Neither of us had ever been to Sunndalsøra before, and we were taken by the majestic and very steep mountains which beautifully surrounded the Driva river.
You can't help feeling very small and insignificant, as you watch the powerful surroundings, the steep mountains, which tops reveal themselves on very special clear and fog free days only..
Something of such power and grace must indicate a deeper meaning, it simply cannot be by chance.
The color of the water, a light bluish green, reveals Driva's origin from the mountains' snow reservoirs, and just as if the mountains did not trust this wild beast of a river to carry the water properly to the sea, the mountains chose to follow alongside Driva, just to remind the river, that however big and furious it might grow, it can never escape the mountains and the valley which they have formed.
The Driva river is truly trapped, but like a lion in a cage, it is still dangerous, furious and wild in its nature.
Chest waders used to be banned in Driva, not only to prevent fishermen from destroying fish holds with careless wading, but also to protect the fishermen against the river it self, as it will unleash its power and fury on any reckless wader.
Unlike Surna, Driva is a river with personality.
I sound like a tourist brochure now, but I really liked the place. More importantly, we were here to catch sea-trout, not to stare at rocks. Before we left Surna, we dropped by Jan Johansson at the Øvre Sæter lodge, asking for advice about Driva. He hadn't been to Driva for several years, but he recommended Furu Laksvald and Campingsenter, and we may not be Mensa material, but at least we're smart enough not to ignore advice from far more knowledgeable people than ourselves. So, Furu it was..
Furu Laksevald and Campingsenter was just a few kilometers upstream of downtown Sunndalsøra. There was an arrangement with the local fishing club and another camping, of rotating four pools between them. The zones available at Furu were Kiklingbrekkhølen, Strømmen, Litlhølen and Rønningan. Friday and saturday meant Rønningan and Kiklingbrekkhølen, respectively.
There are several other pools available for the tourist fisherman in Driva, and most are administered by the local fishing association, the SJFF. On the upside, licence availability is good, but on the other hand, there are few if any limitations on number of fishermen. Every member with a season or weekly licence can fish at every SJFF pool, at any time. So, when the fishing is good, you'll probably find yourself waiting in line. A long line..
But these days, fishing aren't that good anymore. The salmon is practically instinct, as the river is infected with the dreaded Gyro, a parasite which ruthlessly kills all salmon, especially the parr (the Gyro cannot sustain salt water). The sea-trout is not directly affected by the Gyro, making it the primary objective for most fishermen nowadays.
Rønningan was the pool available for tonight's fishing, and we decided to check it out in daylight. Wearing shorts, the little break-away stream between shore and the main current, presented a problem. At least, I thought of it as a problem. Apparently, Julern did not, and despite my loud objections, he firmly waded across, claiming the water wasn't cold at all.. So there I was, stranded on the shore, left with the unpleasant options of either wading over, or simply remaining on the bank like some wuss, trying to get in touch with my feminine side or something, while Julern checked out the pool... I waded over.
And as I did, we both screamed. I screamed of pain and surprise as the cold water surrounded my bare legs, and Julern screamed in shear laughter and joy, finding great delight in the fact that he no longer was the only one freezing..
The main current looked pretty appealing, perhaps a bit too fast, though. But yet, so very fitting to the personality of the Driva river, only the truly ignorant would complain. Which, of course, we both did. :-)
Anyway, we head back to the cabin to fill empty stomachs and empty fly boxes. We head back out to Rønningan at around 9 pm, but I'm not feeling very well. It's probably that damn barefoot wading - I'm feel sick and have a bad headache - migraine like. I try to sleep it off, at the Rønningan pool, but at around 11 pm, I realize it's not gonna work - I'm going back.
The next day, Julern reports that he saw one fish, and that he had enjoyed a nice walk home.. (guess who took the car?).
The fishing in Driva is restricted, with conservation time between 1pm and 6 pm, where one is not allowed to fish at all. Despite our somewhat late sleep rhythm while fishing for sea-trout, we actually managed to get out a few hours before conservation time the next day. Which yielded no results, but we quickly started focusing in tonight's fishing.
