Loz East | Discovering Day Tickets - Old Mill Lakes

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Having driven the length of the country to fish at Todber Manor in Devon, last month, Loz is back on home turf, in the sunny north, at Old Mill Lakes. It’s a venue that is little over a decade old, yet is already home to some fantastic sport from some very large fish...

Old Mill Lakes is a 50-acre complex, set in a rural location, overlooking the Lincolnshire Wolds. Chris Marler and Jo Thompsen purchased the farm with the intention of creating Lincolnshire’s finest carp fishery, something in which they have most certainly succeeded. The venue can be located using the following address: The Old Mill Cottage, Usselby, Market Rasen LN8 3YJ




There are currently three lakes on the complex, with a fourth one being created. All three present different types of angling, so, no matter what you’re looking for, Old Mill Lakes has something for everyone. The jewel of the complex is Birch Lake which represents more of a challenge to the angler, but what rewards there are to be had for your effort! Birch contains many 40lb carp with both commons and mirrors to over 50lb. In addition there is an impressive number of 30lb fish present, backed up with lots of 20-pounders. Though Birch can be a challenging water, talented anglers have previously been able to catch on most visits. Though equally, don’t be surprised if you go half a dozen or more sessions without a capture! To fish Birch Lake you must buy a membership first, which are priced at a one-off fee of £50 . Once you’re a member of the lake, day-ticket prices start at £30 for 24-hours for your first two nights, and your third night onwards drops to £25 per 24-hours thereafter.

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Willow Lake is ideal for group bookings, socials, or those anglers looking to step up from a ‘runs’ water, to target decent carp. This lake contains a great head of large target fish with around 17 fish weighing in excess of 30lb, backed up by countless twenties! Willow represents a great opportunity for most anglers to break their personal bests and is an excellent winter venue – with January often one of the most productive months of the year. The prices for Willow Lake are £25 for 24-hours’ fishing.

Oak Lake, which is the most recent addition to the complex, represents a great place to get involved in carp fishing. It is ideal for the novice angler or people who are just after plenty of sport for the day. This lake contains around 1200 fish, with a handful over the 30lb mark and around 80 fish over 20lb. Oak contains some stunning fish that are sure to grow very well over the coming years! To fish Oak Lake, the price is £20 for 24-hours.

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There are lots of on-site facilities for anglers to use, including regularly cleaned, flushing toilets, basins and shower facilities. Fresh drinking water is available from an outside tap located next to the toilets and showers. Secure parking is available on site inside a locked gate. There are no lake viewings or visitors on site which mean it is kept as safe as it can be. There is a local shop which is only a five-minute drive away and a Tesco is located in Market Rasen. The local takeaway do deliver to the site, but please place your order by 6pm to ensure that delivery is made prior to the fishery gate being closed at 7pm.

So let’s get into my session at the venue. I arrived at the lakes early Friday morning with a 48-hour session ahead of me. The gates opened at 11am and, as ever, the first thing I did was have a walk around Oak Lake and speak with some of the anglers that were packing away. There had actually been a lake booking for the 48-hours prior to my arrival so all the anglers pretty much knew what had been caught around the lake. The wind was pumping into the furthest bank away from the car park, and I knew from talking with Chris that the fish in this particular lake followed the wind. So immediately I made my way around there to speak to the anglers who were still packing away. After a five minute chat with them it became apparent that the fish were shoaled up in numbers in front of one of the corner pegs – the angler in this peg had caught the most fish during their session and there were clear signs the fish were still here. Before I started to set up I decided to have a quick check of my weather app on my phone. I knew the fish were held up in front of this peg because of the wind but if it was going to change I may have had to rethink my plan. My app told me that the wind was due to change 180 degrees and blow into the opposite bank for the first 24 hours but it was due to swing back around for the remainder of the session and pick up quite significantly. In the end I decided to stay where I was – I knew for the first day that the fish might move from in front of me but, I also knew once the wind changed back round I would get my chance.

