I make no secret of the fact that I love fishing Millcotton. The reason I love it is the great stocking policy the club have employed. It is easier to say what isn’t in the lakes than what is. The only species I think that are not in there are pike and dace. The pleasure for me is in not knowing what I am going to catch next.
I see many people fishing the lakes obviously intent on catching carp, I think the lakes have so much more to offer. Hence my approach, while capable of dealing with the carp, is just as much aimed at catching the silver fish.
I keep records of all my sessions on the lake, and here I admit that I do concentrate on the snake lake, so I know exactly what I have caught and from where. My notepad acts as my virtual keepnet.
What my records tell me is that through the year I catch, on average thirty fish per six hour session and that the average weight is, strangely, around 30 pounds. That catch will be made up of carp and silvers.
My chosen method is pole fishing for two reasons. First, I cut my coarse angling teeth on the Lee and Thames and the pole (in those days seven metres of fibreglass) was the preferred tool for most London anglers. Second reason is that because I fish a fair few matches the pole is often the best method to compete. Thus I have come to prefer fishing the pole to most other methods, certainly on stillwaters.
I use solid elastics, 14 in Summer, 12 in Winter. I know by modern standards these are considered heavy. But I am used to them and can land anything in Millcotton from 2oz roach to 10lb carp.
My standard pole rig for down the track is a 0.5g float on 0.17 (6lb 12oz BS) Reflo Power line. Hooklength will be 0.13 (4lb 12oz) to a size 16 Kamasan B611. If I am catching more carp then I may step this up to 0.17 line and a B911 16.
For the margins in Summer the line and hooks remain the same but the float is 0.2g.
In Winter I scale down to a 0.4g float with a thinner bristle and 0.13 mainline and 0.10 (2lb 10oz) hooklength with a size 18 B611. I have also been experimenting with a 0.2g float on calm days.
My bait tray is simple, in Summer hookbaits will be corn, 4 & 6 mil expanders, 6 & 8 mil hard pellet and, if leftover from a weekend match, 6 & 9 mil meat. In Winter I cut out the meat and will have maggot & pinkie instead. The expanders in Winter become 2 & 4 mil and the corn may be fished as just the skin having squeezed the contents out.
Feed will be corn and pellets, occasionally meat. I find the fish’s reaction to pellets in the snake lake interesting. In Winter I find I can feed quite heavily with micros. On very good days I have been known to get through 3 pints of soaked micros. But in Summer I have found that you can do well feeding corn and 6mil pellets but not necessarily heavily. I will also feed micros in Summer but if I get too much fizzing then I know I have to feed the larger baits.
Many of the skimmers/bream in the snake lake are now well over a pound and some approaching two. I have seen a picture of a 4lb crucian from the snake lake and was told by a bailiff that he witnessed the weighing of a 3lb crucian from the donut. Strangely I have never caught a tench over a pound and the barbel have remained small, or I haven’t been lucky enough to catch one larger. Some of the roach are well worth catching and would be a bonus fish on the canal. The occasional hybrid gives a feisty fight.
So my advice is not to regard Millcotton as a purely carp water, if you do you are missing out on some great sport. To me the pleasure in fishing is catching fish. I really don’t care if I have a net of small roach from the canal or a mixed bag from Millcotton. But what I enjoy is being active, getting bites and catching fish, any fish.
Try scaling down from out and out carp gear and get the most from Millcotton.
My “Top Tips”
1. Shot the float as low in the water as you can and still see it. Bites, even from large carp, can be delicate or the fish can feel the resistance of too much float to pull under and abandon the bite.
2. Plumb up accurately and be no more than an inch overdepth in good conditions. I used to make the mistake that carp, being large and aggressive feeders it didn’t matter about the amount of line on the deck or the amount of float showing. It does.
3. Feeding. Get this right and fishing becomes easier. At Millcotton I think you do need to feed regularly. Not necessarily large amounts as I have said. But there are a lot of fish in the lakes and bait will get hoovered up fairly quickly.
Peter Laughton, the club’s treasurer, arranged to meet with me for a session, witness my methods and take some photos (special permission given to use keepnets). The October day started frosty and misty with a clear sky meaning bright sunshine. Difficult conditions but I know the lake well enough to have confidence that something would feed before the day was out.
I chose peg 15 because later in the day the shadow from the conifers behind should bring the fish on to feed. Keeping things simple I set up three identical rigs to fish at topkit plus 2, 3 and 4 pole sections. I would hope to catch at plus three but the longer line may have been necessary should the fish prove difficult. The shorter line could work late in the day as the fish became confident.
The rig was a 0.2g float on a mainline of 0.13 (4lb 12oz), a ten inch hooklength of 0.10 (2lb 10oz). The hook was a Kamasan B611 size 18. Feed would be micros and for hookbait I had pinkie, maggot, corn and 2 & 4mil expander pellet.
Concentrating on the +3 line I fed two spots, one with just a few micros, the other with a full 200mil. The fishing was hard for the first two hours producing just one perch on red maggot. I am used to this on the lake though and don’t get frustrated because I expect fish to feed eventually. You just have to be patient in cold weather and cycle through your baits to find what the fish want. Some thin cloud started to mask the sun and I started to get tentative bites. A couple of roach and two more perch fell to red maggot and then eventually a carp of around four pound on corn skin. This was followed a short while later by a bream of 2lb on 4 mil expander and a roach of around 8oz on red maggot.
Just as Peter arrived at 1pm I hooked a better carp on cornskin. This fish took a while to land on my light gear but eventually joined the first in the net and weighed six and a half pound. That on a hooklength of 2lb 10oz. Balance your tackle and elastics, keep the pole tip low in the water and these larger fish can be tamed on light gear.
I had a few more roach & perch on maggot before getting a small skimmer on expander and we called it a day. All of my fish had come on the plus 3 line proving you do not have to fish beyond halfway to enjoy a day’s sport.
All in all a satisfying day’s fishing. Slow to start but eventually producing decent carp, roach and bream. Around 20 fish on a day when many fishing purely for carp may have struggled.
Neil Crozier – WDNAC Committee Officer & Volunteer.