Fishing lines: Bring me the head of a mouldy pike

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The Independent Online

My wife is furious that I've just been named as the second-funniest angling writer. Not because she thinks I should have won. (She's noble enough to concede that Chris Sandford, whose credits include a record that reached No 17 in the charts and playing Walter Potts, the singing window- cleaner in 'Coronation Street', is far more amusing.)

Her annoyance at my success in last week's Angling Writers' Association awards is entirely down to the fact that I've won The Head. One of the privileges of chairing the bunch of misfits who represent the cream of British fishing literature is that I get to choose the trophies. Well, I decided from the start that the singing waterfall trophy was out. No gold pillars decorated with cherubs, no naff shields with a fish in the centre, no FA Cups that required endless polishing.

We've ended up with a surprisingly tasteful collection of awards: a mixture of cut-glass bowls, bronzes of angling scenes and minimalist class. The magazine of the year award, for example, is a bald eagle's quill I found in the North-West Territories last year, set on an oak base. They are all the sort of things wives and girlfriends will happily accord a place of honour - except for The Head.

A couple of trophies are named after famous members. There's the Bernard Venables Memorial Trophy, the Peter Stone Award for new writer of the year, the Arthur Oglesby Trophy, our top award, for writer of the year. (I got runner-up in that one too.) It would be downright disrespectful to have a cheap and nasty trophy to commemorate some of our most acclaimed writers. The Head, however, bears nobody's name.

Even the humorous writer trophy is not without a certain panache. It's a 3ft wooden green-painted fish in what might be termed a naïve style, with a gentle smile on its face, as if chuckling at the article that has won its favours. The Head, on the other hand, is certainly not laughing.

I bought it very cheaply at a provincial auction. How to describe it? Well, it's taxidermy, but not as we know it, Jim. Imagine the head of a large eyeless pike that has been sat on by an elephant. Mouth open and impressive dentures on display, it bears a malevolent glare. There is just enough space to insert a metal plaque in its jaws saying: Humorous Writer of the Year: Runner-Up.

It's truly horrible, and the winner (or perhaps it should be the loser) of this unusual memento bears a look akin to the pike on hearing what they've won. Chris Sandford collected it last year. His wife said: "That's not going anywhere in this house." And so it has lurked in a cupboard for an entire year, waiting, like a nightmare from a horror story, to resurface.

Now I've won The Head. For the next year it will snarl at me from my study wall, a constant reminder that the joke's on me.