Newsletter

John Wilson. MBE

24 July 1943 - 13 November 2018

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John Wilson, MBE

It was with great sadness that we learnt of John’s death this week - he was a familiar face at Jurassic and will be sorely missed by everyone who met him. John had moved to Thailand with his wife Jo in 2013 having fallen in love with the country and its fishing. Although he had his own house and fishing lake in Chumphon he was a regular visitor to a number of Thai fisheries where his infectious laughter and boundless enthusiasm for his sport was always guaranteed to brighten any angler’s day.

He was voted the greatest angler ever by the Angling Times in 2004 and there is probably no other angler who has had such an influence and inspired so many people to pick up a rod and line. Although John was planning to move back to the UK to be nearer to his family he loved Thailand and because of this a lot of UK fishermen followed in his footsteps to experience the Land of Smiles.

John’s last visit to us was in July when he co-hosted our carp match with Martin Bowler. The highlight for a number of the competitors was in fact meeting John and listening to his seemingly endless fishing tales of his many travels around the world. He always had time for everyone, young and old and the thousands of messages, comments and stories on social media symbolise the affection in which he was held by the angling community. Our love goes out to his wife Jo, daughter Lisa, son Lee and his grandchildren and hope they find some comfort in knowing how much he was loved and admired by all that knew him and the thousands that had grown up watching him on Go Fishing!

 

Eddy Mounce, Co-owner Jurassic
As a youngster, I suppose from around the age of 12, John Wilson was literally my hero in my world that was occupied only by fishing. Every Go Fishing TV programme I not only watched but recorded on our VCR so that I could replay it incessantly at my leisure to learn from who, in my eyes, was the greatest angler on the planet. We had no internet to bring every rig and bait known to mankind up on a screen to learn from or be guided by - there was literally only John Wilson once a week on TV although of course there was the library where fishing books, many of which were authored by John himself were to be found.

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I would never have imagined as a small boy that two decades later John and I would be friends spending time fishing together in England and Thailand. John’s lifetime devotion to our sport has been to the benefit of incalculable numbers of anglers and fisheries in every country he wet a line. He will be missed by millions, something which in itself is an extraordinary feat; to be a great memory and in the good thoughts of literally millions of people - knowing John that alone would fill him with delight, knowing he was triumphant in life. RIP John.

 

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John was held in great affection not just by anglers in the UK but also further afield. Something that was reflected in the messages we received, some of which are below:

‘So glad I had the pleasure of meeting and fishing with you John’

‘Such sad news as I grew up watching Go Fishing and it was watching John that inspired me to take up the sport’

‘So sad, what a great man who gave so much to fishing. Will be missed and every time I fish I’ll think of you John’

‘He got so many people into fishing from his TV shows we thank you so much for that – a true angling legend’

‘So sad, a legend on the bankside learnt a lot from his literature’

‘Blessed to have fished with a fishing legend. He really was a good laugh to fish with’

‘Sad news, loved his programme’

‘You keep them all laughing up there John and thanks for the many great memories’

‘An angling legend’

‘A great character – will be missed by many’

‘John – you legend!’

‘So sad to hear that a true ambassador for fishing has passed away’

‘John was also famous outside the UK – anglers in Sweden just got the very sad news’

‘Total hero of mine, total gent’

‘Great man, fishing legend’

 

Martin Bowler
January 2015: At 72 years of age I’m amazed how quickly John has adapted to his new life but I think the key to this is his willingness to embrace Thailand and its people. He lives in an area far away from expats, other than his wife Jo and his equally fishing crazy brother Dave, who has lived in the country with his lovely wife Boon for over a decade. He is both relaxed and comfortable with all that this Asian country has to offer repeatedly demonstrated over the time I spent with him. A weight has been lifted from his shoulders and no longer is he at risk of becoming an angry old man, well unless you mention Robson Green! His incredible legacy to our sport shouldn’t have ever become mired by what he sees as the destruction of our waterways and now I’m pleased to say it never will as life in a way has started again seeing the world through fresh and happy eyes. Enlarging and reshaping a 4-acre lake situated inside dense jungle has seen to that not to mention the extensive planting, creating of swims and stocking of 20 different species. Take a walk with Wilson and his dogs as the humidity increases come early morning and the enthusiasm is over flowing as a snakehead eyes up the java barb population while a huge arapaima comes up to breathe. He is a kid in a sweet shop and what a better way to start every day than call his brother Dave and spend an hour or two wetting a line.

