There’s something about monster fish that beguiles humans. Maybe it’s a fascination with power, maybe it’s the enigma that shrouds these beasts. Whatever it is, if there’s a big fish on the show, people will watch it. The more teeth, the better. One such show that pulls away from the norm of fishing shows is “Fishing Impossible”. It follows three mates that travel the globe, hooking beautiful fish in jaw-dropping locations and getting in all sorts of shenanigans. With series 2 of their show premiering this month, we catch up with Blowfish, Charlie, and Jay to find out what’s in store for us.
What is it about fishing that you love?
Charlie: I’ve fished since I was 5 years old, and for me it’s the fact that it takes you out into nature. It’s not about catching fish, it really isn’t. It’s about a sport, a hobby that takes me into the wilderness, takes me to beautiful parts of the world, and as this show has demonstrated, we’ve created a whole worldwide adventure through fishing. Fishing is the glue, really, that’s held an absolutely incredible adventure around the world together. And that’s what attracts me. Yes, it’s amazing to catch a fish. But you know what, that doesn’t always happen, and it’s more about the places it takes me.
Blowfish: For me, the best thing about fishing is when you’ve got the fish, and you’ve got a chance to look at it, to look at either its coloration or body shape – looking into its eyes sometimes – you can learn so much about where a fish lives just by looking at it. It’s just great, and I think realistically, after that, the very, very finest thing about fishing, is after you’ve caught the animal – letting it go.
Jay: When you’re fishing you never know where you’re gonna go, and what fish you might catch. People’s reactions when they catch fish are quite amusing, I know I’ve been told that I’m quite over-enthusiastic when I catch a fish, and I think Charlie makes some funny noises. Fish definitely does, he might not admit it but when he does hook a fish it’s very funny to see his face. You just never know what you gonna get between Charlie and The Blowfish.
How did the three of you first come together?
Blowfish: The honest truth is we were brought together by the show. The show was being created, a shout went out for some likely lads and we were those likely lads. And through a twist of fate, we just happened to all get on very nicely with each other. We wish it was more of a story like ‘Oh we all went to school together’, or ‘We met one night down a dark fishing alley somewhere’, but the actual truth is we were put together, and we just happened to stick.
Jay: I got pinged a Facebook thing through Facebook saying people were doing this fishing program, and are you interested in doing it, so I signed up. I drove up to London for an interview. Then I did a casting reel in the woods in Oxford which was all completely new, which I really enjoyed. And obviously I got given the amazing opportunity to become one of the presenters of Fishing Impossible. I love fishing, so as soon as I heard the title ‘Fishing Impossible’ I thought, well, I’m a bit of an adventurer. I love fishing, I love my spear fishing, my free diving – so that’s what prompted me be part of the series.
Can you tell us a little more about the first season of the show, and what’s in store for season 2?
Blowfish: We go some pretty mad places driven by passion. In season 1 for example I take the guys to South Africa because I’m desperate to do some stuff with sharks. Charlie took us to Canada because he really wanted to see the salmon, and in season 2 I get shark mad again and we go to Cornwall. Charlie has to have this bloody golden mahseer, so he takes us into the tiger-infested jungles of Nepal – thank you very much, Charlie Butcher. So that all stays the same. And along the way we adapt to what’s around us. I think you might find that you’ll see a little bit more fishing in series 2 as opposed to series 1 – that’s down to the fish we were after, and the places we are in being so demanding that realistically, rod and line is the only chance we’ll get. It’s some really tough fish that we went after in those places. But throughout you’re going to see three lads from England messing about, having fun. And that’s what fishing trips should be – fun. Whether we catch something or not is irrelevant. If anyone goes on a fishing trip and catches a fish, and goes ‘Right, it was fun because I’ve caught that fish’, they need to stop fishing because they’ve missed the point entirely.
Charlie: We go away and in series 1 there were a few occasions where we didn’t actually catch our target fish. But we still had such a great time doing it, so it makes for great watching. People I’ve spoken to love some of those episodes because they see us messing around – we went to the Falkland Islands and we’re out on this boat trying to reel up our bait from a kilometer and a half down. Okay, it didn’t work, but it was great fun. In series 2, the biggest difference for me is I actually started to catch some fish. In series 1, Jay Lewis absolutely destroyed me. He destroyed my confidence, I was known as no-fish Charlie throughout the world. True story – met an angler last summer between filming series 1 and 2. I caught the cod, and he said ‘Good. I saw you on that show and this is the first fish I’ve ever seen you catch’. So yes, I’ve decided to catch some fish in series 2. But it’s very much the same format. It’s the three of us traveling the world with the two of them generally taking the mickey out of me, and Fish generally getting quite hot and sweaty, and Jay saying he’s a Royal Marine a lot. And then he gets very scared of absolutely every animal. [Laughs]
What has been your favourite fishing destination so far?
