John Wilson: A legend who spoke to every type of fisherman

John Wilson at his own lake in Thailand. Pic: John Wilson

John Wilson at his own lake in Thailand. Pic: John Wilson - Credit: Archant

Head of sport Chris Lakey looks at the impact that John Wilson - who has died at his home in Thailand - had on the lives of so many anglers

The image – and the voice – stays with you for a lifetime.

John Wilson is grappling with a troublesome fish in front of a camera. Eventually it stays still long enough for the moment to be captured on film.

And while the type of fish changed – John caught all sorts from all over the world – there was one constant: the beaming smile.

Wilson was not so much an angling instructor as an angling entertainer. Watching him strike and hook into a fish wasn't just an education, it was fun: once he was 'in', the little giggle, of joy and surprise, quickly followed.

If you were ever in two minds about venturing out on a freezing cold morning to a drain somewhere deep in the Fens, the smile and the giggle of John Wilson made the decision much easier. Because it was fun.

John Wilson was the first TV angling celebrity, a man whose easy going nature and ability to tell us what to do endeared him to a world of budding anglers.

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His long-running Go Fishing series was a must. And part of the reason was that when John Wilson came on to our screens, we were not inundated with TV channels begging for our attention. John had a captive audience - and we loved him.

His was a simple message in a sport which has become so complicated as to become incomprehensible for the every-day Average Joe angler: how to catch fish, how to treat your fish, and how to savour the moment. We wanted to be like John Wilson; we wanted the sun on our backs and the strain on our arms when we hooked into a big one.

But you know what? John Wilson fished in the rain and the snow and he had days when he didn't catch, and that is what Average Joe wanted to share with him. Normality.

If you want to know how highly John Wilson was regarded, read the words of our brilliant angling columnist John Bailey: 'I have been very fortunate, I have been fishing for over 30 years all over the world but I have yet to find anybody as good as John. He was superb all round.'

He was. And Average Joes like me will thank him for reminding us that he spoke not only to the best fisherman in the land, but to all of us.

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