Fishing: Never without a Flying Condom

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A CORRESPONDENT in the esteemed Trout and Salmon this month bemoans lily-livered angling writers who hesitate to call a condom a condom. His letter is on the lines of: "No wonder we lost the Empire to Johnny Foreigner if we're too damned sensitive on a piddling issue like this." He may have a point.

Perhaps I should make it clear that we are not talking prophylactics here. The subject of his ire is a fishing lure that only the very deranged would try to fit on their todgers. It has a rubber eel-like body with a forked tail, and a metal spinner at the head end that revolves.

I have no idea why it is called a Flying Condom. The lure's body is made of rubber, but the sort of rubber used for hosepipes, not for protecting sensitive parts of the body. It is about three inches long and has an internal measurement of about 10mm. There is also a spiteful-looking treble hook swinging free at the tail end. As a sheath, it is only for hobbits with a sado-masochistic bent.

Odd though it sounds, it catches fish. The lure wiggles enticingly in the water and the spinner head flashes to attract predators. The contraption has proved amazingly tempting to salmon - and a lot of other fish, too - over the past few years. On many waters, it has supplanted traditional lures such as Devon minnows and Toby spinners.

Trout and Salmon's correspondent is rightly miffed by the angling magazines' sensitivity. For the defence, let me say that journalists are notorious for abbreviating things to the point of incomprehensibility, if it proves handy for headlines. (Zed, tinca, spotty and snapper are examples I have trawled from magazines on my desk.) But I suspect it is actually the Smut Patrol at work here.

This is particularly strange in the case of Trout and Salmon. Its editor, Sandy Leventon, is not known as a regular attendee at Purity Watch meetings. Why, I have even heard him voice the occasional "Bother!" Furthermore, his publication carries the names of fishing flies that are equally, perhaps more, offensive than the maligned Flying Condom. What about Woolly Bugger, Big Hairy Bastard, Pussy Galore, Cooke's Bogey, Red Badger, Royal Humpy, Booby Nobbler and many more? And the magazine was in the forefront of discussion last year, when many original names were proposed for a fishing fly tied largely from female pubic hairs.

Naming of parts is a fine art in angling. I have just been glancing through the catalogue of fishing lures published by the Harris Angling Company. The brochure runs to more than 104 pages, quite a contrast from when it was just a few sheets. It all started when Chris Harris gave up his job as managing director of an international medical company, and moved to East Ruston in the wilds of Norfolk. He wanted to do something different. He chose to set up a company selling fishing lures.

Then, the selection available to British anglers was minimal. The market hadn't moved on much from the days of taking a table spoon, cutting the handle off and attaching a swivel to one end, a treble hook to the other. Now you can buy lures in all the colours of the rainbow and many more besides. They wobble, rattle, splash, leap, dive, roll, hop, step and jump.

Harris and his wife, Sue, have played a pivotal role in giving British anglers the right to choose. In the US, the most garishly coloured bugs (the Harris catalogue features one in the shape of a mini Budweiser can) attract salmon just as well as traditional lures. "If UK anglers experimented more, I think they would probably catch more fish," Harris said.

Well, he would say that, with prices up to pounds 35 for a lure designed to catch big-game fish. Like most anglers, I'm easily pleased by shiny objects and there are few things more satisfying than a tackle box sparkling with multi-coloured lures. If they have alluring names, so much the better. And there are few things more satisfying than arranging them so the Woodchopper nestles next to a Flying Condom.

Copies of the Harris Angling Company catalogue from Blacksmith House, East Ruston, Norfolk NR12 9HL. Telephone 01692 581208.