Fishing Lines: My throwaway lines have cost me dear

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The Independent Online

Fred Buller, who knows more about pike than anyone in the world, says he is not a collector. We're sitting in a room surrounded by books, floor to ceiling. Buller catches my quizzical glance. "But I'm just not very good at throwing things away." And so he has every letter, every note he has ever received, neatly filed.

Wish I'd done the same. People say nostalgia ain't what it used to be, but it's astounding how many of those symbols of your youth - Action Men, Dinky toys, ticket stubs from the 1956 FA Cup final (couldn't see a thing) - are suddenly worth quite serious money.

Same in fishing. The dream reel of my youth was an Aerial Match, then about £8, now £120, the rod a £7 B James Mark IV Carp, now worth around £200. Add a celebrity link, and you've got the cash for a return flight to Australia.

A couple of years ago, a postcard written by Chris Yates, one-time holder of the carp record, sold for £520. Yup, a postcard. Sandy Leventon, a former editor of Trout and Salmon, went white when I told him. He had thrown out dozens of photographs, letters and articles from Yates a few months earlier, thinking: "Why am I hanging on to this old junk?"

Ah, but someone's rubbish is another man's treasure. The man universally acknowledged as the most influential fisher of the past century, Richard Walker, was a prolific letter-writer. Walker, who died in 1985, was an inventor, author and wonderful angler (he raised the carp record from 31lb to 44lb at a time when most people considered big carp uncatchable). Last month, individual Walker letters were selling for £70.

A bit annoying, that. I had several letters from him, and chucked them out after replying. Then there were the ones from Peter Stone, Billy Lane, Bernard Venables...

Ah, Bernard: the man who wrote the best-selling sports book of all time but ended up in a tiny, rented house in a Wiltshire village. His Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing sold more than two million copies, but Venables was working for the Daily Mirror at the time. It was considered part of his job, so the Mirror copped the lot. Venables memorabilia is almost as valuable as Walker's stuff. I knew Bernard reasonably well (he was president of the Angling Writers' Association), and when some of his old tackle came up for sale, I resolved to grab a small memory.

Wasn't easy. The only thing I could afford was a batch of battered floats, and they cost me £140. They probably weren't worth a tenner. But they were Bernard's, you see.

He became a writer by accident. He had joined the Mirror as an artist, and painted right up to his death at 93. His works are mostly of country matters (fish and fishing, rivers, animals) and are rarely seen. People who own a Venables tend to hang on to it.

That's why it's worth taking a look at or popping along to the Boot Inn, Houghton, near Stockbridge in Hampshire, tomorrow (4 December) at 7.30pm, when an auction of mainly fishing pictures will be held for a local charity. Among those pictures are five works by Mr Crabtree himself. Trust me: they won't be cheap.