Iain MacMillan needs no introduction. He is one of the top carp anglers and fishing journalists in the UK, and his lists of captures are mouth watering. I have always really enjoyed Iains features as his style of writing really captures what its like to be on the bank, where he continually slaughters lakes with his highly mobile approach to fishing. He has fished on many of the UK’s hardest waters and his ability to change tactics is what keeps him one step ahead
Me: What’s your earliest fishing memory?
Iain: My earliest memory is the local canal in the summer holidays with all the lads I used to knock about with in the early-mid 80’s. We would walk through Penkhull Park to the subway which had the Trent & Mersey running through it, there was a basin for the barges to turn around in and we’d always plot up there, I don’t really know why, it was always ‘the’ spot. We’d while away the hours catching whatever decided to pick our 4 day old maggot up and to be honest we were as happy as the proverbial pigs in shit. Another clear memory was doing my first night float fishing in the basin outside Dolphin Boats, starlight’s were all in fashion on your floats but in fairness I reckon I was asleep just after 10 (still like that today), but we were all in love with angling at the tender age of probably 12-13. We then started to explore the canal further towards the local Michelin factory & the incinerator, it was there we found a characteristic little lake called Sideway Overflow and that’s where the fishing thing was taken to a whole new level.
Me: When did carp come into your picture?
Iain: The Overflow was rumoured to have a few carp swimming about with the shopping trolleys and bread bags, in fact stories of a 20lb’er were always filtering along the canal banks, but we hadn’t strictly gone on there as anything but general coarse anglers. We were happy catching some nice perch and again, anything that fancied a small size 18 hook in its lips, but as the winter turned to spring a few of us decided to sling our ledger rods out on some luncheon meat for a possible tench. This is where the problem all started as despite catching the odd tench a daft old carp decided to have a dabble. I suppose the fish was a double. But back then it seemed massive, and that my friends is it as they say, I was a carp angler. All the match kit went back in the shed and I was rooting around to borrow my old man’s optonics & Terry Eustace SS6 glass pike rods with Mitchell 300 reels, in essence I hadn’t a bloody clue what I was doing, but I had to look the part didn’t i?? The meat was binned in favour of one of the Ritchworth freezer baits that had just hit the market, the plastic was pegged to the 45’’ brolly, and the floral Argos bed chair which collapsed at any moment was disguised in any way possible. It wasn’t just me doing it, there were a few of us which had turned all carpy, I remember my trips to the local tackle shop where we had to get a train to Longport then walk into Burslem town to Pickering’s, it was all just part of the adventure, just what we had become, but I bloody loved it. When I look back we were just mates exploring and having a laugh as we certainly weren’t setting the world alight with our fish captures, but hey, surely better to be doing a spot of fishing than smashing old lady’s windows & nicking milk like some of the lads I was seeing round the streets!!
Me: What were the lakes you fished in the early days?
Iain: As we couldn’t drive at this stage we were very limited to the Overflow and maybe a bit near the black pipe at Trent ham, but once my old man saw I wasn’t letting up with the carp bug he would take 4 or 5 of us in his old camper van to places like Gorsty Hall or Cuttle Mill, it was brill. We moved onto Knighton Reservoir and Moss Mere when we could drive, and that turned out to be a whole new chapter in my angling life, a set of wheels. Sure I was now finding out about girls & boozing, and there were a couple of times when I sold all my kit in pursuit of both, but I always came back to angling to clear my head, and I think once it’s in your bones to be a carp angler it never goes away, yes you’ll go through fazes as I did, but the urge will always overpower anything else if you’re a true angler.
Me: Can you tell us about the events surrounding you UK PB?
Iain: Ahhh, the Turtle from Wellington @ 52lb 6oz. I never set out to catch the biggest fish in the lake, I just loved the place and was happy to while away the time down there. However I did fish well last spring on there, id decided fish it my own way and on my own terms, so I was staying away from the busy open water swims and creeping around the bays. To be honest I absolutely loved it, I wasn’t getting stressed out about getting in the so called hot swims, I would do the 3 hour drive at a calm and leisurely pace and whatever swims were left was fine by me. I suppose I couldn’t have written my ending on Welly a better way, I caught the Turtle on my very last day at Welly as id already made the decision to drop my ticket, and even if I hadn’t of caught the fish I’d be missing the place right now. The lake is stunning, the stock is incredible, the members in general are brilliant, and there’s no bloody mud…….!! And even as I’m writing this now all the great times on there come flooding back, that’s when you know you’ve found your place of loveliness, but I’m not one for staying on the same lake for years & years, I like the challenge of new waters and meeting different anglers around the UK, and of course chasing other fish about.
Me: What a fish Iain, How did you celebrate?
