Fishing Lines: Nearly nabbed by the long legs of the lure

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The Independent Online
THE NEIGHBOURS must think I'm a drug dealer. The local whisper is that an arrest is imminent because police visit our house so often. But - wouldn't you know it? - it's all down to fishing.

The latest incident arose after a man was seen behaving suspiciously in a public park late at night. An alert dog-walker, spotting a figure moving around with a torch, even noted the car number.

Its owner was traced to a small Cambridgeshire village, where he was interviewed. He admitted to being the person in question but denied being involved in anything underhand. On being questioned further, he said that he had been collecting craneflies.

Yes, I know it sounds a bit odd. If I were a police officer, I would have arrested me on suspicion of something or other. But it's true. The recent warm weather prompted an unexpectedly early hatch of daddy-long- legs. They are a pretty good bait for trout, if fished "on the dap".

This is an ancient method of fly-fishing by using a natural fly rather than an artificial one. You use a line with a length of silk floss attached, and let it blow out on the wind, keeping the insect bouncing on the surface.

It's also probably the only worthwhile use of craneflies, whose sole purpose in life, unless used as trout food, appears to be producing leatherjackets that eat my cabbages and chrysanthemums.

As you can imagine, explaining the finer points of dapping (I got a little sidetracked by talking about mayfly hatches on the Irish loughs) to a non-fishing representative of Britain's finest wasn't easy. I hadn't been able to acquire my daddies in daylight, so I had gone out at night to gather them. I think the copper would have liked to have nabbed me for something.

Wasting police time didn't quite fit (after all, he had pestered me, rather than the other way round). Gathering daddy-long-legs in a public place at night would have made a better charge, albeit a tough one to prosecute.

By nature, I'm law-abiding. Occasionally I drive at 42mph in a 40mph area, and once I parked on a yellow line. But I've had more brushes with the law than most burglars. Most have been over collecting worms late at night in public places. The large lobworm, the one you occasionally dig up in your garden, can be far more easily collected off lawns on damp nights. In the right place, on the right night, it's possible to collect 200 in an hour - enough salmon or perch bait for weeks.

On one occasion, a copper was so fascinated by the prospect of nabbing worms instead of villains that he spent more than an hour trying to catch one. It's not as easy as it looks. The worms moonbathe, but keep a portion of tail attached to an escape route. They can vanish underground a lot faster than a 6ft policeman can bend over - especially when he's using a bright torch to warn of his approach better than a siren.

Another memorable incident saw me stopped by the police at 3am, the back of my car packed with a boxed television, booze, cups and shields. It looked like I'd raided an off-licence, then a trophy shop. The policeman uttered the unforgettable "Hullo, hullo, hullo! What's all this, then?"

That was a tough one to get out of. I was returning from the National Sea Fishing Championships, a three-day event sponsored by a drinks company. I had won prizes every day, been in the winning team and won the contest overall. The result brought me a shelf-full of trophies, and enough beer and spirits to keep even a journalist in booze for weeks. But it was only when I hauled my catch out of the boot, along with the results showing my name, that I was allowed to continue home.

Being in remote places at night doesn't always mean you're up to no good, though the police have other ideas. I've stopped a breaking and entering, rescued a rapist's intended victim, helped two car crash victims and saved an 80-year-old woman from drowning. But what thanks do I get? Nicked for collecting craneflies. Oh, it's a cruel world.