Back in January talking to my pal Barry Ord Clarke we decided on a weekend that I’d travel to Norway to fish with him for coastal Sea Trout… Barry suggested a week before Easter when usually the weather has come up above freezing and spring is well on the way. This time last year we were looking at 16°C in Norway and Britain was bathed in a heatwave… this year temperatures plummeted and are below seasonal norms. In the days prior to me leaving the UK for Norway high winds and snow were forecast from the North East giving wind chill factors of -20°C. This was as much about survival as about fishing… never mind catching.
Last Wednesday night and on final approach into Oslo snow whipped past the window of the aircraft. On exiting customs I was met by a friendly face… an unmistakable broad Northern grin across Barry’s face.
|Emma photo by Barry Ord Clarke|
I woke to a white Norway with a temperature of -7°C in the sun… it looked so deceptive. Stepping outside I felt the rawness of the wind this was seriously cold. Barry said that we’d meet up with Emma Bäcker Håkonsen a freelance fishing journalist later that day when the temperature had warmed up. I would point out that we are talking about the temperature increasing to -1°C! Emma had identified an area between two islands that had a pocket of ice free water… it looked like we were going to struggle to get sea trout in my 4 day trip to Norway!
We drove to the meeting place… everything was white; we crossed bridges over rivers and open sea that were solid ice… this was looking dire. To acclimatise I was dressed in my thermal underwear and Simms fleece bib… if you are fully dressed in the car then you’ll freeze when you get out into the open. On arriving at the bridge I got out of the car and quickly dressed. The wind was biting and by the time I was gearing up my fingers were freezing as I tied on my first fly. Emma arrived with her casting rods with dead bait rigs on which she would float fish a small brisling (sprat) along the current to tempt the sea trout. The wind was force 5-6 and fly fishing was going to be difficult… Emma was going fish off the main pier in the wind whilst I was going to fish on the leeward side of the bridge. Out of the wind and in the sun I covered the water with my fly allowing it to drift with the current. No joy!
|photo by Barry Ord Clarke|
After a short while Barry and Emma appeared, they had retreated from the windy mark. Emma had success… 2 sea trout had succumbed to what is a deadly method of fishing and she had lost a further 4! They were surprised that I’d not seen anything and Emma decided to rig a second rod for me and we’d fish two rods on my side of the bridge in the relative calm. The action was basically over… she had hit the feed at just the right time. After 3 hours and plummeting air temperatures we called it a day.
The weather was going to be a major problem for us and the fact that the ice had not retreated as much as Barry would have liked may cause us issues over the weekend when we were due to fish the Norwegian coast.
There was no need to get up out and early as the air temperatures were just too low and we had to wait for temperatures to rise for us to stand any chance of a fish.
Saturday arrived and -3°C in the morning sun… Mmmm… we had breakfast and set off for the coast. We drove on roads that punched their way through mountains passed settlements whose wooden houses generally painted red, yellow ochre, grey or white provided relief from the tracts of forest. Large fields covered in snow showed the evidence of Nordic ski tracks that continually looped the boundaries of the fields… crossing bridges I’d see folk fishing on the ice boring holes with giant augers. It’s part of the fishing experience seeing an alternative landscape.
The geological architecture of post ice age Norway is impressive, immense rounded granite rock structures carved by raging sub-surface ice melt-water rivers hurtling glacial deposits past and carving perfect curves in the bedrock.
We crossed from the mainland and then two islands to reach our destination… we saw inlets with ice and without ice… would we be in luck?
|Photo by David Edwards|
On arriving at the red (perhaps burnt sienna would be a nearer description) cottage we saw ice in the top of the inlet but open water glistening in the midday sun. Step out of the car – hell, it was cold… we got changed out of the wind on the verandah and set up our rods… I never took notice of what fly Barry tied on… I decided that as the sea trout that Emma had caught were eating brisling and sticklebacks then I’d tie on a Virtual Minnow… Pearl white BUG-BOND body with a dusky pink zonker – that’ll do nicely!
|Virtual Minnow photo by David Edwards|
My titanium studded boots bit into the ice as we crossed the top of the inlet… clicked on the granite and crunched on dry sea-weed.
Our first mark of the day was a granite finger that looked as if it was trying to escape the ice with the surrounding inlets on either side having ice in the upper reaches. Barry took the first inlet giving me the opportunity to fish open water immediately. The water was crystal clear every speck of sand was visible to the naked eye… that meant we were visible as well. A half crouching approach… strip line and fish into the water’s edge before getting anywhere near the water is important… many a fish is lost that is feeding close to land. Nothing, so I move in and strip more line… now I am punching the Arctic air with my 7wt intermediate line, working methodically in a fan shape in front of me and casting further each time.
|Open water coastal fishing photo by David Edwards|
The only sounds were the false casts of two rods working in unison, then I heard Barry exclaim that he’d felt a pluck on his fly and then another. My thoughts were none other than I was sure he was going to catch… his home turf and all that! Then watching my fly come close felt a tug and a saw a movement behind… was this, a fish or my imagination? I cast again a full line toward the centre of two orange buoys in the inlet strip, strip, pause, strip, pause – bang “Barry, I’m in!” “Keep your rod tip high” was the response from my pal… I tried desperately to get line on the reel and play the fish with line in the other whilst watching this bar of silver flicking and turning in the water beneath me… for one horrible moment I thought I had lost it… line now on the reel I let the brake do its work with the rod tip taking each twist and turn of the fish in its stride. As the fish quietened and the fight ebbed from it, I slid the fish over the sea-weed and onto the ice. This was my first coastal sea-trout caught in open water. Barry measured the fish – 50cm and at 1.3kg was a fin perfect specimen – it was a male in prime condition. Wow! I was elated and could feel the internal glow and smile pervade my whole body.
