Saturday, 20 December 2008

Grouse Shooting in The Snow on The High Fell

Over the years I have heard many stories of shooting grouse in the snow and indeed I can remember a beaters day in a blizzard 3 years ago which we abandoned half way through due to extreme cold. However my walk and stand day on Dufton Fell on November 24th encountered real snow which had properly covered the moor.

The drive up to our moor is along one some 4 miles off road with the last mile and a half being very steep in places. I followed Frank our keeper who led the way on our polaris bike up the fell. When we got through the old mined areas the road became covered in snow and icy, however my old discovery managed to ascend and on arriving at the hut I leapt out and was shocked by the temperature difference compared to the bottom of the hill and the amount of freshly fallen snow everywhere. Immediately we could see a pack of 200 grouse on the side of a hill where some heather poked through. The excitement of this though was tempered by the fact that only one car had followed me. I had two teams of 11 shooting along with 8 helpers so was nearly 30 people short. Vehicles arrived in dribs and drabs and after well over half an hour we had everybody safely up though several cars were abandoned in the mine area.

I quickly got everybody organised into two teams and after a safety talk took the standing team to the first line of butts. After putting everybody into a butt and checking they knew exactly what was going to happen I went up onto the lefthand flank to help with the flagging. I had heard that grouse become unmanageable in the snow and will not drive so I was somewhat worried as to what might happen. It was very cold particularly as whilst flagging you are not generating any heat by moving around! It took ages for the walking team to come into sight and bring the drive through and it was obvious that it was very hard work walking through the snow drifts. The good news was that grouse went over the guns and quite a few were shot. It was as if the snow had disorientated the grouse and they had forgotten where the butts were.

The teams then swapped around and I took the walking team for their turn to stand as the weather started deteriorating with more snow falling amidst banks of mist. Frank must have been very close to not lining out but by closing in they did manage to bring the drive through again with several good packs going over the butts. It must be said though that by this time the day was definitely not for the faint hearted. We then stopped for lunch of hot soup and hot dogs made with Mrs Ewbanks Cumberland sausages. Which were just fantastic and really hit the spot.

I then gave the two teams the option of stopping if they wanted to. However slightly to my surprise everybody proved to be made of the right stuff and the consensus was to carry on. Our third drive was the long drive out to Meldon Hill called lang drive for obvious reasons. We had by now a stiff easterly wind which although freezing is ideal for the drive. I put the guns out along a natural gulley which hides them nicely and took my place on the flank. Frank sensibly only took the walking team half way out and as they arced around grouse started gathering on the slopes in front of us. The numbers of grouse collecting was staggering. In the snow you could see everything and I cannot imagine that there has ever been more grouse on this bit of the moor. I got depressed as a pack of 250 birds split of and went over the end 2 walking guns who actually shot 3 of them. Almost immediately afterwards a huge pack went over 8 of the 11 standing guns several of whom reloaded and got more shots of. This was followed by a tremendous drive with shooting for everyone. I estimate that we had perhaps a 1000 birds in the drive an extraordinary number for a moor as high as ours. We are obviously worried about next year and worm levels but our worm counts are low. The snow is still there three weeks later and it looks like being a proper winter so hopes springs eternal that we will get away with it and perhaps have a record season for the fell next year.

Unfortunately by now it was nearly dark and we did not have time for the last drive which was fully loaded with all the grouse we had seen. We still had to get safely of the fell, pick up the abandoned cars and get down the steep icy slopes which is far more difficult than going up them. To cut along story short we did all get safely off the fell much to my relief. The bag was 26 Brace and afterwards in the bar at the Tufton Arms we reflected on a special day which although it did not go to plan will remain in everybody’s memories long after most other days have been forgotten.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Chasing the late grouse and drinking 1983 Clos de Marquis

A strange combination you might think and you would be right. However if you get a chance to combine these two events it is certainly not to be missed! Our grouse on Dufton Fell are getting increasingly wild and difficult to control so we decided to put some walk and stand day's in to try and catch them out. The grouse have learnt increasingly to fly out over the beaters, so walk and stand day's offer the chance to fool the grouse and combine walked up shooting on your turn to beat with driven shooting on your turn to stand. We priced the days at just £200 per gun and as usual it provided the chance at an affordable price for several guns to have their first experience on a grouse moor.

