Take a look at this pretty doggy on the left. That's my doggy. When I got him as a pup I imagined he would be one of those dream anglers dogs. You will remember the Passion for Angling TV series where Bob James' pair of beauties would dive in to retrieve a trout, negating the need for a landing net. Well that's what Max was supposed to be like, at least, in my imagination. The reality was that four kids and two adults all pampering, shouting instructions and spoiling him led to my now owning a dog who is useless for any of those idealistic angling aims. In fact, he will often answer to the name 'Useless' these days, the fat, lazy, hairy thing. I love him to bits, I'm sure you can tell.

Well I finally found a use for the mutt. It was the evening before a charity trout bash for 2nd Chance and I was short of a few decent flies. By 'decent', I mean something that was a definite fish-catcher. I was to be helping some kids catch their first fish on the morrow and I didn't want to be mucking around with any purist fluff. I wanted a sure-fire fish killer, but the shops were shut, my lure box was empty and I was desperate. Then I saw Max.

He cocked his head at me and one scruffy ear flopped downward. He needed a groom. He didn't get one, but he did get a swift hair-cut. One snip with the scissors and I had a handful of fur. He's so scruffy nobody even noticed, not even him! Out in the workshop a half hour later, a new range of flies was born. Based upon the 'Hares Ear' and crossed with a 'Dog-Nobbler', I christened them the Hangover Cure range. Slightly exceeding the prescribed one inch long rule, the Max Killers looked evil but would they do the trick?

Next morning I met up with Pete and Brian for breakfast at a Little Chef. You can tell this is the New Millennium, even the plastic plants were re-constructed. I wonder if the diners realise they have plastic dope plants overlooking their meals? Aren't they? Oh. Well, that's what they look like to me! Anyway, after a surprisingly good breakfast - normally I end up with cause to regret eating in these places - we set off and found the venue for the event.

Chiphall fisheries is a lovely little Hampshire stillwater trout fishery in the Meon valley and the owners have to be thanked for donating the fishery for the day. The TV crews were already there, as were charity boss Doug Hulme and many of the helpers. Soon the Minibus containing the kids arrived and we got all started. The promised celebrities were not due to arrive for a few hours and that's where they went wrong, because all the really good fishing was had in the first few dozen casts.

A dozen or so kids on their first fly casting practise session can turn a gin-clear trout lake into a monstrous cappuccino within a surprisingly short time. I think the trout get confused as to where the water starts and the froth ends and it puts them off their feed eventually for some strange reason.

These are not your usual run of the mill kids. These are children with special needs of one sort of another. They may look like bog-standard undersized villains such as you might find in my house for instance, but they are not. I don't quiz these kids too much with 'what's your problem' etc - some of the replies they can give can cause an awkward nights sleep. (You really wouldn't want to hear about most of them). I'm no social worker, so instead, I get on with the business of helping them catch fish. And, on this particular day, did we catch!

I had one trout after another, and one little lad after another. It was like a factory production line. I would cast out, place the rod in their hands and, standing behind them, would show them how to retrieve line. Most cottoned on to the idea straight away and we rarely had to recast more than a few times before the rod-tip would wrench around and a two pound trout would do it's trick. It's really great watching kids catch their first fish like this. The kids aren't aware of it, but you can tell that the fishing has hooked them, just as certainly as they have hooked the fish. It's a very fulfilling experience and I recommend it to anyone.

By late morning a couple of 'posh' cars heralded the arrival of Esther Rantzen, and the film crews swung into action. A couple of more adult helpers had also arrived and were making a few practice casts in front of the lodge, so I went over to 'organise' them. I approached one guy and, speaking to his back, told him that the fish were mostly coming from that bank 'over there'. He turned see where I was pointing and I found myself face to face with Rory Bremner! Fortunately, Rory didn't recognise me thank God, so I was spared the embarrassment of him asking for my autograph etc but we did end up fishing together for a few hours. Nice guy. I taught him how do Woody Allen impressions and he showed me how to cast a fly. I think we both learned a lot ;-) Now re-read that using a Woody voice, maybe one day I can get job writing his scripts?

It was a great day out for a great cause. The highlights of the day will be shown on a Monday evening on primetime national commercial TV sometime in May. I just hope the camera didn't pick up on the fly I was using or Max will bite me. Again.


More info about the 2nd Chance charity can be found on their website. There's a route there via our Links page.