Somewhere Else - Charles Rangeley-Wilson
Reviewed by Terry Lawton
Writing good, readable and entertaining fishing stories is an interesting challenge. So far the Americans are well out in front, particularly John Gierach and Tom McGuane. These two writers have the big advantage of living and fishing in a country that seems to lend itself to being written about. The USA has more than enough scenery, variety of rivers and a seemingly unlimited string of great fishing tackle and coffee shops on the banks of famous rivers where all the local fishing dudes meet to chew the fat before another great and challenging day on the river. But this is not to suggest that everything American is good. I read recently James R Babb's book Crosscurrents, A Fly Fisher's Progress and for quite a lot of the time I felt that I needed a dictionary to understand it properly. Most of the fishing was pretty accessible but there a significant number of American terms and expressions that were verging on the incomprehensible.
Anyway, to get to the point of this review of Charles Rangeley-Wilson's first book, Somewhere Else. Charles is the angling correspondent for The Field and a founder and first chairman of the Wild Trout Society. Charles has put together a carefully crafted, entertaining and amusing set of stories, some of which have very little to do with fishing, with the emphasis more often on the country and the people involved. God, he meets some weird people! I don't know whether I would want to spend too much time with some of them. There is an interesting and extraordinary juxtaposition between two stories, when we jump from 'When Jim told me he was bringing some English guy over called Squiggly-Fuckwit, I thought: Oh Kerist, he's gonna be calling the Queen to come rescue him with her helicopter, he's gonna cry and wanna go home!' to 'the body taken downstairs and out of the front door in a black zip-up bag had simply let her down' - the death of his mother.
Charles has fished in some interesting places, some with success, others were a disaster. He's been to South Africa, Australia (un-cooperative barramundi), Bhutan which sounded disappointing, France and different parts of Canada. Closer to home we have him try to catch a wild trout in the London suburbs and enjoying (perhaps not quite the right word) some mixed fishing on river and loch in Scotland. A good mixture. He also has some fairly cutting comments to make about the damage done to rivers and trout streams, something obviously very close to his heart, by the Environment Agency and its predecessors. Don't worry, he does go fishing and catches some great fish.
Oh, the headline on this review? It's just that when I have been in Charles' company - not fishing it's true - I have never heard a swearword pass his lips.
Somewhere Else by Charles Rangeley-Wilson is published by Yellow Jersey Press at £12.99 or CAN $34.95.
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