Blowfish: For actual out-and-out proper fishing it’s tough, because we’ve fished in some really nice places, but not necessarily caught stuff. My favourite fishing destination was probably the lake we fished in on the Falkland Islands in series 1. It was the end of a very long trip, we were getting the plane home that day and had just been allowed to fish – nothing crazy, nothing weird, just fishing for trout. It was also my favourite fishing destination because in typical form, there’s me complaining about things in the way that I’m not catching anything, and this and that neither, and then landed this massive fish which on that day was a bigger fish than Jay and Charlie. It was humble, it was this small lake that didn’t look like a lot, but on the right day at the right time it was spot on.
Charlie: My favourite destination was by far Nepal. The golden mahseer was a fish that I’d read about as a kid, and there’s a very famous English angler who went over there in the 70’s to try and catch it in the foothills of the Himalayas. We went over, and it was a very difficult trip because Nepal struggles with a few issues regarding fishing, and the fish stocks have dwindled significantly. To actually find the golden mahseer was difficult, and we spent many days catching nothing in these beautiful big mountain lakes and rivers. Finally, we ended up going to a national park and fishing a very special bit of river. It required us to get onto some rocks and we rafted into the national park where no human beings were. It was just an absolutely unbelievable spot for so many reasons. We had to camp down there, there were wild tigers, Asian rhinos which are very, very rare – and the three of us, on a raft. It’s the most incredible spot, and I think about it every day. Absolutely amazing place.
What is your craziest fishing story?
Blowfish: Craziest fishing story will be Iceland. You’re going to have to see it. People say a lot that you’ll have to see it to believe it, but this is the truth. You have to see it to believe it. The way this particular moment went down was insane, and just watch the Iceland episode – it was just nuts on a stick. I can say no more without giving it away.
Charlie: If any football coaches watch that episode, they may be calling The Blowfish thinking they’ve got a new goalkeeper on their hands. I’ve never seen this man be agile, and you will be amazed at the moves he pulls in Iceland. For me, Mozambique was incredible. It was a very different episode for us because normally we’re on land traveling around. For this however, we got onto the boat, steamed down to the Indian Ocean and did not see land for about nine days. It was just us, a boat, a couple of fishing guys and this fish called the dogtooth tuna. It still haunts me to this day. I was free-diving with Jay, which is incredibly hard and it requires holding your breath. I then had the chance to steal Jay’s glory and catch one of these dogtooth tuna, and that moment is ingrained in my head. [Laughs]
Jay: Spear fishing off Mozambique, going out to a remote kind of reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Absolutely amazing place! I’ve always been a little bit scared of sharks. We had some shark experts come along with us and they’ve done the recce dives to check it out and see if there were fish, and see what sharks there were. So I said to them “Look, have you seen any sharks?” and they were like, “Nah, there’s no sharks in there!” I was like, “Whew!” A big sigh of relief, I thought “There’s no sharks, it’s alright, no worries!” And I think it was the first or second dive I’m sitting in the water and the visibility in the ocean is 50 meters.
You can see straight down, absolutely amazing clarity! And I’m seeing these rather big objects swimming around I’m like “Oh what’s that?” and lo and behold, there were 2 massive Tiger sharks at the bottom. Mid-water there were these Silvertip sharks that seem quite aggressive to me, and at the top was the Galapagos shark. I looked at the underwater cameraman, the South-African shark experts and they just smiled at me and I was like “Yeah, nice one!”
So I confronted my fear head on, I thought right, I’ve listened to these guys, so I dived down 25, 30 meters down and there is an absolute gargantuan Tiger shark and my heart just stops. I looked at it straight in the eye and it’s like “Is this actually for real?”. And then I had this kind of connection with the shark, as strange as it sounds. He looked at me and I looked at him. The way he looked at me was like “You alright, Jay?” and I looked at him back and go “Yeah I’m alright, you? You hungry?” “Nah, I’ve no interested in you.” I was like “OK happy with that!” So I came back up, and it’s the most extraordinary experience I’ve ever had – having that moment with those sharks, and the first Tiger shark that I saw. I wasn’t scared of him after that, I diving down and was just fascinated by the sharks, watching them swim – absolutely incredible!
What has been you most prized or memorable catch so far?
