For those of you who follow me on my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Angling IQ profiles will know that my husband and I have been super fortunate to secure a job working in a fishing lodge in the north of Norway. The lodge is called Reisastua and in located on the bank of the Reisa in Northern Norway 30 mins drive from StØrslett within the arctic circle. The Reisa is a sister river to the Alta and runs through the Reisadalens national park to reach the lodge. It is famed for it's huge salmon, to catches of 35lb to 50lb salmon are not uncommon each season here.
Leading up to the day of the trip I was starting to feel a little wobbly about it, we were only going for 3 months but I had to give up my much loved job of 8 years as a nurse manager in a veterinary hospital to go to a job I didn't know if I would like, didn't know what to expect and wasn't sure if we would actually get to do any fishing ourselves anyway! But at least I wouldn't be on my own, Jonny and my two Labradors Eider and Steller were coming too!
Back home in Suffolk the river season re-opened on Thursday 16th May. I was excited about getting to stalk pike again, but as we were leaving on the 20th and I was working the 16th and 17th I was unsure if I would manage to get a chance to go with all the pre travel preparations I had to do before we left on the 20th. Jonny then told me he had booked in a guided trip for us on our Kayaks on the 18th! I was initially annoyed with him as time was getting so short to get everything organised before we go, from packing the car, handing over my allotment to my neighbour and making sure I bought new tyres of the Volvo! But turns out I was actually quite under control so I day on the river would be great!
The guys we were taking came to stay the night before and we were up early to start the hunt, the weather was awful so we stopped for brekie to wait for a restbite in the rain. We got the kayaks on the water and were off to a great start, one pike to Jonnys yak within 15 minutes, and my yak followed not too long afterwards. The day turned out to be a good one, the pike were really active and aggressive and were following the flies right to yak side, sometime attacking the fly and spraying up water and others swirling with a huge bow wave but not quite taking the fly. At the end of the day Jonnys yak could boast the most fish at 6 and the biggest at 11lb, and my yak with two pike but both guys pleased with personal PB's.
The 20th came and we started packing the car, I thought we'd packed quite light but once we started putting in the dogs stuff, rods, reels and fly tying gear, there didn't seem to be much space for much else...plus Jonny was insisting on taking the Kayak with us! But we got everything in and headed off to wait to get on the Harwich overnight ferry to Holland.
We arrived in Holland at 8am local time (1 hour ahead of UK) and faced a long drive through to Denmark, Sweden, Finland and finally Norway. Jonny decided he would rather drive as he didn't trust me driving on the wrong side of the road! Fine no problems here! The dogs had their area in the car behind the driver seat and happily slept as soon as the car was moving.
This journey was going to take a few days and the first stint was a 12 hour drive, approx. four hours into Sweden to stay with the lovely Ilias Karanzas who kindly offered us a place to stay for the night. This guy is an awesome fly tyer, famed for his ace air brushed poppers, which I was keen to witness in action. Ilias and his lovely partner Molly also crafted us a yummy Swedish dish called smörgåstartå to fill us up after our long journey. It was like a savoury cake made with bread, ham, salmon and mayo - mmmm!
We headed off the next day from Ilias's but it wasn't long before I realised I had left my bag which I had placed by the car before I got in! As you can imagine Jonny wasn't best pleased but as I told him, it was better to be only 15 minutes away rather than 10 hours! Don't know if that made him any happier - but I got my punishment for being such a numpty as when we got back to the bag it seemed we had rolled over it and crushed a pair of my Costa sunglasses (insert big sad face).
Our next 12 hour car journey we arrived in Vilhalmina in the north of Sweden to stay with Jonnys friend Anders and his wife Kickan, they were so lovely and welcoming, they lived just outside of Vilhalmina in among the trees. Their home was one of the typical pretty swedish houses you see in the area, red tin outer and very cosy and there were various moose skulls decorating the place. We decided to stay the following day to give Jonny a rest from driving....and also Anders said he would take us to his local Grayling patch!
