When best are a pest


keith elliott


MEMBERS OF the sporting press, who pride themselves on their wisdom, critical judgement and vision, are acutely short-sighted when it comes to spotting their own shortcomings. Of all people, you would think we should know better. But every hack harbours dreams of being able to beat the professionals at their own game.

Let me give you an example. I met one, a chap who fancied himself as one hell of a snooker player. He actually bought the table that was used for a world championship final. One day, Dennis Taylor came round to visit. "Let's have a game or two, Dennis," he said. Of course, the hack didn't have a chance. Dennis gave him something like seven blacks, but still beat him in every game.

I laughed when I heard the story. But what was I doing last weekend? Trying to fish against men who are good enough to angle for their country.

Noel Coward once said to me, "I hate name-droppers", but I have cast a line with several world champions. Done it in competition too, and very occasionally caught more than them. A few years ago, true, but nothing wrong with dining out on past glories. But - and this is the point that we all fail to spot - they weren't trying. It was a bit of fun, a day off from the serious business. When it matters, the professionals play a very different game.

Every year, the Anglers' Conservation Association, a charity dedicated to fighting pollution, hold a big, invitation-only competition. The average fisher has no chance of taking part. Even French ticket touts couldn't get you a bankside seat. The best that Mr Average can hope for is the chance to watch the experts and maybe share a few words afterwards. But for some reason, one team of total duffers are allowed to compete.

Goodness knows why the press get the chance to put up a team. It may be tradition, some mistaken belief that it guarantees good publicity, or simply a comfort blanket for the others to know they cannot possibly come last. We ought to have more sense. It's hard to admire a fishing writer for his wordcraft when you discover that he can't cast for toffee.

Very few of our number should be allowed to ply their doubtful skills within sight of any who might read their scribblings. There are honourable exceptions: the Sun's Stan Piecha fished in England trials, while Dave Wesson once won the world championships when fishing for Australia. But both wisely declined a press team spot. I think the excuse was that they were washing their hair.

And so I got roped in. Well, it's for a good cause, I thought - I could easily get lucky and snag a few big 'uns. I've fished against these guys before, I thought. Ah, yes, but not when they were trying.

A further lure was the fact that five fish each carrying a pounds 10,000 tag had been put into the water. I was fishing for one of those fish. Trouble was, the people I was fishing against were after all five.

Well, miracles do happen. Beginners catch whoppers, champions get toppled by unknowns. You have to think positive. Especially when I discovered that the man I was next to was Dave Pimlott. Two weeks earlier, he had collected the largest prize in British angling, pounds 25,000, by winning the televised Fish o' Mania title - on the same water. It really gives you confidence when people walk past and say: "Thank God I haven't got Dave Pimlott next to me. That press guy's on for a right hiding."

I'd like to report that it was a blow-by-blow battle, an epic encounter that the spectators will talk about years later. I'd like to, but it was nothing of the sort. Dave caught 29lb, I had 1lb 10oz. Of course, if I had caught the lake's fabled 30-pounder, I would have beaten him. It was that close.

The only consolation was that I was not the worst of the press side by a long cast. A couple caught nothing, others just a few ounces. Predictably, we had maintained our record of being the worst side on display.

And when the call comes next year, I shall be washing my hair that day.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral