Fatal rubber attraction for a fish out of water; FISHING LINES

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The Independent Online
THE ANTI-ANGLING faction would surely have had a change of heart about its plans to disrupt National Fishing Week, if only I could have contacted them in time. With almost 5,000 fishy-related events to choose from, the Campaign for the Abolition of Angling was spoilt for choice. But those who stood behind anglers and talked loudly, or used extended bamboo canes to remove bait from hooks (some of the tactics suggested to would-be saboteurs) are going to feel really bad when they read my heart-warming little tale.

According to last week's Independent on Sunday, the CAA was planning various forms of direct action to persuade anglers that fishing is cruel. It has certainly set itself a challenging target. According to Vince Lister, the co-ordinator of National Fishing Week, there are about 300 anti-angling activists in Europe, compared with 27 million fishers. The UK arm is said to be having problems raising a five-a-side team. Even changing its name to Pisces in the hope of recruiting those who believe that a tall dark stranger is about to enter their lives doesn't appear to have helped.

It's a silly name, but at least those involved have started to get a bit smarter. They no longer advocate finding out favoured fishing spots and throwing in lots of mashed-up bread in the belief that it would fill the fish up. The result was the opposite. Fish were attracted to the pre- baited spots, with the result that anglers caught more in those areas where Pisces members had been at work. When they discovered fishermen were actually asking them to come along, a rethink was called for.

A check on the Pisces website, however, reveals that tactics are still being devised by someone whose IQ is at water temperature. Here are some gems. "Wire up access gates to the water." (Farmers will just love that one.) "Blow a whistle 10-15 minutes before a match is due to start," it advises. "Some anglers may start fishing and be disqualified." "Making a noise in the water by submerging a dustbin lid and a spanner and banging them together will scare away fish." (Why not go all the way and play a set of drums underwater?) "Do not throw large stones in the water as there is a risk of actually hitting a fish." "Talking to anglers may disturb their concentration." "Don't eat fish." "Extend your compassion to other animals by becoming a vegan." Well, I guess they are more to be pitied than scolded. Which brings me on to my tale.

A couple of weeks ago, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) realised that the Bass Master Classic, the world's most valuable fishing competition, was an ideal opportunity to generate publicity. After all, the week-long event in New Orleans had attracted more than 130 press from all over the world. What better opportunity to stage a protest about fishing?

And so Peta turned out in force. Well, two of them did, anyway. To be fair, one had made a special effort. She had dressed up as a fish, though the outfit looked more like a giant condom with eyes. Clad from top to toe in a rubberised fish outfit, she looked very fetching. Many of the crowd showed that their interests extended beyond fishing by trying to rub up against her. With both her legs constricted by the fish's tail, she found it difficult to escape the attentions of these fish lovers. But worse was to follow.

In the summer in New Orleans. It gets hot. Not England hot, but oven hot. On this particular day, the temperature was 90 degrees at 5am. By lunchtime it was over 110. A tightly fitting rubber fish outfit is not the best garb to combat such extreme heat. It wasn't long before the fish started making gasping noises and swaying in a very unfishlike way. Her companion was not much help. He was too busy protesting to notice that the fish was cooking.

At first the anglers found this amusing. But despite what Pisces believes, most of them are not cruel. They couldn't leave a dumb animal to suffer. To keep the fish alive (and there was a real danger of serious consequences in such extreme temperatures), they saved it by, yes, bringing it plenty of water.

The indignity was too much for Fishwoman. She fled (if a hoping, flopping motion can be described as such). I don't think she'll be caught like that again.