IAIN MACMILLAN – FOREVER IN OUR DNA
As most people will be aware by now, on Tuesday 10th August, the carp-fishing world lost one of its brightest stars, Iain Macmillan, following a battle with bowel cancer.
After joining DNA as a consultant in April 2018, Iain became more than just a colleague to us all at DNA; he was a friend, a true friend at that, and a massive asset to the company.
His first year with DNA saw the emergence of the DNA Open-Access Series, filmed in conjunction with his good friend and partner in crime, Lee Morris. Iain, Mozza and everyone at DNA were extremely proud of this series, as it was more than just a series about catching fish; it was about friendship, camaraderie, laughter and overall good times, factors that are sometimes forgotten but make up the fundamental reasons why we are continually drawn back to the bank.
Mozza and Iain shot seven episodes in 2018, travelling to venues all over the UK, including Millbrook, Stanwick Lakes, Q Lake, Coking Farm and Trent View, and never once did they fail to catch or entertain.
That subsequent winter saw Iain make his debut in the Winter Series, kick-starting the series alongside Mozza at the iconic Cuttle Mill, a venue where Tong had spent many a session in years gone by. The shoot proved to be a challenge, with the pressured fish doing their very best to evade capture, so what a moment it was when Iain landed a beautiful common on the second day, a fish that meant so much to both Iain and Mozza, encapsulated by the embrace between the two moments after the fish went in the net.
Iain returned later in the Winter Series for a shot at Elphicks Fisheries in Kent, fishing alongside Mozza once again, as well as Perry Alabaster, a man whose record on Elphicks stands up against anyone’s. The expectation was that Perry would be the main focus of the film, but in typical fashion, it was Tong who stole the show, landing three fish from the notoriously tricky Pullens Lake, capped by a 40-pounder, the largest-ever fish caught during the Winter Series. Not bad going for December!
Sadly, later what winter, Iain was to show signs of ill health and received a diagnosis of bowel cancer in early 2019. Understandably, this was not only a huge shock, but a very scary time for Iain and his family.
Incredibly, just a few weeks later, and despite having a picc line in his arm due to the chemotherapy, Iain attended the Northern Angling Show in Manchester to spend the day on the DNA stand and present a talk on the main stage with Mozza about the DNA Open-Access Series. Tong was in exceptional form, laughing and joking with the large numbers of people who came to visit the stand that day to wish him well.
It was impossible for the DNA Open-Access Series to resume that year, as Tong put himself through months of chemo, but later that summer, he and Mozza were able to get back out on the bank together once again, more than half a year since their last filming project together.
This time it was to shoot an episode of The Mindset, which took place in the salubrious setting of one of the lodges at Blackthorn Fishery. This turned out to be a great insight into the mind of an angler who had fished many of the sport’s circuit waters down the years, including the likes of Frimley, Welly, Linch Hill and the Essex Manor, and caught countless numbers of big fish during that time.
If you are an angler obsessed with finding the right ‘spot’, you might want to give this video a watch, as in it Iain talks about the epiphany moment that saw him change to a more mobile approach and the rig that allowed him to do so.
It wasn’t until the autumn of 2019 before Iain was able to spend any significant time on the bank, after recovering from his surgery in the summer. In a very poignant piece shot at Mustang Lake in early October entitled Back in the Saddle, Iain gave us an update on his condition and explained how much fishing had played a huge role in the lust for life he had rediscovered. He also thanked the many people for their well wishes and support over the past few months, which had helped get him out of the dark holes that cancer inevitably digs for the people it touches.
In true Tong fashion, he capped off the video with a fantastic 33lb 12oz mirror, an amazing moment he got to share in the company of a group of his nearest and dearest friends.
Fishing through the winter proved difficult for Iain, as he found it hard to deal with the cold after sustaining a year of chemo. However, he insisted on appearing in an episode of the Winter Series and fished alongside Mart Bartlett at Brasenose 1, where he witnessed a masterclass of angling from the Bartman, despite the freezing-cold conditions.
Shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020, Tong was able to spend some time on Blackthorn Fishery and enjoyed some “biblical”, using his word, results over a few sessions. After picking up a tub of Pink Peril wafters from the DNA stand at the Northern Angling Show, he decided to give them a go on his trusted German rigs along with his beloved Crayfish Mini Mix pellets, and the results soon followed!
As well as a number of thirties, Tong capped his short campaign on the Shropshire venue with a magnificent-looking mirror of 40lb 12oz, undoubtedly one of the highlight captures of what was a challenging year for everyone.
Desperate to keep himself busy during lockdown, Tong got involved in a number of Facebook and Instagram Lives, which proved to be highly entertaining, as you would expect, and helped raise everyone’s spirits during a difficult period.