Dufton Fell is some place to start off grouse shooting being one of the highest driven fells rising to nearly 800m. This coupled with the very haggy terrain results in wild birds that hug the contours perhaps closer to Scottish moors in character than some of the moors in Yorkshire. It is also quite difficult walking over the hags and through the heather and levels of personal fitness soon get exposed when it is your turn to beat!

In the end we managed to assemble 17 guns from a mixture of local friends and guests from further afield including notably 2 guns from Luxembourg who game down from Pitlochry with Neil McGowan who owns and manages the excellent East Haugh Hotel where I often stop on the way north to invariably have deers liver for lunch. Paul Chambers also came up from the fens for his first poke at the grouse. The international cast was completed by the french in the form of Nico the somellier from Sharrow Bay an old friend.

We formed a red team and a black team by drawing cards. Frank Dargue our keeper along with a couple of helpers looked after all the drives and in conjunction with myself and Harry on one flank and Miranda and Colin on the other we endeavoured to flag the birds over the standing guns. I must say our much I enjoyed the day doing this. It is a lot more difficult than most guns imagine but extremely satisfying when you intervene at just the right moment.

The highlight of the day shooting wise was the third drive called"Lang Drive" because of the distances involved in beating it! However on Monday we had the advantage of the first East wind of the season which blew down and across it. This enabled us to keep the birds coming forward and to actually see how many birds we have in the drive. The birds over the standing guns were everything November grouse should be simply stunning. However the numbers of them were worrying as they came over in 100's we will certainly need to keep shooting even though our worm counts are still low.

After finishing this drive we stopped for lunch in a state of euphoria perhaps even slightly dazed by all the grouse we had seen. This feeling of needing to pinch oneself to get a reality check was completed by Nico rummaging in the trailer and into his rucksack and producing bottles of 1983 Clos de Marquis.He then proceeded to serve the wine. Does life get any better than having the best sommelier in the country serving wine of this quality in such fantastic surroundings?

Our bag was around 30 brace roughly half what I was hoping for, so perhaps the grouse won as normal. However our two friends from Luxembourg and Paul shot their first grouse and everybody had a special day to remember.

Grouse Shooting
Vintage Wines
Rough Shooting

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Salmon Fishing on The River Ness

September 21st - 24th 2008

I have just been lucky enough to enjoy 3 days fishing at Ness Castle on the River Ness in Ross-shire. The River Ness is only some 7 miles long and connects Loch Ness to the sea. There are only 4 private beats plus the town water in Inverness itself and the season is relatively short from July to October so it is always a privilege to get a chance to fish it. This is enhanced at Ness Castle by the splendour and comfort of the fishing lodge and "fishing bothy" allied with the excellent food and service that go with it. If all this coupled with wonderful fly water for 5 rods was not enough, the icing on the cake comes with the presence of Gordon Armstrong the world casting champion and David Stewart who has such a depth of knowledge and understanding of the river as your ghillies. When an invitation comes to fish here no is not an option!

One of the thrills of salmon fishing is the glorious uncertainty of it. This was perfectly illustrated on our first morning. Having tackled up a vast array of rods that John Noriss's had lent me for various friends to try who had not got any tackle. I set off to the Ladies Stream with Nick who had never fished before to get him introduced to casting and fishing. A nice surprise was when he grapped the oars and proved a far more adept boatman than myself and admitted to a lifetime spent sailing and racing yachts. The river was in excellent condition running at 1ft 9ins and a great height for the ladies stream. However we were on the left hand bank with a fairly stiff downstream wind so Nick had to start of with learning left handed double speys. After the usual few abortive attempts Nick soon picked up a serviceable cast that was getting a reasonable amount of line out. Some casts went impressively out to the end of the leader and I explained how this meant that the fly was swimming properly for the whole cast and more likely to take a fish. Other casts did not go as well and Nick started wanting to know what was wrong with each cast when it did not extend. We were in the process of analysing such a cast when suddenly the line moved and he said "I think I've got one". I had gone through the rudiments of playing a fish and Nick did a good job and soon got the hang of it and we ended up beaching a 6lb grilse within 40 minutes of him commencing fishing. Gordon arrived and we could not stop laughing at the improbability of it all. Nick could not understand why we found it so amusing so we told him a few tales of friends who had taken seven years or more to catch their first fish to try and put things into perspective. Amazingly Nick went on to catch 2 more fish the following day to prove that it wasn't luck and will take some persuading about how difficult salmon fishing is!

