Yorkshire anglers do a fair impersonation of a fashion show

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The Independent Online

Twenty years ago, I went to my very first fashion show. I was 17, it was at Norman Hartnell, and it catered to a world then on the brink of extinction and now long filed away under "the way things once were". Since then I've been to more fashion shows than I care to remember, before retiring about four years ago when the dual responsibilities of being fashion editor and fishing columnist became too much for my notebook.

Last weekend I was in glorious Yorkshire at the CLA Game Fair. I'd never been before but was instantly struck by how similar, in some ways, a game fair is to fashion week: only everyone was, on the whole, jollier, better fed and didn't ignore one another. And Marlboro Lights were replaced by full strength reds; Diet Coke by single-malt. Everyone I'd ever met in fishing seemed to be there.

Despite the congeniality, there was some familiar bitchiness too, which made me laugh. "Hasn't X lost weight? Is he okay? Is he doing the Atkins? I hear he is. But he's gone too far, he looks really thin. Oh my God, look at Y, he's had all his hair cut off. Is he balding/thinning? And what does Z think he looks like with those sunglasses permanently on, does he have detached retinas?"

These were all common refrains and for one heady moment I thought I was back in the world of fashion and would at any moment have to discuss the relative merits of a bias cut. X's weight loss was a particularly hot topic, much discussed, I noted by men who could themselves have done with saying no to the odd carbohydrate or seven.

But instead of having to go from one fashion stand to the next coo-ing at yet another spaghetti strapped dress, there were the new Origin rods to look at on the Hardy stand and the spectacular bargains to be had at Sportfish which seemed to reduce their prices hourly. It was so much more fun and inclusive and also, there was so much more I could buy (a decade of looking at size 10 dresses tests the most steely of egos). Rest and respite was found in the wonderfully genteel world of the Salmon And Trout Association tent where the world stood still, for a bit. Each, evening drinks would come out "round the back" of each stand and people would chat as their cheeks got pinker and pinker.

Naturally, I was there to work, with two talks each day in the Fisherman's Forum. Harry, the steward who MC'd the forums asked me, on my first day, what my specialities were. I looked down his list. So and so had been fishing for 40 years, travelled to 58 countries, pioneered fishing for 16 new species. "Um, writing?" I ventured. "With regards to fishing," clarified Harry. I thought about this for 24 hours before getting back to him. "Picnics," I offered. And picnics it was.

At my last forum we had a heckler of sorts. But the poor chap had a stammer. A very good friend once suffered from a stammer and she once said the worse thing you could do was hurry a stammerer so I sat there, head nodding lower and lower as I waited for him to get his heckle out. His argument was with all the constant catch and release that goes on, that people fish for the same fish over and over again. It was awful, he said. "I couldn't agree more," I said, which stumped him and he flounced out. Afterwards, some of the audience came up to me. "He had no right to be here or say that," they said. Which made me sad, because he had a perfectly valid opinion yet neither they, nor he, wanted to listen to an opposing view. Such a shame since it's only through doing so that one learns anything new.

What I also hadn't realised was how many fishermen were also midwives. "Aren't you large for eight months?" asked a few. "Is it twins?" Oh there were comments and theories galore on my size. Two very big names in fishing offered me some parenting advice which was simple and I liked it. "It's fabulous, just love them."

Charles Jardine gave his last ever demonstration at the Game Fair, at the end chucking his hat and rods into the audience (never be fooled by a renaissance exterior, almost all men once had fantasies of being a rock star). Later I told him that I was a bit sad that my baby would never see him demonstrate. "I'll do a special one," he promised, in front of witnesses. Fabulous: I'd never got such bespoke-service from any fashion designer.

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