It's always so difficult for those who don't understand angling to buy a gift for those who do, especially when they seem to have everything. But thanks to a link between the world's largest tackle-maker, a Luton wholesaler and Walt Disney, it is possible to surprise even the keenest angler on Christmas morning.
For a mere pounds 2.99, you can make his eyes light up as he rips off the wrapping paper to discover - the Mickey Mouse Catch 'Em Bobber. The purpose of this unique device, which also comes in Goofy, Donald Duck and Snoopy models, may puzzle him at first. Fortunately there are clear instructions on the packaging, which includes a picture of the ageless mouse holding several large but unidentifiable fish. Here's what the Mickey Bobber says: 'Mickey relaxes on top of the water until a fish bites. Then, he pops up suddenly to tell anglers a fish is nibbling.'
Mickey and his pals, who are 2 1/2 in high, could scarcely be called aerodynamic. They pose upon what looks like a large inflatable ring, and the line is attached to a spring clip beneath the 'tyre'.
In the UK, we would call this gadget a float. But we've been fooled into believing that these should be slim, delicate creatures in muted colours, carefully weighted so that only the merest whisker protrudes above the surface. It appears that across the Atlantic, they take a rather different approach.
You may wonder how even the Americans could be daft enough to lob out a bait suspended from a chunk of Disney plastic and expect it to catch fish. The answer is twofold. First, their fish are more prolific and less cautious. Second, if a Yankee bass, catfish or crappie gets caught, it's dead meat. American anglers are great fish-lovers and eat almost everything that swims. In Britain, fish-lover means something very different. Here, almost everything is carefully returned to the water. The trouble is that after a while the fish get smart about worms and hooks. Smaller hooks and more sensitive tackle are needed to trick them a second time.
America has been at the world angling championships for more than a decade, but 'The Star-Spangled Banner' has yet to be heard on the podium. Although there are 38m US fishermen, competitively they are no-hopers, even beaten by countries such as Croatia and Luxembourg. England, however, have won the world title several times and are rarely out of the top three. The championships, where only float fishing is allowed, demand extremely sensitive presentation. Traditionally this has meant tiny floats that sink under the weight of a single maggot. Perhaps the Mickey Catch 'Em Bobber will change all that.
Terry Freeman, the managing director of Fishing Promotions, a Luton company that has the exclusive rights to these creations, said this week: 'They are certainly very unusual. I haven't ever seen floats like these, though I'm not sure what effect they will have on our fish. They may be a little ahead of their time for the British market.'
Mickey and his pals could, I suppose, be effective for less cautious fish such as pike, which tend to grab a bait. The resistance put up by a tyre-riding mouse would probably be so great that many fish would hook themselves. And those jolly black, red and yellows would be visible for miles.
Goodness knows what sort of effect such a device will have on fish, but it would be perfect for discovering whether they actually laugh. It could even be a cunning ploy to remove their inbuilt caution. The trouble is, it would take a resolute angler to use such a device in sight of others.
However, Freeman clearly believes British anglers will not be deterred by ribald bankside comments. He is even selling a Mickey Mouse Catch 'Em box, obviously designed to hold your bobbers. The top features a smiling mouse, and the handle is shaped like Mickey's ears.