Western Morning News Article

Angling is big business. The value of coarse fishing to the UK economy is measured in the hundreds of millions. Fishing, it is said, is Britain's biggest participation sport and real enthusiasts will spend a fortune, take a lifetime and travel many miles in pursuit of their quarry.

Then there are those who just want to while away a few hours drinking in the beauty of the countryside next to an attractive lake, with the possibility of catching a fish or two an added bonus.



A carp deserves careful handling (above). David Lidstone (right) at Emperor Fishing Lakes   Awaiting Photo

David Lidstone, fishery owner – and a countryman down the very soles of his boots – wants to encourage both kinds of anglers to enjoy the sport.

With his wife Joanne, he has already proved he can build a business around angling from the ground up, on the other side of the Channel. Now he is doing it all over again in his native Devon.

He takes up the story of their French adventure: "We bought a very run-down, old fish farm with three lakes. A total of 27 acres. Hardly anyone had been near the place for 30 years apart from a few duck shooters. The place was a mess, it was infested with rats, deserted and had just been battered by a recent hurricane.

"We had to cut our way in and spent the next nine months clearing the site with chainsaws. We reckon we removed about 100 tonnes of lumber, mostly out of the water!"

Joanne takes up the story: "It was a steep learning curve and it took a while to get used to this new life of ours. There were a lot of rules and regulations. The French are very particular about boundaries and things like that. There is a lot of red tape in France. Our French neighbours were very supportive and helped us with the paperwork."

Their efforts paid off. "After just eight years, in 2010 our business was voted Coarse Fishing magazine's best family venue and the customers were rolling in. Some good fish were being landed and we had built a fantastic bungalow and were fully booked for two years."

Having created the dream fishery, however, David wasn't quite ready to settle back and enjoy it. He explains: "It wasn't long before I felt that I needed a new challenge. Some people thought we might take it easy, but fate decided otherwise when a buyer for the French property emerged.

"Almost immediately after that, we were offered the opportunity to buy a total of 54 acres near Loddiswell next to Andrew's Wood in the South Hams."

Viewing the two magnificent lakes, you can see why they simply had to have the place – it is a beautiful and secluded spot. One of the lakes is fed by a waterfall and there are literally thousands of native trees and a great deal of wildlife. It is a testament to the previous owner's vision and David and Joanne's hard work.

They are both truly in their element here. You can see he loves the place when David talks about his work. He steps up a gear when you ask him about the lake and what's in it. His enthusiasm is infectious.

He describes the fish that can be caught at Emperor Lakes. There are carp the size of a sack of potatoes – some of the biggest in the South West – swimming about in these placid waters, not to mention catfish and sturgeon unrivalled in the South West in terms of size, diversity and species.

David says: "The top lake is for syndicate members and the bottom lake has been opened up to the public on a pay per day basis, offering fish over 40lb across three species. We want this place to appeal to both the novice and the serious angler... there's enough space for everyone."

He insists he isn't trying to create an exclusive club. He is a champion of his sport and he wants to share its pleasures and his new home with the rest of us.

He has created specialist coaching pools in which beginners can learn the art of fishing and he has recruited Paul, an experienced and well-qualified coach, to inform the uninitiated about the etiquette and the skills of fishing.

Now David is digging new ponds, improving paths and drainage and creating aquatic research systems for the production of carp so that the lakes can be restocked. He has been approached by several universities to provide field training and some students have already completed their first placements. He has also accepted a place on the Fisheries Management Advisory Panel.

He told me about his plans for a field and visitor centre and about the challenges of building a new business in the middle of a recession.

He has proved that with hard work and diligence, you can make your dreams come true.