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

1 comment:

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