You couldn’t give me a Lake
There was always going to be a mixed reaction when it was announced the Carp Society had purchased Ashmead. The people who like and support the Society and get what we are trying to do were generally quite positive in their reaction to the news. Some questioned the wisdom of such a big purchase, which is fair enough, it was a massive lay out and a big project to undertake, but Ashmead was bought for the future of the Society. The purchase of Horseshoe 30 years ago has been the one thing above all else that has kept the Society going, and we very much hope Ashmead will follow suit and ensure there’s still a Carp Society in another 30 years, and beyond. Ashmead is a long term project for the Society, the here and now are/is just the foundations of what we hope will become as historical and significant a purchase as Horseshoe.
The negative reactions general come from 2 camps. Mark (the previous owner) had, and still has, a very loyal following at Ashmead, who are full of praise and admiration for the effort, work and dedication he put in to creating Ashmead, and rightly so. These people, or this camp, were obviously upset and disappointed that Mark sold the lake and were always going to be annoyed and suspicious of any new owners. I would never criticise this camp because to be honest, had I been a long term patron of Ashmead I would have probably put myself in this camp, people don’t like change, and for the most, are rightly suspicious of it, myself included. Loyalty and admiration for someone’s achievements are good qualities to have. The only concern I would have with this group is we will always get the “Mark wouldn’t have done that,” reaction to everything we do, but it is what it is. This camp though are not really a major problem as I would put them in the ‘Reasonable’ category, in so much as I’m confident in the intentions we have for Ashmead and once the effort and commitment we have for our lakes is seen and put into place, the fears and concerns this group initially had will disappear, and a more favourable opinion of us will be formed. Did I ever tell you I’m the eternal optimist?
The 2nd camp is a bit more troublesome, unfortunately the Carp Society, being the 'Carp Society' makes us an easy target for the naysayers. There is a small group of people that whatever the Society do will just be seen as an opportunity for them to saddle up the horses, round up the negative posse (via social media of course) and hang us high. We’ll never change these peoples minds, primarily because their reactions and comments are never really based on any genuine thoughts; it’s more of a NPC reaction to anything we do, Carp Society bad. Again, it’s just something we live with and I really don’t want to give these people anymore of my time. This brings me to the headline of this article.
The title of this article refers to something I heard Keith Arthur say on Fisherman’s Blues many years ago. I remember at the time thinking what a strange thing to say. That was of course in my salad days, I’d only been at Horseshoe a year or so and everything was going tickerty boo. Having a lake given would have been a dream come true. Fast forward a dozen years or so and I know exactly what he meant, and for the most, would now 100% agree with him.
That probably sounds a bit contradictory given I’m now in my 14th year with the Carp Society and have just this year, taken on the responsibility of looking after our 4th lake, Ashmead. To say it’s been a difficult 1st year for us there would be a slight understatement. After the inceptive tidy up down there, which I think I talked about in the last Carp Fisher, things started off pretty well. The initial scepticism from the Ashmead regulars seemed to quieten down as they saw the work we were putting into it, and not changing things to dramatically. Some of the cynics were actually quite complimentary.
So yeah, it was a good start. Then came the summer, it just got hotter and hotter, dryer and dryer, I don’t think it rained for 3 months. The water levels dropped dramatically, the weed was choking the lake and inevitably the oxygen levels fell and fell. They went down to such a level I actually thought the metre must be broke, but a second reading with a different metre only confirmed the seriousness of the situation we now faced.
Ideally, on a fishing lake, dissolved oxygen reading of between 7 and 9mg/l is what you’re looking for, anything between and including them figures is very good. Between 4 and 6mg/l is ok, and quite a lot of fisheries function quite well at those levels. 3mg/l and below, you’re looking at problems, so you can imagine how I felt when the readings at Ashmead were, in the best parts 2mg/l and in the worse 0.5mg/l. I’ll be the first to admit, it was panic stations. Trouble is it caught us off guard, we didn’t have the necessary equipment there, IE aerators, and pumps etc. So we frantically searched around looking to beg, steal or borrow. Fortunately Justin got in touch with Mark Bartlett and his dad Adrian and they kindly brought us a few Ventura style pumps down, Trevor managed to blag a couple of small generators and some air stones and we were at least able to get a bit of oxygenated water circulating round parts of the lake, but it was still twitchy bum time.
Within a couple of days though we’d managed to get a few splash aerators down there and a couple of decent generators. Shortly after that we got the mother of all generators down there and a few more splash aerators, and managed to at least get the readings up in parts of the lake. The layout of Ashmead made it impossible to get all of it oxygenated, so even with 5 splash aerators and 6 venture’s going, we weren’t covering all the lake, we were still on a wing and a prayer. We just had to hope the fish had the good sense to seek the aerated areas out.
