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Norfolk angler John Wilson has died

PUBLISHED: 17:13 13 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:52 17 November 2018

Norfolk angler John Wilson has died at his home in Thailand. Pic: John Wilson

Norfolk angler John Wilson has died at his home in Thailand. Pic: John Wilson

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Norfolk angler John Wilson has died in Thailand.

Jo and John Wilson celebrating Christmas in Thailand. Pic: John Wilson.Jo and John Wilson celebrating Christmas in Thailand. Pic: John Wilson.

The fishing legend, once voted the greatest angler of all time, moved to Thailand with his wife Jo in 2013.

His family confirmed the Go Fishing presenter had died at his home this morning at 4.30am, aged 75.

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

He had suffered a stroke on Sunday and, after an operation to clear a blood clot from his brain, died this morning after he went into cardiac arrest.

In July this year, Mr and Mrs Wilson, who have two children and six grandchildren, had spoken to the EDP about their plans to return to Norfolk.

They had previously lived at Lake House, Great Witchingham, near Norwich, which had a two acre lake he created and where fished at his local River Wensum.

Mr Wilson, originally from Enfield, returned to Norfolk briefly over the summer to look for a house to buy, and spoke to the EDP of his incredible five-year adventure in Asia.

Speaking at the time, he said: ““We built the house to live there forever but we miss the family, there’s no English speaking people for miles from where we live and it’s time to come home to Norfolk.”

He inspired young and old while presenting the long running series Go Fishing from 1986 all the way through to the early noughties.

He will be known for joking around on the riverbank and bringing mirth to a sport which a lot of people at the time had thought lacked excitement.

Such was his devotion to fishing in the county that he had a fishing tackle shop, the Tackle Den, in Bridewell Alley, Norwich, in 1971 and wrote the book Where to Fish in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Fishing and TV legend John Wilson. 
Picture: Simon FinlayFishing and TV legend John Wilson. Picture: Simon Finlay

One of his great friends and renowned angler John Bailey, 63, said the news came as a complete shock.

“I saw him three months ago, when he came over from Thailand,” Mr Bailey said. “I knew he wasn’t particularly well but he was in robust spirit.

In their own lake in Thailand, Jo and John Wilson. Picture: John WilsonIn their own lake in Thailand, Jo and John Wilson. Picture: John Wilson

“I was in profound shock when I heard this morning; I was filming in Yorkshire when my phone went absolutely mental.”

Mr Bailey said he will treasure the memory of his first encounter with Mr Wilson, when he visited his Bridewell Alley shop in his early 20s.

John Wilson at the lakes next to his old home in Norfolk . Picture: Bill SmithJohn Wilson at the lakes next to his old home in Norfolk . Picture: Bill Smith

“I remember very well the first time I met him,” Mr Bailey said. “I had gone there after visiting an awful tackle shop and he couldn’t have been more charming and responsive, we became friends within a week.

“He taught me so much, from being a lad who enjoyed fishing to somebody who makes a living from fishing.

John Bailey and John Wilson enjoy a merlot together. Picture: John BaileyJohn Bailey and John Wilson enjoy a merlot together. Picture: 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 really brought angling in the public eye and inspired a lot of kids. Many people in their 40s and 50s will say they watched John as a teenager, he did a huge amount for angling.”

Renowned anglers and close friends John Bailey with John Wilson. Picture: John BaileyRenowned anglers and close friends John Bailey with John Wilson. Picture: John Bailey

Mr Bailey expressed his deepest sympathies to Mr Wilson’s family, adding: “I’m thinking of Jo with great love.”

Mr Wilson began his media career at the Evening News in the 1970s, when he contributed to the angling page.

Thomas Walsh, who had edited the angling page at the time, said: “At the time, John’s Tackle Den in Bridewell Alley was the mecca for local anglers. Visit at any time of day and John would be found hosting an impromptu forum on some angling matter.

“He made a monthly contribution to the Evening News, invariably handwritten, but always on topics of great interest and relevance to the local angling scene.

“It was a low-key start to his media career, but soon he was writing for other angling publications and authored books on the local angling scene, notably Where to Fish in Norfolk and Suffolk, first published in 1974.

“He transferred to television in the mid 1980s when Anglia TV signed him up for the Go Fishing series and he proved a natural on screen with his almost boyish enthusiasm and trademark chuckle that always made fishing look like fun.

“Although John and his production team took Go Fishing all over the world, the lifeblood of his fishing remained in the UK, and especially in East Anglia which remained his spiritual home. In fact, all six programme for the first Go Fishing series, screened on 1987, were filmed in Norfolk.

“John was a great innovator which is what helped make him such a successful fisherman, and always had great attention to detail.

“Throughout 15 years of Go Fishing, John always made a point of smelling the roses - and translating the sweet scent of his beloved pastime to viewers in their living rooms.”

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