Few hours with a good teacher adds to the fun

Annalisa Barbieri on Fishing
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The Independent Online

So much has happened in the two weeks since my last column. I've been to New Zealand to fish for steelhead and various parts of the Atlantic to fish for tuna and marlin, with some baby sharks getting in there too. Canada for pacific salmon, all over Australia and some parts of New Zealand and to the bottom of the ocean (I can't remember which one) to look at huge, huge octopi.

So much has happened in the two weeks since my last column. I've been to New Zealand to fish for steelhead and various parts of the Atlantic to fish for tuna and marlin, with some baby sharks getting in there too. Canada for pacific salmon, all over Australia and some parts of New Zealand and to the bottom of the ocean (I can't remember which one) to look at huge, huge octopi.

Yes, I've been ill, like 90 per cent of the rest of the population. But my malaise coincided, joyously, with the installation of 90 digital cable TV channels in our house. Like the Internet, cable TV has a reputation for being full of rubbish. Not if you like fishing programmes, programmes about wildlife, the weather and re-runs of Dallas, it isn't. I'm not sure being ill would have been half as bearable without the Discovery and National Geographic channels to look at in between blowing my nose like a trumpet and coughing like an old woman with a 70-year, 40-a-day Senior Service habit.

The past fortnight has also seen, by some strange coincidence, a good few letters from readers inspired to take up fishing. The main questions asked are, should I take lessons, where to go and what kit to buy?

There are some sports and pastimes that people wouldn't dream of taking up without tuition. Fishing doesn't seem to be one of them, although it should be. A few hours with a good teacher can not only set you up with good habits for life, but it will make the fishing so much more enjoyable. This is also why casting lessons from well-meaning friends or relatives should be avoided. They may well have bad habits - we all develop them - that they will pass on to you.

There's another reason why tuition from a stranger is better. As adults, we've hopefully learnt most of our major skills: walking, writing and so on. So it's been a while since we've been crap at something and had to be humble about it. Remember how frustrating it was learning to drive? How utterly useless you could feel? Well, fishing is like that but, because it looks so easy, it's even more infuriating when you can't seem to master that lovely, loopy cast.

Pete taught me a great deal of what I know about fishing but we nearly killed each other when he tried to teach me about casting. In his desperate attempt to make me get the hang of it, it seemed - according to the feedback I was getting from him - as if every cast I made was littered with a hundred mistakes. And as I tried to correct them with the next cast, I made a hundred more. I remember saying to him once, "how can I make so many mistakes? Am I doing nothing right?" Although of course the sarcasm I said this with cannot be sufficiently reproduced here. If your teacher is someone you don't know, you not only take criticism more easily, but you're not so lippy back.

Depending on where you live, a call to your local fishery will often be the easiest and best way to start you off. Most fisheries have instructors who can give lessons. To find some near you there a couple of places to look. The magazine Trout Fisherman give away (usually with the April issue so look out for it from mid-March) a great little book which is a guide to day-ticket waters. This lists fisheries around the country and will become invaluable when you start fishing. Or, if you prefer, Thomas Harmsworth publish a great big tome called Where to Fish. Find a fishery near you and ring up and ask if they can provide tuition. There's also a related website: www.where-to-fish.co.uk and if you put in "tuition" and where you live it comes up with various suitables. You see how useful the internet is? The two qualifications to look for are STANIC (Salmon and Trout Association Instructor's Certificate) or APGAI (Association of Professional Game Angling Instructor). You can get a nationwide list of holders of STANIC by ringing the Salmon and Trout Association on 020 7283 5838.

As for kit, you can also get perfectly good fly fishing rods for under £100 and they will see you through the first few months of fishing until you decide what kind of rod "action" you like and also what type of fishing you'll be doing - reservoirs, chalk streams, big rivers etc - and if you'll stick to it. Then you'll have the glorious pleasure of being able to convince yourself you really need another 9ft rod, that state-of-the-art reel, and enough gadgets to render your fishing vest heavy enough to drown you, should you fall in. Which brings me to the two most important pieces of fishing equipment that you should buy. A life jacket and a pair of fishing glasses to protect your eyes. Believe me, you only need to see a picture of someone with a hook stuck right in their pupil once...

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk">a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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