Fancy your own river? Well, it is not often that a long
stretch of prime chalkstream comes up for sale unencumbered by a house or
large estate that sends the sale figure into the stratospheric. But, if
your dream is a river to call your own, last week estate agents Savills
announced the Abbots Worthy Fishery on the River Itchen as up for sale.
Now, it is still not exactly cheap at £1.1m but you do get
1.3 miles of chalkstream set in 33 acres of divine water meadows. If you
are not exactly familiar with the location it is on the north east
outskirts of Winchester, so just upstream of the city. I would hazard that
you have likely driven within a few yards of it on many occasions and
therein lies the slight rub to this particular bit of fishing.
Abbots Worthy Fishery
Abbots Worthy is in a triangle of land with one side the A34
and another the M3; the traffic noise does intrude. It will not be a
dealbreaker for many but it is something to be aware of. Similarly,
Winchester lies beneath the flight path for aircraft landing at Southampton
Airport. Currently a controversial planning application to extend the
runway is under consideration that will increase the frequency and size of
planes that use the airport.
One the Fishing Breaks guides, Bob Preston, is our sort of
unofficial archivist; every so often he pops up with a magazine or some
similar publication from years past that reports of places we know or the
people we used to be. Mrs Bob must despair as Mr Bob has literally
thousands of magazines dating back half a century or more.
One such magazine is a 1979 edition of International Fly
Fisher which features on its cover Prince Charles. Now, that is so long
ago that Margaret Thatcher was still yet to win her first general election
and Princess Diana was a few months short of her eighteenth birthday. Bob
brought me the magazine for an article about Nether Wallop Mill but that
was not what caught my eye.
Firstly, it was the adverts – full page colour for the likes
of Dunhill cigarettes. Hard to believe these days that such a thing ever
existed. Then there were the Uniroyal waders with, what remains one of my
still favourite tag lines for a fishing advert: The difference between
poached salmon and fish fingers. And from rod maker Fibatube a carbon
fly rod for £38.40, which in today’s money is a shade under £200 so
suggests tackle has more-or-less kept pace with inflation. However, all
that aside what really caught my eye was the interview with Prince Charles at
Buckingham Palace where he discusses his flyfishing philosophy.
So, what did we learn about Prince Charles who would have
been 31 years old (half his current age) at the time? Well, he prefers to
fish alone rather than with a gillie and at that moment in his life his
largest salmon was a 25lb fish from, and this surprised me, the River Frome
in Dorset. He is not that keen on any other methods for salmon than the
fly, ties his own, taught by none other than John Veniard which is a
privilege probably only accorded to heirs to thrones. As regards gear he
was not a fan of carbon-fibre rods (too light), preferring to fish with a
16ft greenheart rod. I cannot believe he has not given up that particular
belief in the intervening years. His favourite reel is the Hardy
Perfect, which in words that could only come from a member of the Royal
Family, he has, ‘people scouring the country for me for Perfects’. He
doesn’t much like big game fishing – I’m afraid I’m with him on that. But,
and this is enough to confirm my monarchist tendencies, he is a fan of dry
fly fishing having a few days each year on the River Test. His
favourite book is Salar the Salmon.
However, around this time not all was well in the world of
public opinion for Prince Charles. His conservationist tendencies, so
utterly mainstream these days, put him and his father in a group that
might, if we are being kind, be termed as eccentric. Let me quote a
section of the article in full:
“As a keen field sportsman, who shoots and stalks and hunts
as well as fishes, Prince Charles, like most field sportsmen, is a
conservationist. His public speeches on the subject are usually forthright.
The boom year for salmon in many rivers in the United Kingdom last season
, he thought should not encourage complacency. Such years tended to
run in cycles.
“People say ‘You are playing the alarmist and you just want
to go fishing’. I reply to them that the salmon is a very important
resource, and the fact that it spawns in our rivers makes it a different
fish. The breeding grounds of the salmon must be recognized as important.”
He felt that those in whose rivers salmon spawned should be
recognized as having a major claim on the salmon – a right to expect fish
to run. While there was a need to control netting at sea, rod fishermen
also had to play their part and show they could be sensible about methods
of fishing and numbers of people allowed to fish the beats.”
Not so much eccentric but rather more prescient.
Botham batting for
A few years back I spent two days fishing with Eric Clapton
and Ian Botham for a TV show. Eric was gentle and laid back. Ian hard wired
and hard work.
I will be honest. I did not care for the latter one little
bit and when people have recently suggested that we co-opt Ian Botham to
promote the cause of river protection I have demurred. Yes, there is a bit
of my personal experience in there but also Botham’s writings, though
supportive to the cause, tend to be antagonistic and his Brexit enthusiasm
does not warm him to everyone.
However, his article in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph
totally nails the issue for river protection by trying to encourage an
umbrella alliance of anglers, wild swimmers and greens. In that he has made
an important contribution to the debate though in slamming ‘eco-luvvies’ he
might just have turned off one third of the audience he sought to co-opt.
If you are a Daily Telegraph reader you will be able to read
the full article here ….. Otherwise,
I've done my best with a cut and paste.
Video of the Week
This is only relevant to rivers in a passing way but it is
fun because a) you feel sure it is going to end in disaster b) but it
doesn’t and c) it is something of a tribute to the guy and the machine he