Caught by the River


28th May 2009


I first came across Charles Rangeley – Wilson on TV a few years ago in his BBC series ‘ The Accidental Angler’. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of him and I found the first couple of episodes a bit dull. My CBTR colleague Andrew disagreed – ‘good bloke’ he said – and hey, it was fishing on BBC TV for gods sake, so I persevered and I was glad that I did. I warmed to Charles big time. It became clear that he is an adventurous type, whether fishing for Mahseer in India or climbing over fences looking for trout within the M25, he was game. But ultimately, I realised that Charles was all right after his encounter with a bivvied up carp angler, on a pond on Hampstead Heath. From what I remember Charles attempted a conversation with the chap and it wasn’t great. Although both guys shared a love of fishing it didn’t matter. Neither of them had the social skills required to cope with the other. As Charles walked away, the guy in the bivvy was heard to mutter something which I swear was “fucking wanker”. I love that he kept that in.
I contacted Charles at the end of last year and asked him if he would like to summarise his year for us in our ‘Shadows & Reflections’ series. What I got back was pure fear & loathing. Holy shit, I thought, these are dark days. But when I re read it, the writing was brilliant. Abstract and brilliant. Shortly after that he sent through a modified version, which you can read here, slightly tempered, but still manic.

Charles also sent me a DVD of a film that he made, chronicling his obsession with Bonefish. I enjoyed it a lot, though watching someone obsess this much is verging on the voyeuristic (on a similar note, I’ve just had the privilege of reading some of Jon Berry’s ‘work in progress’ telling of his Ferox obsession. The torment is palpable.).

Here’s a review of the DVD by Theo Pike, Chairman of the Wandle Trust and Senior VP of the Wandle Piscators. As well as having great respect for the work that Theo has done on the Wandle, I’m a big fan of his writing and it’s always a pleasure having him on CBTR. This piece was originally published on Fly Fishers Republic;(JB)

I think it must have been one of the American authors – John Gierach springs to mind – who once said he never even wanted to try blue-water fishing because he knew too well what the pull of those turbo-charged pelagics would do to his lifelong love of trout angling.

At first blush, this looks a lot like stoic self-denial. But now, watching this debut DVD from Charles Rangeley-Wilson, formerly seen on screen as the Accidental Angler and founder of the Wild Trout Trust, I can concede that it’s possibly also a very sensible act of self-preservation.

(After all, who needs azure water and coralline coves, shell-sand beaches and concussive coconut palms under a blinding sun? Who wants to have to handle tackle better balanced for playing a runaway Routemaster in heavy London traffic? And if fly-fishing alone isn’t bad enough, who needs an even harder addiction?)

Then again… watch this film in the freezing depths of a British January, cast yourself off in pursuit of those mythical, psychedelic bonefish… and like Odysseus himself, the gods only know when you’ll come home.

With perfect classical pitch, Bonefish opens with a roar of agony from our narrator, a fisherman who’s just blown his day’s best shot at a brace of “epic” bones on a flat somewhere in the Bahamas.

“Bonefish country is like a drug for me now”, confides Charles to camera, and it’s easy to see why. Grittily far from lifestylish tourist resorts, the reflective, opalescent beauty of evening on Eleuthera is enough to make me want to pack my own bags right away, regardless of the damage this will do to my mortgage, my marriage and my trout fishing.

In fact, one of the reasons Bonefish succeeds so well is precisely because of its raw, underplayed, travelogue style.

From finding your own guides (or not), to DIY-ing a ferry trip between the islands (“because sometimes you have to force yourself to take the longer road”) in a claustrophobic cabin with locals called Lucifer and Stinking Biddy, this is pretty much as far from the polished, cocktails-before-dinner lodge experience as it’s possible to get.

(read more here)

Buy the DVD here

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