For those of you who don't know me, I've been around for so long I don't even believe it myself! It's been said that when I started fishing the Dead Sea was only sick! In the late 1950's I modeled myself on Dick Walker, complete with floppy hat and cane MK IV's. Through the sixties I fished for Carp, in the days when sweetcorn and luncheon meat were still in the future. Bread was the main bait, and the really adventurous used par-boiled potato, the first boilie.
By 1970 I'd moved on to other species, but kept closely in touch with the Carp scene via the weeklies and monthlies. Then in 1989, 1990, and 1991, I went strongly back into Carp fishing, this time with boilies, hair-rigs, optonics, the lot, in my quest to catch a large Trent Carp. (Detailed in my book 'Fantastic Feeder Fishing') This involved me in some serious study into the composition and make-up of boilies, for I had decided to make my own. I wasn't too far out of touch, however, for during the previous seven or eight years I'd spent a great deal of time experimenting with all sorts of flavours on baits like maggots, bread, meat, etc., which certainly boosted my catches of Chub, Roach, Perch and Bream. And of course, with flavoured meat and the like, along came the Carp, some of which I landed, and many of which I didn't.
By the end of my 2½ year Trent boilie campaign, I knew a heck of a lot about mixes, boiling times, bait density, pop-ups, rigs and such, but there was so much conflicting information it was never possible to be sure who was reporting genuine discoveries in bait advances, and who was just hyping up various products to boost sales. Several writers suggested doubling up on flavour levels when making pop-ups, as heat de-natured some of the flavours; they also suggested reducing normal boiling times to a minimum, for the same reason. A bit later on, it was suggested we start dipping, glugging, or soaking, to help replace some of the attraction lost by boiling.
This seemed logical to me, for I had had several years of applying flavours to the outside of baits like maggots, meat, etc, so I started to experiment with all the various liquid attractors to see what happened. Eventually I came up with a concoction of Sense Appeals, P.G flavours, and E.A. flavours. Yes, all on the one bait. And it worked! During my last year of boilie river Carping, all my fish came to five and six bait stringer rigs, with the hook-bait itself given an extra dunking before casting, to make it stand out from the freebies. Before fishing, all the boilies had been treated with the above blend, then frozen up in packs of fifty in freezer bags until needed.
I didn't know it for sure at the time, but with what I've learned since I realise that I was on the right track. When I eventually moved onto Barbel, Chub, etc, I continued to apply the same principles, went even further into the reaction of fish to flavours, and ultimately made the decision to start producing my own powders and liquids for sale to pleasure anglers and matchmen, rather than Carpers. After all, who was I compared to the likes of Hutchie, Maddocks, the Nutrabaits lads, and the other established Carp additive/flavour producers of the day? So I started with just powdered groundbait additives, for I had learned enough about these to know I could equal or improve upon anything on the market.
And there it might have stayed except that, quite by accident, I stumbled on a group of liquid feeding triggers that had never been used in angling before. My early tests gave startling results, so I finally decided to take the gamble and move into the very crowded liquid flavour market. But first I had to know just what the opposition was, so I bought a sample of almost every successful flavour on the market, and had them analysed. To copy them? Oh no. The best of them all was Hutchies Scopex (which everyone else has copied) but you won't find a Scopex in my range. What I wanted to learn was how to put a good flavour together, and then improve on that. And there really is room for improvement.
I am appalled by some of the concoctions offered for sale. There are several bottles on the market which contain about 2% flavour, and 98% carrier. There are others that are virtually identical copies of each other, but with a different name and a different coloured label. And some of the claims made for them are nothing short of ludicrous. It's been said that there are only 7 or 8 good flavours on the market and that all the rest are just variations on a theme, under different names. I certainly go along with that.
So, what is a good flavour? It's one that works on three levels. The first part is volatile, very active. It leaks out into the water rapidly, drifting on the currents and undertows, alerting fish to the possibility of food. The second part is less volatile; it leaks off slowly, giving the fish time to home in on it and follow it back to its source. The third part is the 'stick on' material, the essence that stays on the bait, or releases extremely slowly, to form a halo of attraction around the boilie. This is the taste, the feeding trigger, that actually makes the Carp pick up the bait.
