Friday, 9 April 2021

1.3m of the River Itchen? Yours for £1.1m




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.


You can see full sale particulars on the Savills web site.



Enough to make you a monarchist


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.



Uniroyal waders


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 [1978], 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 us?


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 is driving.


Watch it here .......





This week questions loosely based on anything at all to confound, dismay or delight.


1)     How many letters in the standard Irish alphabet?


2)     Which ex British prime Minister became the first honorary US citizen on this day in 1963?


3)     The Headingley Ashes Test match against Australia, arguably Ian Botham’s finest cricketing moment, took place in what year?



Have a good weekend.



Best wishes,



Simon Cooper

Founder & Managing




Quiz answers:


1)     18 letters

2)     Winston Churchill

3)     1981

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