Fishing Lines: You had to mind your tackle when the naked chef was on the bank

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The Independent Online

Fred wouldn't have liked it. Always a man to speak his mind, Fred would have roasted the caterer for putting on such a miserable spread.

He would have been appalled to see guests nibbling at crisps and sausage rolls, furious when even this minimal fare was exhausted. And he wouldhave been incandescent with rage that it should happen athis funeral.

His idea of entertaining was to barbecue a whole cow, maybe two if there were more than a dozen people. Fred's time as an Army cook meant that he didn't skimp on rations for the troops. His legendary blowouts were not for vegetarians.

He had been brought up to live off the land. Trout and teal, mullet and mallard: Fredcooked the lot, and often all together. His gameburgerswere legendary (though the recipe goes to the grave with him). And his 1979 book 'One for the Pot' was ill-named. Only when things were truly desperate would Fred have settled for just one.

He especially liked rabbit.The author of a classic book on ferreting and another called 'Rabbiting Man', he probablydid more damage to the rabbit population than a decadeof myxomatosis.

Chris Tarrant, battling with tears, told a delightful story about Fred's five-year-old granddaughter saying: "Oi'd really like a rabbit for my birthday, granddad. Oi really would. Oi really, really would. And oi'd eat it all up."

His funeral attracted many angling celebs who came to pay their respects. Fred, after all, had influenced most of them.He was one of the greats. Buthe hid a dark secret.

Sadly, I fished very little with him, only getting to know him properly in the last years of his life, when he was far less mobile. Maybe, after all, I was fortunate. For Tarrant, who adored Fred J, revealed what no one dared to say in those funeral orations: he loved to wander around naked on fishing trips to wild places. When his friends stared in shock, Fred would retort: "What's the matter? Ain't you seen a naked man before?"

Well, yes. But not one weighing almost 20 stone, and shaped like a bowling ball.

And so, courtesy of Chris Tarrant, I can now relate a story that may be the finest epitaphto Fred J Taylor.

With his brother Joe, the carp record-holder Richard Walker and a few others, Fred rented a stretch of the River Kennet. They had invited another renowned angling writer, Peter Wheat, for a weekend's fishing.

But Peter had to drive from Sheffield, and heavy traffic meant that he arrived late. The others had anticipated that he might be having problems, and so had left a note for him.

"Go 100 yards downstream, and fish by the big bush. It deepens off there, and the barbel aren't far out," thenote said.

So Peter set up his tackle, and as the light started to fade he crouched over his rod in anticipation. Suddenly, there was a blood-curdling yell, anda huge, naked man leapt over his head and jumped intothe river.

I don't know what Peter's reaction was, but I'm sure, like so many of us, he won't easily forget Fred J Taylor.

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