fishing lines; Real trouble and strife

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The Independent Online
This was going to be a column about fishing in Mongolia. I had intended to tell you about our quest for taimen, the rarest fish in the northern hemisphere; the six-hour flight in a biplane that hadn't changed since Amy Johnson set her world record; what it's like living in a ger. But I can't any more.

I would have liked to tell you about the best fly-fishing in the world, where complete duffers can catch dozens of the stunning Mongolian grayling, one of the world's loveliest fish. I wouldn't have told you very much about how to catch them, because pretty well any method works fine, from tiny dry flies to spinners. Whoppers they were too, with fish up to 3lb and the average at more than 1lb.

Even better, these grayling jump like trout, their iridescent emerald bodies and golden tails glittering in the sunlight, a breathtaking contrast to the deep blue of the sky, the yellow of the larch trees, the white of the snow-covered peaks. But there's no point telling you about all that.

Our team leader, John Bailey of Angling Travel, went to the Tengis Valley and fished the Shishigt river last year. It was even more spectacular, exciting and sometimes frightening than John's descriptions. However, there's little point in talking about all that now.

And then there were the other six members of the party. I had been to the wilds of Arunachal Pradesh with Simon Channing and Dave Wilson, so I knew all about them. Simon, a dentist, gave up a profitable practice here to travel the world and go fishing. He's an ideal man to have along because he has the luck of a bag of horseshoes. In Arunachal Pradesh, he caught more fish than the rest of us put together and won most of the card games too.

I really wish I could have told you about the newcomers. Best of all, you would have loved Dave Tatum, the 44-year-old unmarried Norfolk farmer who regaled us with East Anglian yarns that left us open-mouthed. Asked about his highlight of the trip, Dave said: "When I was playing a big taimen a bit nervously, frightened it would come off, and Keith told me: 'If you don't hurry up, Dave, that fish will die of old age.'"Sadly, I can't tell you more about him, or the laid-back Simon Macmillan, or whingeing Phil Humm, or the baby of the trip, Ade Bristow, who would still be in the river now if we hadn't dragged him off. I can't tell you any of this because I've been scooped on the whole thing.

Writers accept that rivals will sometimes break a story they were hoping to run. It can happen by bad luck, chequebook journalism, even seedy things like hacking into a computer and stealing a story. But very few people get banjoed by their wives. Now, I thought it was pretty generous of me, allowing her to write my columns while I was away. I suspected there might be the odd snide remark, but what I didn't bank on was a hatchet job, and even worse, all the exciting bits of my trip (my material for the next 12 columns) revealed.

Well, it's my own fault. As soon as we were back in vaguely civilised parts (Mongolia's capital, Ulaan Bataar) I phoned to let her know what had happened. Little did I suspect that her innocent questioning (What did you catch? How big was the largest? What was the best method?) was actually a hard-nosed interviewer at work. So on the day I arrived back, I opened the Independent on Sunday to read the highlights of my adventures. Infamy, infamy. She clearly had it in for me.

Freedom of the press? You've got to be kidding. The sooner that Draconian laws governing press intrusion are brought in to stop this sort of scandalous behaviour, the better. And she's never ever coming fishing with me again.