Fishing lines: Old tackle? I wish they'd never asked

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The Independent Online

God bless Neil Freeman. May his children grow into rich, charming geniuses. May the plants in his garden flower all winter. May his car always start, and traffic lights change to green before him.

As you can tell, I think quite highly of Neil. What makes this the more extraordinary is that he is an auctioneer. Now, most people would rather admit to being friends with Osama bin Laden than a gavel-banger. Everyone knows they will not only steal the shirt off your back, but sell it back to you at an inflated price and forget to point out that eight-inch tear across the back.

But not my friend Neil. This adulation has been sparked by events of last weekend. The occasion was a big tackle show in Eind-hoven, and the organisers invited me along. What I didn't realise, until after I had accepted the invitation, was that I was being trumpeted as an expert on antique tackle.

The pre-show publicity claimed: "Bring along your old tackle and get it valued! Our experts include Dennis Roberts (Garcia); Herman Verswijveren (Swiss reels); Keith Elliott (everything)."

Everything? Surely some mistake. Just because I edit a magazine called Classic Angling doesn't mean I know a thing about old tackle. People outside the media do not understand one very basic point: journalism is writing for money on things you know nothing about.

I have edited magazines on independent healthcare, construction, general practice and computing. Never knew a thing about any of them. Smart editors surround themselves with experts, then take the glory.

I started Classic Angling precisely because I knew diddly-squat about the subject, and wanted to learn more. What better way than to get those who knew the difference between a 1925 Hardy Perfect and a 1926 model to do all the work?

Suddenly, however, it looked as if my scanty knowledge was going to be exposed in the most public fashion. I tried to master the classics, such as John Drewett's mammoth Hardy Brothers and Graham Turner's Fishing Tackle: A Collector's Guide. But they merely exposed the depths of my ignorance.

Enter, stage left, Neil Freeman. He runs his own auction house specialising in fishing tackle. He has a vast knowledge on all sorts of arcane subjects. And it turned out I was sharing the stage with him.

It went wonderfully. When people brought up strange lures, odd reels or battered greenheart rods, I simply said: "Ah, I think Neil would be better on that than I would". When, by chance, I recognised something, I creased my brow, said, "Hardy Altex No 5" (not hard; it's written on the side) and directed them to Neil as the real expert on that subject.

The poor guy worked his socks off. I kept him supplied with coffee (and later, the rather tasty local beer). His voice was going by the end of the day. Me? I was fresh as a daisy. The organisers were so pleased that they've invited me back next year. But I'm not going unless Neil is too.

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