Reviews of Terminal Chancer

Jon Berry is the Author of A Can of Worms, Beneath The Black Water, and A Train To Catch. He has published many articles on fishing and was asked by Caught by The River to review Terminal Chancer. I have to say that when I heard such an accomplished writer was reviewing my book – I was both excited and nervous in equal measure.

Review by Jon Berry  for Caught by The River  –

Atlantic salmon. Rainbow trout. Shaun Ryder. LSD. Apocalypse Now. A crazy-as-crazy-gets friend called Lamont. Shrimp-head balaclavas. An unlikely mix, but Gilbraith’s Terminal Chancer is an unlikely book.

It is rare for authors to mention, as Gilbraith’s does in the book’s early pages, that they have self-published the item you hold in your hands because two publishers have turned it down. Upon finishing, I can see why they did; I can also see that they missed a trick. Terminal Chancer is an unusual memoir and an idiosyncratic joy.

Gilbraith is a salmon man, devoted to fishing for the rare runs of fish on his local River Ribble. As such, this is a story with very few salmon in it. There is none of the gigantism found in the writings of Hugh Falkus or Fred Buller, and only brief glimpses of the high-end, ghillie and Land Rover fishing that can be had, for a considerable price, in the Scottish Highlands. Instead, we get the musings of a man who takes every opportunity to escape the cracker factory to cast for fish that are rarely there, and frequently fall off when they do turn up.

The characters in Terminal Chancer are the true beat of its tortured heart. There’s Lamont – profane, unpredictable, obsessive and obtuse – and Ahab, the weather-beaten philosopher with the gammy hip. Early on, we meet an angler in his eleventh successive year without a fish, a troubled soul who refuses to surrender. And then there’s Gilbraith himself; a man juggling the disapproval of the Human Resources Department of the cracker factory with a need to be on the river when the salmon are running, a father and husband who knows that time is precious and, as Ahab makes all too clear, always running out.

Angling readers, especially those who pursue fish as rare and capricious as salmon, will recognise these ordinary but extraordinary dilemmas. ‘Work-life balance’ is a phrase all-too-often bandied about by bosses and bean-counters who just want you to work harder, and stop bitching about it. They are not anglers. Gilbraith’s contempt for them will find a supportive audience.

The author writes with irreverence, but the tension he describes is palpable. Beneath the lunacy and lysergic excursions is a man battling to cope with the demands of a twenty-first century which values clocking on rather more highly than checking out. The man who lives by and for his river is increasingly rare, and Terminal Chancer – despite its limited run of five-hundred copies and place far outside the literary and angling mainstream – should serve as a rallying cry to those who know how wrong that is.

You can read more about Jon here

Other readers have said

Alternatively, could be called the hitchhiker’s guide to fishing

Old Doug would be proud of the diverse people and topics that pop in this book. Don’t be fooled by the sub title, it’s not all about fishing, never once will it try telling you how to tie a dog nobbler! (Apparently its a fishing fly?) Fishing seems to be just the author’s obsession, I could, and you will, easily relate this book to parts of your life, loves and work mix. The author will lead you off on some very diverse tangents and references some obscure writers and performers from all genres of entertainment, that may have you reaching for your almanac of who’s who! but I think this just adds to the charm of the whole prose. So “for no good reason” go and Immerse yourself in “Gonzo Fishing”. Whether you are a fisherman or not, you will enjoy, I did and the closest I get to fishing is the card game!


A great read for all game anglers, I defy any reader not to laugh out loud at some of the stories. Well written and some of the tales will strike a chord with most salmon anglers. I read this book in two days, couldn’t put it down. Lets hope the author writes a follow up.


Brilliant!. Nothing to suit me on tv last evening, so I downloaded this book and read it all. A great read – all the stories
a salmon fisher can relate to and funny! As a fishing great granny I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be
watching out for the next one!! Great and very well written!

Eat Sleep Fish online magazine

Just finished reading Terminal Chancer – Silver Seasons by James Gilbraith. A full review will be out in the next issue but if you are going to read one book it should be this one. You’ll laugh out loud and empathise too when you spend a year in the company of James in search of salmon. We’re huge fans of it at ESF!

I’ve just travelled from Cornwall to heathrow. Crying with laughter most of the way.
This book is genius.
Definitely get yourself a copy for the close season.

