There’s something about fly-fishing trips in remote places; the whole journey there, when you realize that 99% of everyone else on the plane is from that country and are either going home or to work. Being surrounded by Norwegian people, I had absolutely no idea what was being said, but knowing they are seriously kind and generous people, a polite smile and acknowledgment of acceptance in their country was all I needed to feel safe.
My first trip to Norway was 4 years ago. The main purpose of that trip was to target grayling but there was also the possibility of catching salmon. Going to a completely new destination is like being blind folded, and being forever an optimist my mind normally races away with ideas and possibilities.
How times have changed for me, in terms of goals and targets. Feeling satisfied with my knowledge of and ability to catch grayling, this trip was going to be set with a new challenge and purpose. My main focus was going to be catching Atlantic salmon on the fly. To go on fishing trips is always such a pleasure, at the end of the day it’s time on your own, doing what you love.
Having only fished double-handed rods briefly before, I knew I was in for a bit of a reality check in terms of casting, but having a certain amount of self-belief let me visualize moments of greatness, and, my word, it was a special trip in the end!
Being so far north and experiencing 24 hour daylight takes a while to get used to. It’s difficult to keep track of time, so much so you can fish until you suddenly hit a wall and basically you either ‘have’ to go to sleep or remember to eat something!
Arriving at Kirkenes airport, and a quick bus journey later, I was greeted by a great friend from Tana Bru. Crossing over the epic bridge brought back memories of standing there watching enormous Atlantic salmon work their way upstream at 3am one morning. The water was just so clear, you could see everything! That’s a memory that has stayed with me for years and I’m so pleased it has. Truly special moments within fly-fishing can happen at any time, sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time to be a witness.
At the beginning of the week, my spey casting needed some work, and it was so great to have so much time and space to work out what needed to change. Working through the technicalities of why things weren’t working, finding out what did work better and adapting to the weather changes as well … I soon found my rhythm and fell in love with this completely new style of casting. Once I was happy and settled into the days fishing, I could then play around a little with higher rod stops, different placements, swinging those flies faster … presentations. Realizing in some moments that fly-fishing is such a true art and you are part of it, taking a step back I found myself reflecting and smiling.
One of the main things I came away from this trip with was understanding how important it is to be an optimist. When you know you are making great casts and great presentations, it’s only a matter of time until you make that connection … and when you do, that fly line is sweeping around, the line starts to tighten and your heart skips a beat. Suddenly the peaceful moment turns into an explosive fight and having worked out where to land the fish, the rest is just a process, and one you can enjoy, (especially with the warmth from that sunshine). Hard work definitely pays off!
I’m not going to pretend that fly fishing for salmon is easy. I enjoyed it massively because it was so different from my ‘normal’ style of fishing and completely out of my comfort zone. The challenge of spey casting: something so new, to invest time and effort into, with such incredible rewards, made it so worthwhile that I can’t wait until next time.
My most memorable moment from the trip has to be when I landed my ‘personal best’ Atlantic salmon. Temperatures during the week varied between 15-20 degrees Celsius, (59-68 F), so after about 6 hours of fishing on my 4th day I started to feel a little bit cold. I made the call to wade out of the river, to have a bit of relaxation time and warm up a bit! Time for a sandwich and a well deserved beer: I just sat there listening to some music and reminding myself of how lucky I was to be there.
After about half an hour; warmed up, re-focused, refreshed and full, it was time to make a quick fly change and get stuck in again. I waded back into position and began the process - taking line off the reel and working on my cast until it was at a comfortable length. Third cast in and imagining the takes from so many previous casts, it’s almost like predicting the future. My newly selected fly started to swing and just where I expected it to start to tighten, the gentlest of pulls began, just enough for me to know there was something there. Within seconds there were cartwheels, backflips, surging runs and one screaming reel. I’m sure I forgot to breathe…a truly incredible fight and one I will remember forever.
Having invested so much time on the Salmon side of things, and to give myself a bit of a break on the last day of the trip, I decided to fish for grayling. From using a 14ft 6’’, 9wt. double-handed rod for the best part of 5 days, the switch back to a single-handed 10ft, 4wt. was such a treat!
I remember the first time I ever made it to Tana and asked where the best grayling fishing was. To be told it was on the main river, and having been given ‘duff’ advice on so many fishing trips before, I couldn’t believe it was that easy. So of course I drove for miles to try and find another river, certain that the fishing on other rivers was going to be great. In the end, I had to give in and give it a go on the Tana: finding out, after about 30 seconds of fishing for grayling, that the advice was most definitely not ‘duff’. In fact it was positively spot on and in a 6 hour session it was just crazy! I lost count when I got to 300, literally catching a fish a cast or at least having a take, all released and returned back safely, with the biggest coming close to the 50cm, (19.5 inches) mark.
Knowing that there are just so many grayling (and not one single local person fishes for them) to clearly say I’m going to spend 3 hours fishing to target my favourite fresh water fish, and for the rewards to be so effortless, ended the trip perfectly for me. I wish I had more time out there to explore more. There’s always next year I guess!