AS a child, John Moorwood used to love fishing trips with his grandad. Little did he know there would come a time when fishing would help him through the darkest times of his life.
John, 48, a Sheffield-born businessman, has spent much of the past decade writing a book about his love of angling, which went on to save him when he was made redundant during the pandemic. As we emerge from lockdown life, his inspiring book, The Magic of Fishing, urges us to embrace the healing power of the great outdoors.
The father of four’s memoir is about family, friendship, love, death – and fishing. Its publication follows challenges including the loss of John’s mum to cancer, the agony of two slipped discs, back surgery and unemployment.
The book is a celebration of his passion for fishing, one of the UK’s most popular pastimes, which became more popular during the pandemic, but also a survival guide for people going through dark times with little light at the end of the tunnel.
“I was lucky to enjoy an idyllic childhood.
“My grandad was a retired steel worker from a working class background with all the values that came with that. But my parents showed me the benefits of an education as my dad was a dentist and my mum a school teacher.”
But I was his grandad who taught him to fish.
“I remember when I was about four or five he gave me this old cigar box that contained fishing tackle and he said it was for me – it was the best present I ever got and I immediately wrote my name on it.”
His grandad also made him a member of the Dronfield Woodhouse Social Club which leased a fishing pond where he and his grandad would spend hours fishing and falling in love with nature.
“He wasn’t a man of many words but we definitely had a connection.”
Although John moved south for work, he returns four times a summer for matches with members of the Dronfield club.
John’s old job as a senior executive didn’t leave him much time for his favourite pastime.That is until Brexit hit.
“I had just accepted a new job and had handed my notice in while waiting for my new contract, but then the Brexit vote happened and suddenly the company I was going to work for had a recruitment freeze and I was out of a job with two families to support (John is divorced from his first wife).
“I has some very dark moments as I was not used to not earning. I spent hours on the computer looking for jobs and then I realised I needed to find something to give me some down time.” He picked up some of his old fishing books and that rekindled his love of the sport.
“My wife said rather than spending hours reading about fishing why didn’t I get back out there and do the real thing.”
John found that being out in nature really helped his mental health.
“Fishing has given me a deep connection with nature that has helped me cope with the ups and downs of life. It is very social and yet can be very contemplative which really helps your mental wellbeing.”
John then got the idea about writing down his own stories and thoughts on angling.
“I got about two-thirds through the book in the ten months I was unemployed but then I got a job which was great but it also meant that I wouldn’t have as much time to fish or to write.” John went right back in at the deep end as corporate affairs director for Centrica.
But just three years later the pandemic hit, a new CEO took over who slashed the leadership team by half and John was a casualty.
“My heart just lurched as I realised that I had been made redundant again.”
It was to be the beginning of 18 months of hell for John.
As well as losing his job, while creating a pond in the garden for his children John slipped two discs in his back, leaving him in agony unable to walk and relying on strong pain killers and eventually undergoing surgery.
Around the same time his mum, who still lived in Sheffield, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
“It was devastating,” recalls John. “Because of lockdown I couldn’t even go and see her. We had to rely on Zoom.”
At first it appeared treatment was working but then she took a turn for the worse and passed away, just two weeks after John landed a new job.
“I was only able to get up to see her four times and hug her once before she died. It was 18 months I would like to forget.”
Despite all this John was determined to finish the book he had started years before, which he did but then had to go about trying to find a publisher.
“I nearly gave up and published it myself as I am no one special.
“But then my brother put me in contact with Great Northern Books and they agreed to publish it. It was such an amazing feeling to actually have a contract and then seeing my book in print.”
The book features cover artwork by John’s sister, artist Anna Stephenson, and pencil sketches by his dad, Rowan Moorwood
“Angling is a pastime some may struggle to understand but I’ve tried to write something that will appeal to fellow fishing addicts while also entertaining non-anglers who feel nostalgia for the pre-digital, 1980s era or simply love nature,” says John.
“It is just sad that my grandad isn’t around to read it as he would have been so proud.
“This isn’t just a book about fishing, it is about resilience, love and loss and also getting the most out of nature, I hope people will enjoy it.”
To order copies of The Magic of Fishing call 01274 735056 or visit www.ypbookoffer.co.uk