Single Celebrities

Jeremy Wade – Hooked on Adventure

May 24, 2012
By Kim Calvert

The singular star of “River Monsters” on Animal Planet takes us beneath the surface to reveal why he swims against the current to pursue his passion.

Jeremy Wade - Hooked on Adventure

Jeremy Wade, star of “River Monsters,” holds a black piranha. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

It’s not the kind of jungle where you’d expect to find him. It’s Midtown Manhattan and Jeremy Wade, star of Animal Planet’s No. 1 show, “River Monsters,” is staying at the posh London Hotel. For the next 10 days he’s doing media interviews, attending ad sales dinners, meeting a child through the Make a Wish Foundation and visiting with TV executives who are all abuzz over the show’s upcoming season, a cable series with 1.7 million viewers who tune in every week to see what creature Jeremy will reel in next.

You’d think “River Monsters” would be a guy’s show, yet 40 percent of the audience is female — a surprising number given that it’s a fishing show. There’s even a “Jeremy Wade Is Sexy” fan page on Facebook, something his friends enjoy teasing him about. “Apparently women like to be taken to these unfamiliar places,” Jeremy says. “I suppose they see me as a safe guide on the journey.”

Photo of Jeremy Wade by David Johnson / Animal Planet.

Photo of Jeremy Wade by David Johnson / Animal Planet.

On the other hand, perhaps women see the 56-year-old, never-married Englishman with piercing blue eyes and shock of white hair as a good catch. His fans should know that landing the “River Monsters” star might be more of a challenge than they’d expect. Jeremy is devoted to a life of freedom that includes 25 years of mostly solo travel in Africa, South America, Thailand, China and India. In fact, he says, he needs his single lifestyle to feel “properly alive.”

Martin Wade, his five-years-younger brother, says via a telephone interview from England that although Jeremy is “arguably attractive,” women can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that he’s not the type to tolerate domestic doldrums. “He wasn’t going to change so he could settle down,” Martin says. “I think he probably did break some hearts along the way, but the reality is, he’s often busy, he’s away and that lifestyle doesn’t suit women very well. At the end of the day he’s always off to find another fish.”

“I’ve lived a very nonstandard life,” Jeremy says. “On close acquaintance, people realize how disjointed it is from normal life. It’s all about being accepted for who I am,” he says. “That goes for anybody, doesn’t it? To be accepted for who you are.”

Jeremy with a 161-pound Goonch catfish, a species that swims in the Great Kali River running between India and Nepal. Photo courtesy of Icon Films.

Jeremy with a 161-pound Goonch catfish, a species that swims in the Great Kali River running between India and Nepal. Photo courtesy of Icon Films.

This isn’t to say that Jeremy didn’t give conventional life a decent shot. After returning from his first dangerous trip to the Congo, he was dumped by his girlfriend, who called  him a “waster,” and he accepted a job as a copywriter for an advertising agency — a job that ended abruptly, three and a half years later, when he had the chance to return to Africa.

“I could see where my life was going and it didn’t look particularly interesting,” Jeremy says. “I’d prefer to be in some remote part of the world with not much in my pockets and not know what I’m going to be doing the next day.”

If there was any residual hope from family and friends of Jeremy buckling down to a nine-to-five job with a mortgage, wife and kids, it ended there. Unencumbered by marital obligations, he alone would pay the price for following his dreams. When he quit the copywriting job, he never looked back, determined to live life on his terms, not someone else’s — even when his second trip to the Congo ended up worse than the first.

“That trip was a disaster,” Jeremy says. “The water was like mud, there were no fish and we were stranded up river on a log raft with a drunken skipper.” It got worse. Government officials interrogated him; he lived on blackened fish corpses, slept in filthy, bedbug-infested rooms, caught malaria and nearly died.

 Jeremy in a helicopter flying above the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

Jeremy in a helicopter flying above the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

His brother, who traveled with Jeremy on that trip to the Congo, says he was terrified he would have to leave Jeremy’s body behind. “It was a horrible trip — ridiculous,” Martin says. Still, Martin wasn’t surprised when his big brother announced he was going back to the Congo — again. “I don’t have any worries about Jeremy being able to look after himself,” he says. “Jeremy just gets on with it. It’s just the way he is.”

