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The Accidental Angler by Charles Rangeley-Wilson

Release date: 01st November, 2006
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press

List Price: £15.99
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The Accidental Angler
Charles Rangeley-Wilson
Yellow Jersey Press
4sportsbooks.co.uk price: £10.55 (saving 34% on rrp)


Generally speaking, books published to accompany a television series tend to be of the picture variety and usually disappointing.

Upon discovering that The Accidental Angler was to accompany a BBC series, your reviewer was expecting a rather dry read, full of impenetrable detail; indeed, it took several goes just to start the first page.

However, I suspect I am unlikely to be as surprised by a book for some time to come. Despite its episodic narrative, this book is unputdownable. I read it in one sitting, mesmerized by the tales of man against fish from around the world and awe-struck by a delightful turn of phrase, which marries an understanding of the sport with modern cultural references.

Rangeley-Wilson's tales begin in search of grayling on an unidentified river in England, and pass through London, Scotland, India, France, Russia, Norfolk, Iceland, The Bahamas, Brazil, Southampton, Bhutan and The Wash. It's a stunning mixture of exotic and familiar locations and all are handsomely evoked.

The first example of the author's terrific turn of phrase comes in the opening chapter as he reaches in his bag for a fly. "It looked like a startled Mick Hucknall in drag," he colourfully exclaims. Having launched the fly and line into the river and observed the ensuing mayhem, he reports that "Mick Hucknall had woken the entire pool from its stupor."

In the chapter entitled, 'The Year of the Big Fish', the author takes a journey from Dorset to Iceland via Norfolk in search of the biggest trout he can find. Whilst in Norfolk, his childhood home, he flashes back to his youth and gives an insight perhaps into how he got the fishing bug. A Mr Gurney had opened a fish shop in Brancaster and, it seems, he was very attractive to the ladies. "Queues of women would gather on the road outside," he reminisces, "waiting their turn for fish and flattery."

The most exotic location on Rangeley-Wilson's journey is undoubtedly The Bahamas and his search for bonefish in the wonderfully named Blue Crab Cay while awaiting for the arrival of a cyclone unleashes the poet in him: "The storm missed Blue Crab Cay, but it had ruffled a few hairpieces on expensive yachts along the way."

My favourite chapter in the book is, however, the least exotic. It is called 'Breath of the River', where the author attempts to find trout in one of the many tributaries of the Thames in London. As well as being a fascinating account of the conflict between the urban and the rural, it also provides an absorbing history lesson on the physical geography of the capital.

Rangeley-Wilson is only partially tongue-in-cheek when he describes the River Fleet, from which Fleet Street took its name, thus: "The Fleet flows on - in pitch darkness, ankle-deep, warm as a bath and full of turds. The only wildlife a few rats." At the River Wandle in Wandsworth, he despairs: "Why the hell do people throw rubbish into riversÖwhat's a river going to do with a fridge or a motorbike or a mattress?"

Thankfully, the book was the precursor to the television series rather than the other way round. In the end, just four of Rangeley-Wilson's tales were used, although his future adventures will undoubtedly find themselves on the small screen. No longer will I look with bewilderment at the line of fishermen stretched down the local cut; instead I will remember the words on the sign at Blue Crab Cay: "THE WORST DAY FISHING BEATS THE BEST DAY WORKING".


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