Tuesday 26 July 2016

Just One Week on the Gaula - 16-23 July 2016

There's no point beating about the bush or hiding in a fog of elegant prose.  Nine months' planning, preparation and anticipation came to naught.  Despite fishing myself into exhaustion and trying every tactic and fly in my arsenal, I caught nothing, absolutely nothing.  Indeed, I didn't even get a single positive take.  Adjectives are inadequate to describe my disappointment.

Perhaps I should stop there and make this my shortest post ever.  You may, however, wish to gain some idea of how this misfortune occurred.  I have no wish to turn this article into a litany of excuses and whinging, so I shall keep the plea in mitigation as brief as possible.  My trauma of gloom isn't solitary: the other 17 multi-national anglers on the GFF water that week caught no more than a handful of fish between them, despite representing over 100 years' aggregate experience on its beats.  We were all equally bewildered and bereft, especially the angler who lost a 40 pounder early on the Saturday morning and touched nothing thereafter.

The problem was a lack of water, caused by a complete absence of rain in the catchment area for 6 weeks.  Once all the snow had melted, by early July there was nothing to follow and the water level went down with increasing rapidity.  It was very low when we arrived and then fell by a further 2' 6" / 75cm, as illustrated in the photos below.

Sunday - very low, 200 square metres of viable fish-holding water in a strip 4 metres wide against the far bank

Wednesday - less than 50 square metres metres of viable water towards the tail by the grey stone
Totally transparent and fishable only with surface flies

This 75% contraction in fishable area was replicated in the majority of pools as depth and flow declined.  Some fish continued to run - one passed my legs in 12" / 30 cm of water in broad daylight - while others hunkered down in the deep holes that afforded protection from the increasingly intense sunlight and soaring temperatures.  Over the week the daily mean air and water temperatures almost doubled, with peaks of 30C and 19.5C respectively.  In contrast, at 0400 on the Sunday morning the readings had been 6.5 and 10C.   In the face of these conditions the run of replacement cohorts of fish from the estuary appeared to stop, causing the number of fish in the holding pools to decline markedly.  This beautiful gem of a river was on its bones and its anglers on their knees.

The Bend Pool on Tuesday
by Friday its width had halved
The fish rose in the small inlet in the centre directly below the right hand end of the railings

This picture shows the location of the only salmon I moved, late on Friday with a hitched Sunray.  Needless to say, it was a complete duffer and missed the fly altogether.  A little later one of our Finnish colleagues caught a fish of the same size on a Sunray in the next pool.  Perhaps it was a coincidence, but it was the only salmon taken that night.

Amidst the sadness and disappointment there were many positives.  The Gaula and its valley are stunningly beautiful.  The locals are charming, kind and incredibly friendly, forming a community of trust in  which you lock neither house nor car.  Norwegian salmon anglers and enthusiasts will go far beyond the extra mile to help, advise and encourage.  My special thanks are due to SFF member Gauldalen who gave unstintingly of his vast knowledge, experience and local contacts over many months in helping me put this trip together.  Our fellow anglers - from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Holland - were great company and generous with their experience amidst the banter (BREXIT gave them ample scope for teasing).

I will write another post describing some of the useful things that joined my knowledge bank.  For now I leave you with some photos of this magical place, some taken during the small hours.

Early morning mist rising below Bridge

Mid morning on Stadion

The tail of Saeteroy
Bend looking upstream to Main

Eafossen 20 miles upstream where we watched a succession of 15 pounders ascending

The Eggfossen 4 miles further on which are impassable to salmon

Copper, the mining of which destroyed the Gaula fishery.  The last mine closed in 1986 and recovery followed

Clouds, mist and half darkness in which you share your pool with your imagination......and the trolls


  1. Hi MCX, I feel your pain and have experienced similar disappointments although usually due to high water rather than the lack of it. I wanted to share some guidance from my favourite ghillie. He said to me that in salmon fishing you need to play the "long game". I've visited his beat during prime time for about 10 years and have been washed out for a day or two on several occasions. Once when I looked to have got the conditions on my side it rained overnight before my first day and the river rose 9ft!!! Eventually it all worked out and my trip coincided with perfect conditions. I had a trip of a lifetime with moments I will treasure forever. I'm full of expectation for a future MCX blog post where you recount a battle with a Gaula monster. Good luck, fish like a hero and keep up the good work. Kind Regards GRM

  2. GRM, many thanks for sharing. After 61 seasons I'm very philosophical about the variability of fishing, and especially of salmon at the extremity of the curve! In 13 annual weeks on the Findhorn we had every possible scenario from drought (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009) to flood (2007) and all else between, with temperatures from 3 to almost 30 degrees. My highlight year was 2011, when I caught a salmon every 3 hours for 5 days, and more significantly, young HMCX landed his first big fish. The memories last forever even though I won't: there's a finite limit to the number of up and down cycles left to me, which is why I remain determined to enjoy every minute, whether catching or not.