Many fans of legendary guitarist and songwriter Eric Clapton know that he is a fly fisher as well. On a recent drive to Pennsylvania, to attend the 64th Annual Flyfishers’ Club of Harrisburg Dinner, I listened to his autobiography through my iPod. The book is titled simply, Clapton: The Autobiography (Broadway, 2007), and according to a review in the The New York Times it was written by Clapton himself. In the book, Clapton describes his life, from childhood, through his tenures with the Yardbirds, Cream, and other bands, and into his years as a solo musician and family man.
Despite his huge and very early success as a musician, Clapton’s personal life was a shambles for many years; it was filled with more obstacles and tragedies than most of us have or will experience. Clapton writes, for instance, with great candour about his abuse of heroin and, later, alcohol. He details the many ways in which he failed himself and others during his years of abuse. Of course, he also discusses his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and his present, ongoing dedication to helping others toward recovery.
Clapton explains that coarse fishing was the one thing, besides playing guitar, that he felt he was good at, prior to his years of sobriety. Therefore, he writes, it was after he fell, drunk, on top of some cherished coarse fishing poles, that he realized he must finally achieve and truly maintain sobriety.
In the book, Clapton mentions the great passion he eventually found for fly fishing. He notes that he was introduced to the sport by fellow musician and founder of Procol Harum, Gary Brooker. Outside of his book, Clapton’s passion for fly fishing is evidenced by his uncredited appearances in Hardy catalogues. The picture below is taken from the 2007 UK/international edition (click on the picture to go to the Hardy web page featuring their fishing bags).
Clapton has made other public appearances as a fisherman as well. For instance, you can see him fishing the River Test, on the UK television program, Botham on the fly. The video is made available by the Discovery Channel International .
While Clapton does not write extensively about fishing in his autobiography, the book is still worth the read (or listen, if you’re stuck in a car as I was) for any fan of his music. No doubt, if you have ever witnessed drug or alcohol abuse, the book will resonate with you. Moreover, if you’re like me, it may force you to think about the relationship that may exist between your obsession with all things fly fishing and more traditionally recognized addictions.
Click the image of Clapton’s book to be taken to his publisher’s site. And, below, watch a great rendition of Clapton’s “Layla,” performed by him and Mark Knopfler.