Life in a Salmon Lodge : Reisaelva, Norway :2016 Part 2

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!

 

Life in a Salmon Lodge : Resiaelva, Norway : 2016

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.

 Reisastua from the far side of the river

Reisastua from the far side of the river

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!

My first Grayling!!!

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

Carpin'

When the river season ends where I live, it's often a bit a brain muncher to figure out what to flick a fly at until the mullet and bass come good. I have a friend with a large pond on his farm which we go down to, to winkle out a perch or a roach when we are chasing, but this can become a little stale at time. It has been suggested to me by my husband on a number of occasions that I should try for a carp.

Now I don't wish to upset anyone but carp are not a fish I have ever really fancied catching, 'ditch pigs' and 'puddle hogs'  I have heard them referred to as, and I had always regarded them as ugly, overfed mutations of a fish bred to entertain the bait angler. As complex and stealthy as it is, the idea of sitting stringing boilies together, and waiting to be woken up by a bait alarm is not for me. So I was not that keen when Jonny suggested it, but after saying what a numpty I was, he told me he was suggesting I target them on fly! Ok, I thought, well its worth a go.

The first day was bright, sunny and fairly settled, and the carp we could see were very active, big rubbery lips popping up to the surface to munch on floating food sources. I had heard that carp are very sensitive to touch and will easily shy from a fly if it doesn't feel right.

I had looked into carp flies and the general pointers were dog biscuit and bread flies. So I tied up a little foam bread fly, attaching the foam to the hook by threading nylon through it with a bead on the side of the foam, this allowed the hook to sit on top of the foam and hopefully reduce the chance of the fish feeling the hook.

Slowly and quietly stalking the banks looking for top feeding fish, spotting one and flicking a carefully aimed fly just in eye view of the fish. Some were to clever but it wasn't long before the hook ups came. This was actually much more fun than I had anticipated, these ugly fish gave quite a fight, and I was surprised to see the small ones often running off along the surface much like a bone fish! At one point I targeted a large common I had spotted he took the fly and gave me the run around for a good 10-15 minutes before he slid into the net.

As the day wore on just before it was time to head home to feed our two Labradors, we noticed the fish feeding on bugs that had fallen on the surface. I took out my fly box and tied on the one black fly that was in there. Clocking a feeding fish an accurately aimed cast dropped the fly in front of him, it didn't take much to tempt him and a big mouth engulfed the fly to add one more to our tally.

Although bread and dog biscuit flies worked well, it did seem a little bit like cheating, catching on a natural fly was bound to be much more rewarding. I tied up some simple black gnats and retuned to the lake the following weekend.

This day was much cooler and overcast, the fish were less active and a bit more spooky than before. But the odd few were visible just below the surface. Some were just cruising, and a few were feeding on the surface.

 The simple black gnat fly

The simple black gnat fly

We tied on the little black bugs and started stalking! Jonny was off straight away - I sware that boy has magic powers when it comes to catching fish! But it wasn't long before I spotted a potential fish sucking at the surface, I cast a short line to gently land my fly just in front of his nose. He started to rise, bumped it and then turned away. Annoying! I crept a bit further around the lake and spotted a couple of fish feeding close together, I cast out but just a little too far, I lifted the tip of the rod and gently dragged the fly back near to the feeding fish. Luckily this did not seem to offend them, one turned spotted the black morsel, opened his rubbery mouth and he was on.

The whole process was just as exciting as any other sight fishing trip I had been on. Spotting the fish, watching for the feeding ones, deciding what they were eating, stalking to and then casting a spook free line. So I have to take back all the negative thoughts I had towards carp, these fish were clever and powerful and did not give up easily, and although they really are not one of the most beautiful fish, the names of ditch pig and puddle hog I would use now more as a fond term of endearment rather than a scoff.

Armoured Flat Fred

This is an awesome pattern I saw in an American fly magazine, I'm embarrassed to say I cannot remember who tied it! But I saw this fly and thought if I could armour plate it, it would be awesome for toothy predatory critters.  

My friend Mark fishes in Agentina for Golden Dorado most years, last time he went I tied him some Crease flies to use. He caught heaps of fish on them but the problem was because Dorado give such aggressive takes, the fly would get trashed! I knew he was off again soon so thought I'd tie him some of the Armour Plated Flat Freds and see if they lasted a bit longer!

He had an epic time, the flies caught some nice fish and faired well against these beautiful jurassic monsters. I will be testing them out this summer for some top water pike action, I will let you know how I go!

In the mean time below is the SBS for the Armour Plated Flat Fred - Have fun!

One of the many Dorado Flat Fred can be thanked for!

19) The finished Armour Plated Flat Fred.