Honestly, this is no porky

Fishing lines
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The Independent Online
I WAS once forced to pack up fishing by a pig. It happened on a gravel pit at Datchet, near Windsor, during my schooldays. I had been fishing only about 10 minutes when I heard a noise and turned round to see a fully grown porker with its head in my fishing bag, devouring my sandwiches (pork, by the way).

It had already eaten my groundbait and gobbled up the loaf of bread which was supposed to last as bait for the day. I tried to scare it off, but instead it snorted fiercely at me and made a fake charge. I grabbed my rod and ran into the water. The pig ignored me and finished my sandwiches. With no bait, no lunch and a large aggressive pig eyeing me hungrily, there wasn't much point in carrying on. As soon as it had wandered far enough away, I grabbed my bike and cycled home.

Being able to concoct a plausible reason for failure is an essential attribute for anglers. When your family, wife or relatives don't fish and don't understand why, it's vital you have a string of credible excuses on hand when you've been out from dawn to dusk and caught nothing. Weather and water clarity are nearly always to blame, but these sound unconvincing to a non-angler. Giant pike, seals, errant lock-keepers and even pigs make a much better yarn.

So I could tell you that the reason I didn't catch anything from a previously unfished Asian river was that the monsoons, which bring warm rain, were over. Without the monsoon water, the river temperature is governed by springs and snow water, both of which are very cold. Fish, being cold- blooded creatures, slow their metabolism when the water temperature drops, are less active and so need less food.

After 10 days in Arunachal Pradesh fishing for mahseer, we worked out that our artificial flies, spinners and plugs were the wrong methods. The fish were sluggish and on the bottom. They were unwilling to chase their food, and wanted a static bait instead. We had been deceived by early success, when there was still some warm water in the river.

Now a fisherman would understand all this, and even sympathise. But how can you tell this to sceptics who think angling looks like pointless fun? Far worse, how was I to tell my wife I had travelled more than 6,000 miles and spent a couple of thousand pounds on a fishing expedition where I caught nothing?

It's true, I'm afraid. All that guff last week, making you want to know how we solved the problem of catching giant mahseer - just a bit of poetic licence. After days of hard fishing, five of us caught just 10 mahseer.

A failure? Of course not. I could wax lyrical about the tiger tracks and the snakes, the rare golden cat, the mongeese and the river dolphins. The trip was, after all, not just about fishing. But the expedition was a triumph. Those 10 fish included a 3lb 2oz chocolate mahseer. And whenever anyone asks, "Did you catch any giant mahseer?" I reply: "No, but we did get a rare chocolate mahseer, probably the first one on rod and line for 100 years."

You'll notice the "we". My wife certainly did. She has become adept at spotting my ability to use the plural to conceal my own lack of success, and she has so far not been persuaded that one chocolate mahseer is justification for representing the trip as a piece of angling history. On the contrary: she feels this strengthens her case, made vociferously during my absence in this column, that trail-breaking trips like this are merely an excuse for boys to have fun. I would like to reply to that, but I have to go to the Bahamas tomorrow and write about the fishing. Without her, of course.

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