BBC Earth (DStv channel 184)
It’s not yet noon on the banks of the Zambezi river in Zambia in December and the thermometer is already sitting at 38°C.
The rubberised coating on my new YDE sunglasses has started rippling and peeling off, and I reach for the sunblock (prescription supplied factor 100) every few minutes.
#Trending is joining the hosts and crew of Fishing Impossible, who are busy filming the second season of the show.
Charlie, Jay and Thomas – the latter is known as Blowfish – are a likeable trio of hosts-turned-friends who fish in some of the most extreme places on earth.
Jay has positioned himself in an elephant-proof den so that he can fish in relative safety on the sweltering banks.
To make it elephant proof, the crew splattered a bucket-load of chilli sauce on to a bunch of white sheets and rigged them to some poles. Apparently, elephants hate the smell of chilli and will go the other way if they catch a whiff.
Jay hopes to catch a tigerfish – the Zambezi’s most renowned species – but he’s had no luck so far.
Swimming in possibilities
Fishing, as we all know, is slow business, but, luckily for viewers, Fishing Impossible is tightly edited and injected with enough humour and high jinks to amuse even those who do not fish.
“How do you make a fishing show possible? Do as little fishing as possible,” laughs Blowfish.
“You know, some of the responses we’ve had from people have been about dotting i’s and crossing t’s. They’ll say things like: ‘Oh, it’s not that exact species, it’s that exact species.’ Or: ‘Oh, you didn’t fish it like this, you fished it like that.’ But the point is, if you’re going out fishing and you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Even if we don’t always catch, we’re having fun, so we’re definitely doing it right.”
Jay says: “The show isn’t about the geekery – like which hook to use and so on. It’s about the story and the narrative of trying to catch something.”
The Zambezi, with its sweltering weather and abundance of crocodiles, is not the most extreme place the team has fished in. They’ve jetted across the choppy Cape Town ocean, blasting heavy metal, to try to attract great white sharks, and have dived underneath ice to catch king crab by hand.
One of the days of filming that didn’t make it to TV entailed taking a fishing boat to Peru, where Blowfish was going to go underneath the water in chainmail. The conditions on the water became so dangerous that they had to cancel the dive.
The formidable trio
The success of the show relies heavily on the chemistry between the three hosts. They’re “boy’s boys” – full of banter and energy, and, of course, always up to teasing each other about who hasn’t caught a fish yet.
Charlie, who’s actually a pilot, landed up on the show by accident.
“A friend of mine had an agent in London and he heard about the casting, so he asked me to come with him. Originally, the producers wanted to find three people who knew each other, so I went along with two other friends. They had us do the weirdest stuff – plucking a pigeon was one. I was just there for a joke. And then they called me and offered me the job.”
Neither Charlie nor Jay had done anything on TV before.
All three are environmentalists, especially Blowfish, and they follow a strict rule of catch-and-release, and ensure the fish is respected as much as possible after it’s caught.
Blowfish says: “If there’s a fishing gimmick out there that could help get a catch [for instance, sonar], I’m willing to try it. Why not? For me, really, the main issue is that the animal is respected. So it should either go back into the water or, if you’re taking it home to eat it, make sure you kill it humanely and eat the damn thing.”
In Jay’s bid to catch a tigerfish, he ends up hooking an electric catfish instead, which he quickly reels in and nets.
The cameramen want to get a close-up of it, and they make sure to do it as quickly as possible so that the fish isn’t handled or kept out of the water for too long.
When I ask what their favourite moment during the show has been so far, they all agree: “Definitely blasting heavy metal in Cape Town to try to see sharks.”