Fishing Lines: A case of classic clobber - or utter clutter

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The Independent Online
THOSE DAYS of sneaking in late at night with the spoils from auction buying are over. My wife is gnashing her perfectly capped teeth, but there is nothing she can do about it. I now have carte blanche to clutter up the house with antique rods, reels, pictures, lures, ceramics, cased fish and all sorts of junk, thanks to - let's not be modest about it - a small piece of genius.

Next month sees the first issue of my bi-monthly magazine, Classic Angling. Devoted to all sorts of piscatorial paraphernalia, it is the perfect way to legalise my collecting addiction. If I'm writing about it and producing a magazine about it, then I need the tools of the trade, so to speak. No more do I need to feel guilty about bidding for a brass-faced Hardy Perfect reel, a Gregory lure or two, a Thomas and Thomas split-cane rod or one of those dead fish paintings by Henry Leonidas Rolfe. Sorry, dear, but I need it for my work. Game, set and match.

I am being abetted in this venture by Neil Freeman, who runs Angling Auctions, the largest fishing bring-and-buy in Europe. Freeman worked as an auctioneer and valuer at Bonham's for several years, then struck out on his own. His formative fishing years were spent on the Thames. He's the ideal executive editor because he has this panoramic knowledge of fishy accessories. The trouble is, knowing Freeman is expensive. As one of his regulars pithily put it: "He's the only man who costs me more than my cocaine dealer."

I've been ploughing through the catalogue for his latest auction, which takes place in Chiswick, west London, next Saturday. I can't run to a Hardy Cascapedia salmon fly reel (estimate pounds 6,000-pounds 9,000), an 1891 Hardy trout reel (pounds 3,000-pounds 5,000) or The Carp Society's Dick Walker Remembrance Trophy (pounds 2,800-pounds 3,400). But there are a host of lesser temptations.

How about two ballan wrasse in a bow-fronted glass case, with a painted plaque saying: "Taken from the English Channel by Captain Webb, July 30th 1875"? Could it possibly be the man himself? That was the very year he became the first person to swim the Channel. A merchant navy captain, he swam breast-stroke and took 21 hours 45 minutes. Perhaps he got bored on the way and did a spot of fishing. Wall space at Elliott Mansions is rather cramped, largely due to the presence of sundry other cased fish, but it would be a bit of history, wouldn't it?

This is a wonderful time to be launching a magazine on classic clobber. Yesterday I went to the Mullock and Madeley antique tackle sale in Ludlow, Shropshire, my first official function as editor of the industry magazine. Sadly, I wasn't asked to open it, but it's early days yet. For me, the highlight was an old rod named after the tiny village where I live. Even my wife understood my desire to acquire that one.

That's just the start of it. On Thursday it looks like I'll have to pop along to Love's of Perth, giving me just time to get back to London for Neil's auction on Saturday. On the following Tuesday it's Evans and Partridge's sale at Sparsholt College, Hampshire. This is an event for which I have great fondness, because it started me on the auction scene. Then there's Southam's of Thrapston, Northants, on 14 April and Christie's sale of the cookery writer and art adviser Anissa Helou's fishing collection on 19 May. It's crucial I attend and record prices at these sales, though the key to the magazine's success will probably be ensuring that the US scene is properly covered. You can guess what that means...

Details of Classic Angling magazine, only available by subscription, from Classic Titles, Free Church Passage, St Ives, Cambs PE17 4AY (Tel: 01480 300653).

Auction catalogue details: Angling Auctions, PO Box 2095, London W12 8RU (Tel: 0181-749 4175); Evans and Partridge, Agriculture House, High Street, Stockbridge, Hants (Tel: 01264 810702); Love's of Perth, 52 Canal Street, Perth PH2 8LF (Tel: 01738 633337); Southam's, Corn Exchange, Thrapston, Northants, NN14 4JJ (Tel: 01832 734486); Christie's, 85 Brompton Road, London, SW7 3LD (Tel: 0171-321 3120).

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