Somewhere Else represents a new direction for fishing books. Self-consciously taking cues from Kerouac (there's a quote from On The Road in the introduction), this book takes you effortlessly across the world in search of trout but reveals so much more than merely what fly caught how many fish.
Charles's prose is so disarmingly clear and concise (with elements of Hemingway and cult US trout bum John Gierach) that you're right there with him, seeing the world open up through his eyes, which could just as easily be yours so untainted by prejudice are his observations.
Fishing books, as another reviewer has noted, often suffer from a stuffy tone of voice - affluent middle-aged men are the core demographic of fly fishing, after all - but this is definitely not the case here. Granted, regular jaunts to Bhutan, Maine, Canada and beyond (all covered here) are not the preserve of the poor, but the author takes every encounter at a philosophical and aesthetic level (there are some beautiful descriptions here - perhaps the by-product of a background in fine art), with warming companionship appreciated whether it's drunken bums in back-country USA or old friends on home waters.
There's a lot of swearing, which is often hilarious and realistic when coming from the mouths of frustrated fellow anglers, but when chapters are named for example 'Sh*tloads of Refusals' you've got to wonder whether it's labouring the rebellious point a little.
That said, the dialogue is recorded exactly as it happens: a meeting with anglers and tackle shop stalwarts in deepest suburban London is as gritty as you could imagine; a punter in a South African bar gets lecherous as the beer flows; a pair of crack anglers in camo shout a tally of fish over the water. It's all real enough.
The first chapter launches straight into the author's world: a necessary piscatorial escape following the death of a parent. In fact there's even a vignette of a chapter describing the day of her death and the emotional aftermath. It's incredibly moving. What other fishing book would give you that?
This, in summary, is a beatiful and realistic book, free of pastoral whimsy and rich in hi-res recollection. In a world like the author's, where it's just as much of an adventure to find unexpected pike a couple of miles from home as it is to fly out to Canada and inadvertantly witness a whale-slaughter (life as the local guides know it), this really is stuff to feed dreams.