The 'Other Guys': The Master Pop-Up Maker
Looking for the Rolls-Royce of pop-ups? Meet Dieter V.L - the man behind the Forgotten Flavours brand
CARPOLOGY: When did your love affair with bait start?
DIETER: “When I was about five-years-old. My dad took me fishing for silvers and I was, as they say, hooked. In the coming years we both remained keen and went out whenever we had the chance. On family holidays, we went to a park that had a lake so Dad and I could fish. We enjoyed hours and hours of watching a little float go up and down as we fished with with maize, maggots, casters, and even berries we found on the trees. I recall on one occasion though, that the bites suddenly stopped… fifteen minutes with a complete lack of movement, zero activity… nothing. It was like something had taken over, and something had. These massive creatures then came in and snapped our rods and lines. Little did we know at the time that these ‘massive creatures’ were in fact, carp, the fish we target now. ¶ “Out of hooks and with my rod in half, we headed home from that holiday with mixed feelings. What kind of monster could do something like that? We realised that we had to beef up our kit, and so came the reels, rods, unhooking mats and huge landing nets that are now accepted as somewhat more suited to the task in hand. ¶ “These weird little hard, cooked balls in a plastic bag came as well… a blue one labelled ‘Whisky’, or was it ‘Scopex Squid Livers’? Anyway, on our next holiday we actually managed to land one of those monsters as a carp of 18lb saw us blown away, and with me a mere nine-years-old, I could barely lift it! So began the obsession…”
What is it about bait - or maybe hookbaits specifically - that fascinates you?
“In my mind, hookbaits in general determine whether you catch or blank, so yes, bait does fascinate me - as it should everyone. What fascinates me most though, is how carp react to different colours, circumstances and pressure. It’s quite intriguing to see them spook, or conversely just go fit when they see a fluorescent hookbait. I recall not very long ago, watching carp feeding on a spot in Slovenia. I could see big - seriously big - fish drift in and feed, only then to get spooked as they came close to my washed-out pink pop-up - not as washed out as it needed to be perhaps! Seconds later, three others moved in from my left and the third of these dropped and fed and I got a bite!
“After I saw the larger fish spook, I switched to a regular boilie and the bigger fish were no longer put off. Coincidence? Maybe. The bigger the fish on my spot, the easier they got spooked. Saying that though, I did catch two fish that same day of well over 40lb on a single Mulberry pop-up. Seeing the larger carp spook from my pale, washed-out hookbait certainly didn’t do my confidence any favours though.”
How did Forgotten Flavours come about?
“My passion grew over time and occasionally I’d roll my own batch of boilies, but I never tried pop-ups as I didn’t need to. Dad and I used to buy all the off-the-shelf Dynamite Baits and Frank Warwick pop-ups and our favourites were Green Zing, Squid & Octopus, Evaporated Milk/Ice Cream, and Scopex & Blackcurrant. After they became unavailable, I never had the same faith fishing pop-ups anymore… it was a confidence thing. Not only that, most pop-ups you buy off the shelf nowadays just aren’t buoyant enough. A pop-up should stay popped up, even on a heavy rig… there’s nothing as frustrating as realising you’ve been wasting your precious time fishing a wafter instead of a pop-up!
“About two years ago, a friend in the UK, Joe, contacted me about some flavours he’d seen on a Belgian website selling second-hand stuff. As I was just a couple of hours away, he suggested that I should pick them up on his behalf. I had no idea where I was going or what I was to receive on arrival. I was greeted by a friendly ‘Walifornian’ and took home nearly everything he had: old Catchum, Gold Label, Solar, Nutrabaits and a ton of Hutchy gear as well. Two weeks later I found more of this aromatic treasure a little closer to home, and once again, I bought nearly everything. This time though, I really hit the jackpot, with five glass bottles of Mulberry Florentine - liquid gold! At the time I had no idea of its value and really, it all started there and then.
“I rolled some one-egg batches in my dad’s garage and when I gave a few tubs to friends to try, it all started to escalate. You know how it is when you get into something, you just can’t stop youself. I decided to expand a little and try and market some batches. First though, I had to come up with a brand name and speaking with friends in the UK, we came up with the brilliant idea of ‘Forgotten Flavours’. It immediately clicked and Forgotten Flavours was what it was going to be - thank you Gaz Ross!"
You have access, as your company’s name suggests, to many classic ‘forgotten’ flavours, but how do you source these?