Thanks for a great read


The book was waiting for me on return from a (fish less) Scottish trip, nursing a monumental hangover – malt safari – my hangover recovery theory mirrors the descent of Everest by base camp i.e. in stages by attempting to reduce the amount of alcohol by half per day until back to sea level, otherwise known as one bottle of red.

It was in this environment that the book was read and for that I am truly grateful – laughter is the other great hangover cure.

If “salmon fever” is a disease then truly it is the only one that I remain grateful to have succumbed.


Salmon fishing in the yeah-man

A brilliant read and not just for fishermen! Everyone can relate to the author’s struggle of finding time for his passion, I’ve never held a fishing rod in my life but I caught myself thinking in terms of my hobby as I was reading it, interchanging book names and places to suit; I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who has a hobby or past-time that they love. A book with laugh out loud stories, music suggestions and plenty of swearing. Buy it, you’ll love it.

Eat Sleep Fish Review

Pete Tyjas has sat down and read James Gilbraith’s Terminal Chancer. Could he put it down?

We last heard from James Gilbraith back in Issue 23 of ESF when he sent us an extract from his book, Terminal Chancer, that he was hoping to get published.

A year or so later I am pleased to say that he has done so and a copy arrived just the other day.

It is about James, or Boo as he is known, and his friends and how their lives revolve around salmon fishing, most notably on the Ribble in Lancashire. It starts with a friend who takes to the roof of his house in a deep state of anguish after spending 11 seasons having not caught a salmon and follows a season’s fishing written in a modern and refreshing style.

The book revolves around the 2013 salmon season and involves him trying to wrestle the Salmon Weasel Award ( the cover, in case you were wondering) away from the clutches of his friend Lamont. Without giving away too much the Salmon Weasel award is won by the angler who catches the most salmon in a season when they should really be somewhere else, like work.

I liked the style of writing very much and can’t ever recall laughing out loud when reading a fishing book but I did this many times and I defy you not to do the same.

The Ribble may not be considered to be a big name river but it really doesn’t matter as the characters who fish it and the rich stories that revolve around it are about much more than epic struggles with large salmon, much more.

For me, this is a book that takes salmon fishing from how it is sometimes perceived and made it interesting to a wide range of people. To be honest, you don’t even have to be a salmon angler to enjoy this, if you fish you’ll still enjoy the read. It is about real anglers who fish in the real world. I like that.

For me, it is a small landmark in angling literature that is different but something I can very much relate to and feel it speaks my language.

I hope this book gets the success it so deserves.

& this wonderful review and link

Hello James, I’ve just finished reading Terminal Chancer. In fact I think I should have started this email saying hello Boo. I’ve enjoyed the book so much that I feel I know you.

Last night I finished the book and had that moment of loss when you turn the last page and realise it’s over. Thank goodness for Caught By The River.

I will be checking out some of the tunes you recommend and would like to send one your way. This came out earlier this year and chimed with my mood at the time (three teenage daughters and turning 56, now turned) There is something wonderfully cathartic about singing “there’s shit all over the streets” at the top of your voice, do try it. I may actually ask Jeff at CBTR to post it as one of the songs of the year.

All the best !

& this from a non fisher

just finished Terminal Chancer. It’ a fantastic book full of handy little tips and inspirational guidance on how to make the most of your work/life balance. Everyone needs a reminder now and again to put the things that make them happy first, above everything else. Every extra minute you can wrestle away from the daily grind to do something you love, whatever that may be, are minutes that are worth their weight in gold. This book is worth every one of those stolen minutes you spend in it, full of laughs, great tales and interesting music references. Looking forward to the next one.

& This review from

Fishing books? At last count I got to about 180, so I suppose the 200 mark isn’t far round the corner. Due to my dirty past as coarse/specimen fisherman about a third of them are by Chris Yates, John Bailey, Rod Hutchinson and their pals.

Even before I started into the world of fly fishing , I started reading probably the number 1 mover in fly fishing literature, John Gierach, who with his “off the wall” titles and a mixture of gonzo humour and refusal to conform to the accepted “salmon & trout are everything” world of the 80s and 90s in United States, was a forerunner for today’s world of fly fishing where if it swims, someone is chasing it with a fly rod. Even though I’ve never cast a line in America, Gierach’s tales of fishing for carp, pike, bass and yes even trout are one of the biggest influences on my fishing today. As much as the fishing Gierach tells us about Coffee, road trips, mountain hiking, diners, fishing buddies, camping, drinking, fly tying, bamboo rods (I’m not even going down that road) that sums up the life of a trout bum.


