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John Sergeant is enchanted by Norway and its huge fish

Ever since I was a child, I have wanted to go to Norway. It was those glossy black and white photos of fjords and fishing boats that captured my imagination.

And Norwegians, as non-members of the EU, have become politically interesting.

Who could have expected it? And did you know that the country has a dish called zolla?

Gone Fishing: John Sergeant (right) and his son Will (left) eventually caught a huge salmon

For my long journey to this vast country, I have had excellent companions: my wife, Mary, and one of my grown children, Will.

We had a clear goal. Before the end of the week, we had to catch a huge fish: the wildest and most beautiful Atlantic salmon.

The only problem was an almost total lack of experience. But hell, we were determined to have fun.

After about a two hour flight from Gatwick, we arrived in Trondheim just before midnight, but you would never have guessed it. During the summer the days are long. In a ghostly maneuver, the sun dips just below the horizon.

Looking down, we could see the dark fields along the coast and then we followed our gaze across the silvery sea. Those glossy photos I had seen in school were coming to life.

Trondheim is the third largest city in the country. Hundreds of years ago it was the capital, and still retains a royal residence and an ancient cathedral, which give the old part an air of history and importance.

Picturesque: Mr. Sergeant fulfilled his lifelong dream when he visited the Trondheim region

Picturesque: Mr. Sergeant fulfilled his lifelong dream when he visited the Trondheim region

It is a nice place and the people are not only friendly, they have an alarming ability to speak English.

My childish desire to ask myself if the clod, which is obtained by cooking meatballs in broth, is as boring as it seems it should be contained.

Norwegians are famous for being sensitive and open-minded.

At lunch I had decided to enjoy whatever was offered to us and, after tasting the cold sausage containing horse meat, I declared it was out of this world. For dinner, I was happy to settle for a nutritious portion of stewed reindeer.

Wildflowers bloom and salmon make its perilous journey from the Atlantic to spawning grounds up the river

One of the effects of being outside the EU is that alcohol and other imported goods can be expensive. Wine and whiskey attract import duties, and local beers are also heavily taxed.

But, as we headed for the great salmon hunting grounds of the Gaula River, I wanted to focus on the non-alcoholic glories of the countryside. And it was glorious.

Summer in Norway lasts three months, from June to August.

The countryside comes to life, wildflowers bloom, and the salmon makes its perilous journey from the Atlantic to spawning grounds up the river.

What they didn’t know was that Will and I would be waiting with our rods and landing nets ready.

In my case, there was little to fear. Will, however, has a passion for fishing and, with a young British fisherman, George Howard, he quickly learned the tricks of the trade.

Father and son spent happy days fly fishing in the salmon hunting areas of the Gaula River

Father and son spent happy days fly fishing in the salmon hunting areas of the Gaula River

We stayed in a fishing hut owned by an Anglo-Norwegian couple, Matt Hayes and his wife Anne-Marit Winsnes. The lodge is called Winsnes, it is part of a small farm in Singsas, a few hundred meters from the river Gaula.

Surprisingly, Anne’s family can trace her ancestry back to the 17th century. With their three small children and her parents, they continue to welcome fishermen from all over the world, as they have done since 1882, given on the lodge’s porch.

We spent five wonderful days with them, fishing and talking – in my case, I’m afraid, mostly talking.

Young aristocrats, who had learned their fly fishing skills in Scotland, came here in the 19th century to catch salmon by shovelfuls.

The fish had survived and our vacation had ended in triumph

The Norwegians may have invented skiing, but the British taught them how exciting it was to convince a salmon that an artificial fly could be a tempting bite.

Matt, who often appears as a TV fishing expert, and his willing helper George have been our brilliant instructors. Their experience was largely wasted on me. Will, however, was getting faster and faster; first the trout and then, of course, he must take a salmon.

But these fish had strengthened for a couple of years in the Atlantic and would not have easily surrendered within a few miles of where they were born.

After several trips to the river, it seemed like we would not be fulfilling my childhood dream of catching a salmon in Norway.

But then, in the last few minutes before we had to leave, Will hooked up a big one. It weighed about 7 kg.

We may be tempted to eliminate our powerful enemy, but conservation needs have held us back. Following Matt’s catch-and-release rule, he was kindly returned on the river.

Having safely completed its spawning duties, we hope this beautiful fish is soon back in the Atlantic, where it belongs. They all won. The fish had survived and our vacation had ended in triumph.

To celebrate, Anne-Marit’s mother even served us with a steaming pot of sod – and I was totally convinced it tasted much better than a rare wild-caught salmon.

TRAVEL FACTS

Norwegian Air (0330 828 0854) flies from Gatwick to Trondheim from £ 69 return.

Double rooms at the Comfort Hotel Trondheim (00 4722 334200) from £ 80 per night.

Storstuu Winsnes Fish Shelter (storstuu@winsnes.info) offers week-long stays from £ 550 per person in the low season and £ 2,400 in the high season, inclusive of accommodation, meals and six days of guided fishing.

Car hire with Avis costs £ 300 per week.

See Visit Norway and Trondelag.

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