Andy Warhol promised everyone 15 minutes of fame. I've just had way over my quota (two hours, in fact) of my name in lights – and I blew it. To think I could have been returning in triumph after representing my country at fishing. Instead, I shall be sneaking back in a fake beard and sunglasses.
It all came about while in Manitoba with Nigel Botherway of The Sunday Times and Charlie Whebell of The Daily Telegraph. Our visit coincided with the Fish Winnipeg Corporate Challenge, an annual event in the heart of the Canadian city which raises up to $20,000 every year. The money introduces more than 500 "at risk" inner-city kids to the delights of fishing.
To give the contest publicity, the day starts (at 6am) with a two-hour media team challenge. Did we fancy fishing, and representing England? Tough call.
We were pretty confident. After all, some media teams would surely be people holding a rod for the first time. Furthermore, we were on a high after catching 11 sturgeon in a morning, including the largest landed in Manitoba this year. (Modesty forbids me to reveal who caught the 110cm fish.) This achievement earned us all Manitoba Master Angler jackets, which we wore to the competition. Hah! That should really frighten the others. With my patriotism overflowing, I matched the blue-and-white jacket with a red shirt. The colours were bound to look good for television.
All fishing was from boats, crewed by guides. A further stroke of fortune was that we drew the city's only full-time guide, Dallas Stevenson. He gave me his business card. On one side is a photo of him holding a catfish. It looks like a tiddler, but big, bearded Dallas is so large that it may have been about 60lb.
His card also told me that he had won the Stony Mountain Walleye Classic and the Westhawk Bass Challenge two years in a row. He is sponsored by so many companies that he can scarcely fit the badges on the jacket that covers his hefty frame. He had also won the media event for the past two years. "They'll all wait to see where I go, then try to follow me," Dallas growled. I started practising our victory speech.
Everything is returned after unhooking (barbless hooks only). The contest is decided on total length of fish. Dallas decided to catch a few small goldeye of 25cm or so first, then go for catfish, which run as big as 100cm.
That was the theory. But the little fish weren't playing. "Looks like we've gotta go for those cats," said Dallas. But despite the yummiest prawns, imported from the Philippines or somewhere, the Red River catfish weren't impressed either. Our rods remained stubbornly motionless. "Not feedin' here; we'll try somewhere else," said Dallas. But they weren't hungry there, or the next spot, or the next. The two-hour contest just flew by, and when the whistle went, the English team had caught precisely nothing.
The results were written up on a huge board. We came 13th. It would have been 14th but the other team that caught nothing had a name that started with something further down the alphabet. The winners (a radio station, for God's sake) had something like 400cm of fish. And, of course, the story was featured on television and radio all that day.
Well, we took all the ribbing in good heart, while inwardly seething. To make things worse, in the afternoon's corporate event, the team on Dallas's boat came second. Talk about rubbing it in.
During the evening's festivities, Nigel had to go up to explain why we had performed so badly. In true journalistic tradition, he blamed it all on Dallas.Reuse content