No mention of Ness Castle would be complete with out reference to celebrity chef George Mckay in the kitchen and his excellent team of girls who look after you like kings. After being lucky enough to sample George's food last year, this year we came armed with an impressive collection of wines designed to do the food justice. Thanks to the generosity of my hosts we were able to match a rare roast fillet of scotch beef with a 1998 Beaune, Clos de Roi, Phillipe Dufulour, 1999 Vieux de Telegragh, Brunier with roast grouse, 1997 Mersault Perrieres, Drouhin with Turbot and 2000 Puligny Montrachet, Les Folatieres, Drouhin with a fruit de mers of lobsters, langoustines and crabs.

My 3 day trip was made perfect on the Wednesday afternoon by a lovely 8+lb sea liced cock salmon from the lady's stream netted by David. As it was so fresh I kept my first fish of the season which will then be sent to Neves our fish suppliers in December to have smoked for Christmas Day. If you can it works far better to keep the fish frozen and then have the smoked salmon back fresh than it does freezing smoked salmon.

As always it was a pleasure to fish with Gordon again. There is something about having the world casting champion walking along the bank towards you that renders one incapable of casting properly. The previous casts may have been going out superbly but human nature being what it is, you somehow try that bit harder and the results are awful. To Gordon's credit his enthusiasm and easy going nature soon relax guests and enable them to start improving their casting. I am currently trying to re model my spey casting to try and get both hands equally into each cast as I am starting to get elbow pains from my spey casting relying too much on the top hand. Having Gordon to give advice and the odd demonstration during the three days has helped alot though some more practise is definitely required!

Our week was along way behind last years catch of 40+ fish but somehow was just as enjoyable. We did get to double figures with two fishermen getting their first fish Nick and Paul. Frank my host also caught his largest fish to date an 18lb hen having being introduced by Gordon to stripping a collie dog which induced a thrilling take followed by a lung busting pursuit down the bank. Thanks to all our company and everyone at Ness Castle for a special time.

Salmon Fishing
Vintage Wines

The Highs and Lows of Running a Grouse Moor

With this seasons weather continuing its inclement course having an interest in one of the highest driven grouse fells in the UK can be a very mixed pleasure. Having counted our grouse in late July and discovered record numbers for our fell, anticipation and excitement have known no bounds. Sadly this was tempered when Frank our keeper informed us of some damage to our 4 mile long track up the fell caused by the heavy rains in early August. Probably a result of the day when 62mls of rain were recorded at Warcop. However a trip to assess the damage and see if we could get through for a day over pointers on the first saturday of the season revealed that it was far from a large disaster and a couple of days with a digger have sorted it out.

The day over pointers was great fun though frustrating in the morning when the cold weather and strong winds made the grouse very skittish and reluctant to stay on point. We were very privileged to be shooting over Colin Organs pointers and setters and it was fascinating to watch the skills of the dogs and their handler in these adverse conditions. Thankfully the sun did come out in the late morning and the sport improved. Lunch was taken al fresco outside the hut around a large table at 2,400 ft and I think was something of a surprise to a group of walkers who stumbled upon us. The afternoon was superb and though we did an area of the fell which had the least grouse on according to our counts there were still plenty of grouse. The day finished with 17 brace of grouse and we were able to enjoy the first young grouse of the season for dinner that night.