|My Sea Trout photo by David Edwards|
Barry took some obligatory shots which were later lost when his camera short circuited and deleted the images he’d taken… fortunately he’d taken a couple of shots with my camera that is a record of the event… I photographed my fish on the ice with my phone and we recommenced fishing. Time to move on.
|David Edwards photo by Barry Ord Clarke|
This time I was wading in the inlet wading to over my waist… initially not unpleasant with my layered system but after a while I did find my personal tackle succumbing to the cold… the water temperature was 2°C, Barry had explained that the fishing really didn’t start until the sea was over 4°C… I’m not sure whether my body would have measured an extra 2 degrees of “warmth”!
|photo by Barry Ord Clarke|
We trekked across pack ice in inlets and across large smooth slabs of granite to get to open water but our casting met with a still cold silence… nothing doing was this going to be it for the day? Barry had packed some pasta from the night before which was eaten out of the wind and in the afternoon sun… warmth in my bones at last!
We crossed a snow covered grassed area near a cottage and spotted tracks… roe deer, squirrel, fox and then a set of large cat pads… lynx? A lynx had been spotted on the island some time ago… keep your eyes peeled! Each successive cast drew a blank… we were casting rather than fishing and the day seemed to be over. I heard Barry exclaim just like a football player does when he’s missed an easy goal by putting the ball wide of the open goal mouth! A fish of the 2kg mark had come to take Barry’s fly just as he’d lifted the fly off the water. The big fish was still there… he cast again a follow and a take but not from the bigger fish… it was still a keeper. Cast again and another follow – fish on but again not from the bigger fish… another keeper. Then all quiet… nothing. The show was over!
During the casts to the bigger fish which Barry saw on two occasions, the fly was taken by fish coming from another direction. As we walked back with our catch my pal was saying that he should have been using his Proppen fly earlier in the day.
All three fish we caught were over 1kg. They were fish that hadn't spawned last year and having spent the winter in salt water they were in great condition and silver (just what we wanted).
|Barry Ord Clarke photo by David Edwards|
Sunday – my last day in Norway… an evening flight so a day’s fishing ahead. The morning temperature was -7°C with a raw wind from the North and clear blue skies again! As we got closer to the coast it was obvious that fresh ice had formed overnight… this was going to be a tough day!
We retraced the previous day’s tracks as best we could but fresh ice hampered us. The high air pressure also kept the sea level much lower… high tide didn’t happen! The wind was so excruciating at times… I could only tie on a fly by taking shelter out of the wind as I couldn’t get my finger tips to work properly. The spots from the previous day weren’t working and Barry suggested moving toward the mouth of the inlet to fish in deep water.
Much scrambling and clambering over rocks and we arrived to a howling wind that would carry your soul off to the old Norse gods in a whisker! Large flatwings were the order of the day… out with the secret weapon – a Steve Silverio Flatwing fly. The Guideline fast intermediate WF7 line had been on the rod all week and here I would have liked a sinking line – but you can’t have everything in life and patience is a virtue. I cast three or four times and waited for the blue line to slip deep into the dark abyss. During each retrieve I strained my eyes to catch a glimpse of the fly 9 foot behind the loop of the fly line… I must have cast a dozen times and I saw something follow my fly… as I got to what must have been 15 ft sub surface I could see a fish… it wasn’t computing in my brain. Pause the retrieve and fish on… I couldn’t believe it another first – a flounder that when on land weighted in around the 1kg mark. Fantastic… this is a fish that could save the day! We continued and had a few more flounder follows but no takes… no more fish were seen and we decided on a lunch break.
|Flounder photo by David Edwards|
Mushroom Arrabiatta pasta and a few sandwiches washed down with Farris mineral water… for entertainment the local wild cat stalked us waiting for a morsel from our plates. After relaxing in the sun we decided to try for that big fish… it was evident that after a few casts this was fast becoming an exercise in casting and not fishing. We therefore called it a day.
I packed and stowed my gear ready for the off… the same friendly face with the Northern grin left me back at the airport content and happy that I’d got the job done and had caught my first Norwegian sea-trout in conditions that were far from easy.
Grateful thanks to my pal, Barry Ord Clarke for guiding me and putting up with me for 4 days... for his support, selfless enthusiasm and inspiration both on and off the water.
If you are contemplating a trip to Scandinavia during the spring you need to prepare for the worst!
Base layer compression top, waderwick thermal long johns, fleece pullover, fleece bib, fleece jacket. Two pairs of socks, one thin pair and one hiking pair. Breathable waders, tungsten studded boots and a Gore-tex wading jacket. Baseball cap with fleece lined wool hat with ear flaps(very important) and wore fishing mitts occasionally. Eyewear pair of Costa del Mar Double Haul Crystal Frames with Blue 580G lenses
Scott S4S 7wt with Danielsson 8Eleven LW reel, WF 7wt Guideline Coastal series fly lines Fast Intermediate and Floating. Tapered leaders Seaguar Fluorocarbon – own construction to an advised specification.
Too numerous to name BUT if you follow www.thefeatherbender.com for fly choice and advice of sea trout fishing you won’t go wrong!