Dan with an Oakwood beauty!
I bet if I was stood in a room with 100 carp anglers there would be 85 hands up in front of me by now. It must be most anglers dream to have there own fishery whether it be at home or abroad. It certainly was my dream as a boy to have my own carp lake many days were spent sitting on the side of rivers and lakes around the UK dreaming of the prospect.
Almost 30 years has past since then and I now find myself as the owner of the beautiful estate lake Oakwood in Brittany France. In this article my aim is to provide a glimpse of “the dream” and give a realistic insight of just how much hard work it actually is and maybe not such a dream after all!
I will start by describing the lake, it was dug in 1862 by the owners of the chateaux , I think since then it has been largely left to its own devices, to develop naturally shall we say.
When I purchased the lake I could see the potential but I definitely under estimated the amount of work involved in getting the lake ready for commercial fishing. The best way I can describe it, is as a house that needs to be stripped right back to its shell, have the foundations looked at and start again!
This translates to having a 5 acre lake covered almost totally in lily pads and a horrendous amount of natural weed, on top of that was the removal of 150 years of debris that had fallen in such as tree limbs and even whole trees.
That’s the lake covered… then comes the surrounding land… some 19 acres of overgrown forest and 15 ft high brambles. In fact there was only access to the waterside at one place in 5 acres of water and half of the site was not even fenced, a mammoth task in itself as the land is rock hard. Then there’s the facilities to build for the anglers.
At the start I was full of energy and raring to go after spending our first night in our “new” house which resembled a building site, we had concrete floors, no heating, this was not a problem at the time as it was the start of the summer and more importantly no kitchen. My two coleman fishing stoves were employed to do the job of keeping us fed for the next few months until a kitchen could be delivered.
The first job was to clear a path around the lake my new Stihl strimmer was fired up and away I went. I think about 2 weeks passed and I had in place a small path that meandered through the woods and along by the lake. The next decision that had to be made was where to place the swims. Much thought was given to this and I set about clearing 6 pegs off the main path. The chainsaw was now also no stranger to hard work as I cut down the trees that were in the way of the pegs before bringing in the brush cutter.
The steps were next to go in where there were changes in elevation on the land… back breaking work as the ground was rock hard clay combined with a mass of tree roots. At this point I was wondering how on earth was I going to erect a fence on this solid ground.
Luckily enough my neighbours had a post whacker and I rented a fence post bore holer so these were used to put up around 1 km of fencing, that was the first summer over and into the winter months where my attention had turn’t to finishing off some bits in the house.
It wasn’t all work we had done a little bit of fishing in between with float rods and stalking tackle the biggest I had landed was 38lb and the mrs had caught her first carp unaided at 32lb!
Around the lake was now looking pretty good but now something I had been wondering for the past year “how the hell do I get all the lily pads and weed out?“.
Well the answer was simple dive down there and rip the root up off the lake bed! This was an immense job and some what of a team effort but it still ending up taking much of the summer as we constructed featured swims. The weed was next, I made an industrial weed rake and set about clearing the swims with the help of a 4×4 and my much suffering wife!
We were on the home straight now and I began building a cabin for the fishermen’s to use, this went up surprisingly fast and was finished with a modern hydrostatic shower. It was now looking like a carp fishery and the transformation was complete and we were expecting our first paying customers in April the following year.
This came round pretty quick and I soon swapped from fishery manager to host looking after the guests and taking there food round for them and helping out in any way needed. In between guests it was back to work on the lake keeping the lily’s trimmed back and removing the weed as it begins to grow again with the hot weather, it really does never stop as there’s always something you want to do next its like the list is endless.
When the guests leave its time to start the winter feeding programme making sure the fish are in tip top condition for the next season and make general improvements around the lake such as tree pruning, creating new swims and changing certain elements which improve the fishery for the following year. Then in February every year its time to add calcium carbonate to the water to help keep a level ph, reduce silt and stimulate aerobic micro-organisms.
On top of that we have added further stock this year December 2010, this was a really enjoyable day I wish everyone could be like this and then the artic conditions came and onto maybe the worse job of all ice removal! Vital for letting the lake and the fish breath.
So you can see that owning a lake and managing it properly is a full time occupation, and very labour intensive be prepared to work long days, get wet and covered in mud on the odd occasion or two. Obviously the workload can vary from lake to lake whereas a lake that is well established will be more labour intensive than a newly dug hole in the ground but I hope this has given you a glimpse of your dream!
Being a good host is also vital, as unlike when u go fishing in England, coming to France is a once a year holiday for most people so it is crucial the clients enjoy there stay. You can’t guarantee big carp for everyone but you can give helpful advice and point people in the right direction so they can land carp of their dreams.
Tight lines for 2011!
Dan @ Oakwood