Fishing Lines: A celebrity is a must, but I don't want Jordanon my river
Sunday 03 August 2008
My final cast, it seems, is just around the corner. I've been through John Bailey's new book, '50 Fish to Catch Before You Die', and I'm missing just four from his list. If the golden dorado trip comes off nextyear, and I take up a place ona forthcoming Nile perch expedition, that just leaves Amur pike and huchen.
To be fair, not everything on his roll call is an exotic that swims only in remote parts of Siberia. John is catholic in his tastes and includes eels, mackerel and even sticklebacks. My inventory might add a few, lose a few, but it's a bit like naming your favourite three records – plenty of scope for endless discussion. Interestingly, he has excluded more than half those I have suggested for a new television programme on extreme fishing.
Goliath tigerfish, as I mentioned last week, are only for those with a death wish (maybe it should be my final species). Mekong stingrays are as big as your front room but otherwise unexciting. But I'd put in a pitch for giant lake trout and alligator gar to be included.
I first saw the former in a backwoods store in Saskatche-wan. We had stopped for some provisions, and mounted on the wall was a trout. Except it was way bigger than you could conceive, weighing 85lb.
I gawked at it, and asked the store owner if it was a fake. "No," he said. "And it's not really a really big one either. Go up to Great Bear Lake, in Northwest Territories. The Indians catch them over 120lb. There's a bay where the pike won't go because the trout eat them."
I never found out if that was true, though it's a great story. I did, however, dabble in the nearly as large Great Slave Lake (300 miles long, and in places 2,000ft deep) and caught "tiddlers" up to 25lb.
As our plane landed, a wolf trotted across the runway. The first evening, we watched five bald eagles fishing, and found tracks of a grizzly. The state's capital, Yellowknife (supposedly the best place in the world to see the Northern Lights) had a population of under 20,000.
Alligator gar, at least the very big ones (over 300lb) live in the good ol' boy states of the US. They look like something out of 'Swimming with Dinosaurs'. Fishing in swampland with a one-eyed, tobacco-chewing redneck called Bubba, and fishing for prehistoric crocodiles: that's gotta be extreme fishing.
Either sounds a winner. But the bad news is that even an extreme fishing programme requires A Celebrity. You might cynically think that anyone who's been on television once will do, but finding a big enough name to pull in viewers, one who won't demand Dom Perignon for breakfast and who won't run screaming to his or her agent at the sight of a gecko is harder to find than a 300lb alligator gar.
Furthermore, the Celebrity will have to know which end to hold a fishing rod. I wouldn't mind going with Ian Botham, Dean Macey or Chris Tarrant. They'd be on the list of 50 people I'd like to fish with before I die. But if the commissioning editor chooses Jordan, Jade Goody or Russell Brand, they're going to have to call the programme 'I'm A Nobody: Get Me Out Of Here'.
'50 Fish to Catch Before You Die', by John Bailey (Carlton, £20)
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