 

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Retirement was a word that was used when he left the UK but this is obviously not the case with all that John and Jo have created in such a short space of time. The fishing is already superb with such a range of species and now ready for the next stage - a limited number of customers to enjoy along with the Wilson family’s hospitality. Add in the start of a new book ‘Where to Fish in Thailand’ and there is plenty to keep him busy.

Everything John wished for in his life seemed to come true and after meeting him in Thailand in 2015 when I wrote the above paragraphs I did wonder whether the country would continue to please – I am happy to report that they did and the next few years were incredibly fruitful and John was extremely happy with his wife Jo. They had created a paradise for themselves but John was never satisfied and I do not mean this in a negative way but more with regards to his zest for life and even at an age when most people are thinking of winding down he was once again preparing for a new journey. Earlier this year I met up with him once again to see what his plans were and as ever he spoke about life with the enthusiasm of a teenager.

The famous Wilson chuckle, a hearty handshake and a warm hug greeted me as I walked into the clubhouse. Wilson had arrived and was as jovial as ever. My first words were ‘you’ve put the cat amongst the pigeons with your latest announcement!’ A belly laugh followed and then it was time to hear all about it. So with 2 curries ordered we began to natter and I couldn’t help but ask why he was coming home. ‘I had every intention of retiring here and have loved every minute but I went back to Norfolk recently and it dawned on both Jo and I that we miss our family terribly. I would love to teach the grandchildren to fish and watch them grow. I have loved, as I always have, the Tropics, it’s been life changing but it’s time to go home.’ On cue a huge arapaima tail slapped the surface of the lake as if to emphasise his words. ‘I will never see the Thai project as a failure and will never regret it,’ John continued, ‘It’s been a wonderful 5 years.’ That’s what I have always admired about John, his positivity and ability to become a chameleon adapting to every situation life presents. ‘Norfolk and Suffolk are our spiritual homes and this is where the next adventure will be, although the Wye valley is tempting,’ he said with a twinkle in his eye. ‘Wherever I go I want to overlook a river.’

Afternoon soon slipped quickly into night as it does in Thailand without a cast made but tomorrow would be different as not only were we hosting a carp match but targeting the lake’s predators and getting back to what we both do best – catching fish!

As quietly as possible we crept to the front of the swim before lowering down chicken carcasses into the margins. Our sanctuary from the hot Thai sun was a wooden sala with breakfast brought to us from the clubhouse. Over bacon and eggs the banter, as always flowed, started by John asking if I wished I had one of his new Rovex Monster Tamer rods and why wasn’t I up to using a multiplier! My sarcastic response never came as something had stolen the chicken. ‘See John, you’re past it!’ I should have kept my mouth shut as not only did I lose the beast when the hook hold failed but repeated the disaster 4 more times! How John laughed, ‘Super kid what went wrong this time?’ he asked before chuckling loudly on each occasion. Finally and somewhat of a relief to me it was John’s turn at last and as he engaged the reel proclaiming that it was ‘Uncle John to the rescue!’ The immediate savage headshake meant only one thing – an arapaima. Unfortunately it only had eyes for one thing, a set of paddles to our left and soon tangled John’s yellow 100lb D8 braid around it. ‘I might be 75 but I’m not finished yet,’ he said taking to the water before the words were out of his mouth. Dragged underwater by an arapaima while freeing the tackle gave me the perfect chance to take the mick and despite trying to put him off he was soon back in direct contact with the monster. This was a powerful creature but no match for John even when it broke free of the water and tried to snap his braid, which it was quite capable of, like cotton. With his prize safely in the net John punched the air and how we laughed.

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At the time I never realised that this would be the last angling moment I would share with John and the final chapter in his book would remain unwritten. I am certain however that this is how John would have wanted it – dreams and ambition until the very end. I will miss the man who influenced my own angling career more than anyone else and importantly gave me a bucket full of great memories. John’s life was lived to the full and for that I’m sure there can be no regrets. John was lucky to have angling but equally angling was lucky to have John. Rest in Peace John.