Fishing Lines: Messing about off the river

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The Independent Online
I'VE always hoped that burglars would raid my garage and ransack the deep freeze. I can just picture them grabbing the frosted, unlabelled bundles, dumping them into a bin-liner and defrosting their swag on the kitchen table the next day.

It would be worth the inconvenience to imagine their faces as the rock-hard bundles metamorphosed not into sides of pork and bundles of fillet steak, but (at the latest count) a fox that is heading for the taxidermist, several yoghurt pots of liquidised worms, three boxes of very old squid, a dozen mackerel, some red-dyed sprats, an 18lb carp, the love-bird that died last year, about 70 peeler crabs and three eels, cut into sections.

It's only a dream, alas. No burglar could get anywhere near the deep freeze unless he spent hours clearing the garage first. I dread this time of year. I don't like early season trout fishing, the coarse season is over, sea fishing's not worth the bother yet and I am banned from any foreign jaunts until the garden is done. And that means tidying the garage. The car hasn't been able to get inside for months. There isn't even room for the children's bikes. I have to confess that most of the mess is fishing tackle, but much of it does not even belong to me.

Along with being chairman, secretary, treasurer and chief driver of the local fishing club for youngsters, another of my roles has become tackle custodian. When we get back from a long trip, many of them just dump their gear and promise to collect it the next day. Poor weather and heavy flooding in the early part of the year meant that they haven't bothered.

I'm not very good at keeping only the stuff in regular use. Many items, I am convinced, will come in useful sometime in the future - like a 50lb pile of lead that eventually may be used for making sea weights; the casting net I bought in Barbados (I've never been able to make it open like a flower, as the natives do); a box of car door handles (wonderful for cheap lures when fishing over wrecks for cod and conger); and three inflatable boats, all with serious punctures.

It is almost impossible to get help with the spring-cleaning. This is because creatures live in the dark places. Stay still for a few minutes and you hear scufflings and rustlings from roof and floor. The penthouse dwellers are almost certainly starlings, which repay my offer of free accommodation by stealing the feathers on my fly-tying table for their nests. The others will be most of the village's mouse population.

They creep under the doors in autumn and, despite a winter-long campaign of attrition, I still can't get rid of the little blighters. They eat my nets, chew holes in my rod bags and have messy parties with anything remotely edible. I went trout fishing last year in Yorkshire, opened my creel on the bank and out popped two Cambridgeshire rodents that had come along for the ride.

Little surprises like this make it hard to persuade my daughters to help out. If the idea of picking up a coat and finding mice in a pocket isn't enough, then there are the spiders. The less said about these, the better. But there are lots and the very largest, which I think prey on the mice, lurk under breakable objects picked up by arachnophobics.

I still haven't worked out why the mice will sabotage my boxes, clothing and rod handles, but leave the mower well alone. No chewed leads, no nests in the grass box. Of course the damn thing starts first time as well. Do you suppose they are in league with the fish?

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