My first encounter with David Bird was back in the late 1970s when, due to his role as match secretary of Rye and District Angling Club and his massive marketing skills, the Kent Rother at Iden Lock became the prime match venue of the south-east.
Despite being a long way from any significant population centre, match anglers fought for tickets to the two 2-day festivals Dave organised there.
It was a genuine who’s who of match fishing, with the famous ¬ or maybe infamous ¬ Trentmen joining locals, Londoners both north and south, and even a few from Birmingham and Swindon.
David co-operated with local pubs, guesthouses and even campsites to ensure the weekend was one to be remembered ¬ although it was often forgotten, if truth be told, thanks to the brilliant night-time festivities!
David first came to national importance when elected to lead the National Federation of Anglers. This was the era that dragged the federation into professionalism and recognition by more than just match anglers.
Part of David’s legacy is the notorious ‘lead laws’, one area in which we most certainly didn’t see eye-to-eye. David conceded our position by invoking a voluntary ban which, as I predicted and warned about, was soon increased with total lack of justification by the Government under pressure from minority groups with absolutely zero science on their side.
We remained buddies, though, and when Wire TV ran their Fisherman’s Tales cable TV show in 1994/5, David and I shared ‘studio expert’ chairs on alternate weeks. The last show, on May 31, 1995, was a sad experience, but there is no doubt that this forerunner to Tight Lines dug the channel for that programme, which still runs today.
What many may not know about David was his genius at designing and inventing things. The ‘widget’, which changed the entire canned beer market in the UK, was designed by David.
He also invented many products for angling, designed rods, mostly for his beloved big-game fishing off the Kenyan coast, lures and specialised rigs.
I still use a couple of wind-on leaders David built for me and have landed some monsters on them, including a thresher shark estimated at 350lb-plus.
David’s creative genius was at work right to the last days of his life.
Described by many as the perfect chairman, David was involved under the radar in many specialist angling groups, despite having little practical involvement in UK coarse fishing ¬ although he loved his regular sorties to The Bridge Pool on The Royalty Fishery, where he fished for dace at sea-trout prices!
There is no doubt that he will be sadly and sorely missed by many ¬ his friends for his magnificently entertaining conversation, his colleagues on the numerous angling groups that have and will continue to change the face of our sport for the better, and angling in general.
If only we could turn the clock back to the 1980s, invent the Angling Trust then and have Birdy in charge. Oh, how different things would be. Thanks for everything Dave, you were a one-off.