When best are a pest

FISHING LINES

keith elliott

FISHING LINES

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
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'