Our first driven day on the last saturday in August took place in perfect clear conditions with a useful wind from the south. Unfortunately I could not shoot but I invited four guests all old friends to represent me. I did manage to entertain them the night before when we had almost by chance the most stunning meal. Adrian had brought with him from Aberfeldy some young red deer liver that we served lightly cooked as a warm salad with a magnum of Jean Grivots 2000 Vosne Romanee. Several guests had never had deer liver before and what an introduction! This was followed by a large saddle of lamb from Ewbanks carved from the trolley which we shared with another large shooting party to get the 20 people you need to put one on. The lamb was so sweet and tender with a just wonderful flavour that fully maintained the reputation of our local lamb. We washed this down with magnums of 2000 Haut Pontet, St Emillion, Grands Crus to complete a most memorable meal. My guests enjoyed an equally good day on the moor. However when I caught up with them in the evening there were sheepish grins and much talk of strong winds and October like grouse and how difficult grouse are on the high fell! Some gentle probing revealed a bag of some 33 brace at what they thought was a cartridge ratio of about 4 to 1.I must confess I was a bit crestfallen as I was hoping for a bag double this. A chat with Frank in the morning over coffee got to the nitty gritty. The guns had had just short of 400 shots a ratio of 6 to 1 and he had seen plenty of grouse. Our long third drive had been into the wind and this early on in the season they had not been able to get the birds to the guns. I finished the conversation much happier that we had got sufficient grouse for the shooting season that we have got planned

Grouse Shooting in Cumbria

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Grouse Counting with "Pepsi" The Vizsla

July 29th 2008

Whilst chatting with my bank manager Mark who is a keen wildfowler and shooting man the conversation turned to dogs. He has a young 18 months old vizsla puppy who he is getting ready for its first season and he was keen to give it a run in the open after game and see how it pointed and flushed. Ever pleased to keep the bank manager happy I suggested that he came out and helped with the grouse counting. I usually count our marginal ground that we use for smaller walked up days. The ground is still quite high at nearly 2000ft and a mixture of grass, heather and bilberries, but without high levels of grouse, so ideal for a puppy to have its first run out.

Mark arrived after lunch and we transferred all our gear into my discovery for the drive up the fell. Having introduced Pepsi the vizsla to Tia my black lab. We set of to Dufton and took the track past Bow Hall and on up the Penine way alongside High Cup Nick. In the past I have always followed our keeper Frank Dargue off road onto the high fell and left to my own devices my local knowledge let me down and I failed to find the easiest route. Mark was surprised by how rough the journey was and where discoveries can get to, Pepsi decided that it was too scary in the back and transferred to her masters lap. My driving, never my strong point can have this affect it seems on dogs as well as humans.

Having eventually arrived at the bottom of the bilberry plain I decided to walk out downwind over the less promising lower ground and then swing up hill and walk back along the escarpment into the wind where traditionally we see more grouse. Last year I counted 36 grouse in a recovery year for us and I was hoping to count about 80 grouse. On the walk out we saw several signs of grouse from a few loose feathers to quite a few distinctive grouse deposits. However sadly we saw no grouse. I was though impressed with Pepsi, she quartered the ground nicely, but not too quickly and always within easy range of Mark. I was disappointed that she had not had her chance to shine but with our turn around into the wind I was looking forward to the return walk.

Almost immediately upon facing the wind in an area of bilberries Tia started showing signs of grouse nearby. Sure enough just over a small rise in front of us we put up our first grouse. One single old bird that did not look that healthy a rather depressing start. Then suddenly again Tia gets excited and at least two coveys together of 14 grouse fly off followed by another two young ones. What a relief! Quickly Tia puts up a barren pair so I head further uphill and pull Mark and Pepsi more onto the line I am on. Pepsi is working really well into the wind and it is a pleasure to watch her. Suddenly she is on point. Is it grouse or a false alarm with a young dog? Mark moves up behind her, camera at the ready and pushes her forward to flush. After a slight pause 4 grouse wheel off on the wind, Pepsi then remains rock steady. Impressive stuff. One very happy vizsla and one immensely proud master, a lovely moment.

