Storm warning

Fishing lines
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The Independent Online
Here's an interesting fact: you are more likely to live longer if you fish with your great-grandfather's tackle than with ultra-modern equipment. However, before you rush to the loft, let me tell you the downside. After a day's fishing with a hefty lancewood, built-cane or ironwood rod, you feel as if you've been on an SAS survival course.

I own an old 18ft greenheart salmon rod, and the man who used it must have been built like King Kong. It weighs pounds not ounces, and has an action somewhere between a telegraph pole and a hosepipe. Coupled with an ancient brass reel, it's like trying to fish with a flagpole (including flag). I tried it for a day, thinking how romantic it would be to catch a salmon on 100-year- old tackle. Afterwards, I felt like joggers look.

"How in God's name did women fish with these monsters all day?" I asked the ghillie.

"They probably didn't fish with them at all," he replied. It seems that the ghillie was detailed to do all the hard work of casting. The fishing party, meanwhile, nibbled quails' eggs and chattered until the ghillie hooked a fish, whereupon the angler wound it in. And so, though a greenheart rod improves your life expectancy (as I shall explain later), the ghillies died young.

You will also catch fewer fish on an old rod, because it's so cumbersome. Modern tackle weighs less than a paperback book - my eight-year-old daughter can hold a 10-metre carbon pole with one hand. The technology is dazzling, because the weight-loss has brought no loss of strength. In fact, today's rods are stronger, more forgiving and do not develop a permanent curve, like well-used rods of cane or greenheart.

But they can kill you. During the past month two anglers using carbon- fibre rods have been killed by lightning, while another died when his carbon pole touched power lines. Carbon, you see, is an excellent conductor of electricity. Although all manufacturers carry warnings on carbon rods, and most power lines have "Keep Away" signs, anglers still keep dying.

The obvious answer is not to fish near power lines. A pole does not need to touch the cables. In certain conditions, electricity can arc across several inches and zap - carbon turns, well, into carbon.

Lightning is a tougher one. That old joke about fishing under bridges when it's raining (because the fish go there to keep dry) isn't bad advice when there is lightning around. But like policemen, there's never a bridge handy when you want one.

I'm a bit dodgy on the meteorological bit, but it works something like this. Electrical storms push a field ahead of them, rather like a radar beam, searching for a suitable place for the lightning to land. A carbon rod or pole waving in the air is like a party invitation. It's not much of a party for the angler at the other end, though.

Though the lightning carries millions of volts, it's not those that kill you. It's the amps, those little chaps that live inside fuses, an electrical expert assures me. He recommends anglers lying carbon rods on the ground and anglers themselves doing the same when electrical storms are around. You might look silly, but you will still be alive.