Fishing Lines: Three strikes and wipeout

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The Independent Online
Trying to catch salmon is generally quoted as the quickest way to spend money in fishing. A disgruntled salmon angler, only half in jest, likened it to building a rod with pounds 20 notes, then setting fire to it. But big-game angling is an equally good way to fritter away an inheritance.

There are boats (superb craft, admittedly) where a day's fishing will cost you at least pounds 1,000. Except you can't book such craft for just a day. If you're lucky, they will take a week's charter, though that's in the quiet months when the black marlin have mostly gone swimming in other ponds. Generally, it's a month's booking with money up front, thank you very much.

To be fair, the odds are far better than in salmon fishing, where it's possible to flay away in the almost certain knowledge that the nearest salmon is closer to Greenland than you. Big-game fishing doesn't guarantee results, though at some time during a reasonable day, a fish will take the bait.

This week, I had the worst day's big-game fishing of my life. Losing one or two is part of the game, but 40 hits in a day and losing the lot is unheard of. Marlin, tuna, sailfish, dorado, king mackerel: I lost the lot. Oh, I saw several of them. Most of the marlin and sails leapt clear of the water. But the result was always the same. I got so frustrated that I let my nine-year-old daughter Fleur take the next few fish. She is a real (no pun intended) expert. But even she kept getting broken.

Now it's not often that you get the chance to fish for marlin and tuna for just pounds 1. But if that is Sega's idea of introducing the public to big- game fishing, the company clearly needs a top-level fishing consultant.

Perhaps I should explain to non-parents that a basic duty of fatherhood is to subject your inner ear to the sort of manoeuvres endured only by budding astronauts. Whereas once you could get away with a picnic at half- term, now it's a theme park. So this week I was dragged down to Segaworld, in Piccadilly, central London, for encounters with The Beast In The Darkness, and travel on Space Mission, Ghost Hunt, Mad Bazooka and sundry other delights.

However, my day took a turn for the better when I came upon Sport Fishing Two. An angler sits in the chair. In front of him is a video film showing shoals of bait fish being attacked by unseen monsters. The angler has an imitation rod and reel, with the line passing into the maws of the machine. When a fish takes, the angler is supposed to strike and play the fish. I saw it as my chance to record the sort of score that would leave computer nerds gaping.

In seconds, I was fishing the world's most productive waters. A message came up on screen with an American voice: "You've got a nibble." Bit of rubbish, that. These critters don't nibble: they gulp. The rod slowly arched over, and I struck. Hit! recorded the screen. Three strikes to set the hook. This is great! The water boiled. Then, Twang!

I thought I had struck too early, so I tried a slow strike. Twang. I tried winding fast. Twang. Slow wind. Twang. Not winding at all. Twang. Letting the line go slack. Twang. Winding backwards. Twang.

I had five pounds 1 goes in all, and lost 40 fish. At the end of each game, the film switched to the skipper on deck looking at his watch and saying, "That's it."

According to the role of honour, someone had 490kg of fish but I reckon it was built into the program to encourage mugs like me. All I got was the mocking message: "Zero Fish". Eventually Fleur had to pull me away, still pleading, "Just one more game".

I haven't stopped thinking about it since. All I can say is that if that's virtual reality, give me the real thing any day.