ANGLING legend John Wilson passed away last week following a stroke at his lakeside home in Thailand.
TVs ‘Mr Angling’ was rushed to hospital and had an operation to clear a blood clot on his brain, but died from an ensuing cardiac arrest.
The 75-year-old star was much loved, widely respected and credited with bringing generations of anglers into the sport, thanks to his Channel 4 series Go Fishing in the 1980s and ’90s.
John, who was born in Enfield, North London, earned his living in hairdressing, the merchant navy and printing, before finding his spiritual home in Norfolk.
He opened a tackle shop,
The Tackle Den, in Norwich, in 1971, living a few miles away in Great Witchingham. He adored long trotting for roach on his favourite River Wensum.
John became a household name thanks to the Go Fishing series made by Anglian TV, starring in 108 memorable programmes over 17 consecutive years from 1986. This was followed by five years with the Discovery Channel. He also wrote for the Sunday and Daily Express for 11 years.
He retired to live in Thailand five years ago, with wife Jo, developing a fantastic lake stocked with big fish. Earlier this year he revealed his wish to return to Norfolk to see his six grandchildren grow up, but had problems selling his property.
John was also a prolific author, writing or contributing to 20 books. And he designed his own tackle – a range of rods, reels and polarised sunglasses. His most famous creation was the Masterline Avon Quiver rod, with its interchangeable top sections for trotting or legering.
In John’s last major interview, given to Angling Direct’s YouTube Channel in June, he revealed: “I really miss long trotting for chub on the Wensum, and grayling on the Test and Avon in Hampshire.
“I first started catching fish at five or six, putting Nora Batty-style stockings around a coathanger and tying it to a garden cane, for stone loach, minnows and stickebacks from little streams around Enfield.
“I then progressed onto a garden cane and then trotting for roach on the River Lea.
“I never set out to do television shows, it just happened.
“I hope all the books and TV shows will be a legacy. I hope they will stand the next generation in good stead, like my hero Dick Walker in the 1950s and ’60s.
“My favourite TV show was called Weirpool Magic in Go Fishing, and I was on the Wensum at Lenwade Mill. I caught roach of 2 lb 9 oz 8 dr and 2 lb 10 oz 8 dr that you just couldn’t duplicate today. I also had some bream and a pike on a little baitcasting-style rod.
“My dream fish would be a
3 lb roach caught long trotting, but I only had them to 2 lb 14 oz.
“My biggest fish was a 420 lb freshwater stingray from Thailand, and other memorable catches that stand out are mahseer of 81 lb and 91 lb caught very close together, plus on three occasions I had good catches of big perch on the Great Ouse that included three over 4 lb,” said John, who earned an MBE for services to angling.
How John will be remembered by his many fans – holding a big fish, and wearing a big smile.