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Growing up on the Cambridgeshire Fens, Will Millard never felt more at home than when he was out with his granddad on the riverbank, whiling away the day catching fish. As he grew older his competitive urge to catch more and bigger fish led him away from that natural connection between him, his grandfather and the rivers of his home. That is, until the fateful day he let a record-breaking sand eel slip through his fingers and he knew that he had lost the magic of those days down by the river, and that something had to change.
The Old Man and the Sand Eel is at its heart the story of three generations of men trying to figure out what it is to be a man, a father and a fisherman. It plots Will's scaly stepping stones back to his childhood innocence, when anything was possible and the wild was everywhere.
Will Millard grew up on the Cambridgeshire Fens, reading John Wilson's Fishing Encyclopaedia and fishing with his grandfather. Since then he has become a British writer, explorer and BBC presenter. Will spent his twenties criss-crossing the forests and remotest West Papua in search of ancient tribal trade routes, before his solo descent of a West African river, which became an acclaimed series for BBC Radio 4. In 2015 he lived alongside Aboriginal whale harpooners and subsistence-hunting sea-nomads as part of his maiden television series Hunters of the South Seas for BBC 2. He regularly writes for Geographical, Outdoor Fitness, the Daily Telegraph and Vice magazine. When at home, Will continues to fish, seeking out the forgotten wild waterways around Britain. The Old Man and the Sand Eel is his first book.
"A wonderfully fluent account of how the strange magic of water and the beings that inhabit it can enchant and intoxicate"
– Chris Yates
"[Will Millard] is a master wordsmith and his first book is a joyful testament to that"
– Isabelle Broom, Heat
"[Will Millard] writes with a genuine sense of humility [...] humour and reflection"
– Kevin Parr, Countryfile
"The writing is sharp and clever [...] I loved all of it and would as happily read it again as I would sit beside the river waiting for the evening rise of trout to begin"
– Tom Fort, Literary Review
"This is post-modern nature writing that embraces beauty where it finds it and marvels at nature's tenacity [...] But there's more here than just fish. This is also a book about growing up, about how to retain a connection with those who raised you while forging your own identity – what to keep and what to discard. And it's about men. The strong surges of emotion that both draw them together and keep them apart, and the shared pastimes which recognise that intimacy and meaning aren't always accompanied by words"
– Olivia Edward, Geographical