I have always wanted to catch a grayling, they have been on my bucket list for some time - so I was quite excited for this day! In the afternoon we gathered our gear and purchased our fishing licence from the local fishing shop where Anders worked. We drove down a long gravel road and then turned onto a track which wound its way up into the hills, when we got to the top we scared off a single reindeer. I set up my Vision vipu 6# and tied on a klinkhammer and then followed the boys down to the river Vojmån. The scenery was stunning, gin clear running water surrounded by rocks and evergreens.
We started fishing from the bank casting short and then wading slowly forward, allowing the klinckhammer to drift in the moving water I had a couple of fish attempt to take it, and although I felt the bend for a very short second neither resulted in a hook up. We slowly made our way down river, and found our selves at a lovely big bay with shallow rocky areas leading off to deeper points, as we approached we disturbed something in the shallow - Pike! Jonny had bought the 9# Vision Big Daddy with him and quickly set about unhooking the fly and casting out - it didn't take long before it attacked the fly, but the hook up didn't come, he cast again at the same fish and again it attacked but this time Jonny hooked him! Pretty much as soon as Jonny released him the heavens opened and we were soaked in seconds - we had our waders but didn't put on waterproof jackets as it seemed like such a nice day! We took shelter under the trees and it soon passed - out we went again but this time we were not alone, the rain had increased the mosquito attendance 10 fold, I have never seen so many. It wasn't long before we were covered in bites, and not only us but our poor Labradors who had become the place to eat!
We could see the Grayling topping just in front of us, Jonny continued to chase Pike and Anders and I cast for the grayling, but we were unable to provoke a take. We walked back to the car to change into dry clothing and then changed location up river, this included a bit of rock hopping to get to the spots. We saw a few grayling topping and so we each moved into position to cast for one. The fish I was aiming for was topping about 3 feet from the bank, I cast out and the kilnkhammer drifted over his head - I annoyingly missed the first take but I was sure he had not felt the hook. I couple more drifts and I had him! What hit me most about this fish was the power of the fight, I thought this fish would just give up quickly but he just put his beautiful dorsal fin up and stopped! Eventually he gave up and I had him in the net! My first grayling and at 43cm it wasn't a bad first one! I was elated!
We hit the road again the next day early, another 12 hour journey though many reindeer in the north of Sweden into Finland for a short period of time and then onto Norway. We arrived at the lodge Friday evening and after meeting our new boss Roar and having a tour of our new workplace and home for the next three months, we met Vidar and Venkar who we were to be replacing. This couple had worked for Roar as often as they were able, but this year they needed some time off.
The thing I was most worried about was cooking, I can cook and I like cooking, but cooking for people who were paying to be at the lodge was a bit daunting. I was told this will all be fine and I will be shown everything once I get there. But Vidar and Venker were only with us for 1.5 days - I was shown the food we kept in stock and given ideas of some meals but it was pretty much left up to me! So it was safe to say I was and still am feeling a bit anxious. The fishing hours are between 12 - 12 so we must cook breakfast, provide a large lunch either at the lodge or by the river and a small supper at around 1am. I feel we are going to have very long days!
The first thing we needed to sort when we arrived was a dog house for Eider and Steller. The carpenters had made a house for the with a swing door and a run, but the girls couldn't figure out how to work the swing door, so they were either stuck inside or stuck outside with the mosquitos! So we had to make a mosquito proof run outside area for them.
The most strange thing so far is the midnight sun, I was told we would have 24 hour daylight whilst we were here, but I assumed there would be a twilight sort of effect, but it is as bright at 1am as it is at 1pm. It is taking a bit of time getting used to sleeping at night, and even after a busy day in the lodge before I know it is 1am and I'm not tired!
We took a river boat up the system to visit the Mollis falls, and then we paddled back in an open canoe. The water was unbelievably clear, we stood up trying to spot fish - thank goodness for our Costa Sunglasses! Even though the water was clear they were still so hard to spot. There was some lovely big brown trout rising in places and we spotted about eight large salmon! The Reisa valley is beyond stunning, beautiful doesn't come close!
So the first guests are due to come this week for 9 days. I will admit I am feeling anxious about it, but I am sure it will be great. They will all be pumped about the start of the season so hopefully they will be happy as long as the food it hot and the beer is cold!
Stay tuned to see how I get on.....Tight Lines Jo x