Fishing Lines: Salmon surprise and life at the shark end

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The Independent Online
I FEAR my wife may have discovered the perfect present: something that almost any fly angler would love, worth pounds 1,000 or more - but a gift that may not cost her a penny.

I'm only guessing, but ever since I caught her leafing through the Atlantic Salmon Trust's 1994 postal auction catalogue, she has worn a distinctly smug look. The free catalogue lists more than 200 prime chunks of salmon and trout fishing. Just send in your bid (each item is flagged with an estimated value). If your offer is the highest come February, then the fishing's yours.

And impressive stuff it is too, with prime stretches of rivers like the Tweed, Spey, Tay and Test that only a poacher or those with very good friends will ever fish. For example, a bid of around pounds 450 could see you and a friend spending a week on the Queen's stretch of the Dee at Ballater next March. For a little more, you could enjoy a day on the prolific Almondmouth water of the river Tay near Perth.

The catalogue offers everything from a day's trout-fishing for one on the river Wylye in Dorset (estimate pounds 60), to a week on the Isle of Lewis for 10 people in April or May. It's likely to fetch about pounds 1,500, but as well as the fishing on nearby lochs and rivers, you get the use of Aline Lodge and a cook/housekeeper.

If money is no object, then how about heading off to Australia next March to catch great white shark? This unique holiday run by Master Travel of South London (Tel: 081- 671 7521) offers a week's fishing next December under the guidance of Vic Sampson, the world's most successful great white shark hunter. Sampson has caught 18 great whites up to 2,500lb, the third largest fish caught on rod and line. He says: 'We'll certainly get a few, though they're harder to catch than most people imagine. I lost one of around 4,000lb here two years ago, so I'm hoping to meet that one again.' With boats from many Australian ports costing more than pounds 1,000 a day, this two-week trip offers good value, though it still costs nearly pounds 4,000.

If you're prone to seasickness, or the possibility of being eaten by a fish doesn't appeal, then a better bet may be a day on the Norfolk Broads with Richard Furlong for pounds 95; Britain's only pike ghillie will take out two people for a day. He has never had a blank in seven years, and his customers have caught hundreds of pike over 15lb. Most people never get one that big in their lives.

His knowledge of the Broads system and where pike will feed is truly awesome. There is another bonus: the chance to see some rare birds. On our trip, we spotted a marsh harrier, a bittern and a peregrine falcon, but Furlong wasn't impressed. His rarest trio is a bittern, a sea eagle and a snowy owl. Book trips on Norwich 400757.

For the fine-weather fisher, angling books are probably the best gift. Here the best bet is a subscription to the Flyfisher's Classic Library, which reprints rare or out- of-print books. But Justin Knowles does more than just reprints. In every case, the books have a little extra, such as a previously unpublished chapter, extra photographs or a new introduction (the one in Fly Fishing by Sir Edward Grey, for example, is by Jeremy Paxman). The library is at Dartmoor View, Mary Street, Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ13 9HQ (Tel: 0626 834182).

At least with a book you've always got the memory. I probably won't even get that. If my wife picks one of the more popular waters from the Salmon Trust catalogue, someone is sure to bid more for the estimate, as the best fishing always sells at a premium. But how can I tell her? It's supposed to be a surprise.

So she will say on Christmas morning: 'Darling, I've bid hundreds of pounds for this super stretch of the Tay for you.' How could I be anything but grateful? And when someone bids more, it would be churlish to remind her that she hasn't actually bought me anything. Clever, huh?

For copies of the catalogue, contact the Atlantic Salmon Trust on Pitlochry (0796) 473439.