Obituary: In memory of Matt Clarke

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Editor's Picks
The PFK Team past and present were shocked and saddened to hear that former Editor Matt Clarke has passed away. Matt was an avid reader, contributor and later Editor in Chief of Practical Fishkeeping, over an era that spanned some twenty years.

In memory of
Matt Clarke
1974 - 2023
REMEMBERED BY: JEREMY GAY

He built the original PFK website in his lunch break, a website that grew into one of the largest in magazine publishing and one that he later won an award and a promotion for.

Matt was a prodigy, with a seemingly photographic memory of fish scientific names which he combined with scientific qualifications to become a force in the global fishkeeping scene. Work experience included the Museum of Natural History, Sparsholt College, and several well-known retailers before becoming technical editor at PFK, a role he was perfect for.

Matt had three Master’s degrees and was lining up two more only recently. Academia was his natural habitat along with anything web, and digital. He once built a website for fun on Christmas day, and his latest hobby, (when not fly fishing or tinkering with old Land Rovers,) was data science.

He pioneered digital fishkeeping content and was blogging, uploading YouTube videos and recording podcasts over 16 years ago. He correctly predicted then that one day we would all be accessing information on our mobile phones, and his website news gained such traffic volume that the servers broke under the strain. Global news sites like the BBC and multiple tabloid newspapers often picked up on Matt’s stories and the PFK website once got so big and powerful that it was hacked by ex-Russian KGB.

A tall, thin man, Matt was always noted as polite and gentle spoken, and if you talked to him about anything like science or digital you would always come away enlightened. Despite his vast wealth of aquatic experience, Matt gave up everything to do with fishkeeping in 2010, walking away to start a new life in digital marketing, and he’s never published another aquatic article since.

In later years he became a digital director, excelling and growing the businesses of anyone he worked for, navigating all the ways around google and SEO like only he could. He married his long-term partner Sarah and had three equally talented children, Lily, George and Henry. His passion and drive transferred seamlessly into fi shing in his spare time, fly fi shing, teaching fly fi shing, and of course building websites on fly fi shing. His young son George fly-fishes for England, and in recent years Matt learned to put down his mouse and spent weekends fi shing wild rivers and lakes in Wales with his devoted family. What he did for fishkeeping, he also did for angling, and the trout fi shing community are also mourning his loss.

Matt kept fish from a very young age, supported by his mum and dad, and had what were then (in the 1980’s) some super rare fish including Lake Victoria cichlids and Madagascan cichlids. He navigated fish taxonomy with ease, publishing papers, as well as being the first person on earth to identify that Dawkinsia arulius was not arulius, it was tambraparnei. His ichthyological mind revelled in new species and he built the Fish Mapper—an interactive map built with coordinates taken from Fishbase for every species. A monumental task, Matt built code to assemble the data for him, and we sat back in amazement as the PFK website grew by thousands of pages a day as it automatically combined global data on species whereabouts. That was simply another one of Matt’s lunchtime projects!

Only recently, and well into his forties, Matt was diagnosed with autism, something that he said “explained a lot.” His IQ was classified as exceptionally gifted at the same time, however, something that everyone who had worked or learned with him already knew was an absolute given. We will miss his softly spoken voice, his empathy for others around him and his absolutely incredible mind.

He was an utterly devoted husband and father, selfless, and it is a privilege to have worked alongside him. We will miss you Matt, and our hearts go out to your family who we know all loved you so much.