Fishing Lines: Clive the legend's tales still have legs

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The Independent Online

Things happen to Clive Gammon. I was fishing in Malaysia with him and as we went to board a boat, the veteran sports columnist and angling writer slipped on the seaweed-strewn walkway. He went straight into the sea, between concrete and boat. It was a miracle that the boat, swinging in the swells, did not crush him.

With difficulty, we got him out, but he couldn't walk. Bravely he said: "You go fishing. I'll join you later." So Andy and I, minus Clive, enjoyed four days' fishing on a tropical island in the middle of the South China Sea. Clive, alas, never joined us; turned out he had torn most of the ligaments in his leg.

But that was not the end of the story. When we got back, Clive was lounging, leg up, in a luxury apartment. Two delightful nurses twittered over him. "Mr Glammon very nice man," they said. Turned out they had both (unknown to each other) offered to marry him.

Clive worked for two decades for Sports Illustrated at a time when it was the world's premier sports magazine, when it covered more than interminable basketball, baseball, ice hockey and American football. Based in New York, he travelled the world, covering everything from the World Cup finals and Super Bowl to the Rumble in the Jungle. He became quite friendly with Ali, and used to pop round his house.

And in between major assignments, he set his own fishing agenda. "Need a helicopter, Clive? That's OK," his boss would say. It was the days of near-unlimited expense accounts, and a dream job for an ex-history teacher from Swansea with a sharp eye for the absurd, a talent for stringing words together and a passion for angling.

And so he went, literally, round the world, often to places that had never seen someone trying to catch fish with a rod rather than a net. Zululand, Egypt, Costa Rica, Nevada, Brazil, Mexico, Norway: he could write a book on the world's obscure airports. Many of these places are now classic angling venues, with organised tours and smart hotels. Clive did them before they ever became famous.

He met the finest anglers, set up a fishing club (it lasted one trip) at Costello's, a legendary Manhattan bar, and angled with shark hunter Frank Mundus, the man who claimed to be the inspiration for Quint in Jaws. In the Cold War days, he was invited on the pioneering trip to the Kola Peninsula in Russia, now an outrageously expensive mecca for Atlantic salmon fishers.

This latter tale (and what went wrong) is one of several splendid yarns in Castaway. Clive's first book of his wanderings, I Know a Good Place, is rightly regarded as one of the finest books on angling travel, but it was published in 1989. Castaway is even better.

Sports Illustrated have given Clive the rights to publish all his fishing-related articles, and there could be more to come, like the story he told me of the world-famous angler Stu Apte grabbing a rod from a woman's hands when it looked like she might be the first person to catch a giant arapaima on a fly, or ... then again, maybe I'll save them for my own book.

'Castaway', by Clive Gammon (The Medlar Press, £35). To obtain a copy: 01691 623 225, www.medlarpress.com

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