Fishing Lines: You don't have to be a millionaire to join this club, but it would help

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The Independent Online

If you have some loose change doing nothing, let me commend the finest fishing club in the world. Mention my name, and you're in.

I'm not endorsing Everlands simply because they offered to fly me by private jet to stay at what some reckon is the UK's best rural hotel. The fact that I scoffed Henry I-sized helpings of lobster, langoustines, scallops, oysters and crab had nothing to do with it either, and I certainly wasn't swayed by being given the freedom to fish the West Country's best salmon river (as it happened, the river was in flood so I couldn't cast a line).

What makes Everlands so very special is not merely the spectacular Hotel Endsleigh, near Tavistock, Devon. Theone-time country retreat of the Duke of Bedford is just one of the properties you own if you become a member.

Among others are Bristol Bay Lodge in Alaska, offering arguably the best Pacific salmon fishing in the world; The Point in the Adirondacks, formerly the camp of William Rockefeller; Mangrove Cay Club on Andros Island in the Bahamas, with spectacular sport for tarpon and bonefish; and Lake Rotorua Lodge, in Nelson Lakes National Park on New Zealand's South Island, where the trout fishing is said to be the best in the southern hemisphere.

There are even places for those who don't fancy fishing all the time. The club have a hot springs spa in Arizona, and are looking at a place in the Serengeti and perhaps a 200ft boat. They have eight properties at the moment, but are aiming to own 40 or more.

Ready to sign up? There's a small catch. They have to like you as well. Sure, it's a sort of timeshare, but in name only. Potential members will be interviewed two, three or four times to make sure they are the right sort.

Money is a minor factor (though it helps if you've got lots of it). Roman Abramovich probably wouldn't get in. Nor are they looking for a lorryload of lottery winners or investment bankers boasting about how much they're worth. Everlands want people who would be good companions at a country house party.

Conversation at dinner is far more likely to be about literature, nature (Hotel Endsleigh boasts the widest range of British bats) or conservation. A portion of membership fees goes towards "grass-roots conservation efforts on a global basis". They have already recruited Dr Richard Leakey, the African conservationist, as their president and garnered support from the Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and the WWF.

It sounds wonderful. But if you need to ask how much membership costs, you probably can't afford it. The founder, Bob Burch, and his wife have dropped $25million (£13m) each into the pot. Mentioning it to a few friends, they have already attracted 31 like-minded souls. Money is not an issue for these people. On the other hand, if you're one of the next 19 to join, you get in at the discount rate of £290,000. After that, membership hops up to £500,000. Oh, and there's an annual fee of £20,000.

I loved it: the people, the places, the ambience. But on a journalist's pittance, it will forever remain Neverlands.

More details: everlandslife.com

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