The lure of the Koi

In the early 1970’s, when Koi were almost unheard of in the UK, I was a member of the Northern Section of the BKKS and we used to attend monthly meetings in various homes and halls in order to learn more about Koi. One member was a smartly attired and talented Solicitor, he was in his late 30’s and owned a very successful family business in Chester. He became captivated with Koi and often remarked how he wished to breed them as a hobby.

After he’d managed to breed some of his Koi reasonably successfully in his lovely garden, the bug bit him more severely. He bought an area of land on an exposed mountainside in North Wales, the land had a very small barn on it and he fitted it out with basic items whereby he could sleep there when required and also cook meals etc. I made a visit there for the first time to see he’d hired an excavator and driver to sculpt earth ponds from the mountainside and explained that each would overflow into the lower pond until the water finally reached a large stream below. By then, his previous neat and professional appearance had suffered, he had long hair and wore very casual clothing, and Wellington boots had now replaced his expensive formal shoes.

The land was basically rocks and boulders with large deposits of slate, but some ponds did hold water that was abundant in these areas – but extremely cold. I mentioned this to him but he shrugged it off with a grin. It became obvious to many of us that his venture must have had an adverse effect on his business. I learned that some months later he’d moved out of his family home and now lived in the barn, his luxury car had now been replaced by a Land Rover that took to the mud and stone tracks much more readily.

Some months later he rang me, very excitedly, and urged me to go over again to see his new ‘Koi farm’. It was an amazing sight to behold, there were pipelines draped all down the mountainside, circular metal containers full of water on the few flat areas and large ponds brimming with what initially appeared to be ‘foam’ on the surfaces. His appearance was now that of a true hermit and he’d taken to smoking endless non-standard cigarettes. He casually mentioned that his wife and children had left him, they had also relieved him of the family business but that did not seem to have any noticeable effect on him. He had a strange ‘fire’ in his eyes as we walked up the slopes and he showed me the reason for the foam surfaces of the large ponds.

These were brimming with millions of freshly deposited Koi eggs on piles of floating larch branches and he showed me these with great pride. He would point to a few and say ‘These are red and whites’; these are yellow ones; these are red and black’ and so on. He then showed me his parent stocks in these metal containers lined with plastic sheets where his sorry parent stocks were recuperating. I placed my hands in the water that he used for drinking and cooking purposes and it was ice-cold.

He then asked me into the stone barn where he lived, there was a bed, a stove and piles of fish-farming books/magazines. The interior walls of the barn had not been plastered and the wind blew through the open gaps constantly. He had three layers of clothes on day and night. All he could talk about were what he would do when the eggs hatched and future plans to acquire new ‘brood stocks’.

The very last time I heard from him was when he rang to say the hatching had not been a success but he knew the reasons why and that he could easily resolve the problem with his next attempts!

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