Angling: Anyone for bat-fishing?

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NEXT time you are stuck in a Costa Rica rainforest with nothing much to do, set up your fishing rod. With any luck, you'll catch a few bats. You think I'm kidding? Randy Wayne White has written a book about it.

White, an American fishing guide, went to Costa Rica to fish for sailfish but found himself standing in the rain at the Rio Colorado Lodge on the Caribbean coast, watching the manager fly-fishing for bats. The author seems remarkably unfazed by the experience, describing it as "illustrative not only of Costa Rica's charm, but also of the peculiar lunacy that embraces one just beyond the portals of many exacting sports".

A well-travelled man with some strange stories to tell, even White found the incident bizarre. He thought: "I am watching a man with a fishing rod grappling with a flying reptile." But he handled himself rather well, correcting his original misidentification and refusing to be fazed. It would have been easy to berate the manager for cruelty to bats or somesuch. But instead White retorts: "Nice-looking bat, Rudy."

Rudy then sportingly slackens the line, whereupon the bat flutters off, giving a slightly different slant to the current debate on catch and release. "Clean release. He's a happy theeng, no? Happy to be free."

The funny thing is that Rio Colorado, close to the Nicaraguan border, is one of the best places in the world to go fishing. Huge tarpon, sailfish and snook fishing is on your doorstep. But when giant fish are commonplace, perhaps you eventually look for a new challenge - like a really big bat.

Rudy, it seems, did not only fish for bats. He advised White: "You want to catch reptiles, turtles and snakes and theengs, you got to use streamer flies. White is good, sometimes red. Not poppers, though; reptiles won't hit poppers. 'Cept for frogs, maybe." Well, a useful bit of advice there if you can't get down to your favourite river or lake. But in the wider scheme of things, it illustrates the length to which some anglers will go for a fresh challenge.

In fact, nowadays you don't even have to fish for anything living. For those unable to catch big fish, and especially for those who think fishing by its very nature is cruel, an American inventor, Kenneth Sams, has devised an angling kite. The idea of using kites for fishing is not new. In fact, it's a very effective way of delivering a bait out way beyond casting distance. But Sams' kite is different. You pretend it's a fish.

"Kites are easy to use and perfect for a spot of sport when the fish aren't biting," says Sams. The idea is simple. You attach the kite to your reel line, send it up in the air and then tussle with UFO Sam to your heart's content. To add a bit of realism, the kites are silver-coloured to look like the flanks of a fish.

The kites are available from Cochrane's of Oxford. John Cochrane said that the company had already sold more than 30,000, though not all to anglers. He said: "I'm sure anglers will get a lot of fun out of them."

On a windy day, the kite can soar to 2,000 feet, and if the basic model isn't sporting enough for you, try the UFO Sam Senior. I have to confess that I haven't tried kite-fishing. It may be everything that Cochrane claims, but just think of the embarrassment, getting broken by a kite. And I know exactly what my wife would do if I wandered into the garden with UFO Sam. I might just get away with it if I pretended that the line gave me extra soaring power. But once I started acting as if playing a large fish, the men in the white coats would soon be dragging me off to Fulbourn (where I suppose I could fish happily with kites for evermore, and probably eat them too). Why, it makes fishing for bats seem almost normal.