Norton Disney: Danny Fairbrass's vision for the ultimate day-ticket carp site

Norton Disney: Danny Fairbrass's vision for the ultimate day-ticket carp site
  • Embryo has bought £1.2m-plus six-lake site

  • First three lakes due to open in September

  • Hundreds of fish stocked. Biggest, at 38lb, came from Rookley Park

  • Speci tench water to come

In an exclusive interview with Carpfeed, Danny Fairbrass has set out his ambitious vision for Embryo’s newly acquired day-ticket complex.

The non-profit body, started by the Korda boss in 2014, has been otter-fencing club waters and running syndicates across the country, but this its first foray into day-ticket angling.

In a bold commitment to its ethos of protecting carp stocks for future generations, Embryo has bought a six-lake site at Norton Disney in Lincolnshire for more than £1.2m.

The organisation only got the keys to land in December but aims to have three of the lakes open for day-ticket anglers by September.

None of the waters contained carp, so a huge stocking and feeding operation has been undertaken, including the introduction of carp to 38lb.

Scroll down for a lake-by-lake guide to Norton Disney

The Norton Disney site in Lincs. It has never held carp before

The Norton Disney site in Lincs. It has never held carp before

Danny explained the scale of the operation to Carpfeed this morning [Feb 6]: “It’s always been one of our goals to open a day-ticket site.

“The way we’ve kept prices low means the break-even point on Embryo’s syndicate waters is 15 to 20 years, so Korda is lending Embryo money, which we’re happy to do.

“Korda is profitable, so it’s not life-threatening, but the senior people at Korda would love Embryo to stand on its own two feet.

“The waters that Embryo fence we do at cost price, we don’t make a profit at all, so there’s no income stream – it’s all just paying for itself, or losing us money. One day all these syndicate will go into profit, but that’s a long way off.

“Korda is lending £3/4/500,000 a year on syndicates on waters that we just rent.

“So, the idea of a day-ticket site is it’s a big expense at the outset but hopefully in five to seven years that initial purchase is going to pay for itself and the profit will help to finance all our other Embryo projects.”

With depths of up to 20ft, Danny says the lakes are full of features

With depths of up to 20ft, Danny says the lakes are full of features

The acquisition of Norton Disney comes after years of being outbid on other sites.

Said Danny: “Embryo began five years ago this July and we’ve been looking for a day-ticket site ever since we started.

“We’ve looked at plenty of sites and just been outbid by people who want to run watersports, or people gambling on being allowed to develop the sites for housing.

“We were always up against these people, and we will never allow anything other than fishing to take place on a venue we own.

“It’s actually written into my will that when I shuffle off this mortal coil a board of trustees will not allow an individual or company to benefit from development – the lakes will never be sold or developed for anything else but fishing.”

There are six water on site, three of which should be open in September 2019

There are six water on site, three of which should be open in September 2019

After being out-muscled in the past, Danny wasn’t going to let Norton Disney slip through Embryo’s fingers.

He said: “We had learnt from all this and went in with a bid of 50 per cent more than it was valued for, because we knew it was under-valued. We knew what had happened in the past and that experience served us well.

“We paid over £1.2m, which includes a farmhouse which we’ll renovate and run as an Airbnb.”

Stocking has been going on since the beginning of the year and the site’s otter fence is due to be completed later this month – and it can’t come soon enough.

“We stocked it in the middle of January,” said Danny, “and within a week we had already lost one fish [to predation].

“And these are lakes that have never had carp in before and there’s no stream or watercourse coming in. It’s frightening!

“If you are a lake owner anywhere in the land and you haven’t got a fence up then you must be losing fish.”

All the lakes have been professionally scanned to create depth maps, with Danny promising plenty of natural features and depths of up to 20ft.

The Norton Disney lakes have been professionally mapped for depths and features

The Norton Disney lakes have been professionally mapped for depths and features

The initial trio of lakes will have different characteristics and have all been named after people close to Embryo.

Danny explained: “We’re naming the lakes after the guys at Embryo who have put their life and soul into it, so we’ve got Pettitt’s [after Embryo leader Matt Pettitt], Turner’s [after James Turner] and Billy’s, which is named after my dad who passed away in January.”

Initial prices will be kept below £30 for 24 hours and Danny added that not all swims will be fishable at the start of the venture to allow the fish to bed in.

He said: “We want everybody to have a chance of a bite.

“On some day-ticket venues an experienced angler can turn up and look at some swims and think ‘those poor buggers are going to blank’. I don’t want that – the staff are going to be coaches, not just bailiffs – I want anglers to go away thinking ‘I’ve had a few bites and left a better angler, and no-one has cast into my swim’.

“And if that takes us longer to turn a profit then so be it.”

He added: “I think you can tell by the way I’m talking about that it’s very exciting times.”

Extensive tree planting in evidence

Extensive tree planting in evidence

Norton Disney lake guide

Pettitt’s

Size: 16 acres
Number of swims: 13
Stock: 200 fish to begin with, potentially rising to 300 later
Size of fish: Nothing under 20lb, biggest nudging 40lb
Danny says: “Pettitt’s is the big-fish lake. It’s 16 acres and has 13 swims. That’s half the usual number of swims for a water of that size, but the reasoning is if I was the last guy to turn up I’d still have a swim to fish and not be stuck in a corner or between two other guys.

“Every single one of the fish will be over 20lb by the time it opens, up to 40lb. The 38-pounder we’ve stocked is from Rookley Park on the Isle of Wight [which was recently closed to anglers and drained], with several other Rookley 30s and upper 20s.”

Billy’s

Size: 27 acres
Number of swims: 23
Stock: 800 fish to begin with
Size of fish: Smallest stockies will be 15lb-plus at time of opening, up to potential 40s.
Danny says: “The smallest fish have been stocked at 10lb and they will be 15lb by the time it’s open, and the biggest fish are mid-30s, so there might be 40s by the time it opens.

“We are going to build up a spit to the island so there will be swims on there that will definitely be pole position looking out into the middle of the lake, but all swims will have their own bit of margin.

“I want everyone to be able to go into a swim and think ‘blimey, I’ve got lots of water here’.”

Turner’s

Size: 18 acres
Number of swims: Under construction
Stock: About 600 fish to begin with
Size of fish: Similar to Billy’s Lake
Danny says: “This is quite a long lake but we haven’t put swims around it yet.”

In the pipeline

Daborn’s
Named after Embryo’s Stuart Daborn, this will be another big-fish water at Norton Disney, set to open in autumn 2020. 

Holden’s
Named after Embryo fisheries officer Richard Holden, this venue will, in the words of Danny, be a “real smash-‘em-up water with tonnes and tonnes of fish where even the complete beginner can get bites”

A specimen-tench water
Danny has wanted to created a lake for coarse anglers for many years, and now he thinks Norton Disney is the ideal place to do it. He said: “Providing they pass a health check, we will take all the tench out of all our other syndicate waters, where they’re not fished for and not appreciated, and put them in here.

“I don’t think there will be anywhere in the country where you can go and fish for tench like that.

“I’ve wanted to do it since the start, to do something for coarse anglers, but it just hasn’t presented itself.

“In the future there will definitely be that, and the Guru team will design lakes that are based more around that kind of market.”