Take yourself back to biology class at high school, what was your teacher like? Did they have a degree in zoology, get arrested for spying, catch malaria or survive a plane crash in the Amazon? Enter Jeremy Wade – once a biology teacher in Kent who traded classrooms in for adventure, most recently hosting Jeremy Wade’s Dark Waters due to premiere on Monday 3rd June on Animal Planet.
Having hosted previous TV series, you would be right if you are thinking Wade must have spent a bit of time in New Zealand. In 2010 Wade filmed in the South Island for 3 weeks, a trip that stays with him to this day. “I was looking for longfin eels, and ended up with some big ones hanging off my fingers (which were protected by filleting gloves). I also caught one about 15lbs using your hook-free bobbing method. This was in Fiordland, which was just breath taking… Fiordland sticks in my mind as some of the most dramatic scenery I’ve seen.”
Wade clearly loves the environment, he has travelled for over 40 years and is concerned about the changes he is seeing. “I always talk to the locals, especially the old-timers, and everywhere they are saying that the big fish are much rarer than they used to be. There seems to have been a very big decline in just the last hundred years or so. A lot of these fish are apex predators, fish whose presence tells us that the whole food pyramid is healthy, along with water quality. So their absence should be cause for widespread concern, not just among anglers, since all humans are also water-based life forms.”
Wade has a huge respect for locals on his travels, always making a point of talking to them and regarding their insight. Wade has noted locals have have noticed changes within the environment too. Locals also prove helpful to Wade on a day to day basis while filming Dark Waters, offering Wade ideas for best approach to situations. “You need to know what’s in the water and understand its behaviour. You have to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, I’ve been in the water many times where there are red-bellied piranhas, and most of the time they won’t bother you. But in certain rare circumstances (such as floodplain pools drying out and shrinking, where everything is getting very hungry) you’d be crazy to risk it.” Most people would avoid piranhas at any time, this doesn’t seem to be the case for Wade.
Although always taking calculated risks Wade is an adventurer at heart. “I was headfirst past my waist in an underwater hole, with somebody holding my ankles wheelbarrow style, when my outstretched hand was chomped. There was a sound like a muffled explosion – the cameraman, who was standing on the riverbank, felt it through his feet. Then I had to grab its pectoral fin with my other hand, to stop it spinning, and waggle my foot as a signal to my back-up to slowly pull me out, before I ran out of breath. One of the most intense 90 seconds of concentrated experience in my mental archives.”
Wade has also recently published his 3rd book called How to Think Like a Fish (and other lessons from a Lifetime in Angling) – due to release 21st May which is about the mental approach to fishing as Wade sees it. And what did Wade catch on his last trip to New Zealand? Although dropped by helicopter beside the Milford Track at the height of mouse season (mice are an important food source for trout) Wades focus was on filming. “I never got to make even one cast after trout. I’ll have to come back sometime…”
Jeremy Wade’s Dark Waters – Mondays from 3rd June, 9.30pm on Animal Planet.