We have been in Norway for Just over 3 weeks now, we had a week to get to know the place and what our job roles will be before our first guests arrived. The surroundings of the lodge are beautiful, we are right in the Reisa valley with the mountains still with some flecks of snow on the top, trees and bush land all around and the river running right past the lodge.
Our first guest arrived on a Thursday afternoon, four American guys traveling together and a one of Roars 'Hero's' also American. Roars hero's are guys working within the fishing industry who can benefit the name and profile of the lodge so he invites them along for some fishing for some help with advertising etc... Our current hero was an epic casting instructor who writes many articles for fishing magazines and who is currently working on a book. He kindly took Jonny and I out one afternoon for some coaching as neither of us cast double handed rods very often, it was super helpful!
Our day is quite long - I get up at 8am and start setting up for breakfast for the guests and Roar, empty the dishwasher and clear up from the late night stragglers he night before. Make the filter coffee and the tea and set the table. Jonny comes down and goes out the let the dogs out and feed them and then comes in to help cook breakfast. We have tried to change things each morning so that is not always just eggs and bacon - we've done scrambled egg and even waffles one day. Whilst the guests are eating I set up their day boxes - tea, coffee, biscuits, milk, beer and wine, and Jonny organises the licences with Roar for the days fishing.
The licence system here I find quite confusing, I'm getting to understand, but luckily Jonny has a better idea. Theriver is split into Sone's (zone) each sone is either owned privately by the farmer who's land it is, or by the government. Each sone then will have a certain number of licences available each day. Roar purchases as many licences as he can for as may sones as possible, so there are plenty available when guests book in. Some of the sones are many kilometres long with lots of different pools to fish. Some of the pools can be accessed by foot but a lot can only be reached by boat. The lodge has 3 very experienced guides who know the river system well and have river boats so they can transport the guests to areas of the river to fish different pools.
Fishing time on the river is from 12noon - 12midnight, so after breakfast the guests will either head to the boats orJonny will drive the guests to meet their guides at the allotted sones whilst I clear up, do any washing and check the rooms, make beds and clean bathrooms. Our other jobs will include maintenance - putting up mosquito nets, building steps, driving into town to shop for supplies, and I also painted the big wooden fish which I think looks heaps better now!
Once this is done I must start organising lunch which is often served about 5pm. This is where we have to be organised and think ahead - know what we will be doing and get things out of the freezer in time. Often we will do a large lunch such as shepherds pie, spag bol or fennibiff. Fennibiff is a Norwegian dish I have learnt to do, made with reindeer meat and I a bit like stroganoff, its really tasty! The guests will either come back to the lodge or we take lunch to them at the riverside where the guides will build a fire and cook right by the river so no fishing time is lost! We then may have a short space of time for ourselves to rest or if Roar has a licence for us we can go fishing, I then start on supper which is often something light like soup, or cheese, bread and ham selections. The guests will come back to the lodge anywhere from 10:30 - 12:30 and they call Jonny when they need collecting. Whilst waiting for the guests I can sometimes get a few flies tied, which makes me happy! After serving supper and clearing up we usually get to bed about 2am, I will often go earlier as I get up earlier and Jonny stays down to look after and 'entertain' the guests.
Because of the 24 hour sunlight it really screws up your ability to know what the time is, before you know it it's 2am but its still light outside.
Our first week was really good, our guests were really nice, relaxed and not demanding at all. The only thing they really enjoyed was a gin and tonic when they returned from the river, which I made sure I had ready for them as soon as they walked in, which earned me the title form one guest as 'nurse' as I had his medicine ready.
The river opened at 12noon on July 1st the guests and Roar were all very excited! We have two in river cameras which we can watch on the lodge TV, we often see some gorgeous brown trout and also salmon so we knew they were in the system.
As with any fishing weather and river conditions play such a huge part in how the fish will react. The first week was really hot, 20+ degrees for a good 4 days in a row, so the water temperature was quite high. They guys fished hard and not often was it that the came home early - only on the nights that the football was on! One of the group was amazing he was 80 years young and was out there every day casting all day until 12 and it did not seem to tire him. Each of the group had a fish, one of the guys who was new to Salmon fishing caught his personal best then, trumped that and caught another PB a couple of days later!! Two of them hooked into one of the famed monster salmon of the Reisa which shot off downriver, one bent the hook, and the other took 400m of line before coming off. Where else could you experience something line that other than the Reisa river - the monster salmon were here but they were not going to be easy!
