Fishing lines: A promise to love, honour, obey... and tie the flies

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IT SEEMS only yesterday that I was piling short-trousered kids into my battered Volvo and helping them to catch their first fish. Now those youngsters are driving around in their own cars (no rusty Volvos, either) and catching far bigger fish than I have ever had.

They still pop round for a chat, though the talk is less of fish these days. Just this week, one of my proteges came round, asking me to write his wedding speech, while on the very next day, another popped over with the news that he is getting divorced. (It is a particularly sad story this one, because he is married to one of our former au pairs, and they met at my house after a fishing trip.)

Mark, the one who is getting married, is heading off to the Maldives for his honeymoon. I am delighted to be able to report that he has already booked a big-game boat for two days so that he will have a decent memory of the occasion.

He has also been borrowing a large amount of my fishing gear. This should be a good early test for the stability of their relationship when his wife-to-be discovers that more than half of their baggage allowance is being gulped up by rods, reels and tackle.

I have to confess that his former tutor has abetted him in this. I spent my honeymoon in the Maldives too, so I know how little there is to do on the tiny coral atolls. And yes, I did take a spot of tackle as well.

Only one rod (well, one heavy rod: the other two were just for light- tackle fishing), two reels and a few lures. And a couple of hooks. And weights. Plus, of course, a spare spool of line and those bits and pieces, like swivels, wire traces and so on, that it would be impossible to buy out there.

With me dropping only the merest hint, Mark has sensibly decided that he would rather take a little too much than be left without a crucial item of tackle at a vital moment. At times like this, I feel like a teacher who sees his star pupil nobble the school's top prize.

My wife, who is still bitter because she had to carry my rods on our honeymoon (though really they were for both of us to use), has been disappointingly negative. But as I reminded her, a chap can only snorkel, dive, windsurf and sunbathe for so long. There comes a time when he gets bored, and needs to find something worthwhile to fill the long hours in paradise.

Mark also sought my advice on wedding gifts. He has been so soundly indoctrinated that he was musing, only half in jest, whether he could swing a few items of tackle among the cutlery sets and candlesticks. He is particularly keen to acquire a saltwater fly rod, but with a half-decent one costing about pounds 300, I do not rate his chances too highly.

If you are royalty, it's a different matter. This week, a split-cane trout rod called the "Royal Tribute" was up for auction at Bonham's. It was one of only 100 or so in a limited edition designed by J. S. Sharpe, the Aberdeen tackle maker, as a tribute to Charles and Di on their wedding in 1981.

In the same lot was the prototype, but you can see why they chucked it out. The rings are held on with the wrong shade of blue. The real thing exactly matched Prince Charles's racing colours. The royal couple were given Nos 1 and 2, a his and hers, by Sharpe's.

Fascinating, eh? I can just imagine them in bed on their wedding night, opening all those presents. But you ought to know that Di was no fisherwoman, (which probably explains why the family never took to her).

You can picture her now, ripping the paper off excitedly because of the unusual shape, and finding... a fishing rod. Charles, on the other hand, would have recognised the shape immediately, of course, and would have been delighted to be given a decent trout rod. He probably even got out of bed to have a swish or two. And the marriage no doubt went downhill from that moment.

A cautionary lesson, that. But Mark seems unworried. Sarah has already been brainwashed by her father, a keen trout angler, whose first question was: "Does he go fishing?" rather than: "What are his prospects." She can already cast a fly, tell a rainbow trout from a brown and disembowel the catch. It sounds like a marriage made in heaven.