Thrills and gills with River Monsters star Jeremy Wade in Hertfordshire

Jeremy Wade with his prized goliath tiger fish in the Congo (Picture: Daniel Huertas and Icon Films) Jeremy Wade with his prized goliath tiger fish in the Congo (Picture: Daniel Huertas and Icon Films)

Thursday, March 13, 2014
6:00 PM

Venue reporter Paul Christian managed to ‘catch’ extreme angler, biologist and River Monsters TV star Jeremy Wade ahead of his theatre date in Hertfordshire tomorrow (Friday).

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River Monsters star Jeremy Wade with a piranha (Picture: Barny Revill and Icon Films)River Monsters star Jeremy Wade with a piranha (Picture: Barny Revill and Icon Films)

He was in recovery mode from a punishing schedule that sees him regularly flying around the world in search of ferocious freshwater beasts, blamed for terrible ‘crimes’ against unsuspecting humanity.

Asked about his best and biggest catches, the laidback but determined adventurer, whose catchphrase “fish on” is a familiar exclamation to fans of the hit show, paused for a moment.

Then he recalled a couple of whoppers he had reeled in on rod and line.

“My biggest catch were a couple of bull sharks, both caught in South Africa, they were male bull sharks and they were extremely big for males [females are usually larger].”

He could not get the beasts onto weighing scales but estimated them to be more than 500lbs and “just short of 10 feet long”.

One of the muscle-bound brutes took more than three hours to reel in and dragged his boat five miles up river.

But Wade did not consider the bull sharks to be his best catch.

That accolade in a glittering piscine pantheon goes to the goliath tiger fish.

“What makes that stand out is it’s a very impressive fish, it is a bit silver and has a mechanical head with rows of interlocking teeth, like a scaled-up piranha.”

Pushing angling to the extremes is Wade’s stock in trade and he has travelled to volatile and dangerous regions, even fishing in the cooling pond of blown nuclear power station Chernobyl.

He has even been on the trail of the Loch Ness Monster, which he believes was a massive sturgeon.

But even he was not prepared for a plane crash in the Amazon.

That is precisely what happened 10 years ago and marks a point where he genuinely feared for his life.

Thankfully he said “we all emerged without a scratch”.

Death-defying escapes aside, the affable adventurer’s biggest fear is failing to catch his quarry.

While denying River Monsters was simply an angling show, as it focuses on local people and breathtaking places, he admitted: “If we don’t have the fish we don’t have a programme.”

Visitors to Wade’s Broxbourne Civic Hall show on Friday can expect a whole lot of anecdotes and behind-the-scenes information on River Monsters, as well as the opportunity to quiz the man described by the Independent on Sunday as “the greatest angling explorer of his generation”.

Speaking about Hertfordshire’s own river monsters, he said he was worried about the inroads the European catfish was making in southern English waterways, after its introduction to neighbouring Bedfordshire in the 19th century.

He said they had the ability to edge out pike – England’s traditional apex predator.

Looking ahead, he said: “Series five is coming out soon and we’ve already filmed another series which we’re putting the finishing touches to.

“I’m about to have a very busy year this year.

“There is one trip starting very soon.

“It’s getting harder, but we’ve got a bit more in the pipeline.”

And reflecting on his career he spoke of its highlight. He said: “Going back to the goliath tiger fish, it is a tremendously hard fish to catch.

“I’d been to the Congo before but it took me three expeditions over six years to get a medium sized one. It was a huge gamble, but it paid off.

“It’s another example of pressure equals producing the goods.”

For those unfamiliar with River Monsters, Wade explained: “I don’t like to say that we’ve got a formula and when people say it’s a fishing programme I tend to say it isn’t, there are other things developing.

“It’s a bit like a detective story, we ‘arrest’ the suspect and the little twist that we have is that we release the killer, because it’s not the fish’s fault it’s the person’s fault for putting their feet in the wrong place.”

Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters Face-to-Face is on at Broxbourne Civic Hall, in Hoddesdon on March 14 at 7.30pm.

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