In all we counted 36 grouse almost exactly the same as last year. I did see a lot more signs of grouse particularly on the way back and perhaps got the feeling that we could easily have missed a few large groups in such a massive area. It will be interesting what the counts show up on the main moor. What we did achieve though was Pepsi's initiation and I think that Mark can look forward to some exciting times with this dog. She was equally impressive when doing a few retrieves with a couple of dummies. Mark commented that he wished she ranged a little further but I felt that she was perfect if you were going to shoot over her on rough days yourself. Lets hope that she isn't gun shy and I look forward to watching her again in the future.

Nigel Milsom

Grouse shooting

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Fru Inger Seafood Restaurant, Trondheim, Norway

14th July 2008

Fru Inger seafood restaurant is very conveniently situated near the station looking out over the old harbour. With its original attractive wooden buildings built originally I assume for warehousing. I did not realise how large wooden buildings can be and these are fascinating all built on stilts to allow for the tide to rise and fall. There are now marinas on both sides of the harbour and we enjoyed watching one boat having docking problems. Going in far too fast with too much momentum and giving another boat and the mooring a good bash. A good healthy argument ensued, we felt some sympathy for the guy who got hit as you could see from way out that the boat was making a mess of it.

The restaurant itself is modern and comfortable with plenty of windows to take advantage of the harbour. I particuarly liked the glass dining tables, which were huge maps of the Trondheim basin with all its myriad of islands and a neat idea. The wine list for Norway was reasonably priced and we had a good bottle of Dopff au Moulin, Alsace, Riesling for £35.00. The menu was limited as they had been very busy over the weekend and their supplies were late arriving. However we were happy to have a portion of Scampi between the two of us which comprised of 8 decent sized prawns on a salad bed with a chilli sauce. Very tasty, perfectly cooked and a good appetiser. For main course Father chose perhaps their signature dish of Hitra balls which are fish dumplings originating from the island of Hitra. They were served with bacon, sausage what I would call neeps and tatties. A nice dish with contrasting textures and flavours, the fish dumplings themselves were very light and not a suet base. Though perhaps if one was being critical they were a little bland. I had grilled turbot a favourite of mine accurately cooked and very good.

The service was excellent, again with a waiter Thomas who's english was impecable with no trace of an accent. Trondheim has the biggest ratios of cafes and restaurants to population in Norway and being a university town has plenty of educated students to man them.Though most of them are empty most of the time and as it is so expensive you cannot work out how they all survive. Our bill was £95 for this lunch with coffee thrown in and we enjoyed it.

Nigel Milsom.

Restaurants in Cumbria

Friday, 25 July 2008

Sea Trout Fishing and Salmon Fishing on The River Lune

How often do really good moments in life sneak up on you and surprise you when you are not really expecting it? Often events that you plan and anticipate for ages don't work out as you planned and can prove an anti-climax. I rang up Robert Rusby of Hallamshire wines to get a dozen cases of wine dropped off when he was passing next and he said " what about meeting up on the River Lune below Kirkby Lonsdale as there had been some water last weekend and though the water had dropped, it could have bought some salmon or sea trout in and why not meet up in the afternoon exchange the wines and have a fish? "

Set of late and arrived at Newton at about 4.30 pm, no sign of Rusby and the water looked quite low. Rusby rang to say his day had gone wrong he would not be there until 6.30 ish, but to get started and see what was about. Newton is noted for being the Ogelsby's home beat for many years and the hut has photographs and fishing records of theirs which somehow set the pulse running. It is also remarkable for the reason that the complete river moved in the middle of the beat some 200 yds making the bank we fish double bank when it used to be single bank. It really is quite extraordinary and has to be seen to be believed.

I tackled up and dropped down to 10lb nylon with a dropper and walked up to the very top most pool of the beat thinking that I would leave the best water until later when my host arrived. It was very hot, surely the hottest day of the year so far and the sun was bright but at least behind the fish, with the water at 3ins and very clear. I fished the pool down and started to think about our experiences in Norway. Which meant I started trying to fish more downstream, and more carefully. Whilst trying to wade along the waters edge without making any noise by splashing or disturbing rocks as I walked on them. As you do, I got very absorbed in this, completely in my own little word. When suddenly I was disturbed by a splash and a graunching noise. Tia my Labrador was 50 yds downstream trying to dig a large rock up from the river bed. I felt rather foolish and shouted at the dog, however what was interesting, was how the sound of the rocks she moved carried and presumably vibrated. Food for thought.

