Nether Wallop Mill, Hampshire, England
May 21st 2014
After a long dinner and a few drinks too many a sure way to enliven the table is to innocently pose the question, "Where is the best chalkstream fishing". Inevitably someone will embark on a long diatribe as to why some particular river or beat is grossly over-rated and/or over-priced. Someone else will answer the question with a convoluted tale of amazing piscatorial feats in terms that simply enhances his or her (undoubted?) fishing prowess.
There is, of course, no absolute answer to this question. For some jungle warfare in a stream so tiny it does not merit a name is heaven; for others a manicured beat with every creature comfort fits the bill. But in the end most people will agree that the River Itchen upstream on Winchester and in particular the 5 miles from Easton Church to the confluence with the Candover Brook at Itchen Stoke, rates up there close to the pinnacle.
River Itchen, East Lane, Ovington, Hampshire
I for one have salivated as the sight of this particular stretch of river since childhood; the footpath from The Bush Inn to Ovington runs right alongside the river and long before I ever really understood what fly fishing meant I watched in fascination as tweed clad gentlemen did that strange thing I now take for granted. It was, and is, for me fishing perfection and as it turns out that perfection has a price.
I must admit it is a very long time since I have seen a bit of river of this quality come up for sale. As the agents Knight Frank describe it, understandably not holding back: "A matchless and entirely unique opportunity to acquire a sporting lease on 1175 yards double bank wild trout fishing on the world renowned Upper Itchen in Hampshire." You have probably already pinged on the word 'lease' and therein lies the conundrum as the 25 year lease will set you back £600,000.
On the face of it an annual rent of £24,000 is not too bad; unlimited fishing for seven days a week for a beat that easily takes two rods. But tying up over half a million for a diminishing asset? Now that might be a tough call. Not understanding the world of leaseholds I turned to my estate agent friend Will Tremlett at Belgravia agents Ayrton Wylie who deal on a daily basis with the machinations of London leaseholds. Will tells me that a 25 year lease will, all things being equal, be factored in at 50% of the freehold. Using that as a benchmark that would put the value of the fishing, if sold freehold, at £1.2 million which would seem a more reasonable deal should it have been on offer.