Fishing lines: Stop the train and hand me my rod...

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The Independent Online

An angling purist is someone who insists that the only way to catch trout is to use a size 20 Pale Watery Dun fly fished upstream on Hampshire's River Test with an 8x cast.

Nothing wrong with taking specialism to an extreme degree, but it can all too easily share its DNA with élitism. Trout and salmon angling is the favourite territory of the myopic fisher, which makes the tale of Tyrell Morgan, one of the great purists, so refreshing.

Most fish for salmon with an artificial fly. It's undeniably more graceful than other methods, but not half as effective as spinner, worm or prawn. This isn't the place to discuss why anglers opt for a singularly inefficient method, then whinge when they catch nothing. Suffice to say that on many salmon rivers, fly-fishing is the only approved method.

Morgan, from Swansea, was a wealthy tea importer and would probably have been a brilliant fly-fisher. The veteran writer Clive Gammon, to whom I am indebted for this story, said his angling ability was exceptional. Morgan specialised in salmon fishing - but insisted on only fishing for them with worms. He had special 13ft rods made by Hardy's, arguably the finest tackle-makers in the world. And he would only fish upstream in low, clear water, the hardest of all conditions to catch salmon.

This weekend, I shall pay homage to Morgan by casting a line into his favourite spot, the Rocks Pool on the River Wye at Builth Wells. At this spot, Morgan caught many of his salmon (I have a picture of him with nine salmon from the Rocks). It was here that he spotted and caught three trout over 9lb, catching the downstream fish first so that it did not disturb the others.

Morgan was on his way home from the Wye one day when his train made a lengthy stop at Llanawrda, on the River Towy, to take on a consignment of sheep. He hopped out for a quick cast and hooked a salmon. The train waited for him to land it, and everyone cheered as he reboarded.

There's little chance of me catching a salmon there this weekend. (If I couldn't do it in Iceland on one of the world's best rivers, I can't see it happening on the Wye, which is now a shadow of its former self.) In fact, it might be wiser to angle for grayling, chub or trout, expending less effort for more reward.

The occasion is the Angling Writers' Association annual dinner and prize-giving, at Caer Beris Manor in Builth Wells. It's billed as a formal event, but it's really an excuse to go fishing with a lot of people whose company I enjoy. We tried organising a programme of speakers throughout the day. Didn't work. Fishermen just want to go fishing, rather than talk about it.

Will I retain the coveted Writer of the Year Award, or will the judges rule that the twaddle you read every week is unworthy of such an honour? Let's just hope there are no purists on the judging committee.

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