As I mentioned earlier, we ended up with 5 splash aerators going, 6 Ventura pumps, and several air stones, all powered by generators and other assorted combustion engines. I think one of the pumps Mark and his dad brought down was actually used to put out fire in the blitz, I don’t say that disparagingly neither because by God we needed it and we are eternally thankful they brought it down.
Having got all that lot set up, the problem now was keeping them all running, they all had different fuel capacities and power usage, some were diesel, some were petrol, they were scattered all round the lake. We needed them all running 24/7. So Justin, Trevor and myself spent a couple of months (seemed like a lifetime) filling them all up, running to the petrol station with jerry cans, filling them up, going back to the lake, charging round to fill the generators and pumps up, then back to the petrol station, then back to the lake, and on and on it went, like I say 24/7. Then every now and then a pump would stop, we’d have to fix that, then a generator would break down and we’d have to fix that bush mechanic style, which if anyone knows me is not my forte. Luckily Justin and Trevor are quite handy when it comes to that, I did have a go at some repairs myself and surprisingly enough I found shouting, swearing, kicking and throwing a hissy fit worked a couple of times.
What we basically had for a good 6 weeks or so was the fish on life support. But steadily the oxygen levels improved, they never really got above poor for ages but at least the fish were still alive, God knows how, but they were.
During this time we had visits from fisheries consultants, and the Environment Agency and the one thing they all said was “You need to get rid of this weed asap”. We obviously couldn’t do it while the oxygen levels were so low, so it was a case of keeping the generators running till the oxygen levels were acceptable, and just as importantly the temperature dropped. In the meantime I’d got in touch with Alan at lakemaintenance.co.uk to arrange for him to come down and clear the weed.
So in October Alan and Jamie came down to Ashmead with a couple of boats and set about the weed. We weren’t cutting the weed, we were just collecting the rotten dead weed that had accumulated on the surface over the last few years and not disappeared. To be honest I’m not a massive fan of weed boats and would have much preferred to have removed it manually but such was the volume and density of the weed that we really had no choice but to get Alan and Jamie in. These guys have 10 years’ experience in these matters, and it showed, they did an outstanding job, and within 3 or 4 days had done away with 90% of the weed. They worked like Trojans and left the place remarkably tidy. They did say to me that Ashmead was the weediest lake they’d ever done, which given they’ve been doing it full time for 10 years gives you a bit of an idea of the situation down there.
It will be interesting to see how the weed removal is received by the anglers. It kind of feels like we are in a no win situation with some of them. I remember when the announcement was made that we had bought Ashmead, a lot of the comments were along the lines of we were going to ruin it, and remove all the weed. Then quite interestingly, when we were having the oxygen issues, the very same people were saying it was because we hadn’t removed the weed. So I’m fully expecting the ‘we’ve ruined the lake by removing the weed’ reaction now. Whatever people’s opinions, truth is we had no choice, we can’t let what happened this year happen again, I don’t think my heart could take it, I know Trevor’s wont.
I even did a bit of scrumping
We’ve bought Ashmead for the long haul, and nice as the place is, it did need surgery, and we’ve had to do things down there that won’t necessarily be met with immediate approval, generally when we’ve done some major work it will look untidy or more to the point different, but when some ones had a major brain operation and had about 500 stiches, you wouldn’t say to the surgeon “ look at the mess you’ve made” . All though on second thoughts I think some Carp anglers actually would.
Finally, I would just like to thank everyone who’s been involved down at Ashmead this year. If you’ve read this so far you’ll have a rough idea of the year it’s been, and without the help we’ve had it would have been such a different story. I wouldn’t normally single people out but special thanks must go to Justin and Trevor, I won’t embarrass them but they have both been brilliant. It genuinely hasn’t been easy and those 2 deserve a medal. I think it’s also worth mentioning here the commitment the Carp Society has made during this first difficult year. Quite aside from the initial purchase and the early expenditure, the recent problems have seen the Society close the lake at a loss of several thousand pounds in lost income, we’ve done about 7 grand on generators, 3 grand on aerators, about 3000 litres of fuel (you can work the cost of that out yourself), the weed boats were another few grand, and a few grand on other essential items. So please don’t underestimate what the Society has done, and will continue to do. All modesty aside I think I’ve done my bit as well. Actually the title of this piece came to mind one night at silly o’clock, on a night I should have been at a very special to me, persons birthday. I was in the lake up to my chest, freezing, with water spilling over my waders, in the pitch black, trying to mend a pump and all I could think about was Keith bloody Arthur whilst mumbling to myself “You couldn’t give me a ####### lake”.