Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fishing hats off to the Accidental Angler

It's not often that I get excited during trips to Tescos. A visit a couple of months ago started like any other, until I found myself standing next to the magazine rack. While Mrs Windknotter busied herself in the ladies clothing aisle, I took a look at the month's magazine offerings. FHM's cover had a girl who used to be in Hollyoaks pouting and holding her breasts, while an East Anglia focussed publication had yet another interview with local 'celebrity' Rory McGrath. So far there was a clear winner. And then my eye found the Angler's Mail. Inside I read about a forthcoming BBC series, The Accidental Angler, presented by angling writer, and former Wild Trout Trust Chairman, Charles Rangeley-Wilson. Things in Tesco were looking up.

The Accidental Angler

The Accidental Angler book. One for the Christmas list

But when I scoured the Radio Times, I could find no trace. The Angler's Mail had got the date wrong. So I posted an enquiry over on the Fly Fishing Forums. It wasn't long before the thread grew. Clearly there were plenty of others out there who shared my anticipation. After a bit of schedule shufflement, the first episode finally aired in late November, and found Charles sweltering under a cruel Indian sun as he attempted to catch Mahseer. In the following weeks we followed him to Bhutan, Brazil and then finally back home to London, where, with infectious enthusiasm, he sought elusive wild brown trout.

Back on the forum the jury were quick to pass judgement. Some complained that there wasn't enough actual fishing time clocked up. But then we could hardly expect a prime time BBC slot to be devoted to the kind of thing we expect (and enjoy) from Matt Hayes and Paul Young over on Discovery Home and Leisure. The Accidental Angler was a subtler blend, placing culture, travel and environmentalism into the mix. Of course, as someone who likes to fish, I would happily have sat through an hour of beautiful fly casting. But I'm in a minority. For me, this was a nicely put together programme, and, like any successful performance, it left me wanting more.

Eighty years ago, Arthur Ransome recorded his fascination for watching other men fish:

“I am never likely to do any netting, but I cannot see a net without waiting to see what is in it. How much more difficult do I find it to move on when I have come across a fisherman using rod and line. Another man's float will satisfy me for hours. Most interesting of all is to watch the fly fisher”. Arthur Ransome, Rod and Line, Oxford University Press, 1980, p.53

This was how I felt when watching Charles Rangeley-Wilson. With my fishing season over, I devoured each minute. Like Ransome, I was happiest when a fly rod was in use, so imagine my delight as a nymph was worked through a riffle in Bhutan, or as a bushy klinkhammer was flicked around the river Chess. So thank you, Charles. Your programmes will help me through the close season.

And now I see that The Accidental Angler book is available. The Fish and Fly website has a review, and even gives a telephone number where you can purchase it at a reduced price. So if you'll excuse me, I need to make a phone call...