Fishing Lines: All I want for Christmas is a nice new worm machine

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The Independent Online
MANY thanks to the manufacturer who generously donated his cheapest, bottom-of-the-range fishing-rod as a prize for a charity event I ran earlier this year. It was unfair to hamper any youngster with this ill-made Korean special, built from ultra-low-grade carbon and probably cheaper in its homeland than a pair of socks. So now it's holding up the runner beans.

And perhaps there is a Christmas lesson here. In these times of recession, it is inappropriate to expect a selfish gift such as electric gumboot driers or monogrammed Hardy reels. The ideal present should be dual-purpose, usable by husband or wife, grandfather or children. For those still puzzling over what to buy, the following may solve your difficulties.

The perfect present for all the family may be a worm machine, sold by Nazeing Aquatics (0992 470053). Worms are an ideal pet because they feed on kitchen waste, can be left alone without needing a walk and all look the same, so you never have a household in mourning if one dies. But such a gift is good for gardeners, too, who can use the breeding system for enhancing their stock of earth-movers. For children, it's a chance to study nature at first hand and learn how the worm breaks down waste materials. Excellent value at pounds 24.99.

Many anglers love to tie fishing flies, but giving a bundle of feathers lacks a certain romance. Much better, then, to buy those feathers on the bird. There are several organisations, such as the World Pheasant Association (049162 2710), that can probably supply birds as exotic as the golden pheasant and even jungle cock. When you need to tie a fly, just pop outside and steal a few feathers. And when the bird looks a bit scrawny, you can eat it] A perfect example of a dual-use gift.

The popularity of holidays to most distant climes, such as the Falkland Islands and India, has posed a problem for anglers. Weighing-scales that can handle fish upwards of 100lb are bulky and very heavy. The exception is a digital scale only 5in long that is accurate to 1oz up to 285lb. It's sold by Cotswold Baits (0734 810846) and costs pounds 100. But it's not only for fishermen. It's ideal for dieters or mothers. Just stick the hook under baby's chin and you can monitor any weight gain.

Wives or girlfriends unhappy about a spouse's late nights can monitor the exact time he comes in with an electronic bite indicator. These ultra-sensitive devices are meant to give warning of a fish that takes a bait at night, but their high-pitched shriek can easily be adapted, with a length of fishing-line, to trap a 2am returner even with his shoes off. Available from all tackle shops, prices from pounds 25 upwards.

Those seeking something a little more exotic may be tempted by the latest range of short carbon poles. These weigh just a couple of ounces, cost pounds 15 upwards, are obtainable as short as one metre and are generally called whips. You can even use them for fishing.

I would love to discover the garnet-encrusted rod with silver fittings and engraved vignettes of fishing scenes made by Thomas Aitcheson of Edinburgh in 1859 and sold recently by the London antique dealer Gerald Rattin waiting for me on Christmas morning. But my wife, being of a practical nature, will probably surprise me with a fridge-freezer. Still, at least I can put maggots in the top part.