Fishing Lines: Water brought to your eyes

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The Independent Online
THERE WERE times when temperatures in the Ecuador rain forest soared way over 100 degrees. Even in shorts, we were unbearably hot. But in all the weeks spent trying to catch the legendary arapaima, said to grow to over 1,000lb, we never went swimming naked.

It wasn't our shyness. It wasn't the alligators, though there were plenty around. But they were generally small, surprisingly shy and kept well away from our party. It wasn't the anacondas, though we saw one huge snake at least 20 feet long slither underwater and out of sight. It wasn't even the piranhas, though their Dracula teeth made us chop their heads off before we even tried to take a hook out. What really stopped us swimming in the nude was the candiru.

Here's how Redmond O'Hanlon describes them in his book In Trouble Again: 'The candiru, a tiny catfish adapted for a parasitic life in the cloaca of bigger fish, swam most persistently into my dreams . . . In the Amazon, should you have too much to drink and inadvertently urinate as you swim, any homeless candiru, attracted by the smell, will take you for a big fish. It will swim excitedly up your stream of uric acid, enter your urethra like a worm into its burrow and, raising its gill covers, stick out a set of retrorse spikes.

'Nothing can be done. The pain, apparently, is spectacular. You must get to a hospital before your bladder bursts; you must ask a surgeon to cut off your penis.'

It sounds like a fisherman's tale. But when, in the interests of science, we stood on the bank and peed into the river, candiru would mill beneath the surface like ants round a broken bag of sugar. We unconsciously took a step back, just in case the little horrors had developed the salmon's trick of swimming up waterfalls. Thank goodness there are no candiru over here (though it's a useful way to discourage those disgusting people who urinate in swimming pools). But Keith Baxter is about to discover that there are even more problems out of the water when he opens Britain's first angling water for nudists.

Faced with fierce competition from other lakes, Baxter had been thinking for some time about how to establish something different at his Garden Farm Fishery near Leicester. He is convinced that his new slant to bottom fishing will prove a big attraction at the 15-year-old water, which holds carp, roach, perch and bream. 'I'm not a dirty old man,' he says. 'I'm not sure how the locals will take it, but I hope they will be understanding.' He plans to put up screens to stop gawpers.

With the recent bout of Mediterranean weather, fishing naked might seem attractive at first glance. It's a great way to get an all-over suntan; you don't need to worry about the line catching on your jacket, or the hook snagging in your jumper, and it ties in perfectly with the idea of fishing being all about 'back to nature'.

But the problems far outweigh the advantages. Fly-fishers will know only too well how easy it is to catch the hook in your ear if there's the slightest breath of wind. (Sensible anglers wear glasses to stop the hook blowing in their eyes.) There are far more painful places for a hook to lodge than your ear.

I've never fished Garden Farm, so I don't know how unspolit it is, but angling waters traditionally have bankside vegetation. Nettles and thistles are bad enough when you're clothed. Just imagine the problems on a windy day. Creatures such as spiders, earwigs and beetles are a different proposition when you have no clothes on. And what about wasps, gnats and mosquitoes?

Maggots, especially those dyed in garish colours such as bronze, red or green, can be brushed off your lap when you're fishing in trousers. Even if the dye comes off, it's rarely a problem. But I would hate to try explaining away vivid orange streaks across my todger. My wife would never believe me.

Baxter hopes his project will become a mixed fishery, but fishing next to a naked woman would scarcely prove an aid to concentration, and I'm not sure the idea of sitting next to unclothed men would actually encourge many women to dash off to Leicester. Anglers are not renowned for their powerhouse physiques. Still, with no candiru to worry about, it could be very pleasant standing waist-deep in the water on days when the mercury hits the 90s. Unless, of course, you worry about eels. Or pike. Or leeches.

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