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Once I had got the shelter up, I went about getting some rods in place. Because you can only fish from opposite banks, it made the marginal shelf along the no-fishing bank, to the side of my peg, a perfect place to set a few traps. Now it goes without saying that spodding is obviously a great tactic in relation to getting a bed of bait down, but I felt I had a lot more options available to me from this swim. I set my SLR marker float up and wrapped my spod rod up to 20 wraps and proceeded to cast out. As the float popped up it told me I had seven-foot of water directly off that margin, which, with the wind eventually due to pump into that bank, seemed too good to be true. As I’ve already mentioned it would have been easy to spod towards the float; however, due to the lake being fairly young in age there are no obstructions around the margins which meant it was even easier to head round there and scoop the bait in. I decided to start with a bucket of bait and get it done early. I was quite prepared not to catch for the first half of the session, but I knew if I could get the spot established for the wind changing it would produce in the end. My mix consisted of 10mm Mainline Hybrid boilies and Response pellets. The mix itself had been coated in Meta-Mino oil and the corresponding stick mix liquid, some 48-hours prior to the session. To finish the mix off, on the morning of my session I added a good couple of handfuls of the High Impact groundbait. Because the boilies and pellets were still wet to the touch from the liquids, the groundbait coats them beautifully and as they dry it stuck to the contents of the mix. What you’ll find then is as the bait falls through the water column it will leave a lovely layer of attraction as the groundbait breaks away giving off food signals for the carp!

Once I was happy with the spot I made the decision to use two rods instead of three. There were a couple of reasons for this – the first was simply because I was in a corner and I didn’t want to put three rods in one area. Quite often three can be too many and it can cause issues when you’re playing fish and also over-pressure the area. I also wanted to have one rod made up ready to go, so when I landed a fish I could simply cast the rig straight back out onto the spot and I’d always have two rods on the money.

In relation to rigs I decided to start with both rods fishing small solid bags. This would give me the perfect presentation over the top of the mix and also ensure everything was presented on the lakebed should there be any debris at the bottom of the marginal self. My rig consisted of Dark Matter tubing, solid bag tail rubbers, a 3oz flat pear inline lead, four inches of 18lb Supernatural braid, size 8 Wide Gape hooks and a small piece of silicone tubing to trap the hair in place. Hookbait-wise I was using 12m Essential Cell wafters, soaked in Pineapple Goo. I find the smaller the hookbait in a solid bag, the better. I was using the small Korda solid bags and filling them up firstly with some of the groundbait, before placing my rig into the corner of the bag. I was then topping the bag up with Spod and PVA pellets before tying and shaping the bag. Once the bag was complete I used the solid bag tail rubbers to suck any remaining air out the bag and inject a few millilitres of Meta-Mino oil into the bag. This can be a massive edge and, during the summer, especially on warm days, injecting oil into the bag can sometimes be the difference between catching and blanking.

Instead of casting my bags onto the spot I wanted to keep disturbance down to a minimum, so I had decided to walk around to my spot and swing the bags into positions before walking them back round to my swim. Before winding the marker float in I placed a big rock directly in line with the float and lined it up with a marker on the opposite bank so I knew exactly where to place my bags. Once the rods were in position the last thing I did was add a small back lead to both rods.

Well, my thoughts about having to wait for a bite were blown out of the water when my left-hand rod burst into action just 15 minutes after casting out! It resulted in a lovely 15lb common which immediately told me the tactics were working. Once the rod was back in position and the photographs taken, I set my third rod up with a fresh bag ready to go – and it’s a good job I did, as I had another two fish over the next hour or so. As early afternoon approached, my expectation regarding the fish moving bore fruit – it was clear this is what had occurred when I saw them showing regularly on the opposite margin of the lake. By now every swim was taken on both sides of the lake and the angling pressure was at its maximum.

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With that being the situation, as the first night approached, I made a conscious decision not to fish and leave the lines out of the water. Some readers may think that was a crazy decision – paying hard-earned money not to fish. There were many reasons why I did this but the main reason was to give the fish somewhere to go out the way of angling pressure. It was clear to me that the fish were down at the opposite end of the lake and the only thing that would change this would be the weather conditions altering. I felt that by leaving my lines out and feeding the swim this would give me the best opportunity to catch them the following day when conditions were set to change. I tend to rest my swim regularly in my own personal fishing as well, as I’m a big believer that if you fish sensibly you can catch more fish despite doing less angling time.

