Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

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Friends of Mine


My Friend, Mike Burdon


I’ll never forget the first time I encountered Mike Burdon, it was at my very first Barbel Catchers annual general meeting, and I have to say he frightened the life out of me!

I was already quite apprehensive, having managed to join this most illustrious group, but it wasn’t the likes of Trefor West, Tony Miles or Jon Wolfe who left an impression at that first meeting, that would all come later, no it was this rather tall and commanding figure who stood up in his trademark countryman’s check shirt and waistcoat who made his indelible impact.

 Mike Burdon was his name, and I’ll never forget him.

 I can’t remember what the debate was about; suffice to say Mike made the most telling contribution.

In the years that followed I was to share many more moments like that, luckily alongside Mike, because you see Mike was absolutely brilliant in those situations. Super intelligent, enjoyed a good argument and did not suffer fools. Oh yes, you really took something on if you decided to take Mike to task!

It was at another Catchers agm that Mike said something that stuck in my mind then and has remained there ever since, in fact whenever I come under fire my mind instantly recalls Mike’s words.

The fellow on the receiving end of Mike’s riposte asked what appeared at the time to be a reasonable question in what was a lively discussion;

 “ What are we going to do about it then?”

Was the gist of his declaration, to which Mike stood up and replied;

 “ No, what are YOU going to do about it?”

The room fell totally silent for a moment but the power of that short reply resonated from wall to wall and no one was in any doubt as to what Mike was actually saying, no one disputed it either because along with everything else Mike was most certainly a man of action, a “Doer”.

When we set up the Barbel Society, Mike was already a major player having formed an alliance with Laurence Breakspear and Andy Orme to try and combat the increase in barbel being taken from their local rivers for illegal Stillwater stocking.

At the formation meeting it was no surprise when he took on the position of Research and Conservation Chairman and the part he played in that role cannot be overstated, in fact I’d go as far as to say that without Mike the Society would certainly not be where it is today.

He helped put together the Handling Code; he established links with Consultatives and helped to get BS members onto them. He constantly wrote to the powers that be, attended meetings to put across the barbel angler’s point of view.

Constantly badgering the EA, it was solely down to Mike that they even began to understand the folly regarding the stocking of Stillwater barbel.

My words can only give you a brief insight into just how much Mike did for the Barbel Society; just take it from me that his contribution was immense.

But Mike did not just excel in the political field, he was a highly accomplished angler as well, not just for barbel; pike, grayling and trout all graced his net, some huge fish as well especially pike.

Mike was not into publicity so only those who knew him well had any inkling of just what he caught.

Going back to the Barbel Catchers for a moment, it’s worth remembering that in Mike’s region at that time were the likes of Trefor West, Tony Miles and Mike Nicholls and Mike was the one setting the standard.

Along with his son Richard, he was one of the very first to exploit the potential of the Lower Severn and his catches back in those early days were quite breathtaking. The Wye and the Lugg also received his attention and he caught huge fish from both, and lets not forget the Teme where once again he had the Midas touch when it came to locating the bigger fish.

And Mike’s technique just like Fred Crouch and Ray Walton was simple if you took it at face value, but Mike too was a perfectionist and his method was exquisitely fine-tuned, in fact I would go as far to say that he was the very best at fishing static luncheon meat during the hours of daylight.

Mike was one of the few barbel anglers who actually hit the bite.

 No matter what you read anywhere by anyone, the barbel bite is the actual moment of pick up, it can be detected before the fish has been pricked and bolted, the outcome of which people mistakenly call the bite!

I remember sitting with Mike at Bushley as we both watched what appeared to be a motionless rod tip,

 “ A fish is around, she’s going to take it in a moment” said Mike as I wondered at his optimism.

 Whoosh! A firm strike and it was on. Turned out to be an eleven pounder and Mike had hit the slightest of plucks. But he did this all the time, I just happened to be there for that one!

And when I caught a fourteen ten years ago, Mike returned the compliment, coming out to take the pictures and to share the moment.

The whole concept of Mike’s style of barbel fishing was built around the detection of the bite, no hair rigs for him, it’s what he enjoyed the most and boy was he good at detecting them. 

While ninety nine percent of barbel anglers who fish with meat wait for the run, Mike was very skilfully hitting that first pickup. The lead, the hook link, the hook itself were all set up in a way that was honed by seeking perfection, nothing was ever left to chance. Mike’s results speak for themselves, more doubles from the Lower Severn than anyone I know that’s for sure.

So now you have Mike as skilled politician and highly accomplished angler and it doesn’t stop there, Mike was an exceptional man.

His skill as an artist was recognised by many Society members, his design for our logo was the one that stood out and is there today for all to see, his paintings adorn the walls of those lucky enough to have recognised his talent, indeed as I type this the original for one of the BS. Christmas cards looks down from the wall in front of me.

I have been luckier than most, I’ve seen Mike’s work and whether the painting has a fishing, water or landscape theme all are of superb quality and Mike could quite easily have filled his days committing himself to painting commissions if he had wanted to.

I remember just a couple of years ago calling in to see Mike at his beautiful home and my youngest daughter was with me at the time. I had just collected her from university and was driving over to Worcester. As we pulled into the drive Mike and his lovely wife Ann opened the door to greet us and as they did so their family of Norwich Terriers took the opportunity to escape and run around us showing they were pleased as well.

We spent a couple of hours drinking cups of tea and eating cakes and Katie noticed the many watercolour paintings that took pride of place in each room. When I told her Mike had painted them all she was in awe, and when Mike showed us the folders full of his work, well we were both amazed.

When we left my daughter turned to me and said

“What a wonderful man, so clever yet so kind” and in that one sentence she captured the complete essence of Mike Burdon perfectly.

I mentioned the Norwich Terriers; these were another love of this busy man’s life.

Over the years together with Ann, he bred, showed and judged this breed, and as always with Mike if he did something he did it well, the judging culminated at Crufts where his expertise was recognised and put to good use.

When Mike first became ill, he still turned up for all our committee meetings, he was always the first to arrive as he just enjoyed being with his barbel fishing pals and we enjoyed him being there.

We all miss him, but we will never forget him, the Barbel Society will always owe a huge debt to Mike and he has left us with a strong and influential organisation.

But most of all I will miss him as a friend and mentor.

I could tell you a lot more about Mike, but I’m sure you can tell from reading so far the esteem in which he was held, but I’ll sign off now, as I said Mike was never one for publicity!

Keep a swim ready, my dear friend…………..



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