If you travel to the heart of Dumbarton, where the River Leven tumbles along a winding course originating from the mesmerising stills of Loch Lomond into the River Clyde, you'll find craftsman, fisherman and part-time fishing guide, John Bell - if he's not out fishing! Also known as The Lomond Angler, John developed a deep fascination with fishing before he can even remember, which has now led him to the remarkable skill of handcrafting fishing nets.
We were thrilled to have the chance to speak with John, whose passion for all things fishing was apparent from the off and truly infectious.
He began fishing at the age of three with his brother and warmly recounts his affinity with water, stating that "he could always be found in a puddle when one was around". These first sparks of interest were to grow into the world he has created today, within which he eats, sleeps and breathes the sport - having fished on the morning of his wedding, which was held on Loch Lamond.
Perpetually exploring with his trusted rod in hand when holidaying, John's travels have become more pointed with fishing trips taking him on adventures worldwide. It was during such a trip that inspiration took hold after discovering a breathtaking river near Geneva and befriending a local fisherman who favoured wooden fishing nets.
Having always been a hands-on character, seeking new challenges, he made the decision during lockdown in 2020 to master the art of hand-building his own. Having the time to develop his techniques during a rigorous period of trial and error - he experimented with materials and methods, honing his design to create the perfect net for him.
Made from long, finely lathed strips of kiln-dried Scottish timber that are steamed for one and a half hours, so that the wood becomes bendable and can be moulded into a rim. Once shaped, the strips are glued together before the final piece of the jigsaw is set into place and the net is lovingly attached to the frame - often accompanied by the mellifluous melody of classical music. The result is a rare and spectacular piece of equipment that takes twelve to fourteen hours to complete over a number of days.
His approach to crafting the nets is the very same he applies to fishing – dedicated and methodical, finding mindfulness in the process. The design is not only informed by the way it will be used, with every detail considered, but with utmost respect for the fish. John has an admirable knowledge of nature, which has evolved over his years spent on the water.
We are honoured to have the opportunity of working with John, who has made bespoke fishing nets for the Fife Arms in collaboration with our Celebration of Heritage Crafts for the Coronation of the King - who is an impassioned supporter of preserving endangered crafts.
Discover The Fife Arms Coronation Collection now.