Sales talk? A load of elderly shoe-menders? No, this is exactly what I've managed to perfect, and for very good reasons. My research has shown that applying heat to flavours does alter, denature, or in some cases, destroy them. In actual fact heat destroys the volatile, active parts of any flavour, which unbalances it. Which means that boiling baits is not wise. But we need to boil them, don't we, to defeat the attentions of small fish and crayfish. So, put the flavour on the outside! This is done by dipping, glugging, or soaking first, then freezing. The freezing process does not harm flavours, but what it does do is draw the flavour into the skin of the boilie during the defrosting process.
I can almost hear you saying, "But why not inside flavouring as well as outside?" Sure, it's your money if you want to waste it. It is my opinion that, provided the bait is basically nutritious, like fishmeals and bird foods for instance, then the outside application of flavours will ensure maximum pick-ups. Modern hook rigs will do the rest.
But think of the advantages of neutral, unflavoured boilies: you only need to outside flavour those baits you will be using during the next session, so if you want to change the flavour the week after, because you're going to a different water, it's dead easy. Okay, so you've got your favourite flavoured ready-mades, Strawberry, Tutti Frutti or whatever, and you always fish with them, everywhere. Fine, carry on, but just try one of your four rods with an outside flavour…you'll get more pick-ups. I repeat,…you'll get more pick-ups. Everyone I know who has tried it has had this experience.
Yes, I have to admit to a small plug here, as this has all been on my own flavours, but it will work to some degree with any flavour. Why?
1) There has been no destruction by heat.
2) The flavour is 'available' to the fish, not locked away under the egg skin of the bait.
3)The defrosting process does embed a certain amount of even the most unsuitable flavour into the outside of the boilie, where the fish can detect it.
What is an unsuitable flavour? Sorry, I've got to say it…most of those on the market. Before the bait companies send out lynch parties, let me hasten to add they are not trying to con you. Most flavours are made water soluble, able to dissolve easily in water. If they weren't, they would never get through that egg skin that forms when boiling the bait, to do their job of attraction. On the other hand, put that same water-soluble flavour on the outside of the boilie, and most of it will disperse
in a short time.
There are liquids out there that do the job; Essential Oils for one. These are quite dense, are very slow to dissolve in water, and have excellent taste value. On the other hand, add a mere few drops to a mix, denature them by boiling, lock them up behind the egg skin; and then expect them to attract Carp? It's no wonder that these very good attractants are out of favour. Conversely, take bulk fish-oils, which are often added to the outside of boilies via glugging. They're totally non-soluble, they won't disperse in the water, therefore they have virtually no attractive powers. Any leak off at all will go straight to the surface. Have you ever noticed how many writers quote fish rolling over their baits, yet they can't get a take?
Flavours based on the famous P.G. (Propylene Glycol) are water-soluble, those on E.A. (Ethyl Alcohol) are super water-soluble, so the only way to make sure they remain in the bait is to lock them in with the egg skin….with the previously mentioned disadvantages. So, and I realise I'm repeating myself, it will always help to freeze an extra flavour on the outside, which, as stated, will improve the pick-up rate.
With no apologies, I'll now finish this feature by describing my own products, not just for sales hype but because in the last year I have made great advances in designing flavours, and, at the same time, I have come up with new materials that have never been incorporated in flavours before. No longer are there just variations of only seven or eight good flavours, there is now something different. How different? The question I am always asked by good carp men regarding any flavour is "what's it on?", meaning what is the carrier base, P.G., E.A, Glycerol, or whatever. My answer is none of them. If I produce a peach, a pineapple, raspberry, or any other, then it is on peach, pineapple, etc. With added enhancers, attractors, and new substances. Everything in my bottles attracts fish, and there is certainly no P.G. at all.
And that's as far as I can go, without starting to give away my hard won trade secrets. If anyone wishes to call me for further information I'll be happy to oblige. My advert will appear on Anglers' Net very soon.
May you all catch your personal best Carp….but I'll settle for a big Barbel.