How highlights of the Highlands misted up my eyes

Much news this week. First, a small package that brought great delight arrived on my desk, bearing an Inverness post-mark. Tearing asunder the brown paper I saw a video and a long, hand-written letter. (Despite loving sending and receiving some one hundred emails a day, there is something very charming about the pen print of a friend.)

Much news this week. First, a small package that brought great delight arrived on my desk, bearing an Inverness post-mark. Tearing asunder the brown paper I saw a video and a long, hand-written letter. (Despite loving sending and receiving some one hundred emails a day, there is something very charming about the pen print of a friend.)

It was from Allan Donaldson, my Highlands ghillie and it was full of news of that lovely part of the world. How many salmon he had caught last season - fifty! Despite having broken his sternum and damaged his shoulder and elbow in a car crash last year. How the overall catch of the season was down (178) from the year before (277). And how he had already this year caught a "lovely sea-liced 14 pounder from a pool called The Big Haddie on the Spey".

Well! As if that weren't enough excitement Mr Donaldson had videoed the Carron, my most favourite river in all the world and on whose banks his house sits. In the middle of winter, in a very urban part of London, after just getting off the tube and where the only sight of water is out of my tap, the sight of this lush, gorgeous and magical pocket of Scotland made my eyes mist up. I had to go and trumpet my nose into a large spotted hankerchief. And there, at the end of the video was Mr D, with a piece to camera, reminding me that there was always a welcome waiting for me in the highlands from him and Mrs D.

Funnily enough, this time next month, I hope to be in Scotland fishing the Tay. It's a pissy time of year to be fishing where I'll be (Kinnaird) but then they're be all the more time for practising my Spey casting, picnics and toasting marshmallows over the coal fire. I'm hoping also to meet a descendant of Lettice Ward, one of my fishing heroines and a couple of people who knew the UK salmon record holder, Georgina Ballantine.

On the way back, if I can resist the urge - which will be considerable - to make for the hills of the highlands, I am going to hit the concrete of Birmingham. This is where, from 31st March to 2nd April the Go Fishing Exhibition is on at the NEC. Here visitors can watch demonstrations, attend seminars, look at and buy new tackle. There will even be a stocked lake for anyone who fancies catching a trout. And I've got five free pairs of tickets (normally £7 each, children under 16 go free!) to give away.

If you can think you know the answer to the question at the end of this column then either write in, on a postcard to: The Right Fantastic Annalisa Barbieri, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Or send an email. Don't forget to include your name and address and a daytime telephone number. All correct answers will go into my bass-bag (obviously I'll print off the emails) and the first five to be pulled out will get a pair of tickets each. Usual Independent rules apply and the Editor's decision is final.

More news, this time very close to my heart. Orri Vigfusson, Chairman of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, has launched a great project called the NASF Voyager Programme 2000-2004. This will see one thousand salmon smolts (salmon teenagers) tagged and released into the North Atlantic. Each little salmon will have a unique number and can be sponsored for £120. If - remembering that most never do make it home - your salmon makes it back to its home waters you get a prize. But really, just the knowledge that your salmon was bigger, braver, stronger and better than all the other salmon will be enough. Imagine the achievement you will feel!

I'm hoping this will especially appeal to men who don't want children but still want to feel the glow of pride that their little swimmy thing hit its target. And, to increase the odds you can sponsor as many as you want and discounts are given for bulk sponsoring (twelve salmon for example will set you back £1,000). Further details from: NASF Skipholt 35, 105 Reykjavik, Iceland. Fax: 00354 588 4758, email: nasf@vortex.is

Lastly and to introduce my competition question: This week in France, after heavy floods, Russian sturgeon broke free from their fish farm cages and escaped. They are now hanging out in the Gironde river and, being very valuable as they are heavy with yukky caviar - everybody is trying to catch them. My question is: What is the scientific name for the common sturgeon?

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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