Fishing lines: What has the Tweed got against me?

In the past, if you didn't own Hardy tackle, you were probably not the right sort of chap
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The Independent Online

Another trip to the River Tweed, another skunking. Well, that's not quite true. I did catch a big brown trout that grabbed a salmon fly.

On gossamer tackle, it would have been quite a catch (the trout must have been close to 4lb) but on a 15ft salmon rod and line to match, it was like winding in a chihuahua. And anyway, it was out of season, so it had to go straight back.

I nearly got a salmon, though. One grabbed my fly and was on for about three seconds, which is precisely three seconds better than I've managed on previous trips.

What is the curse that accompanies me when I fish on the Tweed? The obvious answer is my own incompetence, but this time I was accompanied by Sandy Leventon, editor of Trout and Salmon magazine, who has caught masses of salmon. Even he couldn't nobble one.

I even had Andy Murray, a superb fisherman and casting coach, acting as my ghillie. He was remarkably patient and didn't laugh audibly once, though I'll swear I heard a snigger or two.

We were there to try out new rods, reels and lines made by Hardy's, the Alnwick company who were once the world's most important fishing-tackle makers. In those days, if you didn't own Hardy tackle, you were probably not the right sort of chap. But times change. Cheap, nasty Far Eastern tackle has stayed cheap but become very good. It has nearly been the death of Hardy's, who have been making tackle since 1873.

They have had to make nearly 30 staff redundant to cut losses approaching £1 million. They have taken an axe to their product lines, too, reducing them by two-thirds. On the plus side, though, they have revived the tradition of innovation that once made their tackle the choice of kings.

And then the company unwisely let someone like me have a go with it all. In fact, it wasn't me that broke the new 15ft Sirrus salmon rod, though it probably would have been if I had been allowed to play with it for a few more hours. It was Sandy that done it, Mr Hardy. Send the bill to him, not The Independent on Sunday.

Sessions like this have a twofold purpose. They allow fishing journalists to get their grubby mitts on the latest tackle, and they give new tackle a rigorous test. If hamfisted people like me can't turn a reel drag the wrong way, break a line or knock off the rod rings, then there's every chance that the ordinary fisher will have no worries.

All the technical talk of test curves, line oscillation and progressive action baffled me. Sandy can take 10 seemingly identical rods and itemise their features and defects. He talked long and hard with the Hardy's people about minute differences, while I played with the reels, seeing how long I could make them spin.

The rods? The only difference I noticed was the colour. And however beautiful they were, however progressive their action, they still didn't catch me a Tweed salmon.