Author, TV star and fanatical angler Will Millard has unveiled his few fishing show – ‘Go Fish!’ – in which he explores stunning parts of Wales in search of the country’s biggest fish.
Targeting everything from carp in central Cardiff to pike in the Brecon Beacons, Go Fish! says it will be taking viewers on journey through everything unique about angling, from the characters we meet on the bank to fish of myth and legend.
We caught up with him for an exclusive insight into the new series and to find out just what floats Will’s own angling boat...
Q) What is the new television series about?
Will: It’s an exploration of the reasons we all love angling, such as the stunning places it takes us to and the friends we make on the bank, but I also think ‘Go Fish!’ shows just how accessible fishing is. I visit urban venues that anyone can fish, and feature people from all walks of life, which all goes to show that angling is beyond social divides.
Q) What was your inspiration for making the show?
Will: I’d love to come up with a really apt response, but to be honest I’ve been a mad-keen angler since I was four years old, and I’ve always wanted to make a fishing programme! I was quite young when I started working at the BBC, and this opened an opportunity to show the public angling in a new way.
Q) Are there any stand-out episodes?
Will: It’s difficult to pick just one! I really enjoyed the carp episode, as I’ve done lots of fishing for carp on commercials but never tried proper specimen carp fishing, despite always wanting to. I made some real bonds with the anglers along the way, and I know it’s a cliché, but it got to a stage where the fish really didn’t matter. Although, when I did finally catch one after something like 65 hours of fishing, it was a really emotional moment.
Catching sea trout on the fly was absolutely incredible, as there is so much skill involved with fly fishing, and having to learn how to cast was a real challenge.
The pike episode was special, as this is a species I absolutely love, and I was targeting fish that were legends of a small public lake. When I finally landed one, which over 20lb, it was a magical moment of the sort that only angling can deliver.
Q) What made you investigate the ‘underground’ carp scene?
Will: The urban carp fishing scene is something that’s really booming at the moment, and Cardiff is a real hotspot for this. Because it was once the biggest exporter of coal in the world, the city has huge freshwater areas right in its centre. One of these is the Atlantic Wharf, and it offers some incredible fishing for stunning, scaly carp.
I suppose there is a sort of subculture of anglers who target the venue, and its ‘underground’ nature comes from the fact that there’s a red light district not so far away and the odd drug deal going on!
However, the Wharf Angling Club is an incredible syndicate that has done amazing things for the city. Its members do litter picks to keep the place clean, and the people living nearby find comfort in having anglers camping out by the Wharf, as this shows just how safe the area is.
Q) You show that angling can be a positive thing, particularly for its impact on conservation. Why did you want to portray this?
Will: Not long ago I posted a picture of a huge thresher shark on my social media and I received some unexpected backlash. People were saying it’s cruel to catch an endangered species, and it made me think, do they have a point?
I admit that I had a few doubts when we went to film our shark fishing episode, but during the filming process I learned of the positive impact on conservation that shark fishing has. In the UK our waters aren’t clear enough to see the fish, and using a rod and line is the most ethical way to catch them. The sharks can then be tagged and recorded, which helps with our understanding of the species and allows us to further our protection of these incredible creatures.
The only other way to catch them would be with nets, and this almost always results in dead fish.
But it’s not just shark anglers that are conservationists. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t pick up litter when they go fishing, or report incidents of pollution and poaching. We’re all conservationists, and we must promote this to show the non-fishing public the positive side of angling.
Q) You say pike are your favourite fish – what do you find so special about them?
Will: I have an enormous amount of respect for pike. There’s a savagery about them, yet they’re so sensitive at the same time. They hate pressure, and it’s a real adventure fishing for them in isolated and unusual places. For me they’re also a very symbolic fish, and I think catching one is a bit of a coming of age experience.
As kids, they were a fish we feared, as we heard monstrous tales of these predatory fish, so when you finally catch one it’s like you’ve become a ‘proper man’!
Q) Fly fishing was something new to you. Do you think this is something more coarse anglers should try?
Will: I would certainly encourage coarse anglers to have a go at fly fishing! I’ve been a coarse angler all my life, and my grandad told me that ‘fly fishing isn’t for us’. I think lots of coarse anglers believe that there is still a class divide in the sport.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and fly fishers are really trying to shake off the upper-class stereotype. They’ve been so helpful with me, and I’ve had a fantastic experience of getting into game fishing.
When done right, I think there’s nothing better than fly fishing. It has a metronomic quality that I think is more therapeutic than coarse fishing. When you finally hook a fish it’s so direct, as you’re effectively freelining, which adds a purity to fly fishing that is hard to match.
Q) What are your plans for the future?
Will: We want to do ‘Go Fish!’ 2, and already have plans for another four episodes. I think there’s a good feeling about fishing in the telly world at the moment after the success of ‘Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing’, and we want to get as much fishing on TV as possible.
It has to be done in the right way, though, and making something that makes non-anglers say ‘that looks amazing, I’d love to try that’, is the key to success.
I’m currently filming ‘Hidden Wales 2’, but my priority at the moment is fishing, and I have plans to write another book after being so inspired over the last 12 months.