Fishing Lines: Grey's eminence lures big bucks to the Boston tackle party

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The Independent Online

This is going to be a boys' weekend. I don't mean we'll all be drinking 28 pints, doing a conga down the street with underpants on our heads and swearing undying love to a lamppost. It's not that sort of occasion.

Nor will there be countless incidents of debauchery and licentiousness, with embarrassing mobile phone pictures of us fondling or being fondled by scantily clad lasses. It's not that sort of weekend either.

In any case, most of us are getting a bit past that sort of stuff, or have higher things on our minds. There won't be any women around at all, with any luck. They would just spend their time grumbling.

You might assume, then, that I'm headed for a serious fishing session, on the bank for a48-hour cast-in, living oncholesterol and tea. But no. While fishing is integral to the weekend's delights, a rod will only be raised to savour its taper or admire its finish.

The occasion is Lang'sbiannual sale of classic tackle,to be held at Boxborough, Massachusetts. But this isn't just a fishing sale. It is 2,462 lots of angling pornography.

Hundreds of collectors will be here, drawn by some of the rarest rods, reels and books. There are also dozens of fishy items with links to celebrities such as Bing Crosby and Ted Williams. Some of the stuff even bears a presidential seal: a creel inkwell belonging to Grover Cleveland, the USS Houston's fishing log of a trip with Franklin D Roosevelt, or Herbert Hoover's rod.

The biggest interest, though, will be sparked by memorabilia owned by Zane Grey. More than 12,000 people registered to bid online, a record, at Lang's last auction, purely because it contained some rare Zane Grey bits. Though he was a vain, selfish and deeply unpleasant man, the author whose books sold better than anyone else's for more than a decade is revered all over the world.

Last time round, old line spools and bits of pottery owned by Grey sold for hundreds of dollars. What will people paythis time for the really good gear: his fighting chair, his leather trousers and his coded letters to his lovers?

Who owns that sort of stuff? Someone with a great deal of money. Some of the books and tackle come from a collection acquired by John Moores, the owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team.

I guess that if you can afford a baseball team, the price of a presidential fishing reel won't frighten you off. Moores can't be all bad, though; he's giving the proceeds to charity.

Money to money, of course. I'm going just to observe the jamboree, rather than to be a player. With dozens of reels estimated at $5,000-$10,000 and one stunning lure (a Riley Haskell Musky Minnow, if you're interested) at $30,000-$50,000, this is for heavy hitters. The potential bidders include several billionaires.

More to the point, several museums will be among the congregation. In the US, with history stretching back only a few hundred years, they value their heritage.

In the UK, the spiritual home of angling, there still isn't a fishing museum to treasure our tradition. And we accuse the Americans of being philistines...

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