Getting hygge with it

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Hygge is a Danish concept that cannot be translated into a single word, but is used to express a feeling of contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple pleasures in life.

The comforting warmth, flicker and crackle of an open fire is hygge. The smell of fresh coffee on a quiet Sunday morning – that’s hygge, too. Hanging out with a friend on a warm summer’s evening, shooting the breeze over a couple of cold beers – pure hygge. However, sitting alone on a park bench in the freezing winter rain can that be hygge? I was to find out on a winter’s trip to Denmark.

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Pickled Watermelon

This year we attempted to grow some fruit and vegetables in our garden for the first time. It was all a bit trial and error, but one of the surprise success stories were our watermelons – a few seeds thrown down as a bit of an afterthought in mid summer did really well and yielded at least ten decent sized specimens.

We were a little over enthusiastic when the first of the melons reached ‘supermarket size’ and were disappointed to discover that the fruit was not quite ripe. Not wanting to waste the considerable amount of flesh that there was (albeit white rather than pink), we quickly searched the internet for ideas of what to do with unripe melon.

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Mackerel escabeche

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In Norway a few summers back, freshly caught mackerel from the fjord were our staple food for the entire week. They were so plentiful that it was easy to catch enough each day to feed four adults and three hungry children. Simply seasoned and grilled on the barbecue, they provided a healthy, filling and delicious dinner each night. However by the end of the holiday we were all ready for something a bit different, but with several mackerel remaining in the fridge we had to get creative with what we already had.

I had my trusty River Cottage Handbook No. 6 with me and leafing through the pages for inspiration I stumbled across a recipe that sounded perfect for the situation: “a great recipe for using up a glut of oily fish, and it’s perfect for large group of fish diners”. The recipe was ‘escabeche’.

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An Autumn Adventure

A common lament in the angling press these days – at least in the UK – is the dwindling number of people, especially youngsters, entering the sport. Nowadays, with so many other distractions offering instant gratification, encouraging people to take up a hobby which by its very nature requires quiet contemplation, concentration and patience (after all it’s called fishing, not catching!) is bound to be a hard sell.

That said, there is a new generation of ‘influencers’ taking advantage of social media to raise awareness of fishing as the endlessly fascinating and rewarding pursuit that it is. Not long ago I had the pleasure of spending an amazing day on England’s premier salmon river – the River Tyne – with two of them.

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Baked Sea Bass with Lemon, Olives and Rosemary

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Last week we were invited to some friends for our first barbecue of the year and asked to bring some fish for the grill. Not wanting to take over our friends’ kitchen I needed something I could prep at home, parcel up and just whack straight on the coals when we got there – foil baked sea bass with lemon, olives and rosemary it was then. The results were delicious – here’s how you do it …

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Plenty of Firsts in the Fjords – Part 2

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Following on from the previous week’s post, this is the second instalment of my look back at last summer’s trip to the Norwegian fjords.

The trip provided a number of angling ‘firsts’ for me starting with sea fish on the fly – a colourful wrasse from the shore, followed by a beautiful mackerel caught one blissful evening out on the boat.

A small spate river which, by chance, flowed into the fjord just a few miles down the road from our house would provide a few more new experiences over the course of the week.

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Plenty of Firsts in the Fjords – Part 1

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After a great trip to Finland with my good friend Andy and his family in 2017, we decided to visit Norway together for our 2018 summer holidays. We found a lovely house on the shores of a fjord (called Efjord) about three hours north of Stavanger – a fascinating trip travelling by road and ferry. Of course, plenty of fishing would be on the agenda and we hoped that some tasty sea fish could be caught to feed the troops.

Apart from on family holidays in my youth, I have not done much sea fishing and to be honest it has never really attracted me that much. Lowering a bait into fathomless depths or blindly casting towards the horizon has always seemed a bit of a shot in the dark and somewhat boring. However, this was all to change in the fertile, dramatic and beautiful saltwaters of the fjords.

The trip resulted in a number of angling ‘firsts’ for me, and it turned out that sea fishing could be just as exhilarating and rewarding as in my hitherto favoured freshwater haunts.

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Happiness Shared

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Fishing has been described as ‘an excuse for being there’ – close to nature, in touch with the seasons, with time to contemplate and gain or regain perspective. In other words, there’s more to fishing than catching fish.

Certainly fishing alone is better than not fishing at all, but for many anglers (myself included) sharing time on the banks with friends or family is infinitely more enjoyable. As Christopher McCandless concludes in one of my favourite films ‘Into the Wild’, “happiness is only real when shared“.

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Off to a Flyer

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The season for brown trout fishing on rivers in the UK typically ends this month or, in certain cases, some time in October. This year has flown by and I only managed to get out twice, both trips taking place on consecutive weekends back at the start of the season in April.

I got off to a flyer on the first trip, but then was brought back down to Earth with a bump on the second. But hey, that’s what’s great about fishing – just when you think you’ve got it mastered, nature twists and turns and puts you back in your place. There’s always more to learn.

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