Gift list for men obsessed

fishing lines
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The Independent Online
A LETTER this week from a non-fishing reader asking what to buy her angling husband for Christmas forced me to dial up the left-hand side of my brain. She wailed: "It gets harder every year because he seems to have everything, and he's very dismissive if I buy him something he's already got or doesn't need. But when I ask what he wants, he says, 'Anything you get me will be fine.' "

My wife read the letter, and suggested that I was not the right person to ask because this aberrant behaviour entirely mirrored my own. I was going to ask her to reply, but she already has ideas above her station after writing this column for two weeks in my absence. And anyway, her idea of the perfect fisherman's gift is a machine to clear up leaves, or an extra 4Mb of memory for my computer.

I was tempted to offer advice like: "Every angler would be delighted with a large stuffed fish," or "A week's holiday for one in the Bahamas goes down very well . . .' But those are still delicate subjects in this household, and it struck me that I could serve my fellow fisherman far better by giving her some sensible ideas.

Unfortunately, her letter was short of information such as what sort of fishing her husband did, if he just fished in the garden pond or travelled to places such as the Bahamas (sorry) in search of more exotic sport, and even whether he could read (many find it cuts into time that could be spent fishing). So I had to cover every option.

From the family address, I surmised her husband was a fly-fisher. There are certain areas like middle Hampshire, central and north Scotland and much of Wales where you can even guess what sort of fly a man uses. But to avoid a charge of elitism, I devised some presents for a sea fisherman marooned on the banks of the River Avon, or a coarse angler who found he couldn't go fishing locally without catching pesky trout.

Then I hit another problem. What if she actually didn't like the chap? What if she was one of those extraordinary women who fail to see the charm in a man who arrives home three hours late, having forgotten all about the evening's dinner party (or having remembered it and considered the fishing more important)? What if the aroma of trout or tench didn't have the same heady effect on her as a splash of Blue Stratos? What if she thought the main purpose of a car is to transport children, shopping and people rather than tackle?

What if she thought new curtains were more important than a new carbon rod, or that the first question to be asked when making holiday decisions was "Where do we want to go?" rather than "What's the fishing like there?" What if she actually hated fishing, and this was all part of an elaborate plot, with me as the innocent dupe? "I asked that man from the Independent, who seems to spend all his time fishing, and he told me that any flsherman would love one of these." Cue another family row.

The final difficulty I encountered was purely budgetary but none the less significant. Did she want to spend pounds 5, pounds 50, pounds 500, or buy him a decent present? In fact, it's possible to spend nothing at all and still make any fisherman very happy. Next week I'll reveal the definitive cut-out- and-keep Christmas list for those lucky enough to have a fisherman in the family,

And while we're on the subject, I'd like to assure another reader that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with a large cod for Christmas dinner, especially if you decorate its gills with holly.