When I was 11, my grandad took me to Chantecoq fishing. It was a baptism of fire! Mud, tangles, mud, crack-offs, mud, digging your own toilet, mud, mud and more mud! I blanked, but my grandad didn't, despite my protestations that he should hand me the rod that was bent into a 20+ Chanty common! Nevertheless, my apprenticeship had started, and I was more than eager to learn.
The one thing that he has absolutely drilled into my head over the last 20 years is that there is no point whatsoever in having something in your armoury that doesn't do the job, especially bait – it needs to work, and work consistently. The baits we used on my first ever fishing trip in 1995 were Rosehip Isotonic and Honey Syrup—the latter now discontinued (despite my appeals to Allan to bring it back!). The leftover bait from that trip I took home and used on a local pond. I caught every carp out of it. I caught the same fish three times on the same Honey Syrup hook-bait in two weeks—it was also the biggest fish in the lake at a shade under 17lb. As long as I had just one of those ‘Mistral boilie things’, I could catch a carp. I tested this theory in 2007 when, having left all my fishing gear and bait at my job in France, I took a single, 10-year-old Crab and Crawfish pop-up to Sefton Park in Liverpool and caught 2 twenties! Fast-forward to 2016, and I still use Mistral, and I can say that, hand on heart, I’ve never used another brand of boilie in 20 years of fishing for carp. I bet there aren't many people who can say that!
I'm a member of a large, well-known club, who unfortunately have a very strict publicity ban… I'm sure you can guess! I was fishing this particularly picturesque lake, and the bailiff paid me a visit on my first night. He asked me what bait I was using, then proceeded to tell me that the ‘going bait’ on there was this, that, or the other, and that I should go and get some ASAP if I wanted to ‘get amongst them’. I finished the week with 24 fish, and I think there were 6 or 7 fish caught by all other anglers. I was using Mistral’s ‘No Name Pepper Sarni’ - forerunner to the new Belachan Shrimp.
These days, I fish mostly around Shropshire. I was lucky enough to catch one of the most sought-after fish from the famous Birch Grove, The Snow Fish, and I have nearly completed my first season on The Mangrove. I’m in the final year of my PhD at the University of Liverpool, where I am also a Head Chef, so obviously my time is very limited. My confidence in Mistral is such, that when I don't catch, I know it has nothing to do with the bait – it’s me, or the fish just aren't having it! It’s an absolute honour to be a member of the Mistral team. Here’s to the next 20 years! Tight lines!