So it went. Long before Jeremy Wade ever became a television star, he would finance his fishing adventures by writing articles for fishing magazines. In between trips, he’d work part time making deliveries, working construction jobs, even washing dishes; he’d last just long enough to save up enough money to go somewhere else — often with barely enough change in his pocket to get back home. “There were various trips when I didn’t achieve anything apart from wasting time and money,” Jeremy says about his often-demoralizing adventures. “I suppose the way I was living didn’t make a lot of sense.”

Jeremy plays dress up for a photo shoot. Photo by David Johnson / Animal Planet.

Jeremy plays dress up for a photo shoot. Photo by David Johnson / Animal Planet.

Martin says Jeremy’s unconventional lifestyle includes distaste for material things, so much so that Jeremy never cared what he looked like or where he lived. “He’d wear some shockingly old clothes,” Martin says. “Nowadays, he has a fairly acceptable income and is prepared to divert some of it into living a bit like most ordinary people. Before that, all was sacrificed. I used to visit him in the places he lived in London, and I have to say, he really pushed the boundaries.”

His parents were concerned as well, wondering why their first-born son, whose test scores in school were the highest in its history, and who earned a zoology degree and teaching credentials, was living like a pauper and bumming around the world “doing research” instead of making something of himself.

“After a while, they just sort of accepted that that’s the way I was,” Jeremy says. “They took a certain pride in the fact that I was going to places and doing things other people weren’t. But at the same time, they were concerned because what I was doing wasn’t feeding into any kind of respectability, for want of a better word.”

Martin agrees. Although their parents were impressed with Jeremy’s exotic tales, they worried about what he would do long term. “Up until my dad died, that was one of his lasting concerns: ‘Oh dear, I do hope Jeremy is going to be okay,’” Martin recalls.

In fact, both the first and second seasons of “River Monsters” drew upon the research Jeremy had done over decades. “I suppose any achievement is proportional to the degree of difficulty, to the degree of danger you have to go through,” Jeremy says about his eventual success.

Jeremy catching fish with wicker baskets in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

Jeremy catching fish with wicker baskets in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

Difficult it was. Aside from nearly dying in the Congo from malaria, Jeremy was detained in Thailand as a suspected spy; spent months tromping through thigh-high mud swarming with insects; was smacked so severely in the chest by a giant arapaima fish in the Amazon that it bruised his heart, and experienced a range of tropical diseases. His father died when Jeremy was in a remote location in Brazil. He got the news from Martin on a two-way radio some five days later when he returned to camp. “I had to tell him when he was out in the middle of nowhere,” Martin says. “It struck Jeremy very hard. I could hear this crack in him — it was quite disturbing.”

Later, when their mother was ill, Jeremy became her primary caretaker, living with her in England for five years until she died. “I think he realized there comes a time when you need to tell people how you feel about them and acknowledge that they are important to you,” Martin says. “That’s an element that before then, Jeremy had tucked away.”

Although Jeremy continued to write fishing articles, he saw the potential of TV but didn’t know how to make something happen. That changed when a photo showing him posing with a giant arapaima he’d caught in the Amazon appeared in a British newspaper. The picture caught the eye of a producer and the result was “Jungle Hooks,” shot in 2002, which included the unscripted crash of a single-engine airplane in the Amazon jungle.

Jeremy with a white sturgeon. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

Jeremy with a white sturgeon. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

Follow-up proposals landed in circular files. Jeremy says even “Jungle Hooks” wouldn’t have been made if had it not been for self-funded research and help from friends. Then, a friend proposed the “River Monsters” concept to Icon Films, which in turn, pitched the project to Animal Planet. The cable network gave the green light to the show, with the first season airing in 2009. “I was never thinking in terms of a series that goes on for four seasons or more,” Jeremy says. “I was just thinking purely in terms of maybe a one-off program here and there.”

Despite the pleasant surprise of a steady paycheck from Animal Planet, Jeremy’s penchant for living lean remains. “He won’t accept the way we are pushed in the direction of being consumers and exhorted to spend money and accumulate things,” his brother Martin says. “He just doesn’t believe in that.”

Andie Clare, the series producer for “River Monsters” says Jeremy’s lean living philosophy comes from his commitment to the environment. “He has a certain amount of fame now and he still lives very simply,” she says. “He drives an old car and thinks everyone should drive their car until it falls to pieces.”