It then started raining - lots! On their penultimate day they had to stay home as the river had risen so much it was unfishable, and dangerous to be out on. It looked more like the Frasier river I had fished in Canada for sturgeon rather than the gin clear Norwegian salmon river, we saw whole trees floating down past the lodge! We heard reports that morning of a group of canoeists up river who has capsized and there was search teams out looking for them. Helicopters flying over the lodge and police cars whizzing past. Luckily they found them all safe and well. Thankfully the following day the river had calmed and the guests were able to safely access the river and fish again.
A couple of the days Jonny and I were able to get out to one of the Sones and have a fish. We were able to go after the lunch had been given and cleared away and the fishermen were off again, so out at about 7:30 to be back for 9pm to prep for dinner. These short times were great for us to start learning the river, and the pools and to get in the much needed practice for casting in different conditions and different river situations.
On the last night the weekend our first guest left to travel home was going to be our best chance of getting in some better fishing time. We decided to spend Saturday morning getting the room turn around done so we could send more of Sunday fishing as the river was dropping and it was likely to be better conditions then. We still had some of the heros here, so once we had served breakie, cleared up and sorted their packed lunch and coffee we were free to go fish!! :D
At last we make it to our sone for the day, sone 3. A large Stoney beach, the river running down to the right with a nice deep pool and a back eddie just after the pool. The wind was unhelpfully coming upriver but because of the clear beach it was easy to do a left handed back cast here. Jonny let me have first run through the pool, I tied on a black and green tube with a myler body and started my way down. Jonny walked with me whilst he waited for me to be far enough down so he could start. He noticed a salmon jump just before the eddie. I slowly made my way towards it as Jonny returned to the car to get his rod to start casting. I cast out and let my tube swing round, just before it came straight again a fish splashed, and I was sure it was just about where my fly was. I yelled at Jonny and quickly cast again, it swung round and this time nothing, I cast again whilst explaining to Jonny what I saw and as my line came round, it stopped and the line went tight! Yes! I screeched, I lifted my rod into it and...it nothing, my rod bent over and I lifted some more, and nothing moved. I think maybe its a stone I said to Jonny. He then started to wade in towards my line and the fish shot of! Yes a salmon!! I could not believe how strong it was, I seriously put some strain on the rod and I could not move that fish! The fish then stopped again, and again I could do nothing with it. It then ran once more and jumped, I got a good look at this silvery fish, maybe around 12 - 14lb. Once back in the water it ran towards me, I reeled in the slack, maybe I should have walked backwards too, I felt the fish prepare for another jump and then the hook came flying back at me. I could not believe it, I know salmon have a rep for being hard to catch but I really thought he was hooked well.
I am not ashamed to say I cried. Crying before the fly hit the floor according to Jonny. I do not know of anything else that can fill you with elation, and adrenaline and then can sink your heart and fill you with despair and disbelief in a split second!
I was gutted, I actually felt more upset about loosing this salmon than I did about loosing that massive sturgeon whilst filming the semi final of BBCs The Big Fish. I guess this is because I knew that I could go out the next day on the Frasier river and have a pretty good chance of catching another decent sturgeon, and that I did do, but with salmon its not that easy. But I am here for the whole season and I will have another chance to catch one, whether I do or not is another thing. I am trying to think positive!! Watch this space!
So our second set of guests have arrived, 4 guys from England plus their host renowned fishing photographer Matt Harris. Scott Mackenzie and His Son Ross are still with us and have been fishing hard with Roar, between them they have caught some really nice salmon, and Ross caught his personal best here at Reisastua, a chip off the old block you could say!
I am feeling this will be a busy week as we have a full house and we need to make sure everyone is happy. This is a beautiful place in the world, with the river just at the doorstep. It maybe tiring days but I know at some point soon I will get another shot at that salmon!