Fishing Lines: Silver lining in the timeless allure of the lure

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The Independent Online
MAKING FISHING lures has moved on a bit since I murdered the apostles. Ah, those were the days, when a spoon was not something to eat cornflakes with, but two cheap spinners. This whimsy was inspired by the arrival of an annual treat - a new catalogue from the Harris Angling Company, displaying nearly 100 pages of things to attract predatory fish. At least, that's what the Norfolk company claims its product is for. It's even better at catching anglers.

Lure fishing is going to be the big growth area over the next decade, mark my words. Maybe we'll even find out how it started, because not much is known about its genesis. Harry Cholmondeley-Pennell, in The Book of Pike, written in 1886, got miffed that Americans were trying to claim credit. (Sound familiar?) He wrote: "I believe they invented the spoon just about as much as the electric telegraph, which was invented by Dr Hooke in 1684, and brought into use in the French Revolution nearly a century afterward, and before such a thing as a Yankee existed."

His vote goes to aboriginals from the Polynesian Islands, who tempted fish by tying spoon-shaped segments of iridescent shell to their hooks hundreds of years ago. The American Indians and Eskimos also used artificial lures, made of ivory or bone, when ice fishing. Sweden is surprisingly high in the charts, using a spoon-type bait "as early as the middle of the 17th century", according to Harry CP. The Brits and Americans were not far behind, though we beat them, whatever they may claim.

Notice that word "spoon"? That's because some inventive fisher noticed that a spoon shape, pulled through the water, fluttered like an injured fish. Such fish-attracting devices were easy to make, too. All you needed was a plentiful supply of spoons, a few swivels, a treble hook and a drill. And so I became a secret lure maker.

Never did like those apostle spoons anyway. Bit creepy, those long-haired beardies with eyes closed, praying while you were scoffing ice-cream or jelly. They soon served a more valuable purpose to a young lad without enough money to buy spinners. I could get two lures from each spoon, though perch, pike and trout all seemed to prefer the bowl end to the holy part. Eventually, my clandestine tackle business was uncovered. Despite regular rearranging of the cutlery drawer, it soon became plain that someone had run away with the spoons.

Spinning didn't really move on much from the Spoon Dynasty until quite recently. Here the Yanks really can take credit. Largely driven by their pursuit of largemouth bass (31 million Americans are bass fishers), they invented some fabulous lures, and are still doing so. Today's baits don't just shine: they splash, crash, wiggle, wobble, shake, rattle and roll, hop, skip and jump. Some even have tiny chambers where you can add fish- attracting scents. They can pootle across the surface or dive like an otter.

But what really hook anglers are the colours. No more is your choice limited to any colour, as long as it's silver. The open page before me offers such shades as hot fire tiger, chartreuse, blue flash, orange belly shad, smokey joe and fluo green.

Goodness knows what fish, generally supposed to be colour blind, make of them. Maybe they just like the names, which include Jointed Tracdown Jawbreaker, Lippy Lizzy, Magnum Chug 'n' Spit, Fish-Itt First Pop-Eyed Rattler. They look terrific. It doesn't really matter whether they catch fish or not: they are so pretty that two lure fishermen can spend hours admiring each other's tackle boxes and never cast a line.

Best of all, you don't need to snaffle the family silver any more either. This latest catalogue offers all the components to brew your own. Experts can buy the beads, blades, bodies and eyes separately; duffers like me will probably opt for a kit that includes all the bits. Imagine catching a big fish on your personally designed Doozy Wiggly Wobbler. And it means you don't have to stir your tea with a fork, either.

Catalogues cost pounds 2 from the Harris Angling Company, Blacksmith House, East Ruston, Norfolk NR12 9HL, telephone 01692 581177.