has set up just opposite the Vale Golf Club on the Evesham to Pinvin road and which he’s rapidly building into the best/ largest/most comprehensive collection of fishing memorabilia in the UK.
In these days of the internet, angling enthusiasts from all over the country are beating a path to his door and having a sharp intake of breath with excitement as they gaze around.
Their eyes alight on more than 100 cases of stuffed fish, alongside antique rods, handmade floats and an extensive selection of leather-bound and hardback fishing books.
Many of the books are signed by the authors, including world-renowned fishing gurus such as Paul Boote, Jeremy Wade, Kevin Clifford and Len Arbery.
There are even books by J.R. Hartley, the name which became synonymous with flyfishing thanks to a Yellow Pages television advertising campaign, and the iconic Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing by Bernard Venables. A signed first edition will set you back more than £150.
“We probably offer the largest selection of signed fishing books in the UK,” said John. “I spend a lot of time travelling around looking for signed and rare books, not only because customers like them, but also because I enjoy owning them.”
In fact, his original intention had been to open a bookshop. He’d sold his highend fashion shops and thought about retiring to Spain with wife Angie, but they changed their minds, came back and were looking for something to do.
John had been interested in fishing since he was a lad. He first picked up a rod at the age of five and his subsequent success in the fashion world allowed him to build a collection of fishingrelated rarities and collectables.
Lacking the time to actually go fishing, he kept in touch with the sport through his wallet: “I would buy cased fish, pictures and books just to keep the connection with fishing alive. I did become quite obsessed with it though. Every time I bought something I was on the lookout for the next cased fish or fishing-related collectible to buy.”
John has amassed a considerable number of rare and signed angling books and had this vision of a little bookshop in the Cotswolds.
But the more he and Angie considered the idea, the more obvious it became to build on his fishing hobby.
There was a market out there for a wider range of fishing collectables. After all, angling it still the most popular participation sport.
So the couple took over the old cider mill unit on the Craycombe Farm rural business park at Fladbury, which has the river Avon only 200 yards away.
After spending many thousands of pounds in refitting, redesign and redecoration, the result is a cross between an Edwardian businessmen’s club and a countryside museum.
In one corner there is a fullsized peacock, in another a fox curled up on a chair.
Upstairs there are antique fishing rods and hand-made floats that use real feathers, overseen by stuffed wildlife looking down from their shelves. Besides the books and other fishing memorabilia, the walls are covered with pictures from up-and-coming artists such as John Grant, David Miller and Worcester’s Karen Sarkar, as well as originals by artistic greats including Walter Dendy-Sadler.
“People come in for several hours as much for the pleasure of looking as to buy something that is unique,” said John.
However the jewel in the Emporium’s crown is its cased fish, many of which are highly sought-after and rare. From perch and crucian carp, through to roach, catfish and a pike’s head dating from 1833, which is thought to be the oldest surviving example of fishing taxidermy. Many are from his own personal collection, but he’s philosophical about parting with them if the price is right.
“You’ll never get rich at this game,” he said. “I’ll sell something then spend twice as much on something else.”
Hooked on fishing? You’d better believe it.