Fishing lines: trade show for all the family

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The Independent Online
Persuading my two daughters to spend a day looking at fishing tackle and talking to fishermen is not easy. But they don't need a lot of smooth talking to visit the Game Fair, an annual trade show that's a lot more than hunting, shooting and fishing.

This year they had an additional attraction: so Fleur could show off her new springer puppy. Lucky is only five months old and his feet haven't yet worked out that they are part of a team. Nor has he mastered the act of drinking. He puts his whole head in a bowl of water and waggles his tongue, eventually getting enough in his mouth to satisfy his thirst. This provided great entertainment for stallholders who kindly put out water for the hundreds of hounds that like a day out.

I did a lot more walking this year. The organisers appear to have changed their policy of choosing venues with one country road leading in and out. Getting 50,000 people inside meant huge delays to get anywhere near, only to discover that the car parks were in the next county.

One year, I was scheduled to fish a competition as part of the Game Fair, and sat unmoving for an hour. It looked like the contest would be over before I got near the water. I explained my predicament to a policeman, who organised a motorbike escort to get me past the queueing masses. Aren't our policemen wonderful? Pity I couldn't find them to get me out afterwards. No problems this year: it was at Castle Ashby near Northampton and I drove straight in, then only had to walk a few hundred yards to the entrance.

Once in, it was the matter of minutes to lose the rest of the family. I didn't plan it that way - but at least it enabled me to wander at my leisure through book and tackle stalls, admire the falcons, try a wild boar steak, ask what a fish-shaped weathervane would cost and watch springers better behaved than my own, safe in the knowledge that I could claim to be searching for wife, children and dogs with little hope of finding them among all those people.

I've been going for years. Once I spent all three days there, helping my friend Chris the Stuffer, who was demonstrating his taxidermy skills. It rained solidly and the place looked like the Somme.

But we had some light relief from a 30ft mechanical pike that was being used for a film with a storyline remarkably similar to Jaws. The pike was taken to the middle of a lake, and it was supposed to swim towards shore, opening its mouth and frightening children. Instead, it went: "Glub, glub, glub," and sank like a rock.

The Game Fair is an excellent chance to make a fool of yourself. I was uncomfortably reminded of this, watching one of the 90-minute contests between two famous anglers. Bob James, one of the stars of A Passion for Angling, was trounced by three times world angling champion Bob Nudd. In the circumstances, it was a bit like me having an ear-biting contest with Mike Tyson.

You won't catch me entering the casting competitions either. Several years ago, when I was younger, cockier and dumber, I did so. Unfortunately the man who went before me was Peter Anderson, the world casting champion. Never follow a world champ, even if he does wear a kilt. I suspect he would have made me look foolish if he had only been allowed to use his left foot, he was that good. What made it worse was that the commentator announced me as the Independent's angling correspondent. You can guess the rest. I overheard someone say in a stage whisper: "Watching him cast, there's hope for us all."