I'M still confused by some of the minutiae revealed by the National Angling Survey. Why should angling households use more depilatory products, panty liners, tampons and freezer bags? Why do they buy more health products, change their toothbrushes more regularly, prefer canned crab, natural yoghurt and spaghetti? In a future column I may reveal my theories, but for the moment it's the total of just under 4 million fishermen that intrigues me.
That means one in 14 people is an angler. Yet sales of National Rivers Authority licences, hovering around 1 million, would appear to show this is optimistic.
But maybe the figures are right and I'm wrong. Within the hugely competitive magazine industry, a fascinating scrap is taking place between two giant publishers, Emap and Harmsworth (owned by the Daily Mail). The story so far: Emap, which publishes Angling Times, Sea Angler and Trout and Salmon, has recently launched Improve Your Coarse Fishing and Angling Plus. Harmsworth, which publishes the Field and Shooting Times, is vying for supremacy in the sector with Improve Your Sea Fishing, Improve Your Match Angling and Salmon, Trout, and Sea Trout. As well as recruiting two former Emap fishing staffmen, the Harmsworth magazines, sounding like its rival's titles, are visually almost indistinguishable too.
Meanwhile, a less-publicised new rival has slipped into the frame. But I can't see Emap and Harmsworth losing much sleep over the Green Highlander. You can't buy it on the bookstands; the subscription-only magazine comes out twice a year and its co- editors are ambitiously projecting total sales of 20 by the end of the year if everything goes right.
It carries no advertising, except from subscribers wanting to sell a pair of size-11 chest-waders. It has no photographs, glossy paper or whizz-bang design. But Andrew Kelton is convinced there is a band of discerning anglers fed up with ploughing through 'endless pages of advertising, who want instead a succinct, impartial, journal containing features on fishing literature, humour, travel, conservation and management'.
Kelton, an environmental consultant (hence, no doubt, the green leaning in the title) admitted: 'It is very informal and noncommercial. You can write what you like, and you don't have to be very good at writing. There are no constraints. We don't worry about being concise.' Articles in the first edition include fishing in the Falklands and the Rocky Mountains, a look at the work of the West Galloway Fisheries Trust, which gets a third of every subscription, and an article entitled 'Unravelling the Mysteries of the Scottish Sea Trout', which doesn't.
Still, the Green Highlander's exclusive tack will at least make it easier for fishermen mystified by the plethora of angling magazines. With Angling Times, the weekly market leader, only selling around 120,000, why are sensible publishers devoting so much money to a market that doesn't appear to justify the effort?
It may be that, lurking at the back of their scheming minds, is the pot of gold that has so far only been dug up by one publisher. Repeating the success of Marshall Cavendish's legendary partwork The Fisherman's Handbook is the dream of every angling publisher (the Green Highlander excepted). It ran to a record 78 parts and at one stage was selling just under 500,000 copies a month. So maybe that 4 million figure isn't all that preposterous.
The Green Highlander, PO Box 443, Edinburgh EH11 2DH, tel 031-337 2243. Subscription is pounds 15.
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