Rusby arrived and we had a snack and geared up for sea trout, apparently here traditional flies work well, but a touch of blue can help. I found a few stoats tails and tosh's, a couple of which were the right size and had a bit of blue along with a small thunder and lightening double. There are two favoured areas for sea trout, both with a good stream at the head so we resolved to try the oxygenated streams and observe the pools and then to concentrate when it got dark where we hopefully saw fish. I went to my stream and fished it 3 times with no excitement or sign of a sea trout. A car pulled up on the other bank and a pleasant chap passed the time of day and told me that there were not many sea trout in and I was inclined to agree with him!

I moved upstream to join Robert and compare notes and changed to some bigger flies, the thunder and lightening on the dropper and a shrimp with a tail on the point. Robert had seen nothing either apart from a few parr. As it got dark he continued down the pool and I went in behind in the stream. I went in higher than Robert did as I had a seen a fish move earlier in the day and immediately started catching parr and felt more hopeful. However I reached the bottom of the faster water after nearly an hour and had still not seen a sea trout so wandered down to join Robert and tactfully suggest we went home or found a local pub.

He though had seen several fish start moving in the very slow flats which go on for some 300 yds and suggested I started some 100 yds below him. The water was very slow and I lengthened my line until I thought I was in danger of hitting the other bank. Cast out again and it went solid immediately, I gave it a bit of pull to hopefully pull the fly of the rocks and it went bananas! Not a huge fish, but what acrobatics. I had forgotten how special fishing in the dark is for these wonderful creatures. Got the sea trout gently beached, it had taken the dropper and though we had had a discussion about the merits of 2lb sea trout to eat, considering them the best. I decided to put it it back as it had given so much excitement. Unfortunately though, it had put so much into fighting I could not get it going again properly so had to kill it.

Heard some splashing upstream and could just make out Rusby landing a fish. Went straight back in and after a couple of casts had a solid knock at which I struck, but it was gone. Was I too slow it always feels that way. Carried on had another knock, struck, this time success, a larger fish cartwheels up into the air but then runs hard towards me, I strip line rapidly and stay in touch until the fish is beneath the rod tip. Try to stay in touch and get the fish to run but suddenly I feel the fly ping out. However many times you lose fish the disappointment is always keenly felt and you are never quite ready for it. Robert let out a cry and had lost one as well. Still there was plenty of time left it was only 11.30 pm, but there wasn't. That was it 15 mins of activity otherwise you would not know that there was a sea trout in the river.

We tried for another hour but though it was a lovely night with shooting stars, a ruddy moon that got brighter and a pleasant wind. The reality was that moon was too bright, the wind had a bite to it and the water felt like lukewarm bath water and our fun was over. We exchanged the wines and I drove home happy and planning tomorrow's dinner for two. Fresh Lune Sea Trout with Hollandaise Sauce washed down with a bottle of Faively's 2002 Rully from the bin ends. Life has its compensations.

Nigel Milsom

Fly Fishing Breaks

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Salmon Fishing on The River Gaula, Shooting Heads Versus Spey Lines

The River Gaula near Storen lies about an hour south of Trondheim in the middle of Norway and has a reputation for big fish which are rumoured to average 17 lb+. We got there by Ryan Air from Liverpool to Torp, Oslo and train to Storen. The train journey was comfortable and fascinating. Norway truly does have vast amounts of water, trees and spectacular scenery.

