Tales from the river bank
1 JULY 2013
A selling agent called me last week for a little help – he has the job of selling a beautiful Wiltshire estate which is fortunate enough to have prime fishing on well over a mile of a classic chalk stream. Knowing that I am a keen angler who keeps an eye on for what fishing is sold he wanted to know when was the last time a similar amount of fishing became available to buy. Interesting question. Believe it or not, on this particular river it was when this property was last sold 15 years ago and on a neighbouring Hampshire river about 8 years ago.
Clients frequently tell me that their dream is to own a house near to water with its own fishing to which I reply, “Owing to the scarcity of such a scenario unless it is an absolutely non-negotiable requirement it is better to have fishing rights on the wish list otherwise, as proved above, the wait could be a long one”.
However, before all those aspiring fishery owners lose heart it pays to look at this a little more closely. There are of course plenty of houses that are on or close to a river that at least have views of the water. Those that have actual water frontage, be it a few yards or miles, will usually have the right to fish from that bank (though not always – fishing is a riparian right that doesn’t have to attach to land so can be vested in someone other than the landowner). For house hunters content with just a few yards of fishing, say a garden’s worth, there are opportunities in any given year. Unfortunately ‘for the dyed in the wool’ fisherman after rather more the availability is truly scarce and it usually forms part of a large country estate with a price tag to match. It is certainly cheaper to buy a timeshare or join a club or syndicate.
So what are the costs? The general rule of thumb is that trout fishing is valued on a per yard basis (whereas salmon fishing in Scotland is traditionally valued ‘per fish’, based on the 10 year average catch for that fishery, but that is another subject) and good quality chalk stream fishing is roughly £150 per yard for single bank and up to around £250 per yard for double bank – i.e. the right to fish from both banks, rather than just one. There have been instances of prime River Test fishing making double this, but not recently. It would be fair to say that it would be dangerous to apply these numbers across a whole fishery – a lot of a typical stretch would be less than this and value depends on accessibility, condition of banks etc.