Occidental tourist casts out

fishing lines
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A FEW years ago I was fishing in Northern Ireland with Peter Clapperton, whose main claim to fame is that he once owned a whole Cornish village. Peter, who is best described as an entrepreneur, had just phoned home. "I've been away 48 hours and already they're cheating me blind," he moaned.

"How many people do you employ?" I asked curiously. "Two," he said. "Me mum and dad."

Now I understand how he felt. I've been away for a couple of weeks, entering unexplored climes on behalf of the British Empire, and what happens? My wife and my newspaper collude to produce a farrago of innuendo, insinuations, aspersions, allusions, exaggerations and downright lies. I foresee punitive damages that could make Lottery winners look like paupers, especially when I reveal how the dentist Simon Channing plans to spend the next year.

Channing was one of the three who have just accompanied me into the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh, an unexplored kingdom to the north-east of India bordered by Tibet, Assam and Burma. For me it was a two-week trip: for Channing it was the start of a year-long expedition.

He has given up his job and sold everything except his house in Surrey ("and I'll sell that if I have to") to embark on a pounds 15,000 trip that takes in Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Venezuela, Brazil and the United States. "The whole intention is going to places that have not been explored a great deal. I could go on organised trips that would probably produce more fish, but doing this all on my own is the adventure."

Channing, 29, got the taste for catching big fish in Zimbabwe and Egypt, where he caught Nile perch to 104lb. "I decided to go on a trip that would take in all my dreams. I always got frustrated on other trips because I had to go home just as I had started to sort out the fishing."

After Arunachal Pradesh (where he caught a couple of mahseer, often called the Indian salmon) he headed for northern Thailand. After a month there, he moves south to Lake Khosok. "They reckon it holds catfish over 500lb, carp to 80lb and tomen or snake fish to 40lb."

That takes him to Christmas, when he sets off for Queensland to fish for barramundi and restock on tackle. (In Arunachal Pradesh, we calculated that if he continued to lose spinners at two a day, the trip would cost him more than pounds 8,000 in lures alone.) "I wanted to go on to Papua New Guinea, but time and the political situation ruled it out."

Instead he will spend more time in Malaysia. Starting in the Taman Negara reserve for mahseer, he plans to stay until the monsoons are over then get permission to fish in the Endau National Park at Rompin, where"there have been reports of 11ft catfish eating the village dogs."

It should then be the middle of March, when he returns to England for a week to get more injections and give his girlfriend Sally six months' washing. He then sets off for Venezuela (tarpon, redtail catfish, peacock bass and dogfish) then into Brazil's Matto Grosso for arapaima, pacu and giant catfish.

"If all goes well I would like to meet Sally in the US in June or July." Romantic, huh? Channing's just there for the fishing. "They've been catching some very big sturgeon there, and I've already had carp to nearly 40lb." And to think my wife was complaining about a measly two-week break.