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James Stokoe: winner fishing story

When James Stokoe first started fishing, at age 13, he never thought that 20 years later his fascination for fishing salmon would take him fishing in the remotest places on earth.


James Stokoe is a passionate angler. As he tells, his interest in fishing started while watching fishing on tv as a teenager. Famous anglers such as Rex Hunt and John Wilson inspired James to learn more about this sport. Luckily, friends of the family offered to take him fishing and 15 minutes after casting the line for the first time he got his very first salmon. That was the beginning of his fishing journey and the enchantment for this species.

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The fascination for salmon

Fishing has been a part of his life ever since, and so has the passion for salmons. He was self-taught and developed his abilities little by little, with trial and error. Over time, he managed to become a full-time fishing guide, and his love for fishing only grew since then.

When talking about his fishing experience, he recalls trying to catch a salmon in one of his favorite pools as being the biggest fight he had ever had with a fish. According to James, he was under torrential rain and with water up to his chest when battling with this fighter of a salmon. Slowly, he was able to gain ground but still was not able to get its head up to the surface. Unfortunately, after 90 minutes of fighting, the line slacked. James says he felt heartbroken as he never got to see the fish and will never know its exact size, but this fishing experience will never be forgotten.

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The fishing competition that changed his life

It didn’t take long for his joy for angling to be noticed. As a matter of fact, it was his excitement for the sport that made him one of the contestants of Earth’s Wildest Water: The Big Fish. On this BBC’s show presented by Ben Fogle and Matt Hayes, eight British anglers were taken to six exotic fishing locations to test their skills. While anglers tried to catch epic fishes, they had as obstacles not only the different fishing techniques but also the extreme weather. From fishing in a frozen fjord in Iceland to surviving crazy tropical storms in Cuba, James has faced pretty much everything when it comes to extreme fishing during the programme.

In fact, he mentions fishing with the locals in Zambia from a tiny canoe amongst crocodiles and hippos during the show as being the most dangerous experience he ever had while practicing fishing: “I totally forgot about where I was leaving my hands in the water numerous times, totally oblivious to the dangers surrounding us. Nothing bad happened, and luckily, I’ve still got all fingers. However, you always have to respect the environment and the dangers around you when your fishing”.

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Traveling in search for new fishing spots

The experience with the show has made James even more passionate about exploring new places for fishing. He reveals that his favourite spot is still his local river, The Tyne, where he searches for runs and glides that have hardly been touched to catch salmons, but that there is something special about fishing in different destinations: “I think the world is a big place and there are so many different species out there to catch,” but he admits that the problem now is to decide where to go next as his bucket list keeps growing.

After fishing in Iceland, Cuba, Laos, Costa Rica, British Columbia and Zambia, James was chosen as the winner of the BBC’s show and now, together with Ripon–another contestant from the show–he kicks off a new project called Britain’s Iconic Fish in which he will be travelling across England to find some of the most extraordinary species that inhabit the country’s waters. With his natural talent and excitement for fishing, we have no doubts that he will catch fantastic fish and tell incredible stories.