Fishing for Atlantic salmon on the Tengselven River on the southeastern coast of Norway.Credit…Knight Frank
Leonard Pelly, a wealthy Englishman, was so obsessed with salmon fishing that each year in the 1880s he would load his private steam yacht with his household and servants and head for the distant coast of Norway.
Mr. Pelly’s entourage was part of a stream of British nobility and landowners who traveled so often to the land of fjords and mountains in pursuit of giant Atlantic salmon that the locals named them the “salmon lords.”
In 1887 Mr. Pelly, then 31, took his passion a step further, buying property on one of Norway’s best salmon fishing rivers, the Tengselven near Egersund on the southeast coast. The next year he built a two-story fishing lodge while purchasing several more properties to extend his fishing rights on the river and a nearby lake.
More than 130 years later, fishing rights are still adding value to well-placed properties, whether on Irish streams, English lakes and rivers, Scottish lochs or other waterways.
In many cases those fishing rights are distinct tradable assets in their own right, with their value determined by meticulous records of how many fish have been caught in recent seasons.
Tom Stewart Moore, a chartered surveyor in Knight Frank’s Edinburgh office who has often estimated the value of fishing “beats,” says that depending on the productivity of the river, a parcel of fishing rights in Britain can be worth up to a couple of million pounds. (A beat is a stretch of river on which the fishing rights are owned.)
“But as a rule they are not really operated as a big moneymaking venture,” he said. “Anglers will pay anywhere from £40 to £1,000 for a day’s fishing, depending on the river, the beat and the time of year,” he said.
Few properties are as fish-focused as Mr. Pelly’s lodge, which is on the market with an anticipated sale price of about £7.5 million, or about $9.6 million.
Salmon dominate the décor of the six-bedroom lodge, with paintings and wood carvings celebrating great catches of the past, and the basement has been fitted out with freezers and cleaning areas for handling the catch.
“The property comes with 49 percent of the fishing rights on the river, which really does produce an extraordinary amount of fish,” said George Bramley, a sales agent for Knight Frank.
The waterway has been protected as a “national salmon river” since 2007, and over the past five years the Pelly property’s rights have covered an average of 1,252 fish a year.
The lodge is 45 miles from Stavanger Airport and comes with extensive gardens, river views, an annex and a separate sauna, but Mr. Bramley has no doubt that buyers will be primarily interested in its angling merits.
For many other properties, fishing rights are more of an added bonus than a crucial asset.
Jamie Ramsay, the 17th Earl of Dalhousie, says the fishing rights that come with his family home, Brechin Castle on the east coast of Scotland, “are not of much interest to some people but they certainly enhance the place for others, especially if they have children.”
The 71-year-old earl made his first catch on the River South Esk beside the castle at the age of 7 and still remembers a 20-pound salmon he caught about 30 years ago.
“I had a lot of fun fishing there with my children, but the river is mainly fished nowadays by a local syndicate of three friends,” he said.
One of Scotland’s most significant castles, Brechin Castle dates to the 12th century and stands on a bluff overlooking the river.
Marketed by Savills with a price tag of £3 million-plus, the castle has 16 bedrooms, eight reception rooms, three estate houses, two lodges and a highly regarded private garden.
Its fishing rights cover about 470 meters, or over 1,500 feet, of single- and double-bank salmon and sea trout fishing.
A further 1.2 miles of single-bank fishing can be purchased along with extra farmland and woodland.
Salmon catches have dwindled, and in recent years, rules that limit most British rivers to “catch and release” have been strengthened.
Stewart Moore estimates that the extensive fishing rights at Glenaros, an estate listed by Knight Frank on the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland, probably contribute about £100,000 to its current market price of £2 million.
With a five-bedroom main house and five other homes, the estate also has an active farming operation, deer hunting, a pheasant shoot and 1.3 miles of coastline.
Its salmon rights cover 22 named pools in 2.24 miles of the south bank of the River Aros, which rises from a series of streams to flow through Glen Aros down to the estuary mouth.
With good rainfall the river can produce a run of sea trout in late June, and salmon will reliably run from late June to August.
The value of a beat is largely based on its average catch over the previous five years, so owners often ensure that a river is regularly fished to maintain its market price.