Finally, we were able to go fishing once again, but we just couldn’t risk going out filming in the usual fashion with Iain. With his immune system almost non-existent due to the chemo and considered amongst the clinically vulnerable, we just couldn’t take the chance that he may pick up something, not least coronavirus which, understandably, was a huge concern for him and us.
With day-ticket venues around the country absolutely packed out with anglers in the spring and summer, we came up with a plan to shoot a video knowing we could still maintain the necessary social distance. Having fished countless numbers of day-ticket waters during his angling career, we asked Iain to come up with his 10 top tips for fishing these kinds of venues, knowing his experience would prove hugely beneficial to anglers looking to gain an edge on these venues.
This video has received more than 50,000 views and will continue to help anglers for many years to come, all part of Iain’s legacy to the sport.
Iain managed to enjoy some memorable moments on the bank over the rest of 2020, helping us with the final testing phase of The Bug. His catches included a forty from Farriers, fish to 30lb-plus from Dawford Pool and plenty more from Blackthorn Fishery and his local venue, Millbrook. He was really enjoying his fishing again and cherishing every moment he spent on the bank.
In October, Tong was to make his final trip to France, visiting probably his favourite venue on the Continent, Pascale Lake. Tong had an amazing trip with a close group of friends, landing a number of fifties, including a biblical 55lb 12oz common, and the highlight of the trip, a stunning dark mirror of 69lb, a fitting parting gift from a venue that held such a fond place in Iain’s heart.
Deteriorating health, poor weather and Covid restrictions made for a challenging winter, but Tong made the very best of the opportunities available to him, including a session on Cudmore Fisheries for our Day Tripper series. Just a few miles from his house, Cudmore was somewhere Tong was able to spend a number of day sessions during lockdown, landing fish in excess of 20lb. Naturally, out of the seven episodes in the Day Tripper series, Tong’s episode drew in the most viewing figures, such was his unwavering appeal with the viewers.
With night fishing permitted once again from the end of March, the Open-Access Series was able to return for the first time in two and a half years, sadly for just one episode – but what an episode it was! Visiting Millbrook Fisheries in beautiful Stoke sunshine, Tong and Mozza were in exceptional form, both clearly thrilled to be back out on the bank together again doing their thing.
Mozza was to get the better of the action fish-wise, but what a special moment it was when Tong landed the first fish of the trip, a capture that meant so much and for so many reasons. Not only that, it was one of Millbrook’s finest too, a stunning 22lb-plus mirror that had Tong, and no doubt the majority of the viewing public, glowing with joy.
Sadly, shortly after the filming, Tong was to get some crushing news following the results of his latest scan. The cancer had grown and spread…
After a few positive scans in 2020, hearing this news was absolutely devastating.
A born fighter and a true inspiration to us all, Iain got on with things and started a new course of chemotherapy, although this hit him hard and side-lined him for a number of weeks. By this point, Iain’s body was becoming weaker and the impact the treatment had hugely affected his day-to-day life.
Despite the obvious limitations, Iain was still keen to get out fishing and filming when he could. The term ‘legacy’ was approached in conversation and a plan was hatched to get some of his favourite angling stories down on film, for people to enjoy for many years to come. The Unwritten Chapters was born and filming began in earnest, beginning with a chapter about his formative years on Hardwick Smiths on the Linear complex, where the jewel in the crown was a fully scaled mirror known as Jordan.
We absolutely loved shooting this series and hearing Tong’s stories, and looked forward to getting many more chapters down on film. We had plans for an episode dedicated purely to his capture of the Turtle at 52lb-plus from Welly, as well as stories from Essex Manor, Horseshoe, Farriers and his various trips to France, but unfortunately time was against us all.
A shoot in early July, when we joined what was clearly a very poorly Tong at his beautiful syndicate water, was to be our last with him. We shot two chapters with him that day, one covering his first spell on Welly, and the second on his time at Frimley, which we will be airing soon. Watching the Welly episode back now, it’s impossible to comprehend that he would no longer be with us just six weeks later. The passion and excitement he demonstrated in the video for his time on Welly, and fishing in general, is clear for all to see.
We will never forget his contribution to the company, the impact he made on us all as people and the way he inspired those around him, in particular the fishing community. It is testament to his character, therefore, that the angling world has rallied round and is raising thousands of pounds for the Dougie Mac Hospice, where Iain spent his final days.
You can make a contribution to this fantastic cause by visiting the following link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andrew-blower1
You can also contribute by entering any of the raffles held on the following site, where there are some incredible prizes to be won: https://youwincompetitions.co.uk/carp-gear-competitions
Iain Macmillan, a man who loved fishing, and fishing loved him.