Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden fades away in the background. I tend to base things these days a lot of my awareness, my senses, and my intuition. I have a pretty accurate radar for pinpointing what’s making me feel a certain way and how did this situation come to pass, both negatively and positively. Some times I catch myself checking in, “How is Nic actually doing today? What do I need to thrive today? Am I enjoying myself now? Putting time and energy into something directly should be enjoyable right?” I’ll come back to this.
“Finding a pool to fish in peace can be challenging”
Sunday morning is guides’ day off for us foot soldiers at Norwegian Flyfishers Club on the Gaula. Naturally, when there’s a few fish around and there even somewhat fishable conditions, all of us goons will inevitably be out somewhere sending lasers before reconvening at 6pm for the start off a new week on Sunday evening. Guests always have priority, and there’s a little bit of etiquette with this whole salmon fishing thing mind you, so finding a pool to fish in peace can be challenging.
I had played the long game and stayed out a bit longer, counting on the fact that my colleagues would be fishing elsewhere and that tendinitis and severe shoulder pain would have flayed the remaining guests that held out this long.
The weather wasn’t great, best described as saddening. I got in the water after picking out a tiny Ally’s Shrimp, definitely not in my usual arsenal of tricks, but it was really dark water and I was fishing a short bodied F/3/5 line that needed a long leader to anchor properly, so this whole rig made somewhat sense, but I was convinced since that this shrimp didn’t become the most famous salmon shrimp of all time without good reason. My casting sucked, embarrassingly so. I was really happy this year, on a personal level I really wanted to progress as a better underhand / scandi caster this year and with patience and learning new techniques, I honestly improved a number of my casts (in spey fishing, you have a number of casts as opposed to fishing single handers where the fly delivery is almost always straight ahead.)
“But then you have days like today, where nothing lines up”
Literally just doing all the grunt work of casting and failing for many hours, fine tuning rods, lines and leaders I could really see progress. Also, correcting guests and teaching is a great way to improve a skill. But then you have days like today, where nothing lines up, it’s terrible. It’s so hard to be consistent over a long period of time with salmon fishing. Wading, casting big rods on long, wild beats on a big river is a taxing task. Time to change the song.
Since the start of the season, I’ve been fishing with a JBL Clip 4 waterproof, carabiner shaped Bluetooth speaker. It’s a blast. It hangs on my wader shoulder strap and keeps me company on most outings. Sometimes its jazz from a contemporary German Quartet called Sepalot, sometimes some desert-tech, Fokofpolisiekar, Aurora, DJ Krush, Fleetwood Mac, Tupac, or a brilliant Polish composer you should check out named Hania Rani. But every fish has a theme song now.
I hooked a proper slab at the beginning of the season and I could feel this was a small dolphin sized fish, 10 seconds after I set the hook, Billy Talents “Devil in a Midnight Mass” came on. I was fokken revving ekse. It was poes wild. The traffic on the other side of the road stopped to watch me duel this 104cm chrome boy. But I digress, We’re here to talk about another big fish.
Anything but respectable
I kept swinging away, cast after cast, about one in three being anything respectable, and one in ten being what I like to call a “proper banger”. Rookie numbers. Worms by Viagra Boys plays in the background. This silly little shrimp fly kept on getting leader wrapped or, it could have been my horrendous chucking that smurgled him, but it was annoying. I was doing one of those check-ins I spoke about earlier, and then I asked myself: “Are you enjoying this?” – No. I’m not really.
I’m not having the greatest time right now, I’m a bit tired, a bit unfocused, hungry, starting to get wet from the rain and it’s just slow fishing. I hadn’t seen a single fish move or stir since the beginning of the session, so I thought about a few more swings and then home for a chow and power nap before Week 32 with new guests kicks off.
I made a few more casts with big strides in between, finally getting the distance and the line to turn over properly. It felt good, it felt easy again. I made a cast at 45deg down so it would swing from the get go. The swing didn’t really have the speed I would really like to have for resident salmon. I want the fly moving at a steady fast walk pace throughout as much of the swing as possible, so I encourage it a little bit with some mends and jigging.
Final boss sea trout
Out of nowhere the line stopped dead. No doubt. Don’t lift. Don’t fucking lift. I could feel the leader stretch, slow, constant headshakes. Let go of the line. Let him run. Lift the rod slowly. Solid. I was in. The most violently text book eat and hook set done. This was a good fish. (Alkaline Trio – Mercy Me starts playing.)
It ran 45 deg downstream and I just let him go. I know the pool well, and there are no obstacles for miles. Eventually close to the backing he slowed and I turned him and then he changed upstream and raced that way and further away at the same pace. Still headshakes. “Raaaaaad!!!!” I was so pumped, but also calm, because I knew this was substantial quarry. (Really big salmon don’t breach, they just sort of steam train around under the surface and have blistering power.) This one didn’t come up. I reached for my left breast wader pocket, to grab my phone.
This wouldn’t be the first time I would have to call my friend and colleague Thies (he’s a salmon legend and our assistant lodge manager). I knew he was up at the lodge, so not that far away. The fish did a few more turns, and then rolled on the surface and I got a look at him, surprisingly smaller than what I had initially thought, but then I saw his flank, wait a second. That is a lot of spots. Far too many for a salmon. It took a few seconds to sink in, but this was not a fair sized salmon, this was the final boss sea trout.
We’ve been here before
Thies made it down to the pool and grabbed the net before coming over to me a little further downstream. We’ve done this before, in fact just a few weeks ago when I got my first salmon for the season. Second shot and the marauder was in the bag. A big high 5 and both of us just stood there looking at this absolute unit of a creature in the net. Perfect. Just a stunning specimen. Big, robust, fin perfect, the most mesmerizing cape of spots on his cheeks and sides. A quick measure and some snaps before we sent him home. What. A. Fish. My personal best sea trout by a country mile. The fish measured 82cm FL and estimated around 6kg. (Pre and post salmon season, I’m battling to hook 2kg models in the salt just to put this in perspective.)
Nic admiring the “final boss” sea trout.
I just sat there for a while, looking at the river. It went back to being quiet. Nothing moved. No fish rising, no splashing. The small creek opposite filling the air with a constant white noise of water falling and connecting with shale underneath. I did a scan again to check in with myself. I could still feel the tension in my arms and the tightness in my hands from the battle. I was having a good time now. I got my fix, and then some. I was grateful, humbled and honoured. A warm wave of contentedness running through my waders. Running the leader through my fingers to check for any scars or signs of friction, I reeled up and started walking to the lodge. Time for that nap. Speaker off.
Sea trout in this county are protected, both in the salty fjord and in the river. There are periods when you are allowed to target them, but generally in the Gaula they are caught as bi-catch by salmon anglers. The last 2 years we have seen a dramatic increase in both the number of fish and the average size. This means the biomass of our local sea trout is thriving. They are a fascinating species. They actually hunt in the river as opposed to salmon which stop feeding once they enter fresh water. They are absolutely stunning to look at. Much like their freshwater counterparts the brown trout, they have dots and patterns like no other, except they have been “bleached” by the salt and lose their brown and gold markings only to regain them later in the season when they begin to spawn again.