fishing lines: Loss makes rod for my own back

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The Independent Online
A little fishing yarn. A man just back from holiday gets a phone call from one of his friends as he walks in the door.

"How was the holiday?"

"Well, the holiday was terrific but I've had a disaster."

"Don't tell me ... you've been burgled. It happened to us last year. Place was a terrible mess. They left the water running, drank all my best whisky and killed the budgie."

"No, it's not that. I'll phone you later and tell you all about it."

A few minutes later the phone rings again. It's another friend.

"How was the holiday?"

"Well, the holiday was terrific but I've had a disaster."

"Don't tell me . . . it's your wife, isn't it? She didn't look well last time I saw her."

"No, it's not that. I'll phone you later and tell you all about it."

A third friend calls.

"How was the holiday?"

"Well, the holiday was terrific but I've had a disaster."

"Oh no! Don't tell me they've lost your rods in transit."

It is an almost true story. I know. I was the soldier. All right, I've exaggerated a bit, but the episode provided me with a heart-warming insight into what a fellow fisherman views as life's fundamentals. Goodness knows, I needed some solace and understanding this week after losing my best fly pole, an irreplaceable big-game rod and a boron carp rod. (A worm at one end and a bore on the other, as a less sympathetic acquaintance remarked.) Only another angler can really understand what it means to lose your rods.

It happened somewhere on the way back from Puerto Rico after a wonderfully relaxing holiday, even though the family was with me. I'm not really blaming Caledonian (even though they did put me in the same seat both ways, the one where you sit as if you'rein a dentist's chair because the television is almost directly above you). The airline had the decency to put a "fragile" label on the protective container, and carry it on to the plane. But that was the last I saw of my favourite rods.

The plane stopped off in St Lucia where the ground staff, it transpired, unloaded everything. Including the luggage that thought it was flying back home to England. We discovered that when the Gatwick carousel danced the "Lost Luggage Polka". Our cases turned up some time later that day. My rod container didn't.

After a week without a word, I don't know what the odds are on retrieving them, but I suspect my chances are lower than a limbo dancer on the Underground. Goodness knows where they are now. Helping ganga plants to grow? Sold at whatever the St Lucia equivalent of a car boot sale is? Maybe they are still resting in a dusty airport shed somewhere between here and the Caribbean, waiting to be rescued. Or should I expect a ransom demand in the post? Pay up, buster, or the rods get it. I hope Interpol are onthe case.

I don't want to get too emotional, but we're not talking about just any old fishing rods. These poles have more notches in their cork handles than Pol Pot's got on his rice bowl. Nearly all my big-game fish, so many personal records, so many memories. All gone.

There is a further problem, now I'm on to the complications of filling out insurance forms, and it's not just how much to add on for the sentimental value of this tackle - though money, as ever, is the fly in the vichyssoise. Like most anglers, I've bee n a little, shall we say, conservative when asked by my wife how much a certain rod has cost.

When she's complaining about the desperate need for a new dishwasher, it's not easy to break the news that your latest rod would have paid for the large model with double-speed wash/wipe and still left some money over for several gallons of rinsing agent. Fishing wives the world over seem totally unappreciative of test curves, modular carbon, gold-plated guides and beautifully finished rod whippings, making mundane and irrelevant comparisons with school fees, washing machines and designer clothes.

So I'm in a quandary. Do I tell the truth and risk her wrath, or lie to the insurance company, deliberately underestimating my missing tackle's value to avoid domestic strife? Still, as my friend (the one who realised the enormity of my loss) pointed ou t , things could have been worse. She could have found out how much the reels cost.

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