“My introduction to fishing as a child almost put me off entirely,” recalls Mancunian actor, angler and environmentalist Jim Murray.

“As a family we would spend our holidays in north Wales aboard Dad’s smelly diesel-fumed tug boat fishing for mackerel that we’d then sell on the beach. It was a production line, not in any way fun. I disliked fishing in this way and I used to get very sea sick.”

Luckily, Jim’s late grandfather Norman stepped in and took him fly fishing on a reservoir in Macclesfield.

“We never really caught much but I really enjoyed the experience. My grandfather was patient and gentle. He taught me how to cast. Once he’d dropped me back home we found an old tyre in the garden for me to practise accurately casting into using one of his old bamboo rods with cotton tied onto the end. He definitely sowed the seed inside me.”

Once Jim had fledged home he moved to London to kick start his acting career. “I am a country boy at heart so I needed to find respite from living in a busy metropolis. I had a motorbike, so I would put the rods across my back and ride out to the lakes at Syon Park.

“For not much money, I would spend the whole day fishing for stocked trout there. Here, I cemented my love for the pastime.”

Jim Murray
Jim Murray

Around this same time, an old friend of Jim’s from north Wales, called Leigh Hooks, got back in touch and invited him fly fishing in the Snowdonia National Park for wild trout.

“Lee was instrumental in my fly fishing odyssey. We also ventured up to Scotland to fish for salmon on the Esk. Everything changed for me once I had fished for wild salmon. This was an epiphany moment. I had found my religion. I had found my spiritual home.

"I was in awe of this big, fast-flowing river. Incredibly, I caught my first salmon on my second trip. They got me on the heavy drugs early! From that moment, every time I got an acting job I put a percentage aside for fishing.”

This was an epiphany moment. I had found my religion. I had found my spiritual home

After Jim met his wife Sarah they moved from London to Hampshire and welcomed their first daughter Ella-Jayne in 2008. Then eight months later they sadly lost her due to a congenital heart defect.

“It was an incredibly distressing, life changing time for us. One way I worked through the trauma was to go fly fishing. I could not find solace from therapy or speaking to friends. Fishing really seemed to help. Over the next four years I fished a lot.

"The most healing times were when I was in flow, fishing solo with my own thoughts. For me, like so many anglers, fishing is meditative and vital for my mental health.

"The rhythmic repetition of casting in the cathedral of nature – fish tend not to live in ugly places – with the sound of water and my focus on targeting something is so restorative.

"Fishing changed the way I process everything. To this day, all my problems are solved on the river."

A few years ago, Jim met fellow actor Robson Green. “He hadn’t done much fly fishing so I took him to Thurso. He was instantly hooked.

"We became great friends and decided to make a fly fishing TV show. Robson and Jim's Fly Fishing Adventure was launched on ITV in 2021 where we fish around Iceland over three episodes.”

It was well received with the second series released in April this year which sees the duo fish the Tyne, Dee and Spey.

Jim Murray fly fishing

“While we were fishing the Dee I received an email from my agent asking me to audition for the role of Prince Andrew for series 5 and 6 of The Crown on Netflix. They sent me some lines and wanted me to film myself in character.

"So I got out of the river, shaved off my beard, got Robson to read the role of the Queen and we shot the scene that afternoon using an iPhone. A week later I received another email to say I’d landed the role."

Civic minded Jim is a big believer in giving back by volunteering for various organisations. As well as being an ambassador for Atlantic Salmon Trust and the Angling Trust, he has been involved in campaigns to protect his local rivers - the Itchen and Test in Hampshire.

“Our biggest success story to date was exposing malpractice by a salad washing company. It was discharging pesticides that were harming invertebrates, which are the primary food source of wild trout, downstream on the Alre and the upper reaches of the River Itchen.

"Together with WildFish, I spearheaded a petition which called on the Environment Agency not to renew the company’s licence, and it gained more than 7,000 signatures.

"The factory ended up closing in 2020. Sadly this is not an isolated incident – occurrences like this appear to be widespread. That is why we all need to be proactive.”

So I got out of the river, shaved off my beard, got Robson Green to read the role of the Queen and we shot the scene that afternoon using an iPhone

Southern Water, the private utility company responsible for public wastewater collection in Jim’s home county of Hampshire, is his nemesis.

“I try to hold them to account particularly when there is a drought to stop them from over abstracting water from the Lower Test which is one of our flagship chalk streams in England and home to a rare subspecies of wild salmon.

"Every time they do this they push this precious species to extinction. We have also called them out for oil spillages and dumping raw sewage. We need to keep the pressure on these companies.”

That’s why Jim has single-handedly launched a new campaign called Activist Anglers. He says it has never been timelier for the angling community to rally together to protect and fight for the future of our waterways.

“There are millions and millions of us anglers,” he explains, adding: “The term ‘angler’ covers everyone from children crabbing in rock pools to the seasoned fly angler casting for the elusive sea trout in Patagonia. Fishing is global, fishing is huge.

"A single person can make a real difference. A little drive and passion translates into a lot of action, and that is what is needed now more than ever to demand the government’s attention in order to effect the change in policies that is so urgently required.

"Anglers are the eyes and ears of our waterways, the custodians of their future. We are many and if we all unite and become more active in our roles as guardians, we will surely force the change our rivers and oceans are screaming out for.”

Jim Murray fly fishing

This summer, Jim is set to appear in the Carter Jonas Theatre at The Game Fair to speak about the campaign and raise awareness of how anglers can get involved.

“It is a no-brainer for me to attend this event. Not only does it attract politicians and decision makers, but tens of thousands of anglers so it is a great platform to spread the word and inspire people.

"The idea of Activist Anglers is that fishermen do what they can, when they can. I don’t want it to be overwhelming or onerous for people.

"I just want people to think more about what they can do - which could be anything from a litter pick to enrolling with your local Water Quality Monitoring Network or even protecting our waters from poaching by becoming a voluntary bailiff.”

The Game Fair will be held at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire on Sunday 30 July; thegamefair.org