Salmon on my mind and trout in my hair

'I've a feeling that there are things called brown trout that may or may not come on a bed of puy lentils'

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"You look healthy," I said, "where have you been?" "

"You look healthy," I said, "where have you been?" "Fishing," said Bill. Best sea-trout fishing that he had ever done. I don't claim to know anything about fishing, but I do know something about trout. Rainbow trout come grilled with almonds, and sea trout, which are like small salmon but tastier, come poached with Hollandaise. I have a feeling that there are things called brown trout that may or may not come on a bed of puy lentils, but I'd have to check on that.

Poking around in the bathroom cabinet the other day for something to mollify my split ends, I came across a small sachet with pink stuff in it that looked like conditioner. It smelt slightly fishy but then I remembered the sturgeon oil head massage I once had in Paris which cost only slightly less than the airfare to Vladivostok.

"What's that awful smell and what's that stuff on your head?'' asked my husband, surprisingly because he rarely notices my appearance. "Sturgeon oil hair conditioner," I said. He fished the torn sachet out of the bin. "No it isn't,'' he said. "It's smoked trout pâté from Loch Lochy, best served with oat cakes or hot toast.'' That's what happens when you can't read the small print.

"Where were you fishing," I asked Bill, expecting him to say Sutherland or Perthshire or Speyside. Driving up to Argyll in the summer, we sometimes pass fishermen wading thigh-deep in swift flowing rivers, looking very businesslike as they haul in their catch. "Tierra del Fuego," said Bill. He made it sound like Hammersmith.

"Em, isn't that a bit far?" I said. "There must be sea trout nearer home, in Loch Lochy for instance. Tierra del Fuego must be 10,000 miles away." "8,300," said Bill, "and it was a doddle to get to. You only change planes once in Buenos Aires." A couple of days later I rang a friend in Dublin. "She's gone fishing for a few days," I was told. "In Galway?" "No, in Patagonia."

No cows in the field, no sheep on the hill and now, apparently, no fish in the river. The countryside of Britain is increasingly and depressingly looking like Old Mother Hubbard's larder shelves. Scotland has definitely been over-fished in the last few years, admitted Stephen, another fishing friend just back from a week on Speyside. But having said that, there were plenty of salmon in the rivers near Inverness right now. The problem with fishing in Scotland, he said, was the uncertainty, whereas if you went to virgin territory like Alaska or Patagonia or the Kola Peninsula you could be damn sure of catching something every day.

The Kola Peninsula, as I'm sure you know, is in Russia, way up in the Arctic Circle before Arkhangel. It's not quite as handy as Tierra Del Fuego because you change planes twice at Helsinki and Murmansk and then get a helicopter to a lodge on the Varzuga river which is jam-packed with salmon from 10-40lb in weight. The great thing about fishing here is that you don't have to stop at night ­ being summertime, it never gets dark, and of course it has to be summertime or the rivers would be frozen.

There were seven other fishermen in Stephen's party; some of the fanatics who fished all night caught 10 salmon every time they went out. How did they bring them home I wondered, trying to work out how many fishcakes you could get from a 40lb salmon. "We didn't bring them home, we threw them back in," he said. Except for the ones they ate. They ate quite a lot of salmon.

Far-flung fishing is becoming the new celebrity craze. Most of the Russian gillies up there beside the Varzuga were wearing caps autographed by Eric Clapton. The other attraction is the wilderness aspect. There you are, beyond the Arctic Circle, battling with your Jaws-size salmon, surrounded by caribou, bears, wolverines, snow leopards, frost fairies, yetis, Eskimo Nell ­ maybe even Father Christmas, if you're lucky. I might just saunter down to Pall Mall and drop in at Farlow's, purveyors of fishing tackle to royalty since 1840, and look at a few flies.

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