 2 of the many shelves

He steadfastly refuses to go the route of instruction and just tells his tales of fishing and the life orbiting it. Over the years I’ve collected all his books and 2014 is a Gierach year where a new title hits the shelves in Spring and Diane contacts Paul ay Coch Y Bonduu Books and orders me a signed copy, a ritual in itself that has run for as least 14 years.

So what about James (Boo) Gilbraith’s book – Terminal Chancer, Silver Seasons Alantic Salmon?

Let’s get it straight from the off this isn’t fly fishing – Boo is a salmon angler. Boo fishes the fly if conditions are right and he fishes it bloody well. However if he feels that his best chance of a salmon is spinning he will spin or go total darkside and fish the prawn and that’s about as much instruction on salmon fishing you will get out of this book…


I bump into Boo and his pal Howey 5 or 6 times a season on the Ribble, and always enjoy a chat with them in the car park or down at my favorite pool (where he usually tongue in cheek asks for my permission to run through) and he’s always struck me as a bloke with a great sense of humor, who always has a tale to tell. So when I heard he was self publishing a book on salmon fishing, I was always betting on a Gierach feel to the book as opposed to Falkus. I was spot on, this can only be described as a wild ride.

If Hunter S Thompson, came from the Ribble Valley, fell into the world of salmon fishing and became drinking buddies with John Gireach, this is what his first salmon book would read like. This is an account of a season’s salmon fishing on the Ribble with detours into the past and up to Scotland for some famous fishing via the balancing of our need to be at the riverside with real life distractions of wives, work, kids, drinking, friendships, HR departments etc.

It’s often said that any writer of note is a keen observer of life and Boo certainly displays his observations of his and other salmon fisher’s lives and issues. I honestly believed that I was alone in secretly desiring that Orvis Zambezi vest, but clearly at least someone else has a dodgy “fashion” sense too! and as for being sat in the car, going through the anguish of picking Beat A or Beat B and being totally unable to move in fear of making the incorrect choice !!…I feel as though Boo has been quietly sat in the back of my car for half of the last season! A book that delivers a chuckle a page and a couple of out loud belly laughs every chapter, is in my view great stuff, I loved it and forgive my clichés, but I read in it in one afternoon and was honestly disappointed when I finished it and had to leave Boo’s madcap world of Ribble Salmon and return to real life. The biggest tribute to Boo I can make is that he’s currently tucked between James Babb’s “River Fool” and Negley Farson’s “Going Fishing”, on the same shelf as BB, Seth Norman, Harry Middleton, Thomas McGuane and a little known author by the name of E Hemmingway.

In the spirit of the book I’m writing this at my desk, while I really should be upstairs in a meeting listening to the boss talk through the financing of a take-over – I hope Boo will be proud of me.

I am sat at a table on a little square by St Pauls Bay in Malta, I have been in this very spot a few times over the last five days, the past two times I have been in this spot I have been routed for a long time, I have been reading. I am now no longer reading, I have run out of book, I still have to waste time before it is lunch but I am uninspired in a post book low and decide to head back to the hotel. On returning to the hotel I explain to my folks that I am back early and that the book I have just finished was really excellent. Reunited with my phone I see I have a facebook message, it is from Boo Gilbraith whose book I have literally just finished reading… spooky bastard… that was some timing fella.
I am not just saying all this because I know Boo and I know loads of folk involved in the book or indeed people involved in the implied soundtrack that scores the book so beautifully… I am mainly saying nice things about the book because I have been a little bit afraid of Boo’s wife since I was 13 or so…
Terminal Chancer is not a fishing book, granted you will accidentally learn about it by accident but the book is about getting away with it, a noble and beautiful thing. The words are warm and the stories funny “tu me fait chier” very nearly rendered me helpless in the November sunshine. He is a course fisherman so if you are offended by swears you should not read this book until you have got a grip… buy this book… it is very good.



Published by guildofreason

Live in and love the ribble valley -written two books about my love of salmon fishing. Terminal Chancer & Hooked On Hope are both still available.

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