For several years, I used to breed some of my larger Koi after preparing the spawning ponds with purpose-made, soft spawning nets and lengths of artificial spawning grass (Kinran), imported from Japan. We also sold these items to those who wished to have a go in spawning their own Koi.

If I recall correctly, a 1 metre length of spawning grass cost £10.50 to purchase separately but we offered lengths of grass with eggs on them for £14.50 with an extra charge of £1.50 for bag and oxygen if the customer could not provide their own container. This became extremely popular with enthusiasts from all parts of the UK and many telephoned us in late spring to reserve and pay for their eggs. We usually bred four varieties and many enthusiasts purchased eggs from all four varieties.

It did get a little complex because we had to put plastic tags on each grass reserved which had the customer’s name and telephone number on it so we could advise when the eggs would be ready to collect. After one spawning we could have 60 lengths of grass ready to go and some enthusiasts would reserve five lengths per variety. Then the problem could be that the other varieties may have not yet started, it did become somewhat of a problem.

Because these spawnings were all natural, some grasses could have thousands of eggs whilst others may only have had a hundred or so. This produced some real disappointment from some customers although I do recall one lady who grew a Doitsu Kohaku from only a few eggs in a very large indoor aquarium. Exactly one year later the Koi measured 20” – and it was a lovely Koi!

For those enthusiasts living far away we used to send the eggs by overnight carrier if required although many did collect. On one occasion a gentleman from Devon had paid for one length of grass and we rang him to say it was ready for collection. He asked the price for overnight delivery but did not seem to be happy with that and decided he would drive up instead in a 3 litre car which would cost him far more in fuel than an overnight delivery.

On the day he was due to arrive, he had engine problems on the motorway and kept ringing to say he’d be late, this went on all the day from different parts of the UK. It got to closing time and still he had not arrived so I decided to stay behind and wait. I had the bag of eggs in my office and carried on with some paperwork. It was almost 10.00 when he arrived and I was past caring so I thought I’d have a laugh with him.

I pointed to the bag of eggs and said he owed me £1.50 for the bag and the oxygen, he was about to pay me when I pointed to the bag and said to him – ‘Can you see this egg?’ – and pointed to one of the thousands in the bag. He looked closely and pointed to an egg, saying – ‘Do you mean this one?’ – to which I replied – ‘No, that one!’ After a minute or so, we were both knelt on the floor and pointing with a pen. At the end he said – ‘Well what about that egg?’ I replied by saying – ‘If you allow me to cut that single strand off the grass with the egg and let me keep that particular egg, I’ll refund your £14.50 for the entire grass, I will not charge you for the bag and oxygen – and I will re-imburse your petrol costs to get here and back.’

The man was amazed and went into deep thought. He then asked me to point it out again and we ended up back on the floor whilst I dotted the bag with a waterproof pen to show exactly where the egg was inside the bag. He then asked me – ‘Is it good then?’ to which I replied – ‘Good? – it’s bloody magnificent – and female!’

He then gave me the £1.50 and said – ‘If it’s worth that to you, it must be worth ten times that amount to me!’ and he picked the bag up and took it to his car. I locked the unit door behind us both and walked over to my car as he was starting his engine. I stopped him before he set off and asked him – ‘You will remember which egg it is, won’t you?’

His face was a picture as realisation crept in……………. I never heard from him again!

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