The Gaula was fast running, crystal clear with a variety of pools, some of them being several hundred yards long of excellent fly water. We fished with Arne Flagestaad on the EHF waters upstream of Storen. Arne kindly met us off the train and organised a local car hire firm for us who were very trusting, did not want to see a license or passport and said just drive! My sort of people. The EHF waters comprised of 12 beats of two rods spread over a distance of some 20 km making it essential that each pair of rods had a car. The beats rotated every 6 hours and you really could fish 24 hours a day if you had the energy! However in reality you get a range of pools suiting different heights of water so that you catch up on your sleep when you have a less favoured pool. This does mean though, that the favoured pools get a lot of hammer. The fish in the River Gaula were wonderful and as large as promised with perhaps 8kgs being the average size, but fish larger than this were commonplace up to 14kgs in the week we were there. Having joined the party a day earlier than expected we met up with the party who were all buzzing with the fish they had been catching and seeing. Before supper Father and I thought that we would go for a look along the river and find the different pools from the maps we had been given. Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted a dictum from an army friend. We soon found the top 2 pools Lillestrom and Trocken. Lillestrom has a very fast running neck with a lovely tail where a huge fish jumped. At Trocken we parked up and walked through the bushes to the river and there was a salmon being played! The railway line runs alongside the far bank and a train came along and blew its horn at the fisherman who waved in return, a nice touch. After a further 5 minutes the fish was beached and looked about the 9kg mark. Father had stolen a tape measure from mothers needlework drawer to measure our large fish, so I offered our measuring service to the fisherman having congratulated him, however he did not require our help as he promptly clubbed it with a large rock! We then returned for supper to discuss the policies of catch or release on different rivers. We found that on the Gaula historically people kept their fish but in the recent past they were trying to return more fish and I think that they managed around 50% in the week we were there.

Our fishing lodge Stortstuu Winses is run by Anne Marit Winses and her family who have been there for some 14 generations. The main house is a lovely old wooden building with a really good feel to it. On arrival we were greeted by Anne Marit and her husband Matt Hayes of TV fishing fame who both put themselves out to deal with us being a day early by putting us up in their own house, rather than have us use the local hotel. This level of care and hospitality was characteristic of our very enjoyable stay. For those alcoholics amongst you who have heard of Norways infamous drink prices, the lodge was not licensed so we could bring our own drink. Much to Fathers relief we found an excellent wine shop in Storen and stocked up for between £10-£15.00 per bottle a little over 2 times the cost of the same wine in a shop at home. Or about the same price as the bar in the Tufton Arms!

Sad to report, Father and I fished hard for some four and a half days and failed to catch a fish. Not something to worry to hard about you may think but when there is a record week for the river going on around you, with some 85 fish caught and the person sharing your beat is the top rod on the river. It has been the cause of much soul searching! Marco a friendly German electrical engineer from Cologne has been fishing the river for some 13 years for two weeks most years and it was his best year. One could not help but start thinking about what he was doing that we were not.

Firstly he fished with smaller rods of 13 and 14ft versus our 15 and 16ft. He used the guideline shooting head system with a seemingly endless range of lines to fish at different depths instead of our carron lines, in floating, intermediate and full sink with a range of tips bought for the occasion. I observed the following characteristics of his fishing. I never saw him wading, he was very quiet and methodical. His spey casting was neat using both hands equally which generally gave a very good presentation of the fly, with complete leader turnover. He also usually cast the fly much further downstream than us. On the pools of which there were several as the water dropped where the stream was on the far side with a back eddy on the fishing side. He would cast and keep his rod high above his head and prevent the running line touching the back eddy so that fly fished properly down the stream on the far side. He would also often as the fly fished down the pool, flex the rod tip slowly, again with the rod held high.

I also observed several locals on different pools all fishing with guideline shooting heads, as were most of the rest of our party who had been going to Norway for several years. The feeling was that the lines allowed you to cast along way more easily, with a lot less effort as well as giving you more versatility in the depth and presentation of the fly. The disadvantage is as the lines are only just over 40ft long, it means you do have to strip in and hold large amounts of line to cast a decent distance and this does become rather laborious. It would also certainly be very difficult and probably impossible for Father with his macular degeneration. I also felt that on large evenly flowing pools were you did want to cast along way our lines allow you to be more in touch with the fly and to fish it faster with a belly if you so wish.

However I am considering getting one guideline set up for our fishing bag! Firstly so that we can fish certain pools better when we have round two with the Gaula salmon in the future and secondly to learn from the experience and fish more effectively in certain situations in our own country. Pol Dornie on Carron and Laggan on The Spey springs to mind, a pool that we rarely fish due to the large back eddy that sucks ones line down. This could be fished very effectively with one of these lines. I have also resolved to be much more careful on the river bank particularly in times of low water. The water was so clear in Norway and there was so much fishing effort that in these conditions everything had to be right to catch salmon. I cannot wait to go and have another shot at those Gaula monsters but perhaps we will leave the tape measure at home next time!