Iain: I didn’t celebrate to be honest, it took days, possibly weeks to sink in that id caught a UK 50lb’er, the phone had burnt itself out but there were still fish in the swim and I wanted to milk it while they were still knocking about. Some of the lads went for a bit of pub grub but I just wanted to be on my own in my own little wonderland, and do you know I still look at the pictures of not just the Turtle, but some of the other big fish I caught from there last spring and pinch myself. I look back at that day in the drizzle last May and it was just how I’d want it to be, a bit like when I caught my first 40lb’er, I was on my own, there wasn’t any heavy drinking or all night sessions, just me, my kit, my own ability and a big carp in the net, how good is that for the perfect Carlsberg day??
Me: What would be your dream UK fish?
Iain: I am still in awe of the Black Mirror, I no it’s sadly gone but my mouth still drops in amazement when I see anglers like Dave Lane & Mike Wilmot holding the great fish. I’ve always said it would remain just a fantasy really as I’m not one for poaching, guesting, whatever you describe it as your kind of breaking the law. Now I’m not having a dig at any of the Mere lads here as to even pick your wits against the place is enough, but I like to relax when I’m angling, I certainly don’t want to be looking over my shoulder in case I’m either going to be slung off, or worse-prosecuted or fined, and certainly is it right for certain magazines, and indeed anglers to condone poaching to the younger more impressionable regions, I think not. So the Black Mirror, even if it was still alive, would remain a thing of great beauty, but a fantasy, but what an amazing carp, I mean I love Dave Lane, but I love him more every time I see that iconic shot of him smiling with the beast in his arms, absolutely mesmerizing.
Me: Can you tell us about your most recent session?
Iain: I’ve just joined a very exclusive syndicate in Lincolnshire and there are some massive carp in its depths, my first trip was after a capture of the lakes largest resident at over 57lb and it was more to feel my way in and see what I thought of the place. Well I ended up with one loss and 4 banked, with a 32 & 35 being the biggest, more importantly the hook holds were bang on, and id mapped out a few areas for a spot of pre-baiting, but to get 4 fish was very unexpected as a few lads have already told me 12-15 fish a year is exceptional, now I’m not writing this to make out I’m the bollocks, because I certainly am not, but if I can keep nicking the odd fish with my very mobile approach then surely it’s only a matter of time before a couple of those very big fish make a mistake. I had a couple of doubles the following trip so I’m now on 6, so again I’m confident in my approach, bait & rigs, it’s just down to the fish now, and at times they are like a crowd of women I’m told…….very very moody!!!
Me: On the bank are you a noodles man or are you a good bivvy cook?
Iain: Unfortunately I’m a noodles man, well not even noodles at times, just plain shite that doesn’t take much preparing, I really do eat terribly on the bank. I snack and pick at things that get me by as I simply don’t want to be carrying a wok, kitchen sink, etc., etc. as it just bogs me down, so I almost sacrifice eating anything of any value to me in the pursuit of chasing the big fish, or at least not carrying the stuff needed to live like a king. The new syndicate has a little lodge with a kitchen inside, so I’m going to start taking microwave stuff, that will be amazing compared to what I normally eat let me tell you. It’s the same when I go to France, I like the holiday side where my meals are prepared for me, what you’ve got to remember is I live almost like a tramp for most of my fishing time, so when I’m away even cheese on toast is A La Carte let me tell you. I say it every single spring ‘I’m going to eat better on the bank’, and every time I go to Tesco’s for my food I come out with the same shite, it gets my by, and I actually don’t mind that much, now where are those microwave meals ??
Me: If you weren’t a carper what kind of fishing could you have seen yourself doing?
Iain: I’d be river angler, or more specifically a barbell angler. Steve Hurst one of my long standing mates started the same time as I did, in fact I met him down on the Overflow all those years ago, but Steve has a busy job and a big family so simply can’t commit the time to carp angling, so a few hours in the evening fishing for fish that actually fight pound for pound harder than carp suits him fine. He can travel light and he’s always very upbeat about his fishing as he can go at the drop of a hat for the evening, I love the sound of all that but carp run through my veins and it’s been years since I’ve ever fished for anything else. I also love watching fly anglers casting their hand made flies, again there’s something spell binding about it, as there is watching a good old fashioned float go under, I bloody love it, but will I deviate from what I do, I very much doubt it. Maybe one day eh, when I’m either too old to be out on the bank for 3 nights at a time, or the carp scene gets that busy that you can’t even find a lake to fish, but ill cross that bridge when I come to it, that’s if the otters haven’t eaten most of the stocks in the UK.
Me: What are your fishing hopes for 2014?
Iain: Good health, meeting new like minded people on my travels, a few big fish thrown in for good measure, and to carry on enjoying everything about carp fishing as I always do, with a big smile on my face and a sarcastic comment not far behind.
Me: Well thanks for talking to us Iain and we wish you all the best for 2014
Iain: No problem lads anytime…..