Even now, Jeremy lives in a couple of spare rooms in the home of a friend who lives in Bristol, England. “The last time I saw it, it was the same mess it usually is, with tackle spread all over the place,” Martin says. However, he notes that Jeremy’s life has changed to a certain degree with the purchase of a home, in a rural area outside of Bristol, now in the process of completion. “He’s quite excited about it,” Martin says. “It’s interesting to see this in Jeremy — looking forward to a space that he can call his own.”

Jeremy at sunset by a river in Uttar. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

Jeremy at sunset by a river in Uttar, in the northern part of India. Photo courtesy of Animal Planet.

These days his travel adventures are a bit more comfortable and include a film crew and a director who keep an eye out for opportunities for entertaining footage — like slathering Jeremy with fish entrails or putting him in a tank with enormous hungry eels or in a swimming pool with piranhas. “I can see the reason for it,” Jeremy says. “I can see that if this works it’s going to be something people will remember.”

Jeremy’s revenge likely comes when the crew is waiting for him to catch something. “Fishing is the most boring spectator sport imaginable,” Jeremy says. “I’m there in this blissful, meditative state whereas everyone that’s watching is getting bitten by insects, getting impatient and wondering when something is going to happen.”

Jeremy says that as long as his life continues to deliver opportunities for new adventures, along with experiences that offer exaggerated highs and lows, he’ll be satisfied. “There’s always something different, something bigger, something more interesting, more challenging,” Jeremy says. “You do get addicted to that kind of life — opening yourself up and being vulnerable to the forces of nature and whatever else is out there.”

Copyright © Kim Calvert/2012 Singular Communications, LLC.

The Fisher King: Jeremy Wade

Video with Jeremy Wade produced by journalist and filmmaker Zac Assemakis for Dumpling Productions. Jeremy talks about travel, adventure and tales about some of the biggest, scariest river monsters he’s ever caught.

Kim CalvertKim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. A single lifestyle expert and an outspoken champion of single people everywhere, Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures high-profile contributors and is responsible for setting and maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often humorous tone of Singular, the magazine for successful single living.
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  1. sandy wagner says:

    Love Jeremy Wade and River Monsters! Great show and really exciting. I think Jeremy Wade is a throw back to the old days when people loved adventure. Keep his show on TV!!!!!

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  3. CC Marshall says:

    WOW! One reader wants a shirt with him on it, I’d like one with him in it! guy has got a lot of sex appeal! and his life sounds and looks terrific, why would he want anything else!? and I loved fishing when I was younger! fresh water ponds!

  4. Renee says:

    Jeremy ,
    You had me hooked from the very first time I watched your Show!! I love that light blue tee shirt with all the holes and the direct intelligence shining from your beautiful eyes. I’m watching you now.. Always so focused..I know this is your Love , but I can have my Crush!! Maybe if I were a fish.. Lol
    Admirer,
    Renee

  5. Susan huff says:

    Me again as a fisher woman abad day of fishing is better than a good day of work. How lucky he is to be doing something he loves. I was a single parent and had to take jobs I disliked to support me and my son. I worked many different jobs working in the criminal justice field a long time. I really never liked any of my jobs and would loved to have had the smarts and ability to do what Jeremy does, it’s great to be able to do that. I love traveling and have had the opportunity to travel to a lot of different places, hoping to see a lot more in my life time. Great for you. And for the female who stated he catches and releases women the same way. Really? So you never have with men. I would say most men and woman especially when they are young do the same thing. So don’t say anything nasty about him unless you have walked a mile in his shoes suzie huff

  6. Susan huff says:

    Tammy if you watch the show you would know he always releases the fish. And around the world millions of people live off fish to eat so what do you eat?meat, eggs, chicken? Ow my don’t you feel sorry for those creatures? Your ridiculous suzie

  7. mia says:

    This article was really awesome! I love watching River Monsters. Mr. Wade is so smart. I love seeing someone so passionate about what they do. The way his face lights up when he catches a fish is priceless. :) The places he travels to are so beautiful & it looks like fun & he is a hunk which makes the show even more fun to watch.

  8. Is there any where online I could possibly buy a T-shirt with this guy on it. He’s a real down to earth human- being and besides who needs all that stuff anyway. We get money we collect more junk… I love space… Hate being smothered…. We all need a little adventure sometimes, Thanks, Jeremy.

