Fishing Lines: Loosing off by the magazine

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The Independent Online
NEWCOMERS to fishing will soon be able to kit themselves out with all the tackle they need - simply by walking into a newsagent. As the angling magazine market gets ever more competitive, publishers are resorting to the most outrageous gifts to lure readers.

For example, if you buy the May edition of Trout Fisherman, which came out this week, there is a pounds 22 fly line on the cover of the pounds 1.90 magazine. There's no catch: no vouchers to collect, no lucky draw. A 10-metre shooting head, made by Airflo, one of the leading makers, is plainly attached to the cover. And though this style of line has fallen out of favour with the increased popularity of boat-fishing, it still allows bank anglers, especially rotten casters, to propel a fly out farther.

Shooting heads are generally connected to a light nylon backing, which is lighter than a fly line and so gives extra distance. At this time of year, while the water is still cold and trout generally hunt in slightly deeper waters a line that enables you to add a few yards to your cast can be very useful.

You would have thought a gift that is 10 times the magazine's value would have been more than enough. But readers of Trout Fisherman are obviously a demanding lot. Fearing that they will want still more, the magazine is also offering up to pounds 25 off the cost of a more conventional fly line, along with a video on modern fly-fishing tactics for pounds 2.95, including postage.

Chris Dawn, editor of the Peterborough-based magazine, appeared slightly bemused by the welter of free goodies. Asked to explain what at first (and second) glance appears to be the economics of the madhouse, he said: 'Er, yes, I think this is probably the most valuable gift that a magazine's ever given away, but you'll have to ask the marketing department about how the figures tally.'

Rallying somewhat, he added: 'Our circulation is around 40,000 and we are hoping this will give us a big boost. We thought it would be a good idea to give the new generation of anglers a chance to try out shooting heads, because they have rather gone out of favour.'

Exotic cover-mounted gifts are not new to Emap, the publishing group that owns Trout Fisherman along with Angling Times and Trout and Salmon. Its marketing department appears to be trying to make Hoover's much-publicised fly-away

promotion look niggardly. The latest edition of Trout and Salmon has an even better jam-tomorrow offer, with pounds 35 off a fly line if you collect vouchers from three issues.

Angling Times recently gave away a bait stand and boxes that would normally cost about pounds 12. But because the stand was as large as a tea-tray and as easy to stack as a family of porcupines, it was highly unpopular with newsagents. If more than two copies of the magazines were stacked on top of each other, they slowly toppled over, bringing the rest of the display down like a line of dominoes.

Tempting fishermen with free gifts is nothing new. Until last year, however, they comprised useless accessories like a badly made float, a few hooks or a small packet of weights. The system worked in two ways: either manufacturers who wanted to plug or get rid of a product offered it as a cover-mount in return for publicity, or a magazine would buy quantities of some geegaw that broke the first time you used it. The accepted price either way was a maximum of 10p an item.

But now Emap has upped the ante. Other publishers are certain to follow suit in an effort to match their rival. There is a certain amount of pride at issue here: whatever you can spend, we can spend better. Fishermen can expect a flurry of far more useful items in forthcoming months.

It will probably start with something minor, say a fly-box or electronic bite alarm. But as the stakes increase, we should be seeing reels of all sorts, followed closely by seat boxes and rods. After that, who knows? A top of the range four- wheel drive, perhaps, or some of the better stretches of the Tay?

Quite how the poor newsagent is going to handle it all, I have no idea. My local shop had enough trouble with the bait trays, which it kept under the counter like smutty books. The other problem, rapidly apparent at every shop I have visited so far, is that anglers do not actually appear to want the magazine. As the cover gift is clearly labelled as free, unscrupulous fishermen are pulling off the line and leaving the magazine.