Down to business
Sad, but true, those were the highlights of the trout fishing on this trip, but it doesn't really matter, as the real purpose of the trip was the sea-trout fishing in Nordland.
I guess the exact location of the spot won't be of much interest to those of you reading the English version of this story, and that's just as well, because I'm not gonna tell.. :-)
It's a place with modest fishing pressure and lots of fish, an endangered specie in our days, even in, or perhaps, especially in Norway.
[...]So, my fellow fly fishers, the time has come to bring secrecy back into our gentle pastime -- the tight lips, the polite shrug, the knowing wink.
[...]when it comes to your favorite spots, cherish them in secret, keep your mouth shut -- and leave the godamn electronics at home.
- W.D. Wetherell in One River More (1998)
We arrived on Saturday the 15th. of August, and the season had been brilliant so far, especially in terms of salmon fishing. However, the latest entry in the cabin guestbook, put our optimism in perspective with the message "5 men + 5 days = 5 fish".
Even though the water level was pretty low, fish were steadily rising on the bend right outside the cabin. However, using the term rise of this phenomena would be nothing short of insulting, as the sea-trout and salmon don't rise up here, they SPLASH! Big-time!
Luckily, the wind was relieved by rain by night, but dad maintained firm control of his enthusiasm.
"We're here for the whole week, why rush it?", he offered.
What planet is he really from, I wondered, as I abandoned the warm, cozy cabin for a cold, rainy night on the river. I didn't hook or catch anything, and I suppose someone might see the irony in that.
(I can think of one that did.. And, of course, another one that didn't.)
The rain had only limited impact on the water level, lifting the river only an inch or two. Sufficient for boosting a new run of salmon and sea-trout, we hoped. We mainly fished the stretch outside the cabin, a wonderful stretch, which seem to lure even the shyest of fish into showing their grace and powerfullness by splashing the water, in celebrating the successful completion of the waterfall a few hundred yards downstream.
As the sun settled, I had yet to hook a fish. In contrast, my dad had caught two nice fish, a 2 pound salmon and a 3 pound sea-trout, the latter actually caught in the afternoon in bright daylight, a rare occurrence with Norwegian sea-trout. He got them both on worms, and I do my best to explain that fly fishing is the only acceptable way, in terms of estetics and honor, whereas bait fishing is a simply evil and dirty way of dishonoring the fish, the river and for that matter, our entire galaxy..
Not surprisingly, this bullshit had no effect on him, and he took great pleasure in repeatedly pointing out just how many fish I had caught so far, a whooping zero. As long as the conditions favor bait fishing, that's what he'll use, when they favor fly fishing, then, and only then, would he use his flyrod..
Of other events worth mentioning this Sunday, I accidentally discovered a hole in river bottom, fell forward and had no choice but to go for a little swim in my waders. In addition to picking up a thing or two on wader-technique and patience, I learned that my thermometer could be trusted: the water was indeed pretty cold.
Well, once again I headed out for night fishing alone, and finally, I break out of my slump. In a couple of hours, I catch two fish; a salmon and a sea-trout, both at around 1 pound of size. Ok, hardly anything worth documenting and submitting to Guinness Book of Records, but it did definitely improve morale and confidence. The sea-trout was released, but the salmon was saved for breakfast the next day. Without wasting time on insignificant factors such as weight and size, I happily chalked up 2-2 on our imaginary family scorecard.. All in all, our trip had gotten off to a great start! (Lierne does not count!!)
Steady dashes of rain throughout the night raised the water-level another inch. I went upstream hoping to explore new areas and covering more water, while my old man focuses on the stretch outside the cabin, where we both caught our fish yesterday. But today, the fish seem to reject everything, even his bait.
I actually hook a fish by the big rock, on the same stretch, but it let go after about 3 seconds..
Well, there's always night fishing, the best bet for sea-trout fishing. But not when the wind go wild. A hard wind, coming in bursts, unpredictable both on timing and direction, made fishing very hard. As the wind constantly turned, countless casts were aborted, and it was rather unpleasant out there. All of a sudden, dad's suggestion of patience and the reminder that we're here for a whole week, didn't appear so farfetched after all.. Despite the 11 hour drive to get here, despite my unconditional love for this river, despite my youth and energy, this was a night that had "a good book and a cold bear" written all over it..
In the morning, the water-level has gone down again, but the rain started at about 8 am, and it would continue throughout the day. At around noon, I take the car and head for a stretch a few miles downstream, a pool called Melhølen, which apparently is the favorite spot among the other fly fishers.
And I quickly figure out why! After half an hour of fishing, I'm blessed with the wonderful experience of seeing and feeling the rodtip bend down in response to a take.. Fish on! The take isn't followed by an explosive run or jump, but rather determined and probing pressure.. Salmon style. I seem to be in control of the fight, steadily gaining inch by inch, without much problems. But actually, the salmon is really calling the shots. As soon as the water gets too shallow, the prospects of being dragged onto shore a little too realistic, it explodes into a fury of wiggling, splashing and turning, and heads for deeper water. It's a pretty nice fish, about 4 pounds, just enough to put the backbone of the 6/7 weight to work.
I make another attempt at landing the fish, this time I'm the determined one, unwilling to compromise any more. But as the salmon is forced onto shallow water, it once again starts splashing, and all of a sudden, the fly comes flying toward me. Without the fish. Damn!
But the fish remains in the shallow water, regaining its strength. Perhaps it's so exhausted that I can sneak up on it and grab it with my bare hands? I wade carefully toward it, but less then a yard away, the salmon starts swimming teasingly slowly for deeper water, leaving behind a pretty pissed off fisherman, who's already planning to equip all flies with treble hooks and worse..
