Exactly how do you put a price on something that is priceless?

What a Christmas treat. A priceless river scene.

What a Christmas treat. A priceless river scene. - Credit: Archant

Wow, Wensum Valley Angling was absolutely buzzing the other day, just heaving with Norwich fishermen.

Not long ago, I was writing about the need for the old-style tackle shop where advice is dished out as liberally as the maggots and this happy day was living proof that the traditional approach still works. I even met one of my former Sprowston High School pupils from 1976 and it was good to see him as grey-haired as I've become! And it was equally good to know that he is still happy with his fishing. Match men, specimen hunters, carp anglers and a couple of cod catchers! What a fabulous mix it was.

There were a few grumbles, though, primarily about the cost of syndicate fishing. I know I'm lucky because at my age I don't have a mortgage or even kids at university, but I'm not sure about this one. It's getting to that time of the year again, when I personally have to find £400 for my specimen waters and £300 for my trout syndicate lake.

Let's take my coarse fishing first. The ticket in question entitles me to fish half a dozen still waters and a mile or so of river. If I wish, I can be on the water 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. This works out at about £1 a day which at 5p an hour I don't think is bad considering the quality and variety of what is on offer. I know the place is safe, that there are decent toilet facilities and that there will be a nice, genuine atmosphere.

If I enjoyed eating rainbow trout, I guess the fly fishing fee is even more reasonable. After all, there I believe my limit is something like 100 fish, so I could have two trout dinners a week which would more than pay for my annual subscription. And once again, I've got a wonderful clubhouse, great company and a beautifully-kept water to enjoy. Isn't that a steal?

Let's go further and put this sort of cost into a wider context.

I recently paid £28 for two coffees in the centre of Venice but that's another story altogether.

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Closer to home, two cinema tickets recently were £15. The film lasted 96 minutes.

I've just dropped out of my syndicate on the Hampshire Avon. The cost of a ticket there had risen to £1,000. If I were to buy one for Sarah, too, and then throw in travel and accommodation close to Salisbury, then I'd be looking at something like £2,500 for a three-day visit... which is about all I've managed the last five years or so.

Now that's a wad of cash, make no mistake. Mind you, that money does go towards paying a full-time water-keeper who maintains a ground-breaking roach stocking policy. He protects the river completely, 24/7 almost and that's why fish stocks are absolutely colossal. It seems that you do get what you pay for.

It's Christmas and I don't like this talk of finance.

And how do you put a price, anyway, on love, family, friends and fishing?

I was recently on the river during one of those quiet, sombre, grey afternoons. As the sun sank below the cloud, it lit the western sky a deep, smouldering crimson. As if waiting for that signal, roach began to roll and my quivertip began to nod. I had half a dozen fish before bad light stopped play, but each one was an absolute jewel to behold. I was actually fishing a free stretch of river close to the city and my bread flake had cost me about 35 pence from the excellent bakery in Great Witchingham. The price of diesel has gone down, too, and I was using a rod given to me back in 1992.

My heart was bursting with that mixture of satisfaction and excitement that only fishing can bring. I'd say pretty good value all round.