Holme Rose, an A-listed Georgian country house in Croy, Inverness, for instance, has in recent years given the Nairn Angling Association a lease over its 1.3 miles of single-bank salmon and sea trout fishing on the River Nairn.
Four miles from Inverness Airport, the 358-acre estate is priced at £2.35 million and includes the eight-bedroom main house, four cottages and woodland and grazing that slopes down to the River Nairn.
Forty miles farther south, at Bunloit Estate on the banks of Loch Ness, there are two fishing options: rights for fishing on Loch Ness itself plus two lochans, or small lochs, that have been stocked with brown trout. This small highland estate is being sold through Christie’s for £1.55 million.
Many of Scotland’s early salmon fishing rules were shaped by William Joshua Fennell, an Irishman who became the commissioner of fisheries in Scotland in 1862 after earlier helping to overhaul the fishing system in the rest of the British Isles.
Fennell’s interest in protecting salmon fisheries grew from the many hours he spent fishing on the River Suir at his family home Ballybrada in Cahir, County Tipperary, where he noted a drop in fish numbers and successfully campaigned for new fisheries laws and protective dams.
Local anglers have erected a plaque recognizing Fennell’s efforts on the banks of the Suir running through the Ballybrada estate, which is now for sale.
Josef Finke, who has owned the property for 36 years, said he has found little time for fishing because he has been so busy running the estate as Ireland’s oldest commercial organic farm.
Researchers from the University of Cork say that such a long stretch of farming without chemicals has given the property an unusually rich collection of insects and wildlife, including 50 bird species such as heron and kingfishers.
A number of otters live in a small stream on the property and take their own fish from the Suir.
“The local anglers club has fished the river for the last 15 years, and they tell me this was a very good year for fishing,” Mr. Finke said.
Marketed by Christie’s for £2.2 million, Ballybrada may be bought for its organic farming legacy or perhaps as a tourism business, rather than for its historic fishing links. It covers about 100 acres and features a five-bedroom period house, a three-bedroom guest apartment, the working farm and almost a mile of single-bank fishing rights.
Hamilton is another property listed by Knight Frank with fishing rights that are likely to be overshadowed by other factors.
The Berkshire estate’s fishing story is an impressive one, as it comes with a River Thames frontage at Henley-on-Thames that is unusually private, thanks to a lack of public footpaths.
But the owner, Mike Spink, concedes that fishing might not be at the top of the priority list for potential buyers of the £77 million estate, a 62-acre extravaganza featuring a main home with nine bedrooms and six reception rooms, four staff cottages and a private dining house.
“Nobody is going to buy it just to fish, but I would not underestimate the value of the river frontage, because people are really impressed when you show them the riverside,” said Mr. Spink, one of Britain’s most prominent upmarket developers, who designed and built the main house.
“This is the first sense of real countryside you get when you head out from West London, and its potential market is the same buyers you would find in superprime parts of West London.”
At the other end of the price range is the Ferryman’s Cottage, a seven-bedroom modern house perched on the bank of the River Severn on the edge of the hamlet of Uckinghall near Tewkesbury in Worcestershire.
Marketed by Knight Frank for £495,000, the house has full fishing and mooring rights.
It sits high enough to make flooding extremely unlikely, although it is in a flood risk area and its private shared access road has been known to flood and cut off access.
Also under £1 million is Rose Cottage, a five-bedroom former farmhouse beside the River Itchen in Twyford, Winchester.
Dating to about 1755, the property includes the riverbank and single-bank fishing rights and is for sale by Savills for £950,000.
One option for the real fishing enthusiast is to go all out and buy a home that comes with its own fisheries.
Manor Fisheries is a business outside the village of Headcorn in Ashford, Kent, that is being sold with a five-bedroom home, three apartments and a cottage for holiday rentals. Priced at £1.795 million, the property, listed by Savills, has three fishing lakes stocked with carp up to 30 pounds and catfish up to 50 pounds plus tench, bream, roach, rudd and perch.
The River Sherway borders the property, which in 2016 was named by the publication Anglers Mail as a “Best Day Fishery Venue.”
The purist might see the prospect of well-stocked artificial lakes as akin to shooting fish in a barrel, but the upside is that the fish are just a gentle stroll away, rather than a steam yacht ride to the fjords of Norway.