I sometimes wonder if it had it all planned, perhaps as a much needed reminder of the strong instincts of survival, tactics and shear willpower making the atlantic salmon such a great fish..
Back at the cabin, enjoying a cold beer as the old man arrives from the waterfall downstream, carrying a beautiful 5 pound salmon in his net.. Instead of listening breathtakingly to the story of my almost landed fish, his two only concerns are: 1) a cold beer, and 2) getting a bigger net. :-)
Throughout the day, the river is rising, and by 8 pm, it's up about a foot since our arrival. It's a also a degree or two colder, and several powerful splashes reveals to us that new salmon are on their way upstream..
As usual I head out for the river as the sun settles, but despite several hours of hard work, including serving the full reportaire of my flybox, I fail to hook a single fish. There's plenty of fish in the river, and they all splash like I've never before. Some of them so close, I could have knocked them on the head with my rod. I find it extremely frustrating, but I talk myself into thinking it's actually a lot of fun experiencing this.. HA HA HA!! (<- fake, platonic laughter :-)
The water-level is even higher now, and it's still raining - not hard, but persistently. Not too much fish splashing the stretch by the cabin, but I still out there, refusing to give up. The old man had to leave with the car, so I'm limited to this stretch, unless of course, I feel like walking a few miles in the neoprenes, which, of course, I didn't.
Once again I'm there for some night fishing, but in contrast to yesterday, the river seems pretty dead now. The water-level stops rising at about 8 pm, and just as if someone turned a switch, all activity promptly cease.
The river is on its way down now, and it eventually stabilizes at pretty low level. The old man had to leave for Oslo for the day, so I'm once again without car. Still, it's hard to pity myself, considering that dad barely had the chance to fish the two last days. And with the river rising, boosting new salmon into their spawning run, the conditions were excellent for bait fishermen..
A couple of Swedes comes up to the cabin to check out the conditions up here, and we chat some. It seems, as the water-level was on its highest, the fish hesitated to struggle up the waterfalls. Which means fishing generally gets better downstream, where the fish are waiting and growing aggressive as new fish arrives. The Swedes had been fishing downstream yesterday, and they had done well, with two 3 pounders and one 9 pounder. That's one helluva sea-trout!!
At around 5 pm, someone must have turned that switch back on, because suddenly, fish are splashing by the cabin. They've started to go up the waterfalls again, it seems. The conditions should be pretty close to perfect tonight!
I fish the stretch patiently and persistently, but I still can't get a take. A 6,5 pounder even splashes within 3 feet of me.. My presence doesn't seem to bother them much, as they consistently ignore both me and my flies.
Same story for night fishing.. What am I doing wrong? Surely, this can't be all coincidental?
Sitting at the porch, I reflect over my failures and my sore back. I estimate a casting frequency of about one cast a minute (Ok, so I'm not exactly the definition of patience). Unless I "cheat" and rollcast to get the right angle, I guess I need three casts to get my line out. That's six back- and forecasts. If I'm fishing 8 hours a day, that's almost 1500 casting movements every day. Eat your heart out, Sherlock Holmes, I just solved the mystery of back pain!
I talk to the Swedes again, and the 9 pounder from Wednesday obviously wasn't enough. Last night, they caught an 11 pounder! Coincidence? Hardly, there's gotta be something more to it..
-- Or maybe not, because it's only one of them catching all the fish. Even if they're fishing the same stretch, at the same time, with the same technique and with the same fly.. hmm...
The water-level is back to the level when we arrived. The day fishing goes by as usual, ie. not interrupted by bitewilling fish. At night, I head for Melhølen, convinced that fishing is better there. I meet a couple of other fly fishers, and we have a friendly chat. Perhaps it's due to the exceptionally good ratio of fish vs. fishermen, but just about every fisherman I've ever met up here, is both friendly and willing to share.
The evening starts off in its oh-so familiar pattern, others catch fish, whereas I catch nothing. I vaguely see the splashing just by one of the fishermen, about a 100 yards downstream. That's a nice fish. But the fish breaks off, which later was explained by the fish being "bloody crazy". :-)
The Swede harvesting aggressively of the big sea-trout, told me he prefers pretty big flies. You want big? You got it! I'm trying hard to cast a gigantic zonker as another fisherman arrives, which I would later know as Morten Horn. A pretty local regular, knowing the tricks of the river. We chat some, and I warn him of getting too close.. After all, I'm cursed by the fishing gods, and it might be contagious!
Morten laughs at my voodoo-theory and boosts my confidence several (badly needed) notches by saying he's got a good feeling for me tonight. I shamelessly pump him for fly information, and it turns out, he prefer small flies. I happily exchange the uncastable zonker for the good 'ol Silver Zulu, size 8.
Nordland: At last, our arrival at our favorite place.. Watch out, sea trout!
Nordland: The location of the cabin is well suited for lazy photographers..
The river at medium water-level.
Nordland: The old man nets a 3 pound sea-trout. The fish was caught in bright daylight, a rare occurrence with sea-trout..
Nordland: A few rainy days got the current going by the cabin.
Nordland: The Teinfossen waterfall upstream from the cabin.
Nordland: Melhølen - a stretch downstream.. One of the favorite pools of most fly fishermen. Soon, I too would be one of them..
Nordland: The old man arrogantly, but proudly, displays his 5 pound salmon..
Nordland: Once again, the stretch just outside the cabin.
Nordland: The sunsets were beautiful, as the the skies adapted the red glow of the sun.
Nordland: Teinfossen, the waterfall, again.