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We bought a lake in France and turned our fishing holidays into jobs

In our ongoing series about people who have changed career in France, Mike Dagnall describes how he went from being a glazer in the UK to owning a carp lake in Normandy 

Amanda and Mike Dagnall Pic: Mike Dagnall / supplied by interviewee

Three years ago, my job saw me working up high-rise buildings in all weather lifting heavy glass. Age was not on my side and my joints were starting to show a lot of wear and tear.

I owned a glazing company, and fishing was something I did in my free time.

My wife Amanda, 48, worked as a bookkeeper, so was always glued to a PC balancing someone else’s accounts. She had recently suffered a detached retina and macula and was struggling with the computer.

Like many people, we always wondered if there was more to life. While we did not hate our jobs, we had become tired of them and wanted a change.

We are both keen anglers – I’ve been casting a line for over 40 years while Amanda joined me in 2012. We would often travel abroad to fish, usually to France where there are so many beautiful lakes. It was on one of these fishing holidays, in March 2018, that our lives changed forever. 

Read more: Lawyer to chef: My hobby inspired me to open a crêperie in French Alps

We were just leaving a lake in Limoges when Amanda leaned towards me and said: “I would love to own a lake like this, and be the one waving people off instead of driving back home.”

I thought: why not?

Going from fitting windows to running a fishing lake for holidaymakers is quite a career pivot, but we were swept up in the idea and felt confident we could handle anything that came our way.

Looking back, perhaps we were a bit naïve – we did not know as much as we thought and had to learn a lot in our first year.

However, we do not regret making the move for a second.

 

In May 2018, we viewed lakes in Orne – an area of north west France that we had visited many times in the past. 

We lined up 20 lakes to see during that fortnight, but ended up plumping for the very first one, La Chaussée in Ciral. It was already being run as a fishery, so all the infrastructure was in place ready for a new owner to take the reins.

We moved that October and started to make the place our own. One of the hardest things was controlling the water quality of the lake. 

Amanda also had to get to grips with a whole new way of work. She was used to running accounts but in France the tax system can be complicated, and it took a while to learn the ropes. 

Our saving grace has been the internet. We have made connections with other lake-owners in France through a Facebook group. 

Read more: How I changed career: TV researcher to English teacher in France

There are over 250 members, so if you have a problem, it is likely someone else will have experienced it too. Whenever we have hit an obstacle, we have been able to post on the group and find someone willing to lend expert advice.

Although we could have taken more time to plan, or learn more about lake maintenance, I am glad we just went for it. We have been able to take things in our stride and any stress pales in comparison to the stress of our working lives in the UK. In fact, when I compare my former job to my work now, it really feels as if I am on holiday! Although we do work hard to keep the place running smoothly, somehow it does not feel like a chore. 

They say “find something you love, and you will never work a day in your life”. That sums up how I feel.

There is plenty to keep us busy and we are always on the go. We have done quite a bit of work on the place, such as moving the ‘swims’ to give anglers more room. And there are more than 15 acres of land to maintain.

But I am not heading up and down the motorway, or stuck in a meeting. I am outdoors, and when the place is not full, I am able to cast my own line and enjoy an afternoon of fishing in my very own lake.

Related stories:

In France you are more responsible for yourself, says UK adventurer

We bought a hotel in France: From ‘go home’ graffiti to Michelin star

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