In June 2016 we were fortunate enough to become custodians of Combe Bank Fishery. Having fished throughout the Darenth Valley since childhood, when Combe Bank came on to the market it was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream to purchase our own lake. The lake itself from what we understand had been in the hands of non anglers for the previous few years. From what we can gather after speaking to the locals it had hardly been fished during this time and had obviously been badly neglected. It was plainly evident to us that there was plenty of work to do to restore it to maybe its former glory or indeed to a fishery we could be proud of. What we did have was a history dating back in excess of 300 years, a decent level of stock and the potential to improve the fishery in a way we felt fit to do so.
We set ourselves a plan of action when we first purchased the lake and detailed below is a step by step log of the work we have carried out to date. Obviously this is a working progress but we feel proud of what we have achieved so far.
Back in July the first thing we felt necessary was to remove 2 large trees either side of the spit thus enabling these areas to become more open and encourage the fish to move freely around the lake. At the same time we cleared some of the margins and a few dangerous overhanging branches that really needed pruning.
At the end of July we embarked on what will probably be a 2 or 3 year exercise in reducing some of the Lilies at the shallow end of the lake. We employed the use of 2 Truxor Amphibian Weed and Root Removers which certainly made quite a few of the swims in the shallow end of the lake a lot more accessible. Later on in the year we sprayed most of the existing Lilies with a non-hazardous aquatic weed killer, which will have a thinning effect on the Lilies when regularly treated.
Another major task we took on at the back end of the summer was the creation of Old School Pond. This area was heavily silted being at the inlet end of the lake and as such we used long reach excavators and dumpers to remove what we estimate to be between 300 and 350 tonnes of silt. The bank side was heavily over grown with vegetation and we thinned out several of the tall trees surrounding the lake to allow natural sunlight in to this area, allowing any fish that are introduced to grow strong, healthy and prosper. This vibrant little lake we hope will give the perfect introduction for anyone, whether they be young or old, that wish to get in to the sport.
Whilst we had machinery on site we also went about tidying up and improving some of the swims. We levelled some of the areas to allow the pitching of bivvies, repaired the bank sides that had eroded away and placed compacted bark chippings in the swims to eliminate some of the muddy areas.
Now we got on to the exciting part our first fish stocking in October 2016. Throughout the year we had been recording wherever possible weights and captures of fish and whilst we are sure there are several residents that have still not been caught we were getting a pretty good idea of exactly what was in the lake. We took the decision that with the completion of Old School Pond we would remove some of the small Carp along with some Silver Fish and stock the main lake with some top quality, young healthy fish that have the potential to grow in the environment we are trying to create.
We purchased 38 English Bred Carp between 13lb and 16lb from Front Fish UK. We had knowledge of these super fish since we witnessed a stocking locally at The Sundridge Syndicate a couple of years prior. All the fish we purchased were C5 Carp and a mixture of Commons, Scaley Mirrors and a couple of Leathers.
At the beginning of November we carried a mutually beneficial task with the students from Hadlow College. We electro-fished and netted the whole lake which further enhanced the information we had previously gathered in relation to stock levels. In all approximately 45 small Carp in 3lb – 8lb bracket were removed and put in Old School Pond along with some silver fish. We recorded weights and took photos of another 50-60 residents of the lake. We think this was a thoroughly worthwhile exercise and we are grateful to both the teachers and students for the professional and caring manner in which they conducted themselves throughout the day.
With re-stocking in mind, we had also earlier in the year contacted Combley Carp Fisheries on the Isle of Wight and secured some larger fish to compliment the existing stock and the new stock from Front Fish UK. When they arrived to say we were pleased is an understatement. We ended up with 20 pristine Sutton Strain C6 English bred Carp, 6 of which were Commons and 14 Mirrors in excess of the 20lb mark, with 4 of them being in the upper twenty bracket.
Over the course of the coming year we will continue to transfer Silver Fish and small Carp in to Old School Pond to give these new fish and of course the remaining originals the best chance to flourish in their rejuvenated environment.
Another area we felt we needed to address was the silt levels that had accumulated over a long period at the shallower end of the lake. We decided in the first instance that we would use Siltex as a way of combating the silt and organic matter that was present.
Siltex breaks down the organic matter in the silt thereby causing a reduction in the silt depths. It also increases the ph level of the lake and the calcium within Siltex gives a building block for an explosion of natural food such as crustations. Although this was a very messy and difficult task, not least by us having to transport it by quad bike and boat, we will second dress the lake again in the spring and assess the results during the summer.
Another thing that was a worry for us was that the access to the lake. This was always going to be difficult if not impossible during the winter months since the only access in and out of the lake was via a track we had purchased around the edge of an adjacent field. In order to keep the lake accessible all year round we applied for planning permission to have an access road and car park put in back in July. After much discussion and many visits from Heritage England and the Conservation Officer the planning permission was finally agreed on 20th January 2017. All be it, this was later than anticipated it was a huge relief as it meant anglers would be able to drive and park close to the lake easily in the future. Work will commence within the next few weeks, please bare with us for the upheaval during time, but we are sure everyone will agree this will be hugely beneficial in the long run.