Carp angling today is a million miles away from what it was when I started fishing. The digital age and social media just two of the reasons it’s the beast that it is. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, I like today’s scene as much as I liked the early days of my fishing, but there was something about the mystery of it all back then that captivated me and that is certainly something I look for these days.
Unfortunately it’s a rare occurrence because of the aforementioned reasons everyone knows everything and the mystery of it all is lost in one hand but knowledge, information and a ‘heads up’ are well received in the other, ultimately giving the angler the greatest chance of success.
I’m a bailiff for the Southwest Lakes Trust who run many waters across the Southwest covering all types of freshwater angling and because I’m a bailiff I can, on occasion have the opportunity to fish any of the trusts waters. One of the waters however, was grabbing my attention and it couldn’t wait any longer!
Much of my angling is single overnighters these days and with a young family two nights is a luxury. Two nights is what I had available to me at the beginning of December 2015 and with that in mind I was heading for Old Mill near Dartmouth in Devon, where I was given permission by the syndicate bailiff to fish a couple of nights. The lake only has a very small syndicate and it would be rare to find another angler on midweek, so as you can imagine I was brimming with confidence and excited to say the least! There is hardly anything online about this lake and I only knew of one other angler who had fished it, so on the face of it and from what little I knew I thought this was the place that would bring back the old memories and mystery that I so craved. I’d heard there were some truly old dark looking scaley mirrors which topped out at the 30lb mark. The lake really was holding its cards close to its chest, but to me this is what angling is all about, the mystery of it all and the surprise and elation when that stunning old mirror slips over the net cord.
A day or two prior to the trip I had a quick chat to the bailiff on the phone just to get directions as there is no postcode at Old Mill. While chatting away he asked if I was using a barrow to transport my kit. Of course I said yes (who doesn’t use a barrow these days!) and he just chuckled away to himself but wouldn’t elaborate any further. When I arrived at the lake I could see why he was laughing! The hill leading to the lake from where I parked was monstrous! As soon as I saw it I took a large gulp and immediately started thinking of how I was going to thin my kit down. It became worse, when I decided to leave the kit in the van to go and have an initial look around and the ground was soft, sticky mud and I knew my slim puncture proof barrow wheel would sink into it and cause me no end of aggro! I had a nightmare getting to the top of the hill, but with the thought of those lovely old carp I dug in deep (excuse the pun) and it took a few trips. As you can see from the photo it’s some slope!
The Old Mill is a small 4.5 acre stunning looking reservoir set in the bottom of a valley and surrounded by a pine forest. I instantly noticed that no one had fished the lake for some time and I couldn’t walk all the way around due to the forest butting right up against the lake at the top end. The venue captivated my imagination and I was in angling heaven without even so much as setting up a single rod!
The weather conditions were forecast drizzle, low pressure and strong south westerly winds. The wind was pushing into the dam end of the lake and this looked a good option. However, because the lake is set virtually at sea level and surrounded by the forest the wind wasn’t having much impact. I decided to still set up in the dam swim as this looked the best option and I know from angling at other Southwest Lakes Trust waters that the dam in the winter months is a good area. This is even more the case when the dam wall has a water tower, which the Old Mill has.
I picked three likely looking areas with the rods well spread out, in a bid to search out the water I had in front of me. The water was deep, 24 feet deep in fact but as I keep banging on about it’s only a number and doesn’t matter as the carp will feed in this environment. Looking for the shallowest areas of the lake isn’t always the best bet; however I will say the shallower areas do react far more quickly to slight weather changes and should never be ignored.
I spread a fair bit of bait over the rods for the time of year. My thinking being that the carp aren’t overly fished for and would respond well in the promising weather conditions. I probably spread 3-4 kilos of sweetcorn, Essential IB and Cell boilies over the right hand rod all soaked in the new Mainline Cell and Tutti Liquid Match Additive, Multi Stim and Hemp Oil. It smelt and tasted lovely, and put up a superb slick. I spread about 2 kilos of the same bait over the other two rods combined.
Over the bait I fished a semi-stiff hinge rig tied using a 12lb Subterfuge Soft boom section, a 20lb Trip Wire end section and a size 6 Covert Chod hook. The hook link was mounted on a Camflex Leadfree leader material, which was set-up helicopter style. I used Mainline Milky Toffee hook baits which had been soaked in Baileys, standard Pineapple and Mainline Pineapple Syrup. Both hook baits were pumping full of attraction!
As darkness fell I saw a few fish show mainly in the middle of the lake and not where I had placed my hook baits. However, at around 6.30pm I had a take on the right hand rod which resulted in a lovely looking mid-double figure mirror. I was delighted to be off the mark. I pinged the rod back out and sat back in the quiet darkness, brew in hand.
I had nothing for the rest of the night, so at first light the rod I had the fish on was wound in and re-cast within a few minutes. I had to overcast the spot by a good rod length to bring the rig down on a tight line and onto the desired spot. In fact when I pulled the rig in the hook bait had a bloodworm attached to it so my confidence was then even higher. With the rig back in place and the other rods untouched I re-baited the spot with a couple of kilos. It didn’t take long and at about 9:30am the rod was away again. This time a lovely old scattered upper double mirror was landed. It was another beautiful old mirror and I was really enjoying myself. As the right hand spot was doing the fish I decided to move a second rod to that area, not on the same spot but close to the area. Sometimes putting an extra line onto a spot that’s producing the goods can be disastrous and I didn’t want to take the risk. Yes, sometimes it can prove to be superb with all three rods on one spot and all three working but I didn’t want to take that chance on this occasion. It’s a judgement call for the angler on the day and Old Mill isn’t a runs water.
The daylight blended into darkness and I settled in for the second night, confident with the rods perfectly in place and a big spread of bait over them. It was a quiet night and when I woke up in the morning I couldn’t believe I hadn’t had a bite! I started to doubt myself and wondered if I had over done the amount of bait. I then saw two fish show over the spots and again at 9:30am the middle rod was away, which resulted in a stunning 20lb plus heavily scaled mirror. It had a bit of a funny shape, but plenty of character! I put the carp in the Gardner Retainer Sling to recover in the margin as it put up such an epic battle in the deep margins. No sooner was the fish in the sling the right hand ATT let out a couple of bleeps and the tip was pulled over on the right hand rod. I was in again and after another superb battle landed another old mirror, which went just over 20lb on the scales. This time my reward was a gorgeous orange coloured linear.
I was delighted with the action and the fish I had caught. It was a truly memorable session and one I won’t forget, I will certainly be wetting a line there again. Old Mill is a magical place and I understand there will be a few extra tickets available in 2016, I hope not too many because this lake is wonderful the way it is. Pitch black at night, no traffic noise and ultra quiet. Old Mill was my angling highlight of 2015 and I can’t wait to go back. I even finished up catching a low double with the rods on the ground moments prior to leaving. Lovely times indeed.