Fishing Lines: I opened a can of worms with the bank, the blonde and the barbel

Nearly lost my first job because of my love of barbel. I was working on the 'Maidenhead Advertiser' as a junior reporter. The local stretch of the Thames during early autumn was a great place to catch the powerful, be whiskered fish.

But how to do so? My life in the Berkshire town was a frenzy of court reporting, WIs and cats stuck up trees. Most evenings I had a parish council to cover, a play to review, an 80-year-old's party to attend. Woe betide me if the copy wasn't in the news editor's tray by 9am.

Fortunately, I also had the education ticket. This meant trudging round all the area's schools and trying to find stories. (Not guns and knives then; a new history teacher, or someone picked to play in the county hockey side.)

I learnt very quickly that by working extra hard one week, I could store a couple of stories for the following week, allowing me to slope off to the river for a few hours.

The barbel were feeding well. I caught two within 40 minutes, and reckoned I still had over an hour before heading back to the office. But then, disaster! I glanced along the bank and saw, in the distance, the deputy editor walking towards me.

In those unenlightened times, it would have meant immediate dismissal. But (further evidence that there is indeed a God) he was walking hand-in-hand with our glamorous new blonde reporter.

I pulled my fishing trilby over my eyes, my parka around my shoulders, crouched over my rod and stared at my float. I heard them stroll past. I waited for his hand to grab my shoulder and sack me on the spot. But nothing happened. As soon as they were out of sight, I grabbed my tackle, jumped in the car and hurried back to the office.

Nothing was ever said. The deal was obvious. You keep quiet about my illicit affair,and I'll stay mum about you fishing when you should have been working.

It all came back to mereading 'A Can of Worms'*. This book, a celebration of barbel, covers the subject from early days to modern times. Once an elite quarry found in only a few rivers, barbel are now all over the UK, and their pursuit is said to be the fastest-growing sector of UK angling.

The author, Jon Berry, has done a formidable job researching the fish (bet you never knew that the King of Naples incorporated two gold barbel in his coat of arms),from its origins back in the last glacial period to a section on outsize specimens.

The fish won its reputation as the river prince, living happily in the fastest-flowing water.Nowadays, such is its popularity that you can catch barbel in dozens of stillwaters – much to the chagrin of purists, who feel that dumping them into muddy ponds demeans a fish that many rate above salmon.

Once, the Thames boasted professional fishermen who would hire out their services to catch barbel for clients. If the deputy editor of the 'Maidenhead Advertiser' had been discussing the news diary that day rather than having his mind on more earthy matters, I could well have been pursuing a similar career.

'A Can of Worms' by Jon Berry (Medlar Press, £35)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent