Chris and Sue Harris start to look through exotic holiday brochures when my friend Simon Channing phones them up. The Harrises run a fishing-tackle company, and Simon is probably their best customer.
It's not that he suffers from fishing disease. He has something worse – ordering disease. Simon's affliction is that he can't look at the Harris catalogue with-out needing at least two of everything.
Lures represent something a fish might eat. They may imitate a small fish, frog or mouse; they may look as if Bosch, Picasso or Dali had been subcontracted by God to design something colourful, alluring or just outrageous. Predators like pike don't just bite smaller brethren because of hunger – they will attack for territorial reasons, natural aggression or plain bloody-mindedness.
The Brits, true to type, have been very conservative in lure use and design. Some-thing spoon-shaped, in silver, has been standard fare here for perhaps 200 years. But the Americans have been way more inventive. They have created things that hop, skip and jump, shake, rattle and roll. Their lures work on the principle that fish hunt by sight, sound, smell and taste. So the lures bubble and vibrate. Some have plastic bodies that feel like food to fish, rather than a lump of tin. Others have tiny compartments to which fish oils can be added.
These lures have all the colours of a firework-maker's dream, and carry wonderful names like Bayou Boogie, Herb's Dilly, Lucky Strike Alaska Wildfin, Humpback Mule and Clatter Tadpolly.
Lures had fascinated Chris Harris for a long time. In fact, he gave up a job as managing director of an international medical company to start his own business selling imported lures. Before Harris, the only way to get exotic lures was to travel abroad and bring them back.
"There was a latent demand. People could read about lures in the foreign press, but couldn't buy them. We just supplied that demand," he says.
Once anglers fished with lures only for pike, perch, salmon and occasionally trout. Now species such as carp, roach and bream are on the cards too. There is also a burgeoning interest in sea fishing. Even monsters of the sea such as sailfish, sharks and marlin will take a lure.
The Harris brochure now runs to 132 pages and has become the Playboy of the fishing world. The latest even has a photograph I took of a big Canadian pike. Sadly, I fear I shall not do as well out of it as my fellow writer Clive Gammon, who was once asked to take a snapshot of a National Geographic photographer and a couple of friends. Much to Clive's astonishment, the publication phoned a few weeks later and asked if $3,000 would be acceptable to reproduce it. It is the only picture Clive has ever had published. Why, that sort of windfall would cover almost half of Simon's lure bill.
Harris Angling Company's free catalogue available from Blacksmith House, Church Road, East Ruston, Norfolk NR12 9HL, tel: 01692 581208Reuse content