(@ MSL -1 metre)
Now come forward 12 months.
(on our last afternoon, @MSL +0.85 having fallen 1 metre from peak)
Tuesday 18th July 2017
|iPhone screen shot
1200 19 July
|Stadion top half
At lunchtime we moved up into Stadion, a very good pool, with a strong flow in the top half and a massive deep back eddy below. At this height I could cover the upper section with the 13' MAG, very fast polyleader and a weighted tube. We still weren't seeing any fish. We could see from the Laksborsen on-line catch return system that our fellow anglers were catching the occasional grilse, but otherwise all was quiet. And then the rain came: it poured down. So at the end of 12 hours' almost non-stop fishing with 2 uninspiring pools in prospect, we called it a day.
We went back for a quick breakfast and shave, before going out to Bridge in the pouring rain at 6C. There's no photo of this very productive pool (last year an angler lost a 40 at the net here) because the conditions were so ghastly that the thought of photography never crossed my mind. Survival was uppermost. Fishing left hand up into deep water and in a gusty wind I dropped my hood to check on my casting anchor. This was essential because on Bridge the lies are down the 30 yard line and beyond. Your cast has to work well, but anchor 'stick' can be a real pain when you're fishing with a heavy front end and trying too hard on account of the distance required. When 3 casts later I put it up again, the accumulated rain went straight down my neck and back: utter misery, and there's no hut on this pool either for coffee. Just before noon my morale bombed and I cracked. My kit's superb: I was dry and warm (apart from the hood incident). But 5 hours of the relentless cycle of rolling the line up to the surface, Snap-T and mend, repeated every 45 seconds in vile conditions, finally got to me. Fishing should be enjoyable and you can't see much of beautiful Norway when the rain's hitting your polaroids like birdshot.
Jonas the ghillie advised that in the conditions our next pool wasn't worth fishing, so we went in for lunch. At Norwegian prices (£6.75) it may have been the most expensive packet of tomato soup outside the Ritz, but it was worth every kronor. I took the afternoon off to visit a party of Irish anglers from Cork who were fishing on one of the beats below the Gaulfossen. We met as they came off the river from their morning session having caught 6 of the salmon held up below the rapids, and correspondingly keen to get back amongst them. After a bit of banter and a welcome coffee I let them at their sport. I did, however, take 10 minutes to look over their fishery, which is wider and shallower than upstream, and set in much more open country.
The challenges of fishing the head of Main are illustrated in this video clip. The full weight of the Gaula is compressed into an entry less than 10 metres wide and then falls over small lip that imparts further acceleration. We were so impressed by the speed of the water that we resolved to measure it accurately. I set out a distance of 100 feet; Patrick stood at the other end with the stop watch on his phone at the ready; and we were ready for Turbo Pooh-Sticks. The answer came out at a remarkable 6.8 mph, which translates as 10 kph. Getting a fly down and steady in this maelstrom was impossible. We didn't get a salmon's opinion as, alas, we didn't see any to ask.
Anyway, we determinedly fished the remainder, in hope but not great expectation. Our evening was interrupted but lightened by the arrival of a man, accompanied by a young lady dressed as a pirate complete with tricorn hat, coming down the rapids in a child's beach inflatable boat. The hurtled past us, completely out of control, with only one small paddle and nary a lifejacket between them. I doubt that the salmon - if any were present - noticed their passing. Unfortunately we were both so taken aback and agog at the spectacle that we failed to photograph the event. This must be a very Norwegian way of going out to a fancy dress party!
It wasn't worth fishing Creek, the next pool up (photo above) in such high water at midnight. The risk assessment of slipping on the wet rocks featured highly in our decision: at this water height it was one slip and you're a gonner. With The Bend, a premier pool, allocated after 0600 we headed in for supper and early bed in preparation for a more moderate 0530 reveille and breakfast, before sallying forth.
Undeterred, we fished with our customary intensity and differing styles - Patrick frequently changing flies and rigs, and MCX just doggedly sticking to something broadly sensible. As neither of us had so much as a touch, neither strategy worked, but I'm unaware of a third option. After 6 hours of full-distance casting interspersed with closer range work down towards the tail we were ready for a break and the move up to Stadion at 6pm.
(iPhone screen shot)
|Rognes Bridge Pool
Note the water clarity
In retrospect I regret the failure to photograph my efforts as a chef - Poule Brettonne with 3 vegetables prepared on the apartment's hob with just 2 saucepans. Certainly it was much more successful than my fishing had been to that point. Our guests were charmingly diverse in every respect: one was due to fish the Orkla the next day, whereas the other was incapacitated, having ricked his back reaching down too suddenly to unhook a lively 20 pounder. They were in turns optimistic and realistic in their assessment of our chances with just 36 hours' fishing remaining.
in the rising sun
Note the water clarity
The jackpot lies are about 15 metres above the bridge tight against
the far side, and 10 metres below the bridge in the middle
Last day 0400
Note the re-appeared pebble bank to the right
I fished on until the second hand came up to precisely 0600. It was over. Yet again, after a year's anticipation and a week's relentless fishing, I'd blanked. I was dejected beyond description and physically exhausted. In my desperation to catch I'd crossed the threshold into the zone where it was no longer pleasurable. This was self-inflicted wounding born of a burning desire to have a successful week, exacerbated by the discipline of the 6-hourly rotation. Yet the beautiful Gaula is a capricious mistress, who promises much, gives little and breaks you thereby. Occasionally she makes glorious silver concessions to her favoured lovers, but clearly I am not one.
That night I slept for 11 hours - not easily done at my age. Since then the fatigue has washed out of my system and I've spent a little time reflecting on the week. Reflection is a wonderful gift of age: if you are unable to do, reflect, it's much less tiring. I'm no longer up to or up for flat out relentless combat fishing. Catching salmon is exhilarating, but there's much more to life than catching. Patrick was a wonderful, calm, tolerant and easy companion throughout a disagreement-free week, but we together fell into the same trap of our determination. It has to be balanced, and that balance is most easily secured in an environment where fishing is not the sole focus. The diversity and diversions of wives and families, friends, social interactions, convivial dinners, dogs and alternative activities is where the real pleasures of a week's salmon fishing are found.
We're going back to Tomatin House in September, where this blog began, for Just One Week. I can hardly wait, and furthermore, I won't care if I don't catch (really?).