  9. Georgia says:

    His personality, the way he is respectful to the native people he encounters atracts me. Not so much his looks. He is kinda gruff and way too many deep wrinkles for a man his age. However, I like the exotic tales of catching the “nope fish” won’t go there nor fish there! Those fish are too much to deal with! So yes, he does have balls!

    • I like gruff ,and his deep- wrinkles are actually kinda , sexy and character revealing. Jeremy you’re the best…Thanks, for the adventure… Pat.

      • Susan huff says:

        Hi my name is suzie huff been watching him on animal planet I started fishing when I was young in Wisconsin.

        Never caught any river monsters but my largest fish caught was a sting ray in the gulf of mexico let it go back. Took me a while to bring him up my arms hurt for days but was worth it. Caught a few shark but ate them. Love to travel just watched the show he was in India was there back in 1989. Believe in the gods and spirits but he couldn’t get them out of his head when he was trying to catch that fish. Gotta clear your mind. The reason I love fishing is the quiet and solitude, even if I did not catch anything, it was always a great day. Does he do any USA tours?would love to hear him talk and meet him. Watching the electric eel segment now. Keep up the good work. Love your show. Thanks for listening to me. Susan huff. Ps. Your wrinkles are great and sexy looking at your age you are just starting your life lots to go. Keep up the good work. Thanks suzie huff

  10. MARLYN says:

    MUY BUENA ENTREVISTA,PORQUE HABLAN SU HERMANO DE LA SITUACION PERSONAL ASI QUE TIENE UN HERMANO MARTIN QUE TRABAJA CON EL, COSA QUE DE LA BOCA DEL MR WADE JAMAS HUBIESEN SALIDO, POR LO QUE DICE SU HERMANO QUE HABLA MAS QUE EL,SUFRIO MUCHO CON LA PERDIDA DE SU SRES PADRES. Y QUE CUANDO EMPEZO CON LA PESCA NO SE HABIA TRAZADO UN RUMBO A SEGUIR, ANDABA COMO QUIEN VIENE, SI IMPORTARLE NADA DEMASIADO, HASTA QUE LOGRA LLAMAR LA ATENCION DE UNA REVISTA SINO LEI MAL, Y AHI, MEDIO QUE EMPEZO A HACER CAMINO, NO LOGRANDOLO LOS PRIMEROS TIEMPOS, PERO CON SU PERSEVERANCIA OBTUBO LO QUE ALGUNA VEZ HA DICHO EN SU PROGRAMA QUE FUE QUE LO MOTIVO UN LIBRO DE HEMINWAY, O LOGRAR PARECERSE, UMMM COSA QUE QUEDA PARA UNA PROXIMA ENTREVISTA, SI SU HERMANO DIO UN PANTALLAZO SOBRE QUIEN ES EL MR WADE.UNA PERSONALIDAD INQUIETA, MUY LEJOS ESTA DE QUEDARSE QUIETO, Y ASENTARSE Y MUCHO MENOS CREO POR LO QUE DICE SU HERMANO DE JUBILARSE,NO ES PARA EL ESO VERDAD, PERO ALGO ME DESCONCIERTA DEL MR WADE, TRABAJAR PARA NADA, PORQUE DICE QUE EL NO TRABAJA PARA ACUMULAR RIQUEZAS, QUE LE DA POCA IMPORTANCIA A LO MATERIAL, QUE COSA LOCA NO, O SEA QUE PARA EL VALE MAS LA AVENTURA EN SI, EL IR DE ACA PARA ALLA, MOVERSE CONTINUAMENTE, ESO LO HACE MAS FELIZ QUE ACUMULAR COSAS QUE SON FRUTO DE SU ESFUERZO, EN FIN Y AL CABO Y ES POR ESO QUE SU HERMANO DICE ACA QUE NO QUIERE ATARSE A UN TRABAJO CONVENCIONAL,ESPOSA E HIJOS, QUE PREFIERE O CAMBIA ESO POR UNA CAÑA DE PESCAR EN ALGUNA PARTE DEL MUNDO, Y QUE ES ASI COMO QUIERE QUE LO ACEPTEN EL DICE ACA QUE NO ES PARA NADIE EL MENSAJE, POR UN LADO DICE, SI QUIERES HACER LO QUE TE GUSTA HAZLO, NO PREGUNTES A LOS DEMAS, Y POR EL OTRO PARECIERA DECIR ESTE SOY YO, O ME ACEPTAN O NO, COSA QUE LE DA IGUAL , MMMM UNA COSA QUE NO ME GUSTO QUE DIJO SOBRE LAS MUJERES QUE LO VEMOS COMO UN GUIA, JAJAJAJAJAAJA UN PENSAMIENTO BIEN MACHISTA, ACASO CREE QUE SIN SUS CONOCIMIENTOS ESTAMOS PERDIDAS EH, MR WADE, TAL VEZ SI LOGRA APASIONARSE TANTO COMO LO HACE CON LOS PECES, Y LO HACE CON LA/AS MUJERES, TAL VEZ NO PENSARIA QUE LA PESCA ES COSA DE HOMBRES.

