Fishing lines: Yates' antiques rod show

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The Independent Online
Somewhere in the garage (hidden under an old electric lawnmower, hula hoops, a cage from a long-dead parakeet and a leaky canoe) is the first rod I ever owned. If someone out there would like to offer me a few thousand pounds, I could probably be persuaded to part with it.

You may think the price is a little steep for three bits of cane with significant wear and tear. The top joint is six inches shorter than it should be (an argument with my brother's bike), the whippings could use a coat of varnish and the cork handle is missing a few chunks, thanks to the resident field mice. But if Chris Yates can sell his rod, built in the same year as mine and in only marginally better condition, then I reckon my price represents an absolute bargain.

It's true that Yates's rod has a teeny bit more history than mine. It is the one he used to break the British carp record in 1980. The 51lb 8oz fish broke the legendary Richard Walker's record of 44lb, which had stood for 28 years. The rod was one of the first six that Walker himself made. Though the record has subsequently been broken several times, the carp-fishing trend of using high-protein baits which pile on the pounds makes Yates's fish the last "pure" record in many eyes.

What's it worth? Well, Yates has already been offered a large sum for it privately, but would not sell, largely because he thought the amount was ridiculously large. So why is he putting it into Angling Auctions' sale on 4 October? Well, after being content for many years to potter no further than the Hampshire Avon from his Wiltshire home, he has suddenly acquired a taste for travel. "That rod is going to finance next year's fishing," he said. "I want to go to Hungary and Norway, and this will pay for it."

He is curiously unsentimental about saying goodbye. "My place was becoming like a museum. That rod has not been used for years, and is a bit ropey. I am out of that kind of milieu, enjoying being part of the development of carp fishing. I don't mind that it is going to a collector. He will probably look after it better than I did."

The rod is not the only thing that Yates is clearing out. As proof of his oft-repeated claim that material things don't really matter to him, he is also auctioning the record carp certificate, a scale from 43lb 12oz carp (every home should have one) a wicker creel, some favourite rods and reels, his lucky hat and even his handwritten draft manuscript of Casting at the Sun, one of the best angling books ever written.

At one time, he survived between fishing trips as an accomplished photographer. (Most of the early Dick Francis covers were Yates's work.) He was one of the stars of A Passion for Angling, a series which was among the top BBC2 programmes.

Nowadays he is the editor of Waterlog, a whimsical angling magazine whose emphasis on good writing and offbeat issues has proved a refreshing antidote to the rest of the fishing media. But an editor's role on a small bi-monthly doesn't finance exotic trips. Nor do the occasional books he writes. He is a gifted but woefully slow author, largely because he still insists on writing in longhand with a fountain pen. His long-awaited book, Night, is now 12 years overdue.

Quite how much Yates will make from the auction is unclear, though I can reveal that he turned down pounds 5,000 for the rod earlier this year. That certainly makes my rod, which once accounted for 26 gudgeon and a 1lb trout in the same day, a real snip. I'll even throw in the page in my fishing diary detailing this momentous catch for free.

Catalogues detailing Yates's fire sale, plus nearly 600 other items, from Angling Auctions, PO Box 2095, London (Tel 0181-749 4175).

Waterlog costs pounds 19.80 for six issues from Waterlog, Bradley Pavilions, Bradley Stoke North, Bristol, BS12 0BQ (Tel 01454 620070).