“Just as anyone else that wants to roll with them does, I trawl sites like eBay, Gumtree and similar websites all over Europe. Occasionally people offer me stuff through my social media pages. It’s not like I’m rolling 500 tubs of each flavour, so I don’t need litres of the stuff.”
Do any of the flavours deteriorate over the years, and if so, how do you preserve them?
“Some oils tend to go off, yes, and I’ve chucked a lot of bottles in the bin because they became useless. It doesn’t help constantly opening the lids, as some will evaporate. The best way to preserve them is usually in a cool, dark place and ideally in a fridge or a cellar; basically you’re trying to maintain a constant temperature.”
Will there ever come a time when all the forgotten classics like Squid & Octopus Koi Rearer from Solar, and Evaporated Milk/Ice Cream from Geoff Kemp run out, or have you got a seriously large supply to see you through for a long, long time?
“Over a fairly short period of time, I’ve quickly amassed a large stockpile of flavours and attractors and I should be good for most combinations for a while - although I’m always on the lookout for more!”
Do you produce just pop-ups, and what type… corkball, cork-dust, or standard pop-up mix baits?
“So far I’ve produced only standard airballs, and some cork-dust wafters for myself. I can give you an exciting inside scoop though: corkballs and wafters are on the way! The first tests are done and it looks like we can get them out early in 2020. As I said before though, they have to be perfect. I don’t just want ‘good’, they have to be better than that… quality over quantity.”
I love that mindset. So who comes up with the recipes?
“Every recipe I’ve rolled is always tested by me and by friends prior to sale. Most recipes are based on old classics, like Solar Squid & Octopus, Black Pepper Essential Oil, Nouvelle Fizz & Autumn Harvest, and so on.”
You’re based in Belgium, but do a lot of business abroad; do you get many orders from the UK and elsewhere?
“About 70 percent of orders come from the UK, especially the northern area of England. Things can get crazy when I release a batch of Mulberry or Redesmere Specials. The rest come from Belgium and elsewhere across Europe.”
Do you attend any angling shows, and if so, do you think you’ll ever make it to a UK event?
“I try to go to Zwolle on a regular basis, but have never been to a UK event. I’ve heard about the Northern Angling Show, The Big One and the Carp In The Park shows, and do follow them, but have never attended any of the events. I’ve been invited over a few times to fish in the UK, but with the venues we have in Belgium and also nearby in Holland and France, I’m yet to make the trip. I will at some point, when my free time aligns with friends’ availability perhaps.”
Do you have a set range of pop-ups, or do you do limited edition runs all the time?
“I do have classics that I’ll always return to. Others though, are a one-batch wonder and if you miss out, that’s it - mixes like the Redesmere Specials, Nouvelle Fizz & Autumn Harvest mainly. Mulberry, Squid and the Black Pepper are three that’ll be standard in the range, shall we say - although most of the time they’re sold out. I do only two batches of each a year at the moment and if you miss them, you’ll need to wait until the next one.”
What’s your own, personal favourite flavour?
“Honestly, I’ve got that many, but there are a few that are special: Hutchy’s stuff springs to mind; Mulberry (yes, I know I mention it all the time, but it really is that good), and I like Mystere as well. On a different slant, there are the spice flavours. The most commonly known are Megaspice and Ultraspice, but the ones that stand out for me are Mixed Herbs, Megawhite Spice and Exotique; though less well known, they’re a favourite of few high-profile anglers. There are other classics like Scopex and Monster Crab - I actually managed to buy a couple litres during Rod’s Horseshoe memorial weekend. Rod’s daughter, Kathy, let me have some in their original containers from his garage… it doesn’t get better than that.
“I also like the old glass bottles of Dave Thorpe… Cherry Blackheart, Wild Rabbit, Green Beast and Ginger Cake Special, to name just a few. There really are too many to pick just one!”
Finally, you’ve built up a brilliant brand and are now selling a lot merchandise alongside your pop-ups; did you ever expect the business to expand as it has?
“The business expanding so quickly in such a short period of time was beyond my imagination. I was hoping to sell some pop-ups, and perhaps some hoodies and T-shirts. Eventually though, I ended up doing stickers, pins, hats, beanies, mugs, etc. I expected some people would take an interest, because the products evoke memories of halcyon days, fishing when they were younger… but didn’t envisage people ordering ten pots of the Mulberry as soon as they went online; that isn’t uncommon. Those are the guys though, that get the whole concept of when they’re sold out, that might be the last ever batch.”