  11. Ned Bramuchi says:

    River Monsters is a great show. I think I have watched every episode since the beginning. Jeremy Wade is fearless and he’s a lover of fish and wildlife which makes this show even better. Keep up the good work, Jeremy. Excellent!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Nathali Moran says:

    My sons (15 & 12) love his River Monsters show, it is educational, interesting, exiting and at times gruesome. I kept telling my boys that I knew Jeremy’s perfect gift: A SHIRT!
    Adventurers, like Jeremy, remind me that the world is out there waiting to be explored and it is such a pity that some of us just get comfortable and watch the trailblazers have all the real fun. :)
    Best wishes on this four season of River Monsters.

  13. e. wallace says:

    A really wonderful article!!! Jeremy is truly an inspiration. Was touched by his devotion to his mother and his honesty. He is a rare bird, and it would be a better world if there were more people like him in it. Continue to follow your heart Jeremy, be safe and happy. Thanks for you.. Our entire family is glued to the TV when your show is on.

  14. Gem says:

    Jeremy is a STUD. If I could, I would leave my boring desk job in a heartbeat and follow him all around on his river adventures…

  15. carolynratliff says:

    I think Jeremy Wade is great. I know nothing about fishing-just watching and listening to this smart guy and his adventuring ways keeps me interested in him and his show. I think someone should do a feature film on him. Thanks Cooper

  16. Kate Green says:

    Kim–Your article on Jeremy Wade is bracing–so honest, so real.

    Instead of glossing over the enigma of a man who took care of his mother for five years in the midst of wild, nearly fatal adventuring–you took him on. Frankly and tenderly. This is by far the best article I have read on the man. Finally, an interviewer has the depth and bravery to SEE him.

    Do you know of any other interviewers who embraced him with the sensitivity and grit that you did? I’d love to read more. Will you interview him again, by any chance?

    Warm regards, Kate Green

  17. Oh, good gravy, Jeremy, I love ur many stories about ur fishing experiences! I would love to be ur friend and would not mind staying at home while ur away becuz I would love to hear about ur stories when u get back from ur adventures. I grew up loving to fish but only in America. Since u live in England, that’s okay with me as I am a descendent from Scotland, Ireland, and England (smiles). Hope to hear from ya as soon as ur home from ur adventures. Thank u mucho!!!

  18. Definitely consider that which you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the web the easiest thing to take into accout of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while folks think about concerns that they just do not recognize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and also outlined out the whole thing without having side-effects , folks can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  19. Jennifer says:

    Super article!!!! Jeremy Wade is fascinating! Love it.. wonderful eye Kim. :)

  20. Smoke says:

    Awesome season finale. Great job and congrats to all involved in the production.

  21. Terry Ginis says:

    Good article not the usual copy and paste anyone can see if you look on the Animal Planet website. I started e-mailing him after the first run of season one, and have have learned a lot about fishing from him. He always answers my novice questions-and even helped me find the lodge I stayed in Brazil where I was fortunate enough to catch some amazing fish. I had a chance to meet him last year-and in person, he is just how you would imagine him to be-kind and considerate.

  22. mimi says:

    Jeremy Wade rocks!

  23. BT says:

    Great Article Kim! This is the life I always wanted when I was growing up! My favorite show. Hey Peeps, be sure to catch the season finale this monday, 9:00pm E/P on animal planet!

  24. Tammy says:

    Doesn’t anyone feel sorry for the fish?

  25. Paula says:

    A manly man for sure and a breed of human being that’s almost extinct! Bravo Jeremy!

  26. Cooper says:

    Someone should do a feature film on this guy. There’s a lot more going on with him then you see on River Monsters. He seems like a real life Indiana Jones. And what a testimony to not giving up on your dreams! I read this story twice and going to read it again now!

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