All the best boats boast 'fishability'

I am immersed in a world of boats. There is one that can do a top speed of 34 knots and is made of "beefy fibreglass" - plus it has three staterooms (you can never have enough), another is "soft and quiet" and promises no 'hull slap'. The bumpf for one sport-fishing vessel doesn't let the mere English stand in the way of a good ad-line and promises more 'fishability'.

Sadly, I am not in Monte Carlo but reading a sort of hybrid of Heat magazine and the Guinness World of Records (so you can imagine how fascinating it is): The International Game Fish Association's Book of World Record Game Fishes. The advertising is mostly about boats.

There are only two boats that I remember, thankfully for the right reasons: i.e. they stayed afloat. One I met last summer in Ireland. My ghillie, Frank, had hand-built it and it was quite beautiful. Made from wood so highly lacquered it wouldn't have looked out of place in Omar Sharif's cigar humidor. Frank quite wisely forbade me to step into it as I was wearing waders with studded soles. Like a stick of still-wet caramel it glided down the river Cong and out on to Lake Corrib: that was Frank's daily commute.

The other boat, belonging to Captain Bristow, we sailed on the Atlantic on the hunt for marlin. We left the Madeira coastline behind to find a dip in the underwater landscape so we were sat above 3,000 feet of water, filled with blue marlin. It wasn't a fancy boat, it had a fridge and some 'napping' beds but we had a great day at sea. Captain Bristow showed me his logbook - he had been at sea for forty years. He told me a particularly terrifying tale of a black marlin so big they had to cut the line for fear it would capsize the boat. I remember looking nervously out to sea.

But the boats in the Book of World Record Game Fishes are super-slick and fancy. Some have enough fridges to satisfy the most prolific serial killer.

Actually, the phrase "game fish" is confusing to us as we take this to mean salmon, grayling and trout. But in the WRGF book it basically means any fish commonly fished. So you have your trout and carp alongside shark and taimen.

The International Game Fish Association has been going since 1939; it acts as an international organisation that records the capture of record-breaking fish. Although the book has only been published since 1977, it records any substantiated catch.

The 'old' records are particularly romantic. The biggest Atlantic cod weighed nearly 100lb and was caught in 1968 in New Hampshire. The biggest grayling (not caught on the fly) was 3lb 11oz, from Germany. If you want to catch big Atlantic salmon the place to head to is Norway. The all-tackle record stands from 1928: 79lb 2oz.

What's curious here is that the biggest salmon caught on the fly is given as a 51lb 2oz-er from the river Alta in Norway (this is where most of the big salmon come from it seems), caught in 1994. But what of Clementina Morrison's 61lb salmon from the river Deveron right here in the UK, caught in 1924? Perhaps there wasn't enough proof for it to make it official. (Georgina Ballantine's monster 64-pounder was, of course, caught on a spinner.)

There are undoubtably some very rich men (and I am sure a few women) who spend all day at sea in their gerzillion-pound fishing 'boats' in singular pursuit of record-breaking fish. I remember seeing some of them in Madeira. They nearly all wore lemon-yellow polo shirts and had extraordinarily brown, wrinkled knees. I think, actually, I recognise a few of them in the IGFA record book...

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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