Nigel Milsom

Fly Fishing Breaks

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Solsiden Seafood Restaurant, Oslo, Norway

15th July 2008

After our fishing trip to The Gaula and two days in Trondheim, a quite lovely city with clean open wide streets and very friendly people, we travelled by train back to Oslo। As always in our limited experience of Norway the trains were clean, comfortable, punctual to the second and good value. Father got half price and by booking over the internet at least a day in advance using their minipris prices I got a similar deal. It was less than £85 for two of us to travel first class for a 5 hour plus journey. How wrong have we got it in this country? Far more relaxing than driving with spectacular views and a snooze when you feel tired and far quicker as there is a max driving speed of 56mph on most roads in Norway.

Arrived in Oslo late afternoon, the central station is a mess outside but a short walk got us to our hotel. The Comfort Hotel which is modern, very convenient and comfortable enough। Had a complimentary cup of tea and a council of war to decide where to eat. After consulting our guide book we decided on a seafood restaurant called Solsiden. It is rated as the perhaps the best of its type in Oslo and as it was our last night we were happy with the price guideline of £40 to £60. We enjoyed a gentle stroll down to the seafront past the old fortress and along the seafront and found the Solsiden restaurant perfectly situated with panoramic views over the sea, shipping and harbour. The place was packed on a Tuesday evening a good sign and we got the last table. We settled in with two small beers and took in the menu and the surroundings which were chic and modern. I particularly liked the large bar with the brigade of chefs working away behind it which gave a great atmosphere complemented by the 200 + diners, a happening place.

We both chose the same meal and had a bottle of 2006 Chablis, Vielles Vignes, Domaine George to wash it down with which for Norway was reasonably priced at £47.50. The starter of marinaded salmon and sweet roe was extremely good, though not over generous in portion size it certainly left you wanting more which is perhaps a good thing. Our main course of Turbot with potato and german mustard purè and lobster sauce was brilliant. The fish accurately cooked and sauces and flavours that perfectly complemented the fish. The potato and german mustard purè was something that I shall get my guys to try and repeat when I get home. Simply lip smacking and a contrast to the crunchy lightly cooked vegetables. The desserts were light, imaginative not too sweet and a perfect end. The service was friendly and efficient with the staff very highly trained. A nice touch which we could learn from was an explanation of each dish to the table as they put it down in a choice of languages!

Had time now to look out at the stunning views across the sea with sun starting to set on the horizon, various boats plying their trade around the harbour and to enjoy a coffee. Also to observe the restaurant in full swing. Their signitature dish was a fruits de mers served for two or more people in raised elegant bowls that dominated the tables stuffed with crabs, lobsters, oysters etc. Not cheap at £65 per person but this was not stopping at least 70 people having it! I had to succumb to a fit of professional jealousy with my mind looking at the 200 people and whirring like a calculator especially as everyone was drinking liberally even at Norway's renowned drink prices.

All good things come to an end, time to pay the bill and stroll back to the hotel on a perfect summers evening। As expected the bill was about £140 for the 2 of us however there was a sting in the tail. At the bottom of the bill was a thing called MOMS at an extra 345 krone. On asking we were told that this was the 25% tax. There was no mention of this on the menu or wine list and everyone else in Norway had as in this country included the tax in the quoted price. We did pay it, but it left a nasty taste which was a shame as the meal was truly memorable as was everything else.

Our stroll back to the hotel was enlivened by all manner of prostitutes which apparently Oslo has a reputation for. Fathers macular degeneration prevented him seeing the sites but eventually a large well endowed Romanian gypsy lady accosted him and would not take no for an answer. Father informed her that he was 75, would not be much use to her, had never resorted to her kind and was not going to start now! Sadly I think that much of this would have been lost in the translation though she did go away.

Solsiden Restaurant, Sondre Akershus Kai 34

Tel 22333630

Nigel Milsom 23rd July 2008

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