About book - Antun Mateš: The enchanted angler

From an enchanted to a nostalgic angler

Few contemporaries have such an impressive biography as Antun Mateš: painter, wrestler, designer, angler, politician and now, after everything, writer. Moreover, it is only in a handful of people that these passions, activities, hobbies and professions have so truly intertwined as in his case. When he is a fisherman, he is also a painter, as his impressive descriptions of the rivers and landscapes in this book could only be composed by the perceptive sensitivity of a painter. In wrestling in the river eddies with the huchens, it is as though Mateš is describing his matches on the mat, and while persistently fighting to return the Croatian names to the world of fish and fishing, he expresses his unfaltering political consistency. Also, in reading this book, the reader will be equally fascinated by the author's passion for fishing as by the curiosity of the chronicler. For Mateš, the history of the people living here, the history of their faith, customs, habits, folklore and social life, flows alongside the river. Mateš is a Zagreb native, both by birth and by his artistic interest in painting. In the wild and isolated parts of Our Beautiful Homeland, his cultured Zagreb manner is merged with the water, rivers and fishing as with the elementariness of human survival and the primeval connection to nature. This merger of high urbanism with the streams, rivers, landscapes and rural world around the Kupa, Dobra, Una, Sana and other watercourses give the impression of a modern man in the broadest of senses, from the silence in which he creates with his paintbrush, to studying the archives and reading old volumes, to the pleasures, tribulations and risks that stem from fishing adventures. Wholly versatile, in this book Mateš has a lesson for the zoologist and ichthyologist, the angler, and the historian, the geographer, the ethnologist and the linguist. And most importantly, he has something to say to the ecologists and all the bodies and institutions which have been entrusted with the task of nature conservation. This volume on huchens and graylings, after his first, the exceptionally well received book on trout, is reading material about the “aristocracy” of fish, the freshwater “elite” which, unfortunately, is becoming rare. Just a few decades ago, the author had the great privilege of belonging to a generation that knew these rivers in a virtually pristine state, with an abundance of fish that today is virtually unimaginable. However, he was also a witness to the catastrophic destruction of this state, and due to which the freshwater “elite” is almost gone or has already disappeared in many European rivers. Therefore, at the end of this book, the “enchanted angler” is in fact a nostalgic angler, and it would be a travesty if this book came to be based on an evil hunch aroused by the fear that the time would soon come when the trout, huchens and graylings would “swim” only in our memories and on the page. This fantastic volume is the best proof that this should never be allowed to happen.
Milan Ivkošić

Our impression: In this second book, also an exceptionally interesting one, that seamlessly continues the first work Trout, the author, who is educated in several fields and well travelled, reports in 33 chapters comprehensively about huchen and grayling in his homeland and neighboring countries, and it is all founded on his long years of experience and detailed research. The reader finds in wonder about brilliant fish populations and catches from the old days and is taken on a journey through the decades up to the present day. The author also tackles the uglier side of fishing, e.g. a widespread use of dynamite in the past, lack of measure in contemporaries, senseless water pollution and concreting of river banks, the cormorant issue (which has in the meantime become a problem in Croatia and Bosnia) and political machinations of the regime in former Yugoslavia, which may seem alien to the reader in the West. Beside facts on biology and appearance of huchen and grayling, the book describes fishing tackle and techniques in detail – from the early days up to today. Real value to the book is added also by countless tales of the author’s experiences with fish, people and customs from the riverbank, as well as by the large number of impressive photographs, both in colour and in black-and-white. Especially if you, the reader, have already fished some of the described waters… Huchen and Grayling is an exceptionally well written, unique book, full of hues, history and it represents a complete weave full of beautiful and inimitable stories. In addition, the book offers what is seldom so clearly presented – a deep insight into the background of the religious wars and the different political systems of former Yugoslavia. Of great importance are the warnings, eulogies even, at the end of the book, where the author concerns himself with the destruction of some unique natural areas. Let reason win over greed for profit of those who build dams and of power company conglomerates – future generations will thank us... You want our honest advice? Get this book while you still can! Facts, excerpts and other info at: www.huchen-angler.com

Michael Müller

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