Michael Townsend (1971-2019)
What can I say about Mike Townsend other than he was a friend. A good friend. Not just to me but to a lot of people. One you didn’t have to fish with every week. Occasionally was enough. But each one of those occasions now has so much more significance. It is impossible for me to do him justice.
Mike passed away on June the 15th, hours before the new season opened. Details are a bit sketchy as I write so I won’t speculate. All that will become apparent in due course and I apologise in advance if there’s any omissions or mistakes in this tribute. Let me know if you spot any and I’ll change them immediately.
During a tearful conversation with Lee Swords shortly after the news broke, Lee said something that struck a chord. ‘You can search the Internet, ask anyone you like, you won’t find a single person with a bad word to say about him’.
And that’s so true.
When Matt Brown and I discussed setting up the Don Valley Specimen Group 15 years ago, Mike was one of the first names on the list. We all met up, we gelled and got on like a house on fire. It was a very loose group. We all remain friends to this day but somehow it won’t quite be the same again.
Mike’s list of exceptional catches went way beyond the roach catches some will remember him for. His list of PBs is quite something but it’s been said many times before, no-one has them carved on their headstone. Seriously, at times like this you appreciate just how meaningless they are.
I’ve been scratching my head to remember the last time he and I actually caught anything when we fished together. We blanked on a Catch 22 roach trip, we near enough blanked chasing zander on the Great Ouse, we blanked on a perch trip to the Stainy canal, we blanked numerous times on the Trent, although he did once catch a chub in sub-zero temperatures, on the day I left my coat at home.
Each trip was special in its own way. We laughed, had fun, never serious. We jinxed each other in equal measures.
The DVSG had become inactive as a group but in 2017 we made an effort to put the band back on the road, a revival tour if you like. We organised a perch day.
Who had the day’s biggest fish? Mike did, of course, and not just any old perch, a 4-pounder! Even I caught a 3-pounder that day, by chucking a rubber lure through his swim! But Mike didn’t care. He laughed about it. Plenty wouldn’t have.
Mike was an inspiration. He thought nothing of driving from Yorkshire to the Hampshire Avon, just for a day session. His car blew up on the way to fish for roach at Lochnaw, in Scotland, so he got the AA to tow him to the lake. He found some big roach in a small river, not too far from home. He told me exactly where he caught them but I left him to them. They were his fish. He knew I wouldn’t blab or ruin his fishing. Trust is a mutual thing and I shall miss his frequent updates on what he’d been catching and where.
Mike ran a blog. He often asked me about writing techniques and I hope I helped him with things like structure and planning. He reckoned I made it look too easy but his was one of the few angling blogs I read. It was a bit hit and miss this past year because he put his family first. They needed him more than angling did but he was hoping to do more this season. Sadly that wont happen unless there’s a chalk stream up in the sky rammed with big roach. I hope there is as I’m sure he’ll save me a swim.
I’m not going to ramble on any more. I last saw him two weeks before he died, at my annual pre-season BBQ/cum anglers evening. There he is, my right hand man. He was on form that night. There was no clue as to what lay in store.
The funeral of Mick Townsend will be on Wednesday 10th July at 11am at St Michaels church in Rossington, Doncaster, with the wake at the Welfare Club in Rossington. All are welcome to pay their respects.
Those who were close friends are welcome to message me with a few words, fishing stories or sporting themes (preferably). Feel free to include a picture. I shall append them here as I have done with Lee Swords lovely recollection.
Others may leave messages and personal tributes in the comments box below, and please, do that, will you? There have been some lovely comments on Facebook but in a week’s time they will be buried, lost forever, as is the instant nature of Social media, but anything posted here will remain accessible, in one place for ever. Unless you have contributed previously your comments don’t appear instantly as the site is set up to catch potential spam, Bots and the usual rogues, but I do aim to publish all genuine comments within 24 hours.
Lee Swords Remembers
Phone calls from Mike always heralded an adventure, the conversation usually involved very big fish and hundreds of miles to get to them,in fact if JRR Tolkien were to have ever written a book that involved fishing Mick Townsend would have been the ” Gandalf” of the fellowship. The rest of us in the DVSG were an assortment of Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits and Men of ill-repute ( I would most probably be the latter)
I remember one phone call that involved stories of Crucian Carp so large as to threaten the British record but the distance to them was great and to make things harder we would need to arrive at the venue very early, so early that the moon would still be high in the sky and the night as dark as sack cloth, not because the gates were protected by Elvish runes or crafty Dwarvish mechanisms but because, quite simply, we would need the best pegs.
Mike arrived at my house about an hour after I finished work, soon the car was rammed full of gear and we were trapping down the motorway at great speed, the motorway was desolate and so we made great time, we passed the M25 without seeing so much as a single goblin never mind a rogue dragon named Smaug, off the motorway we were soon twisting and turning through narrow country lanes dodging packs of fanged Munjack deer and then there it was…The gate to Marsh Farm…Mike did something magical with the lock and low and behold the gate opened, we were in!
A few hours later, just as the sun came over the horizon, the locals started to arrive, they too wanted the pegs that we were occupying…alas for them disappointment beckoned, they were too late, I still remember with great amusement the look of incredulity on thier faces, the question screamed unspoken from behind thier eyes ” How the hell have those two crafty Northern f&ckers managed to cover 200 miles and get the best pegs from behind a locked gate”
Well, that would be telling. As they say, the early bird gets the worm.
And the fishing session? Well alI I will say is Mike used his 17 foot rod like a short pole, a pole float instead of a waggler, his baiting was tight and his hookbait bang on the money, the fish didn’t stand a chance, the next time we made the journey those in the know were fishing just like Mike.
Me? I was knackered, I set up two rods on bolt-rigs and also caught more than my fair share and the next time we visited, those that couldn’t match Mikes finesse and skill….well…they were fishing like me.
I will miss Mike a lot, the world is a poorer place without him and life is just that little bit more predictable and boring.
One thing I will say is if there is a God and if there is an afterlife and if in that afterlife there is a river full of big roach, God better get used to having second choice of swims because Mike will be in the best one.
Cheers for the adventures Mike
My friendship with Mike Townsend dates back to about 2006 when I was gathering information for my first roach book, ‘Big Roach’ which was published in 2011. Mike was clearly a fanatical and highly successful roach angler whose initial contribution concerned the big roach in the Oxfordshire fishery Linch Hill,
In the sequel, ‘Big Roach 2’ (published in 2014), I found space for Mike to describe some of his Hampshire Avon roach experiences. He was also able to help with information on the Scottish water Lochnaw Castle Lake. We sometimes joked about working on ‘Big Roach 3’ but as I had all but exhausted my supply of big roach lore (and my publishers willingness to push for a third volume) I suggested that it would have to be a book that he eventually put together.
Catching roach from such disparate and widespread waters hints at Mike’s willingness to travel far and wide from his South Yorkshire home in seeking big roach, and we had discussions about waters close to me such as Sway Lakes in the New Forest and the Dorset Frome at Wareham as well as waters closer to his home but it was Mike’s skill at catching roach that impressed, a willingness to adapt to the challenge of highly variable waters from shallow chalkstreams to bleak gravel pits, and be in no doubt that his enthusiasm was infectious.
Mike always came across as a very honest angler, unwilling to accept the dodgy hybrids or the tall stories from those who ought to know better in their spurious claims.
Our paths rarely crossed but we did fish together on the Itchen once or twice and, as a contributor, Mike attended the launch of Big Roach 2, and I have to say I was shocked and saddened to learn of his sudden death at far too young an age.