Fishing Lines: A bellyflop by Big Dave could save the Broadsfrom the sea

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The Independent Online

Looks like I'll be sea-fishing from my back garden soon if gloomy predictions by the Environment Agency come true. Rising sea levels could overwhelm defences around the Norfolk Broads in as little as one year's time, Lady Young, the agency's chief executive, has warned.

It won't stop there. I've discovered an organisation called the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, which gives some cause for concern if you live a few miles from the city, as I do.

The Pike Anglers' Club launched a Save The Broads campaign this week, though apart from setting up a petition on the Downing Street website, it's not clear how they propose to do this. Building sea barriers from square pike floats, maybe.

They might not get much help from Natural England, either. The government agency are looking at four plans, and none includes building dykes or getting the Queen to sit on Southwold or Hunstanton beach and order the sea back whence it came. One scheme envisages most of the Norfolk Broads being reclaimed by the sea, as well as a cluster of villages and thousands of acres of farmland.

I'd be sorry to say goodbye to the Broads, not least because it is where I caught my first 20lb pike. Until I met Richard Furlong, I'd never even caught a 10-pounder. Richard changed all that. A former fireman, who won a medal for his part in the 1975 Moorgate Underground disaster, he worked as a pike ghillie in the Wroxham area. Though he was a wonderful angler, he got more pleasure out of helping others catch fish.

In the 10 years I knew him, he never failed. He was so good that he was booked months in advance. Attempting to get a day's piking with him was like trying to organise an audience with the Pope.

My best catch was more than 70 pike in a day. I've now caught loads over 10lb, and one day had fish of 26lb 8oz and 24lb 12oz – still the biggest ones I've caught. It wasn't me, though, it was Richard, putting me in the right spot with the right bait at the right time. He died of cancer a couple of years ago, and I've never been as successful, though I still revisit the places he took me. Not for long, maybe.

The Broads was the first place I went on holiday on my own. Well, not quite on my own. I shared a cabin cruiser with my schoolmate Big Dave, who at one time was the second-heaviest man in Britain.

One day we weighed him on some seaside scales, and the dial zoomed past the maximum 24-stone marker before hitting an invisible wall. It could go no further, and jammed. Dave admitted to 35 stone, though he once slimmed down to 32.

That was some holiday. The highlight, for me at least, was attracting a shoal of monstrous perch and preparing to cast among them when Dave slipped and fell off the boat. It was as if someone had thrown a cow into the water. I got soaked, the perch fled and Dave, who couldn't swim, was too big to haul aboard.

I solved the problem by throwing a lifebelt to him, then towing him into shallow water. Dave was terrified of drowning; I couldn't stop laughing.

Come to think of it, maybe Dave would be just the answer to wash back the advancing tide.

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