Fishing Lines: Trophy featuring the funny fish proves to be no laughing matter

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The Independent Online

Looks like I've lost my job as Commissioner of Trophies. There's been a rebellion in the Angling Writers' Association ranks. Sadly, my concept of what should sit proudly on someone's mantelpiece differs from most of the membership (or more importantly, their wives and girlfriends). I'm out on my ear, my duties confined to the ceremonial ones of chairman.

Others, it appears, do not share my enthusiasm for the singing waterfall style of award. Chris Sandford, one-time actor (he was Walter Potts, the singing window cleaner, in Coronation Street) and pop star (who can forget his 1963 hit 'Not Too Little, Not Too Much'?) collected the runner-up award in last year's humorous writer of the year category. However, he was so appalled when he saw what was going to grace his riverside stately home that he "accidentally" left it behind. I offered to drop it off several times, until he cut me to the quick by saying: "Keith, I'm afraid Gelly won't have it in the house."

The trophy at issue was a gaping pike's head, mounted on an oak shield and displaying its impressive dentistry. If you've got a vivid imagination, it looks like the fish is laughing (though it's got little reason to do so).

Can't see anything wrong with it myself. It seems to encompass the essence of the award. But Sandford, so-called humorous writer, didn't find it funny.

I've been quite proud of the originality in some of our citations. I've generally tried to account for female sensitivity by choosing, for example, tasteful ceramics, like a Capo di Monte angler or a Royal Doulton trout. I admit it hasn't always worked. Anglers are notoriously clumsy. A porcelain rod looks less impressive snapped in half, a leaping trout without its tail rather misses the magic of the original.

I also tried to create a few practical mementoes. One was a shoal of carp on a wooden base. The trio each had a slit in their backs to hold letters. One fish could scarcely hold a couple of days' post; three meant you could store a decent batch of mail and have a constant reminder of your writing prowess. Clever, huh?

This annual shindig takes place at Caer Beris Manor in Builth Wells. The venue has several attractions. One is its owner, Peter Smith. He's a keen angler (he was "big" in the early carp-fishing scene, and Chris Yates caught his first 20lb carp on Peter's rod) who has decorated the bar area, to which writers invariably gravitate, with cased fish, photos and framed flies. Feels just like home.

Best of all, though, is the fishing. The hotel has nearly a mile of the River Irfon, where salmon and shad spawn. It also has access to seven miles of the nearby River Wye, which holds everything from trout and grayling to barbel and pike.

At one stage, we had a serious conference: speakers every 90 minutes, that sort of thing. Waste of time. Now we just go fishing, have a dinner and prizegiving in the evening, drink a lot and everyone's happy.

Or maybe not quite everyone. What will Mrs S say if her husband is again adjudged runner-up in the humorous writer category? As chairman of the judges, some jiggery-pokery may be in order. Or who knows, maybe I'll be lucky enough to win it myself.

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