Take a friend trainspotting

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The Independent Online
Until this week, I had always hugely admired the International Game Fish Association. (This probably confirms readers' suspicions that I am the angling equivalent of a trainspotter.) To me, it's enormously interesting that Max Tongier Jnr holds the world record for chain pickerel (3lb 5oz, caught at Newport News, Virginia, on 12 April 1984) or that if I could capture a longnose gar on a 2lb line I could claim a world's best, because the category is open at present.

I gleaned these and hundreds of other fascinating facts (the Portuguese for horse-eye jack, for instance, is xareu, and the place to catch black sea bass on a fly is Ocracoke, North Carolina, which holds all seven of the world records) from the IGFA's superb annual handbook. Its 1996 edition boasts more than 350 pages, and contains essential reading on matters such as "New York's Central Park Bass Have An Attitude". (Bodies dumped in the lake were excellent holding places for bass until scuba divers from the city council had a clearout and spoilt the fishing, says the article.)

This isn't some tinpot angling club. This august body, based in Florida, has been running for nearly 60 years and is about to build a $25m World Center to give fishing an international headquarters. My suggest- ions of a family holiday to visit the new place met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Now I'm not so sure I want to go. In fact, I might even cancel my membership. I am prompted to consider this action because of a mailshot inside the latest handbook, calling on anglers to Get a Youngster Hooked on Fishing.

This concept is not new. For the past 18 months, the UK's Angling Trades Association has been pushing a similar campaign called Take a Friend Fishing. However, the idea is equally distasteful. The experience of taking a friend fishing is traumatic. For a start, they expect to catch something within two minutes of arriving. It's no good pointing out that trout rarely feed at midday in bright sunshine. "I thought you were supposed to be the expert," they invariably point out. On the other hand, take them to a water so full of fish that even herons don't bother getting lunch there, and they tell everyone afterwards: "Can't see what he sees in it. I caught them one after the other, and I'd never held a rod in my life."

I took my father fishing once. My enduring memory is his oft-repeated: "I seem to be a bit snarled up." This meant that he had somehow compressed 100 yards of line into a ball about the size of a marble, and managed to do this inside the reel. Nor do non-anglers appreciate they are using a pounds 400 split-cane rod or a pounds 300 hand-made reel. "Snaps easily, doesn't it?" is generally the first clue that all is not well.

Most non-fishermen find your passion for the beauty of a big roach, or the disappointment when a big fish escapes, slightly amusing. Fortunately, this sort won't pester you anymore. Far worse are those who get hooked. "We must go again next week!" they say. The IGFA's idea for shoals of rod-wielding kids is too awful to contemplate. Most adults, given a rod for the first time, have the attention span of an amoeba, but children are far worse, especially as they always want to bring along all their mates.

A far more valuable campaign would be: Stop Someone Taking Up Fishing. I shall suggest it to the IGFA right away. The IGFA is at 1301 East Atlantic Boulevard, Pompano Beach, Florida 33060. Membership is $30 a year. The world record for a pompano, by the way, is 46lb 8oz by Kevyn Kaplowitz from Jensen Beach, Florida, in 1991.

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