Bream on hold and carp on line two

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The Independent Online
It's hard to sort out life's priorities when you're whirling around on the commuter carousel. This was graphically illustrated when I salmon- fished in Ireland some years ago. I travelled to the water with my ghillie, who directed me on the 30-mile drive. On the way back, I took a different route, because midway through his directions, I had recognised the roads. "Why are you coming this way?" he asked.

"Because it's about five minutes faster than the way you brought me," I replied.

"What are you going to do with the five minutes?" he said.

This week I heard another story with a moral. A businessman was salmon- fishing in a boat on the river Tay. Three times within the first two hours, his mobile phone rang. He entered protracted discussions about stockpiling, service revenues and other fun things in one of those important-people- like-me-who-talk-loudly-in-restaurants voices. The conversations even carried down to my source, who was fishing on the bank.

Eventually the ghillie asked to see the phone, and mused about how it worked. The VIP switched it on for him, whereupon the ghillie threw it into 15ft of fast-flowing Tay. "Now perhaps we can get on with the fishing," he said (or something like that).

Haters of mobile phones will applaud the ghillie's action. I have no information about what his customer said, but strangely the affair could have resulted in my friend catching two salmon that day. Here's why.

In Sabah, which you probably know as Borneo, more than a quarter of the Telekom Malaysia 3,500 payphones have been stolen and surprisingly, fishermen are to blame. They have discovered that the phones are far more effective than a lump of meat or a bunch of worms for luring the local tilapia, grouper or snapper. After setting their nets, fishermen cut off the handsets and connect them to high-powered batteries. Then they lower the handsets into the water. Electricity passing through the microphone produces a high-pitched sound that fishermen claim is a sure-fire attractor. The fish, obviously assuming that the call is for them, rush to the phone and get trapped in the nets.

The issue of even taking a mobile phone to a river bank is a hot one, prompting a string of letters to the game anglers' bible, Trout and Salmon. On one side, a reader demands that those who use the damned things should be horsewhipped; on the other, a hospital consultant claims that a mobile phone gives him round-the-clock availability.

I know whose side I'm on, especially as the consultant says: "It is impossible to cast a fly rod and dial a telephone number simultaneously - and yes, I have tried it. When my phone rings while I am playing a trout, I sometimes ask the caller to let me call back 'because I've got a fish on the other line'." Bet he'd be a barrel of laughs as a fishing companion.

Still, this idea of using sound to attract fish intrigues me. It's certainly nothing new. On the east coast of Malaysia, netters attract fish by knocking bamboo sticks together underwater. In Japan, aquarists pipe music into tanks (probably Handel's Water Music) which makes fish move to the rhythm. Even in this country, the noise of a fly or bait hitting the water can stimulate fish to feed.

But using phones as bait adds an entirely new dimension to angling. Best of all, it gives perfect justification for drowning every mobile phone that comes within half a mile of the waterside.