Fishing Lines: Who was that masked man anyway?

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The Independent Online

Most anglers are content just to catch something with fins. In fact, they will usually settle for something vaguely aquatic, so the average fisherman who catches a newt or two will be mightily pleased.

Not so the specimen hunter. He is not content with snatching out tiddlers. He's even dismissive of bigger-than-average fish. He wants the biggest one in the pond.

To call these people obsessive is an understatement. Most are secretive, furtive loners with a personal hygiene problem. Though they see themselves as a higher life form in the fishing world, their communication skills are slightly lower than a bag of cement. This is because they fear a careless word could lead others to their favoured areas. Some even park their cars miles from where they want to fish, in case it leads others to their hot spot. One even carries a set of false numberplates that he changes when he parks.

Pike-fishing on the Norfolk Broads, I passed two anglers wearing (I'm not making this up) masks. They imagined themselves so famous that they didn't want anyone recognising them.

Camouflage is their favourite style. In fact, they like it so much that every fishing accessory is camouflaged, from clothing to tents, binoculars, underwear and even buckets. One who lives near me has a dog with a camouflaged collar. It's even possible now to buy a camouflaged garter, though such anglers rarely marry, and if they do, it doesn't last long.

This obsession with everything camouflage fascinates me. If they wander away from the spot where they are fishing, how do they find it again? They could be searching for days, especially as today's really sophisticated camo outfits can change with the seasons.

Their lives revolve around PBs. It stands not for paranoid bampot but personal best, and it means their largest fish of a certain species. They will go to extraordinary lengths to better their PBs. And here's a funny thing. Once they have caught the biggest pike, carp or bream in a certain lake they try to catch it again, a few ounces bigger. When a specimen hunter tells you he has caught eight carp over 40lb, what he almost certainly means is that he's caught the same carp eight times.

Personally, I'd rather chew my own foot off than spend all my days chasing the same fish, especially as the capture of a large fish bestows on you the privilege to name it. Almost every big carp in this country now has a name, whether it's Mary, Strawberry, Benson or The Peach. This anthropomorphism has extended to other species such as pike and barbel. Soon every big fish in the country will have a name.

It's not for me. But it's clearly for Grahame King of Watford, who has just caught a 21lb 3oz record barbel from the Great Ouse. You would think he would be hugely excited. Maybe he is. But Grahame already holds the record with the self-same fish, nicknamed The Traveller, which he caught last year weighing 21lb. And 18 days before that he set the record again, with - you've guessed it - The Traveller.

I'd like to say that he needs to get out more, but you can probably guess where he would go and what he would do.