The pool of the day was Kiklingbrekkhølen, a somewhat slower and more easily fishable than Rønningan. On the other hand, this pool was closer to the road, with traffic and street lights interfering with both the harmony of fishing, and more importantly, the sea-trout's perception of safety..
Nevertheless, following a major steak-dinner, we go out at about 9 pm, finding that we share the pool with 4 other fishermen, three Danes and a mr. Johansen from Molde (a nearby town). It actually works quite well, and we never had the feeling of crowding, but yet, 6 is about the maximum number of fishermen this pool can handle..
According to Johansen, a frequent visitor here, the theoretical terms, such as waterlevel and temperature, are good. Still, the catches have been modest the last couple of days, the locals had complained, but as optimistic fishermen, we ignore that.
The fly selection is always a hot topic for discussion along the bank, and this is no exception. With my catch from Surna still fresh in mind, I argue convincingly (well, at least I was convinced) that Silver Zulus are the best, whereas Johansen suggest that variation and diversity is the key. Granted, small black flies such as the Silver Zulu are frequently the default option, but upon their failure, don't disregard the idea of a big Sunray Shadow tube..
The good 'ol days..
As we await the darkness to embrace the Sunndalsøra valley, Johansen tells us about the a pool upstream, now owned by the Norwegian publisher Cappelen. Back in the seventies, as the salmon fishing was excellent, the owner of pool complained that the fishermen were catching too much fish, fearing the catch might be exceeding the a sound limit of natural reproduction. So he instated a very unpopular rule: bag-limit.. And the limit? Maximum allowed catch pr. fisherman pr.day: 10 salmon.
Julern just might have a point as he keeps saying we're born twenty years too late..
Dusk turns to night, and neither of us (all six) has hooked a fish. We've seen one or two, tho. Around 2 am, the Danes call it night. Johansen says he'll fish the upper part once more, then he'll join the Danes.
I'm sitting on the bank, drinking my cup of coffee number 18, as I see a hooked fish splashing 15 feet away from Johansen. I go to check it out, but Johansen's line is clear. But, 25 yards upstream of Johansen, stands Julern, with his rod bending and pulsating, trying to buffer and counter the movements of the fish. We join him, but I don't really think he noticed. We argue of whether to go for the net-in-darkness lottery, or the drag-fish-on-land strategy. Luckily, Johansen is smart to enough to insist on the latter, and Julern loads his road and forces the fish up on the bank. Followed by a massive leap over his prey, and it's a fact: Julern has finally caught his first sea-trout ever! I instantly point out to him that it's a small, ugly fish, unworthy of all this attention, and that I would have promptly released it, and refused ever catching such a thing. But he's far too caught up in the moment to acknowledge my existence and snappy humor. Just the way it's supposed to be when you catch a fish!
In total, we landed three fish on tree nights of fishing. In our book, that's a success!
If the fly is more important then timing, place and movement, the answer is a black one inch tube. My religious belief in Zulu Silver is mysteriously vanished, and I start fishing bigger flies.. Johansen kindly gives us the rest of his warm coffee before he head back for Molde, but Julern and I remain at the pool till morning. Without catching anything more. Julern did in fact hook one, but luckily justice prevailed, and he lost it. I did at least see one..
But, absolutely no reason to complain. As night turned to dawn, a warm wind emerged from the mountains, as if rewarding us for our persistence. Julern was still smiling, and personally, I thought Driva was a pretty nice place to get skunked..
Some related links:The River Driva, feature article on Driva on www.flyshop.com.
The River Driva, presented by The Norwegian Flyshop.
Surna, the former destination of this trip.
Driva: Julern at the Rønningan pool. These surroundings will make you feel pretty small and insignificant.
Driva: Let's just wade over here, Julern figured.
Driva: And shortly thereafter, yours truly followed. Brrrr..!
Driva: The Rønningan pool - nice current, a bit fast, though.
Driva: The Kiklingbrekkhølen pool was even nicer than Rønningan.
Driva: Finally, Julern catches a fish!
Driva: The Tvisthølen pool, downstream from the pools we fished. Looking very good, but suffering from high fishing pressure.