Jay: I would say Mozambique – That was a really challenging fishing experience for me. As a spear fisherman, we were after the Dogtooth Tuna, but it was just crazy because there were so many sharks. The depths where the fish were sitting at, it points between 40 to 50 meters deep. And I had to reach that depth from one breath-hold, whilst avoiding big Tiger sharks, Silvertip sharks and Galapagos sharks. And then to do this massive task of catching the Dogtooth Tuna was extremely, extremely hard. There was so much going on, and when you’re underwater and you’ve got people around, you got sharks around and you can’t stay still in the depths of like 20, 30 meters and you’re constantly moving. It was really challenging. And I did manage to shoot the Dogtooth Tuna after about 6 hours of up and down in the water which was extremely exhausting. I saw Charlie and he was absolutely dying within about a couple of hours. But I pushed on and I cracked on an I shot the Dogtooth Tuna and I celebrated too early, and the Dogtooth Tuna got eaten by a shark.
Blowfish, what do you love about sharks? Why is there so little known about the reproduction habits of Great Whites.
Blowfish: There are many things that I love about sharks, but the overriding factor is that they are as close to evolutionary perfection as I believe any animal could get. They have been around on this planet for 450 million years, which predates dinosaurs, flowering plants and even trees. So sharks have been swimming on Planet Earth since before trees even evolved. Their perfect nature has allowed them to colonise pretty much every single ocean biome, and save for maybe the killer whale, they’ve always become a top predator. So I love them for that. Why there’s so little known about their reproduction, is because it’s an awfully big ocean out there. Great white sharks are well known travelers, they will swim for huge distances and don’t lay eggs. They give birth to live young. So to try and find their birthing grounds is extremely difficult. You can put trackers on these animals, and we know that there are areas where they congregate, but we don’t know if they’re congregating there to mate or to socialise. We don’t know what their gestation period is, and it all comes down to the fact that you can’t follow a 6.2meter long great white as it swims from Australia to California. It’s too hard, it goes to too many extreme places, and so they still hold those mysteries. Hopefully one day we will identify some key breeding grounds for them, because if we can protect that essential fish habitat we can protect the species at a very base level. But the journey continues with shark research, and long may it continue. Because if we lose the sharks, we lose the oceans, and after that we’re all buggered.
Charlie, we hear you’re afraid of jellyfish. Why? Would you ever consider eating them? It’s a delicacy in asia.
Charlie: I absolutely hate them. I have actually eaten them before, when we were in Thailand. Personally, I didn’t really like them. We don’t really eat jellyfish in the UK, and it looked like a tasty morsel of food, but then it just kind of dissolved in my mouth. To be honest it’s not something I think I’m going to be eating again. I am scared of them. Honestly, I was running down the beach the other day in Cornwall, and there was a jellyfish on the beach. I squealed like a girl and had to jump around this thing. [Laughs] I don’t know why I’m scared of them, I just don’t like them – they sting you, and they’re horrible.
Jay, do you have any fears when you go spear fishing at night?
Jay: Initially when I first started spear fishing at night, it was quite a daunting process. After a while you seem to get used to it. It’s always really exciting, you never know what you might bump into, because you know how we know more about space than we do about our own ocean. Your mind can play tricks on you at night especially if you’re swimming along with a torch, because all you can see is literally just the beam of where your torch is. That’s probably only about 4-5 meters in front of you that you can actually see. You never know what lurks in the dark! When you hit stuff like bright objects, like if there is rubbish in the ocean, that can be quite scary – as funny as it sounds.
In Como where I do night spear fishing, there’s a lot of big seals. Now they can be pretty scary at night because they’re very well camouflaged, you don’t see them, you don’t hear them, and all of a sudden you’ll just see this big, dark, grey-black object swim right up towards you and it’s an absolutely massive seal. And sometimes they can swim behind you, and you don’t know they’re there, but they’re just following you because they’re just intrigued what this object is swimming in the sea at night. And then when you just turn around to just check your back and it’s there, it just stops. That can be quite scary.
On one occasion, I was swimming close to the shore at night and seals they sleep on the rocks, and what had happened is I had swam underneath where a seal had been sleeping. It had seen something in the water then, and I obviously spooked it. It jumped off the rock and actually landed on top of me. So I’m swimming along all quiet and covert and all of a sudden this massive object lands on my back – a big slap. I wondered what it was, and after I sorted myself out in the water it was a seal that actually landed on me.
But apart from that, I think swimming and spear fishing at night is quite therapeutic, it’s quite relaxing, it’s interesting. You never know what you’re gonna see or bump into. As they say, all the scary, spooky things come out at night. It’s a thing that I’ve adapted from day spear fishing, just because if I’m working long days I don’t get time to go out in the ocean during the day, so I try just to go at night.
I’ve got a few people that enjoy night spear fishing as well, it’s just exciting, it’s just a new challenge every day. Some of the swims that we can do at night can be like 3, 4 miles long, and it’s always exciting when we get back on land to try and walk all the way back. That’s if you can, because sometimes you will have to swim back. So it’s not only physically demanding, it’s exciting. It just rings all the bells for me and it’s just something that I really enjoy.
Catch the guys in Fishing Impossible on BBC Earth (StarHub Channel 407)