Fishing Lines: Perched on top of the world

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The Independent Online
I LEARNED a hard lesson this week: never share a television phone-in programme with a man who has just won the world championship. Having Bob Nudd booked for a whole hour may have been serendipity for Wire TV, but it wasn't a whole lot of fun for the rest of us. After all, who wants to ask a mere journalist the meaning of life, when you can talk to someone who became the best fisherman in the world only a day ago?

Trouble is, I've only myself to blame. Wire had asked me to bring along a couple of people for a prime- time phone-in. My first thought was Nudd, who won the world angling championship in 1990 and 1991. Last year I ghost-wrote his book How to be the World's Best Fisherman.

He is a wonderfully calm, amiable character who finds time on the bankside for even the most inane questioner. With the world championships at Nottingham taking place only the day before, I thought Bob would be able to discuss the competition, even if he didn't get picked for the team. Little did I realise . . .

My other guests were to be David Hall, editor of a magazine that is the Private Eye of angling. Whereas Nudd would add a note of seriousness to the proceedings, I felt Hall would lower the tone nicely. The magazine includes a column called 'Snide Rumours and Dirty Lies', which includes such insults as: 'Nice to see xxxx xxxxx getting his just desserts. He was fined recently for fishing without a rod licence'; and 'Dave Angell is now so fat that Firestone has taken a 20ft x 6ft advert on his back'; and 'Lee from Fosters is so thick that he thought AM radio was only on in the morning.' Small wonder that he has been threatened by irate victims more than once. Here's his big chance to insult them on television as well, I thought.

The third guest was Vic Sampson, who has caught more great white sharks than anyone else, including the third largest fish ever taken on rod and line. He is planning a trip next year to catch a great white that is reckoned to be 25ft long - as large as the monster in the film Jaws.

That's pretty impressive, but the oddest thing is that he lives in Dulwich, south London, which is scarcely renowned for its giant sharks. Sampson, who spends much of his time taking people hunting or

shark-fishing, promised to bring along the head of a 2,500lb great white, just to frighten any children who should have been in bed.

Fishing has become a hot item on Wire TV. It started with 30 minutes, went to an hour because of demand and now occupies two hours every Monday night. Half of that time is devoted to a phone-in compered by Nicky Horne, who was once a disc jockey of renown.

It should have been a fairly lively, varied and not too serious session. But then Nudd spoilt it by winning the world title for the third time. He is only the second person to do this in 41 years, and the Frenchman Robert Tesse did it when it was a one-day competition, when there were fewer than 10 teams competing and when English anglers were hopelessly outclassed by the Continentals.

I have to admit that Nudd did well. Holme Pierrepont will go down as the worst venue in world championship history, thanks largely to Brian Pluckrose, the centre's manager, who insisted that it contained plenty of fish. Nudd managed to capture four small perch on day one, and six on the second day, while those around him might as well have been fishing in the bath. His achievement, from the very worst areas of the water, almost certainly secured the title for England.

Well, you can imagine the rest. The phones were jammed with people wanting to congratulate him and ask questions about how he did it. Nobody wanted to speak to us. Even the shark head sat unloved on the end of the table. As if that wasn't bad enough, we even had to listen to Bob's rap record 'Maggots in my Catapult'. Knowing his luck - and he has just signed to MGM - it will probably make No 1.

So my apologies to those who tried to ring through wanting to discuss the state of our rivers, the problems of obtaining decent jungle cock feathers and the best way to fight a bluefin tuna. I should have realised by now that my television appearances are doomed to disaster. The last time I appeared on the small screen, my wife proposed to me. But that's another story.

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