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The following morning I instantly noticed my homework had paid off – the wind had swung and was hitting my margin spots with gusts of 28mph and I felt confident it was game on. I’d made my solid bags up the night before so everything was ready to go and all had to do was walk around and swing the bags in. I did put a handful of bait over each bag before waiting in anticipation of one screaming off.

To cut a long story short, I love it when a plan comes together – and boy did it! Over the next 12 hours I couldn’t keep two rods in the water. I had to deal with double-takes on a regular basis! The only downside to the action was that I seemed to have been on a shoal of smaller fish and the average size was around the 8lb mark. As good as the action was, I needed to try and pick out one of the bigger fish, so I opted for a slightly bigger hookbait and cast single solid bags from the peg, rather than use them over a bed of bait. I knew by coming away from my baited area there may be a chance that the bigger fish were holding back off the spot. My last bite of the day came from a lovely clean 18lb common, which again suggested my theory about the bigger fish was correct.

The rest of the evening and night brought consistent action, with a fish coming every hour or two. In the end the temperature had dropped right down to an almost minus figure and the thought of being cold tying up solid bags just didn’t seem appealing. I decided to make two final bags up and have the rods ready to go at first light in the morning whilst I got some much needed sleep.

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As I woke on the final morning the sun was shining and everything was wet through with condensation. It looked set to be a warm autumnal day and I knew as the temperature rose and the wind picked up into my corner, the fish would eventually turn up in front of me again. After I’d had some breakfast, I went about setting the traps once more and I decided to use one rod, cast long and on its own, to try and pick out the bigger fish, and walk the other rod back round on my baited area. The swim continued to rock, but still from the smaller stamp of fish. The lake holds around 80 different 20lb-plus fish along with a handful of 30-pounders so I knew I just had to keep working at it.

On the Sunday I had a small amount of filming to do on some new products from Korda Developments and boy was that a hard task with regular action on the rods. In the end I decided to leave the rods out of the water for a couple of hours to get the filming done, and towards the end of the filming the lake had quietened off dramatically. To tell the truth, I was the only one left on the lake! At this point I decided to use three rods, spreading them out in the centre of the lake, in the hope of tagging one of the bigger fish.

I finished up the weekend with a total of 41 fish – the last being a cracking 21lb common, which really did cap off a great session on Oak Lake.

This day-ticket venue is, quite simply, something else. It is set in an area of the country where there are not a lot of options in terms of really big fish, so it really stands out in a league of its own in this respect. With three lakes on the venue, all offering different types of carping, it caters for almost every angler’s needs. In the future I can see this as not only being the best day-ticket complex in the area, but challenging some of the finest of its kind in the country!

To book yourself on Old Mill, please call either Chris, or Jo, on the mobile number: 07767 363545. A payment is required upfront to confirm an advanced booking and this is taken over the phone by card payment. You are welcome to call ahead for availability on the day you plan to fish though and pay on the bank. There are no refunds given. If a cancellation occurs at least 7-days prior to your session commencing, then you can reschedule it for another time. Please note that sessions can only be rescheduled once and that must then be within a calendar year.

Everything you need to know before visiting the venue can be found at www.oldmilllakes.com and when I say ‘everything’ I mean everything. The website, as far as a day-ticket venue goes, is one of the best I’ve ever seen – especially in terms of preparing anglers for exactly what they need to be aware of. I won’t run through the whole list of rules in this article because they are clearly displayed on the website, but it is worth mentioning that all nets and slings must be dipped in the disinfection solution prior to you starting your session. This is particularly important for the fishery to make sure no unwanted disease is being introduced.

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The fishery’s Facebook page is ‘Old Mill Lakes’ or alternatively you can add Chris Marler as a friend. Their Instagram account can be found by searching @oldmilllakes – so there are plenty of ways of finding out useful information before you arrive at the lakes.

Be lucky... Loz

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Mick Clifford