Fishing Lines: No flies on us but maggots worm their way off the plane

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The Independent Online

Turns out that twice as many people as I thought can't tell the difference between worms and maggots. The first one I met was a German official at Nienburg airport, and I won't forget that incident in a hurry. It all came about when we were invited to fish a competition on the Weser against the German national team and the Army's best anglers.

We took along gallons of red maggots to tempt fish from the fast-flowing river, and were pretty confident because our team included a ringer, Ivan Marks, one of the top UK anglers. At the time, Ivan ran a tackle shop in Leicester and he had organised all the bait. We left it to him to seal it and ensure it went safely in the hold. Bad move.

Fog at our destination airport meant we had to land elsewhere and the two-hour flight turned into a seven-hour one. We weren't allowed into the terminal to wait around, for some reason, so sat on the wrong runway for hours, waiting for the fog to lift.

We became very bored. To pass the time, I made a set of playing cards from my notebook, and we gambled for matchsticks. It's not easy to deal sheets of paper, and I dropped one of the "cards". Bending to pick it up, I noticed a maggot crawling across the floor. Funny, I thought. Looking more closely, I realised dozens of them were exploring the plane's interior. "Bad news, guys," I said. "The maggots have escaped."

Amazingly, none of the other passengers noticed. But when we eventually reached our destination and disembarked, the horror of the Great Escape was revealed. A fierce, unsmiling woman stomped over to us as we waited in the baggage hall. "Are you the fisher people?" she demanded. We confessed we were. "Your little animals have escaped. All those little worms are inside the plane."

Fortunately, we were not ordered to capture them all. That would have been some task. I guess we had transported about 140,000 maggots, working on around 7,000 of them to a gallon. Ivan was more worried that we would not have enough bait for the competition. I could only think about passengers who used that plane in the future, puzzling at the abundance of flies at 32,000 feet.

Still, it turns out that Rosa Klebb was not the only one who couldn't identify a maggot.This week, two poachers walked free at Paisley Sheriff Court because the policeman who came to arrest them had noidea about fishing.

Sheriff Neil Douglas, finding the charge against the duo not proven, said: "It seems very strange that you should send out someone to investigate a matter such as this, who hasn't the first idea what they are looking for."

The policeman had told the court that they were dressed as fishermen and sitting on stools. But he had no idea that salmon anglers, especially in Scotland, are rarely allowed to use bait, and certainly do not sit on stools. Asked what kind of hooks were being used, he said they "seemed quite dangerous".

The Castle Angling Club, which leases the stretch of the Black Cart river at Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, for £1,000 a year for salmon fishing, was understandably miffed by PC Plod's bungling. He may find an inordinate number of flies buzzing round his house in a few weeks.