You may have noticed over the years that the name of a certain Cornish reservoir has played a huge part in both my angling and working life. Since 1982, when I made my hesitant way through the woods and down the path to the ressy from the car park much water has flowed under the bridge and many glorious memories generated.
That reservoir is, of course, College, a 40-acre venue near Penryn in the far west of Cornwall. Some of my early memories including those from College can be found here:
This is my very first carp from the ressy, caught in October 1982. It was the first of over 1,500 carp I caught from College over the following years and my success on there and my subsequent success on other carp lakes eventually lead to a thirty-five year long career in fishing, part of which included a period when I worked for South West Water as a fishery warden and later as a fishery manager.
In the early 80s, when the Carp Society was in its infancy, a Dorset angler called Marcus Watts was an occasional contributor to the Society's in-house magazine, Carp Fisher. It was clear from his pieces that Marcus was a bait man first and foremost and he obviously knew what he was talking about.
A few years later I began to hear tales of a new kid on the block in Cornwall, a guy who had opened a tackle shop called The Bait Bunker in Wadebridge, which became a gold mine for Cornish carpers who were not being catered for at all until Marcus arrived. This fella was rapidly making a name for himself as he began to empty (metaphorically speaking) carp lakes all over the south-west and one of his main targets was College. This guy was, of course, Marcus himself and here he is with a College beauty of 31lb plus.
Among his many claims to fame, Marcus was selling a very good range of baits out of the Bait Bunker (his shop), including a well-structured fishmeal base mix that contained Robin Red, which he called the Reservoir Special. This red fishmeal rapidly gained a loyal and ever-growing following in the south-west as it was hugely effective.
Jump ahead a few years and Marcus began a full-time job as Bait Development Manager at Dynamite Baits, responsible for developing and refining new base mixes for the company. It was, therefore, no surprise that soon after he joined the company they released their own red fishmeal base mix which they called The Source. This Robin-Red based bait was, and maybe still is Terry Hearn's favourite bait recipe. I don't know how much of Marcus's original Reservoir Special morphed into The Source, but suspect that both baits had a great deal in common.
It took me some time to catch on to the fact that fishmeal base mixes, especially red ones, were brilliant, but once I twigged I had a field day on College and elsewhere, coat-tailing the success of the Reservoir Special with my own home-rolled Robin Red-based fishmeal base mix.
Back in 2000, I was approached by Haith's to advise them on a marketing strategy for their coarse fishing business. They were not a new name to carp and specialist anglers as Ian Booker and Rod Hutchinson among others had made prominent use of some of their products, but the company felt that the non-cage and aviary bird sector of their business could be improved. One of the first challenges facing us was how to boost the profile of the fishing side of the business and slowly but surely more and more outlets began to sit up and take notice, especially in Europe and even further afield. One of their most significant customers was Dynamite Baits, at the time a rapidly growing new entrant in the specialist bait world and now a household name throughout Europe where The Source had proved to be a hugely successful carp bait.
Even though I have been with Haith's Baits for over eighteen years I have, until very recently, never tried any of their customers' red fishmeal mixes other than Nutrabaits' Big Fish Mix but thanks to Mark Peck at Dynamite I was now in possession of a few kilos of The Source and I was keen to give this new (to me) bait a try on my next fishing trip.
One of our favourite French holiday venues is le Queroy and we have visited every year since 1998. The vast majority of our visits have been in either early- or late-season but Tat had been pestering me to book a 'proper', nice-and-hot summer holiday for ages; this year she would get one…and how!
I had booked two consecutive weeks in July 2018 and the heat wave that had been plaguing the UK followed us across the Channel to France. The temperatures were sky-high and it was blisteringly hot when we arrived. That might be OK for the missus but I did not fancy it one bit, though the lake looked in fine fettle on the day we arrived.
Just before leaving the UK we received an e-mail from Dan and Jodie warning us that there was a bit of blue-green algae on the lake, but there was no sign of it when we got to the lake. However, by the end of the first week, the heat had started to cause a few problems and the blue-green started to build up.
I went to my favourite swim, the one on the north bank overlooking the dam wall. From what Dan had told me, the lake had not fished well the previous week and he thought that the previous party had introduced too much bait when starting their week. I have written an article for the venue, which can be found on their Facebook page (probably well down the page by now) in which I warn visitors to keep their initial bait introductions on the sparse side. Clearly, the previous party had not read this article! With age and experience comes wisdom so I used the bare minimum of bait and was soon into a carp.
Boilie crumb has often worked well for me at Le Queroy so I decided to give it a try using a boilie processor that follows the principles of an ice crusher. There are several such machines on the market ranging from huge to tiny. I have been using one that sits between the two, the Boilie Chopper from another of Haith's important clients Mistral Baits.
The hopper is large enough to take about 350g of boilies so I can put a kilo of bait through this useful little gizmo in less than a couple of minutes. The unit's size and effectiveness means it can be taken on sessions of both long and short duration so it is a very handy bit of kit to take along.
As you can see the Boilie Chopper works by forcing the baits through opposing cutting blades and these are operated simply by turning the handle on the side.
This photo shows the size of the crumbed whole baits.
If you wish you can pass the crumb through the machine several times so as to reduce the size of the crumb. This photo shows The Source after it has been passed through the Chopper twice. Neat, eh?
The session on Nappy's lake at Le Queroy kicked off quite encouragingly with four thirties falling to the crumbed Source on the Monday. (No fishing that first weekend, as Saturday was a World Cup day, England beating Sweden 2-0, while on the Sunday, as always when visiting Le Q. we went out for lunch at a very good restaurant in Availles-Limouzine. The long lunch and the very hot weather ruled out any fishing!)
Two more thirties and a low forty came my way the next day and though the Wednesday was a blank, on the Thursday my dear old friend Triad tripped up on a double bait rig (decency forbids me naming it but I am sure you can guess!). At 54lb she was well down in weight but considering the silly-hot weather I am not surprised she didn't feel like filling her face. The fact that she got her head down on the crumb-ed Source speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the bait.
…And that's the trouble with Triads…You wait eleven years for one and then two come along at once!
Little did I know it at the time, but Triad was to be my last fish of the trip. Here she lolls towards the net after one hell of a scrap.
Though I fished through the Friday and the weekend, by the second Monday of the trip I'd not had another take. True, I was now down to using hookbaits only as I was nearly out of The Source, but there were signs that the carp were feeling a bit uncomfortable in the very hot weather. A few carp could be seen cruising on the surface gasping for breath and it was clear that they were pretty stressed out. In addition, the blue-green was getting thicker by the day (though Le Q's ultrasound algae blaster was keeping it down somewhat), and I know from previous experience that the carp hate the b-g with a passion. In addition, the water temperature was over 24 degrees and even with the aerator going full bore the oxygen levels were clearly falling. Not wishing to risk stressing the carp any further I decided to stop fishing. I would be back in November; they could wait for me 'til then, couldn’t they?
The weather was if anything getting even hotter and all it needed was a thunderstorm and a full-on oxygen crash was on the cards. In fact many evenings just such a storm threatened but thankfully did not materialise.
Dan very wisely brought in two additional high capacity water pumps and these soon had the desired effect of boosting the oxygen levels considerably. In fact, I know that all is well now thanks to the quick action of Dan and his mate Charlie. Visitors to Le Queroy's Napoleonic lake can rest easy!
Here's to November :-)
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Written by Ken Townley