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.
Truly bitten by the saltwater fly fishing bug …
As ever the internet provided a wealth of information and, more importantly, inspiration for the trip. Numerous videos on the excellent Kanalgratis channel showcased the fantastic fly fishing that could be had in Scandinavian rivers, as well as along the coast and in the fjords. I also stumbled across the fantastic site of Global FlyFisher, which is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in expanding their fly fishing exploits beyond the usual repertoire of game fish and, in particular, trying their Kanalgratishand at saltwater fly fishing. I set myself the goal of catching my first sea fish on a fly.
First job would be to ensure I had the right tackle and flies. A ten foot 8-weight rod coupled with a selection of lines (floating, intermediate and sinking) seemed about right. The powerful rod would facilitate casting in rough seas or blustery conditions, and the various lines would enable me to explore different depths. As for the flies, I duly began tying up a selection of classic saltwater patterns – Clouser Minnows and Deceivers – as well as some flies that were supposedly proven killers of Scandinavian sea trout – Grey Freds and Mickey Finns. I really enjoyed tying these patterns. Putting a big hook in the vice and getting creative with some new materials and gaudy colours provided a welcome change to fiddling about with tiny, drab trout flies and I was pretty pleased with the results.
Our first few days on Erfjord were spent fishing more traditional saltwater methods – trolling spoons, jigging feathers and ledgering baits. We quickly established that mackerel were plentiful in the open water of the fjord (and these hard fighters would be grilled for dinner most evenings), and the rocks and weeds close to shore were home to colourful wrasse.
Off the mark from the shore …
The fly rod eventually made an appearance one sunny afternoon as the kids played in the rockpools and Andy and I enjoyed some fishing in front of our house. A small white clouser minnow seemed a safe bet – its jigging action could imitate a small shrimp or bait fish. The water was crystal clear and even at the end of a long cast I could track the fly’s progress as I tweaked it back amongst the rocks and weeds. I saw a number of fish follow the fly before a spritely cuckoo wrasse eventually plucked up the courage to make an attack. Although the fish was outgunned and easily landed on the 8-weight tackle, observing the fish appear behind the fly and follow before taking was exciting and it was impossible not to admire its vivid colours – oranges and turquoises that you would normally associate with a fish from a tropical coral reef rather than a frigid fjord.
Having got a fish on fly from the shore, the next challenge was to do the same from the boat. Adjacent to our house was a small, ramshackled marina which provided us with our boat for the week. Each evening, a bunch of German anglers would return to the marina and begin to clean and smoke their catch whilst drinking copious amounts of vodka. They looked a serious bunch of fisherman, clad in matching red, thermal boilersuits. These guys were not messing about in the calm waters of the fjord (“fun fishing” as they called it), they were out on the high seas where the men are men and the fish are bigger. Their catches proved it as we saw them gutting some sizeable cod and pollock. They told us about a “post” that was about three kilometres away where the fjord ended and the open sea began. Here, they informed us, the water was more turbulent and the fish bigger.
The ‘Post of Plenty’ …
We decided to head out one evening in search of this ‘Post of Plenty’. Turning right (starboard?) from the marina, we fired up the outboard motor and sped along the fjord in the direction the Germans had indicated. However, the tranquil waters of the fjord became noticeably more choppy as we neared the sea. So much so that, despite the urge to find new and more fertile fishing grounds, and given the fact that neither of us had much experience of manning watercraft in rough conditions, we decided it was best to stay within the shelter of the high cliffs and mountains that bordered the fjord until things calmed down.
Safely nestled in an attractive cove we began fishing in our usual manner, casting our flies and feathers towards the cliffs. As ever the area was beautiful and looked fishy, but after an hour’s fishing all we had managed was a small codling that fell for one of Andy’s feathers. In the meantime, however, the water had calmed and we eventually decided that it was safe enough to press on a little further in search of the mythical post.
It was indeed becoming a beautiful evening. By the time we reached the end of the fjord and an expanse of water that I guess you could call the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean, the swell had reduced to a gentle ripple. The sun was slowly sinking behind the distant mountains and a lovely soft light shimmered across the waves.
Finally, as we rounded the headland, we saw a thin black post protruding three or four metres from the water’s surface. On top of the post stood a number of seagulls, which is always a good sign for the angler as the birds always know where the fish are. Indeed, our Deeper sonar indicated that the depth shelved up dramatically from the deep fjord, and around the post was rough and intriguing ground of twenty metres or so in depth.
We cut the engine and began a drift towards the post – it felt ripe for a fish. I said as much to Andy as I cast my white and chartreuse Clouser Minnow. I allowed it to sink to a depth of about five or six feet before commencing my retrieve. The fly was about halfway back to the boat when I received a solid take. By the way the rod was bent and the fish took line you would have expected something bigger than a mackerel of around a pound – such is speed and tenacity of this plucky little fish, which is indeed a relative of the much larger and even stronger tuna. Nonetheless, it provided fantastic sport on the fly rod and as a swung it aboard I could not help but exclaim, “YESSS!” – a sea fish from the boat on the fly!
What is more, Andy managed to catch it all on video – great memories of a great evening.
Great stuff. I can see a book in the making – eg. ‘Tales of … .