Fishing lines: In these parts, gin's cheaper than water

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The Independent Online

There are things in life that every fisherman should do. Some, like falling in and hooking yourself in the ear, will happen without any effort and despite your best attempts to avoid them.

There are things in life that every fisherman should do. Some, like falling in and hooking yourself in the ear, will happen without any effort and despite your best attempts to avoid them.

Others, like fishing at night or casting on a stretch of water where you don't have permission, are probably best enjoyed when you're young and adventurous, while trying to show a wife or girlfriend the delights of angling, or losing a whopper, are part of life's lessons.

A few, like watching a salmon jump, are free and simply require you to be in the right place at the right time. A couple will cost you a hefty wedge, like going somewhere you can see a marlin and dream you're Ernest Hemingway.

But it's things like having a cast or two on an ultra-private Hampshire chalk stream, where the water is said to be clear as gin and twice as expensive, that make you realise what fishing's all about.

Unfortunately, fishing on the likes of the Test and Itchen is in the hands of exclusive syndicates and clubs. They don't let any oik splash around in their hallowed water. But there is a way to get a day's fishing on these rivers, two of the most famous in the world - and it's a darn sight easier and cheaper than putting your name down at birth.

In the Atlantic Salmon Trust's postal auction, which raises money to help conserve wild salmon, there are four lots offering fishing on the Itchen and five on the Test. The trust estimates a £125 bid will secure a day on the Yavington stretch of the Itchen. If you want to take a friend (to prove you've actually been) to tangle with the trout at Itchen Stoke, you'll probably have to fork out around £350.

The great thing about this annual auction is that it offers a unique opportunity to fish our most noble rivers, including the Tweed, Tay, Dee and Spey. You don't even have to cough up a fortune: an estimated £20 could secure you a day's salmon fishing on the river Earn in Perthshire, although at the other end of the scale, you will probably have to pay around £2,000 for four days on Sutherland's river Oykel for three people in late September.

It's dead simple. You just pick a place you fancy, write down the amount you want to bid, put it in an envelope and send it to the trust by 2 February. If your bid's the highest, you have the fishing for that day or week.

It's mostly fly fishing for salmon. To be honest, trying to catch salmon last year, with little rain to encourage fish to run upriver, was like trying to catch cod in the Thames. On the other hand, salmon anglers have become accustomed to catching very little over the past decade. If you're going to blank, you might as well do so on some of Britain's loveliest rivers, where you're more likely to see an otter or an osprey than another person.

The Atlantic Salmon Trust auction has more than 250 lots on offer. For a free catalogue call: 01796 473 4349

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