What I love the most about fishing is being in nature and being on my own. It is an awesome get-away from the city, from work, and from any daily routine – it is just you, a river or lake, morning fog covering the surrounding area, and the bird songs around you. It is magical. For me, the catch is not the most important; it’s the possibility to relax and get away from any and all daily stress. Funny enough, I myself almost never eat fish!
My name is Mareks Ortlovs, I am a 39-year-old Latvian living and working in Estonia, and my current job is as a Software Engineer in a bank.
My job was a forced change due to Covid restrictions. My previous job involved me working with clients from abroad, sometimes onsite. After finishing my last project and with all the pandemic restrictions in place, it was hard to find a new client for my skillset, so I had to make a change.
I moved to Estonia in 2014. Primarily, this move was a career choice. It’s a great place for opportunities, especially in the IT area. I still like it here, and it is not that far away from home – it takes only about 4 hours to visit my parents. Of course, with the current situation, it’s not that simple to travel between the countries, even if they are located right next to each other.
Outside of my job, I love Fishing & Sim Racing. I first became interested in fishing when I was a child – my grandfather was a fisherman, so I obviously kept asking him to take me with him. I really do not remember exactly when the first time I was actually holding a fishing rod – I might have been 5 or 6 years old. It continued until high school and university when some other things took over, but I later returned to fishing. I am fishing more-or-less regularly now.
Currently, I mainly focus on Spinning, more specifically on MicroJig and Perch fishing. Otherwise, I probably own most of the gear that can accommodate general fishing styles used in this region: Spinning, Floatfishing, Feeder. I have a small inflatable boat that I can dump in my car’s trunk or on the roof of the car, and I can then go to any random place I pick out on a map. It gives me an option to have that nice weekend getaway at any given time. I love to go to the Åland Islands in Finland, but not only for fishing. I really like the nature there – all the rocks, water, and silence.
My most memorable catch was when I was in the 4th grade and I won a local town’s junior fishing competition by catching a 1.1 kg European chub. Definitely not the largest fish I have caught, but one of the fondest memories for sure!
Looking at my other hobby, I also love Sim Racing. This began back in 2018 when I started watching a couple of guys racing on Twitch.tv. It looked fun, so I purchased a used Logitech G29 Steering wheel, slapped it to my desk, and gave it a try – and it all pulled me in. It all was not all nice and easy; there were some hard discoveries and realisations about my skill level and what I needed to improve, as I came with zero real-life racing experience. My only “racing experiences” are some random races in rental GoCarts with friends.
I am currently using an aluminum extrusion profile rig from SIM-LAB with Sparco R100 Seat. Pedals are from Fanatec, and a Simucube2 direct drive controller with a custom steering wheel from Ascher Racing. Sim Racing can become pretty pricey, especially when you start going for a higher-end solution, but you can start and also be competitive with a reasonably-priced wheel clamped to a desk and using any kitchen chair.
My main simulator is iRacing.com, and I focus on Openwheeler series like Dallara F3 (Apex Racing Academy Championship) and Indy Pro 2000 PM-18 (Indy Pro 2000 Championship).
I personally like the safety and progression rating system on iRacing.com – my whole experience is very similar to that of a real-life career in motorsports. You start as a rookie with a simple car, and then you need to build your safety rating: prove you can keep the car on the track, and do not crash into other people. Then, you advance to D, C, B, A Licence Class. If you have skill and time, you can qualify for the Pro Series Licence. Also, there is an iRating that is used to assess your driving skills – the better you finish, the higher your iRating goes. If you finish badly, it decreases. This rating is used to match you to similarly skilled drivers all around the world – there are always some races available on service with people who want to race. The system is not perfect, of course, but there is no real alternative to it. They also have a reporting system if someone joins and wrecks other drivers on purpose; such people can be reported and they get banned from service. Initially, it happens for a short period of time, but in the end, repeated offenders can be banned permanently – a system lacking in other sims I have tried.
What I love the most about Sim Racing is the adrenaline and the thrill before the lights go green, despite having started in around 1000 different races. In my so-far-short Sim Racer career, I still feel it at every start. Also, the community is mostly nice and friendly (with some exceptions, of course, just like it is the real world). I have met some regulars who race the same series I do. We recognise each other and say “Hi, good luck!” before the race starts, and after having a race-long battle, we congratulate each other on having a fun and exciting competition. I love meeting and racing people from all around the world. Also, there is an opportunity and possibility to race against real race drivers such as Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Daniel Morad, and many others that also do Sim Racing.
My favourite experience with Sim Racing was a year ago, when I won the 2020 Season 1 of my division in Dallara F3 Championship. It was not that far into my sim racing career, so it was a low-level Division, but nevertheless, it was my first season win. The championship was won by having the same number of points as the second place, but I was having one win versus second place zero wins during that season. The championship winner was undecided until the last race of the season.
With Sim Racing, I want to keep moving forward and start driving more powerful open-wheel cars. My current main car is a Dallara F3 – the next steps from here would be Formula Renault 3.5 and McLaren MP4-30, but there is still a lot to learn and improve (not only in speed, but also in consistency and race craft in general). I do have a small YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeLOBjWYYWX_oNW6uFBATDg) where I upload some of my races; it also has some old fishing trip montages. I also sometimes live stream races on twitch.tv/lordramex.
My advice to anyone who wants to get started with fishing is to have a friend, a family member, or a colleague who already does fishing, so you can go with them to try it out and make sure you like it before investing in it. With Sim Racing, you most probably will like it if you are into motorsports and racing as such, but be prepared that it can get costly when it sucks you in (iRacing is not the cheapest and definitely not the easiest sim to drive at the start). There are other alternatives like Assetto Corsa, Assetto Corsa Competizione, rFactor2, Dirt Rally 2.0, and many others.
There is always more than tech. For me, it has always been interesting to find out what others do in their spare time, and I like to learn about new things (fishing is a hobby and relaxation, racing is a passion and adrenaline, my work is knowledge and concentration). So my story might help someone to discover something new and/or interesting for them, and someone else’s story might help me in a similar way.