Fishing Lines: I've had a lot of grief being offered as an auction prize

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The Independent Online

Those hoping for a day's instruction with me under the National Federation of Anglers' Fish With a Star scheme will be sadly disappointed. Glance through the names and you'll find no mention of Keith Elliott. I've learnt the hard way that unless you're extremely good or supremely confident, offering your talents as an auction prize is the perfectway to deflate any aspirations of grandeur.

Trust me: you're far better off bidding for a day out with the five-time world champion Alan Scotthorne, or the four-time winner Bob Nudd, under the NFA's scheme to raise some cash so that their disabledand veterans' teams can take part in this year's world championships. Bob and Alan could catch fish from a drop of rainwater running down the window. Me? I can't evencatch the tench lurking in my garden pond.

Through the online auction site eBay, the highest bidder at the end of each week for the next month can secure some of the world's best match-anglers as their personal tutor. You can take a mate too.

To be fair, I would be a muppet among such fishermen, though I'm not totally unqualified. Some years ago, I took part in England trials (didn't catch very much, and there were 99 others there too). My CV also lists the fact that I was the author who helped Bob Nudd write his autobiography, 'How to be the World's Best Fisherman'.

Some of it must have rubbed off. For 15 years, I attended every world championshipwith a press badge sticking out of my bobble hat. I've been there, done it (walked alongthe banks watching the anglers, that is).

But competition fishing has moved on so fast. These days, you need a couple of £3,000 carbon-fibre poles and a degree in chemistry to understand the complexity of additives, amino acids and sweeteners – never mind a physique like the Leicester Tigers lock Big Jim Hamilton to carry all the gear.

Anyway, I've learnt my lesson about offering my talents for a day's fishing. It happened at an auction to raise funds for the local church or something. Tobe fair, they had garnered some pretty heavyweight lots: lunch with John Major, a VIP day at Huntingdon races, a week in the South of France for four.

Against these, a day's fishing with Keith Elliott wasn't the item that packed the school hall. Let's not go into details, but I can tell you it made a bit more than a day ticket at the local gravel pit, but somewhat less than lunch with the PM.

A few days later I got a call from the successful bidder,and asked him what he'd liketo catch.

"Well, I'm interested in carp fishing," he said.

"Have you ever caught any big ones?" I asked.

"Well, my best is 36lb, but I'd like to get a big one," he said.

As that was about 20lb larger than my personal record carp, I suggested that he might like to take me fishing instead, and that as my end of the bargain I would buy a decent lunch to eat on the bank. I even offered to write about him, so he could have his name in 'The Independent on Sunday'.

He never phoned back.