Fishing: He who dares rarely wins

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The Independent Online
Keith's made it home. Our only contact for two weeks was a message on the answerphone last Wednesday morning. He was in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, sounding less than enthusiastic. And no mention of fish. At the time I interpreted this as significant. If he'd been successful there'd have been some excitement in his voice. I was certain he couldn't fool me.

The usual scenarios flashed through my mind. Keith marooned without his rods in some desolate land, miserable at having travelled so far for no fishing. That, or he'd taken the wrong tackle. Maybe he'd had a travel nightmare and hadn't arrived until it was time to go home. Another possibility was that the weather was so miserable he couldn't get out to fish. His tone was that of a man trying to sound upbeat - saying that he'd had an interesting time with lots of interesting things to tell us. Hardly the words of a conquering piscator.

But I'm used to his failures at fishing. He went to the Amazon, sleeping in rough huts with no walls, and never saw the Arapaima fish. He climbed like a mountain goat in Stone Age parts of the Indian sub-continent, and never caught the mahseer. And now this trek to Mongolia, sleeping in a tent in severe, freezing conditions, sounded like another complete disaster.

Why did I let him go again? These Dan Dare trips cost a fortune. Besides the anxiety of not knowing he's alive and well, I have to be a single parent for two weeks, run my own business, do all his chores about the home, and write his column for him. Well, he's like a dripping tap wearing me down, unbearable to live with unless I relent. He always chooses places inhospitable to families, and times it perfectly to avoid school holidays.

His main argument is that it's work. Hard to counter that one, but I always point out there are plenty of other fish in the sea, river, lake, ocean. At least choose somewhere with telephones. He says it's relaxation, but when he comes home he's exhausted. This time he took four days to travel as far as Denmark where he was marooned, missing his welcome party at Heathrow. (He has a lot of grovelling to do to make up for that.)

Which brings me to why he sounded so fed up on Wednesday. He'd just endured a terrifying flight in a Russian-built Antonov 2, circa 1946. His fishing party had all been airsick in the freezing, unpressurised cabin. And the pilot was a Mig veteran on heart pills - only he'd run out. This adventure was all Keith could talk about when he eventually phoned from Copenhagen. I actually had to ask if he'd caught anything.

At the risk of stealing his thunder, I can announce his score. A 35lb taimen, one metre 27 centimetres in length, which took one hour and seven minutes to reel in on his first day. Then a grayling so fresh it looked like a jewel on acid.

At this point I tuned out. I wondered how long it would take him this time to reel me in. Longer than one hour and seven minutes. He'll find just pointing his rod at me won't work. Keith has to play a baiting game, and use his skill to cast for his greatest catch of all. Me.