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Hunt for the scaleys

I aim to write around once a month and to start us off, I've decided to take it right back. So far back in fact that it's 2013 - a whole year before I even purchased the lake. Now call it optimistic, or even over confident if you like, but I like to think of it as serious forward thinking and planning.

I knew from the outset that I wanted to have a fishing lake in France with a big stock of scaley carp. Not like other lakes, who may boast a couple of scaley fish that everyone has on their hit list, but a lake full of stunning, mental looking scaleys. Proper looking carp that I could mix with some typical big shouldered strains and of course, some scale perfect Commons.

So, where to start...? Finding such fish in France isn't easy at the best of times, but buying a large quantity of them was going to be nigh on impossible! Especially as the first few farms I made initial enquiries with wouldn't accommodate me hand picking my stock. Another option was visiting the 'vidanges' (drain downs) of the public waters but that could take forever, and lots of driving around on the off chance that one might hold what I was looking for.

I had to re-think. I knew what I wanted and I wasn't prepared to compromise. It wasn't an option to just fill the lake with scaleless, leathery carp. The one thing I had in my favour was time. I still hadn't even found a lake I wanted to buy yet so I decided to start from scratch. Well almost scratch...

Finding the fish I wanted was easier if they were small, very small. They're more easily available and I already had friends living, and regularly carp fishing in France. Friends have ponds, and the ponds had carp. We set about grading through thousands of small fish, looking predominantly for scale pattern and shape, but to a lesser extent their head and mouth shape, and fin size mattered too.

Many years ago I spent three years studying fishery management and carp farming at Sparshlolt College under the tuition of Viv Shears, Simon Scott, Chris Seagrave etc. Post college I worked in carp farming and the fisheries industry in various places throughout the UK and France. As a consequence of this I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of rearing my own lake's stock from fish just a few inches long. So the challenge began. Hand select, feed and grow at least half the lakes stock from baby carp. This was obviously going to take time but I hoped it would provide me with the rather unique looking head of fish I eventually hoped to achieve...

Next month I will carry on chatting about the baby scaley stock and the hunt for a lake for them to call home!

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