Fishing lines | Keith Elliott

I only had eyes for the big old trout
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The Independent Online

I fell in love a dozen times during my Canadian trip. Regular readers will assume this is the preamble to a confession that I had never seen anything lovelier than a bug-eyed ratfish, or similar. But this was nothing to do with fancying fish. Well, not much.

Two occasions, I'll confess, could easily have involved things with fins. The first was inside a wild outpost shop in La Rongue, Saskatchewan. No sun-dried tomatoes or extra-virgin olive oil here – just big tins of beans and five-gallon drums of cooking oil. Dinner parties out here come on tin plates. Furs decorated the walls. It was a place where trappers still brought skins of marten, beaver, arctic fox, wolverine, even bears.

I had no eyes for these, for on the wall was the biggest lake trout I had ever seen. It was as big as a double bass; so vast, so awe-inspiring that it made a nearby 20lb pike look like bait. According to the legend beneath, it weighed 85lb. That is 13lb bigger than the world record, though I later discovered it had been caught in a net.

A water in the North Western Territories called Great Bear Lake holds all the records, but none has so far matched this king of trout. It was the stuff of anglers' wet dreams.

That fish was truly wonderful, as was my first sturgeon, a fish about 25lb caught a few days earlier. I loved their prehistoric look, their strange, underslung mouths, their four long whiskers, like a mandarin's moustache. What must it be like, I pondered, to catch one of the monsters that live in the Columbia River in Oregon, where they grow bigger than 80lb? My friend Des Taylor, who has been there, described it as "like hooking a Volvo that jumps".

But for a change, it wasn't fish that occupied my romantic moments. It was women. Not one particular one, but almost every one I met. Fat, thin, old, young, classy and brassy: they were all wonderful. And what made them so special was that they all loved fishing. Not liked it, put up with it, occasionally went out on a warm day with a husband or boyfriend who fished. These were serious fishers.

This was a totally new experience. Tell a woman back home that you go fishing and it's like saying you wear blond wigs and sleep with llamas. Most women I know who fish do so because it is the only way to see their husbands or boyfriends. My wife says she likes fishing. But offer her a choice between cod-fishing off the Essex coast or a shopping spree in London, and it's no contest.

In Canada, it was very different. OK, we fished in some fairly remote parts, where there is probably not a lot else to do except count trees. But even in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, we discovered that the barmaid, the woman on reception at the lovely old Fort Garry Hotel and the sightseeing bus driver all fished. So did the stewardess when we flew from Winnipeg to Saskatoon.

When they heard I had caught four sturgeon in a morning (it just sort of slipped out), they wanted to know where, the bait and the method. Fishing was as much part of their lives as eating breakfast in the morning. One even wanted to go through my lure box and recommend the best baits for the area.

The perfect woman may not exist. But you could have one hell of a good time looking for her in Canada.

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