Fishing lines; Indecent exposure for the fisherman with no face

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The Independent Online
A BASIC local-newspaper tenet dictates that every face sells a paper. That is why all weeklies, from the Stornoway Sentinel to the Cornish Clarion, delight in filling pages with the firing squad picture: a line of people facing camera, hands crossed in front of them as if they are about to face a free-kick from Stuart Pearce.

But it works. People buy papers containing their picture, or even their name. To give circulation a boost, I was tempted to fill this column with the names of people who have written to me during the past few months, but decided that it might lack a bit of sparkle, even if I made them alphabetical.

Anyway, I've been on a giant sulk this week, since I discovered that Angling Travel has produced a whole brochure - without the teensiest picture of me. You may feel this is petty. But the company is run by a friend, John Bailey. I have now undertaken two of their most exotic trips, to Mongolia and Arunachal Pradesh. You would think that supporting such trail- blazing (and pretty expensive) expeditions would have earned me some reward. But no.

A small picture of me holding any sort of fish would surely have brought punters in by the bucketload, working on the principle of: "If he can hook 'em, what would a proper angler catch?" It would have encouraged the slightly more, shall we say, mature fisher to go further than Scotland. It would have proved that my stories about Mongolian fishing were not, for once, the fevered product of a journalist's imagination. And what greater kudos than having an angling journalist on your trips? (Well, I can think of plenty of good answers to that one, but you get the point.)

The brochure features a wealth of photographs. I haven't been to Greenland, British Columbia, Sweden, the Kola Peninsula or Nepal, so I'm happy just to admire those shots. But there are several from Mongolia. John can't even plead that the pictures with me in didn't come out. I've seen them and they're fine. He is a professional photographer, after all. There is Dave and John holding taimen. There is bloody Simon twice. But all I get is an attributed quote, saying what a wonderful human being John is. I'll be revising that opinion now, I can tell you.

I'm not the only one from the trip who missed out on 15 minutes of glory. I can understand why they dismissed shots of farmer Dave, because he looks like a demented hippy. Ade and Phil are the wrong image too: they look like they could still travel for half-fare, while Simon appears far too studious. But me?

I think I know why, and admitting it is as embarrassing as walking into the wrong lavatory, undoing your fly. One night in Mongolia, knackered after a 12-mile walk, I fell asleep in the tent while the others drank and talked. After a while I woke up, though the others didn't realise. They say those who listen only hear ill of themselves, so I guess I've only got myself to blame. But the gist was: it's a shame Keith doesn't dress more... photogenically.

Bloody amazing, isn't it? You're on holiday, relaxing. No more suits, shiny shoes and sober ties. But if you want to make Bailey's brochure, you've got to dress in co-ordinated colours that don't clash with the blue of the sky and the yellow of the larch trees.

This is the embarrassing bit. I actually made an effort. I cleaned most of the mud off my boots. I stopped wearing old men's slippers round the camp. I combed my hair every other day, and shaved twice. I stopped wearing the baseball cap with the fish on top. I even made a point of putting on my two bright T-shirts (one, a fetching red advertising a tennis magazine, the other a bright yellow with little fishes painted by my daughter).

Nobody noticed.

So let this be a warning. Go, by all means on an exotic trip. But even if you break the taimen, mahseer, king salmon and steelhead records, don't expect to see your picture in the angling press - and especially not in Angling Travel's brochure. Unless you look like Richard Gere or Mel Gibson.

Angling Travel, Orchard House, Gunton Hall, Hanworth, Norfolk, NR11 7HJ. Tel 01263 761602.