Fishing lines: Greatest catch of all for Hughes

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The Independent Online
My wife has never forgiven me for making her carry my rods on our honeymoon. Seemed perfectly reasonable to me. After all, I was carrying the suitcases. But the sticking point was what I was doing with four rods and a bundle of tackle among my luggage in the first place. Mysterious, the ways of women, huh?

I'll bet David Hughes had no such problems. Hughes took his long-time girlfriend, Victoria Grant, fishing on the River Garry last year. He had vowed to propose to her if he caught a salmon during the week.

Let's be fair, Hughes is quite a catch himself. As well as being a tall, good-looking chap, he is clearly courteous, charming and confident. The former, because in this permissive age he actually asked permission from her father first; and the latter because he bought the ring and took it along to Perthshire. He must also be quite a charmer because he not only persuaded Victoria to spend a week's holiday on a river bank, but he caught a couple of fish as well.

That is itself is quite an achievement. This week I received a newsletter from the River Beauly in Inverness, one of Scotland's best rivers. It reports that the 1997 run was the worst since records began in 1952, a sorry tale repeated throughout Scotland this year.

But that didn't slow down our hero. Hughes caught not one but three salmon. True to his word, he took Victoria to Pol Dawny, one of the prime fishing spots, not to flay the water but to propose. He even did things properly and went down on one knee. The occasion was celebrated with champagne in the fishing hut and a bankside barbecue.

I'm pleased to say there is no cruel punchline, as occasionally occurs in this column. The couple got hitched and acquired the trappings of conjugality such as a black labrador. Victoria showed herself to be a good sport by not immediately putting a ban on her husband's fishing activities. In fact, they even went back to the Garry this year. The gods are still smiling on him, because David caught his biggest salmon, a 15-pounder.

Now, this is not a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) way to remind my wife of the way a gel should behave. I'm not unscrewing that particular can of bait again. The point of this story, apart from giving you a happy ending as we stumble towards that time of peace on earth and goodwill to all, is that David acquired his fishing trip in an auction.

It was part of the annual postal auction run by the Atlantic Salmon Trust, a jolly worthy cause that does its best to preserve a dwindling asset. Its 1998 catalogue has just been released and it contains nearly 250 parcels of UK fishing, from a day's salmon fishing on the Wye at Willersly, Herefordshire (estimated winning bid, pounds 30), to a week for three on a prime beat of the Spey that will make around pounds 3,000.

Though the catalogue contains stretches of the best rivers in Scotland such as the Tweed and Tay, you don't have to cross the border. Two days' sea trout fishing on the River Camel in Cornwall is on offer (expected bid, about pounds 80) and three days on the Conwy in North Wales for salmon and sea trout will set the successful bidder back about pounds 250. It's not all salmon and sea trout either. There are six lots on Hampshire's River Test, probably the world's most famous trout river, for pounds 100 upwards.

The catalogue offers excellent present possibilities for trout and salmon anglers, while the money raised goes to a worthwhile cause. There is a further attraction. To fish many of the rivers and lakes on offer, you normally need to be related to the owners (or at least on the verge of marrying into the family). So this is a rare opportunity to angle on some unique stretches of water.

Bids must be into the trust's offices by 2 February, with the fishing going to the highest bidder. And even if you don't get a salmon, you could end up with a wife.

Copies of the postal auction catalogue are available free from the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Moulin, Pitlochry, Perthshire PH16 5JQ, telephone 01796 473439.

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