The Gaula , Norway
A salmon River Adventure.
An Article by Richard Stevenson
The river Gaula is a fast flowing , large river , based some 60 kilometres south of Trondheim in Norway and it winds its way through some of the most fantastic countryside I have seen and provides the angler with the chance of catching some very large Salmon and the occasional Sea Trout
I fish the waters provided by the Norwegian Fly-fishers Club, which as the name suggests only permits fly only tactics, though the river does allow all known methods, so as you drive up and down the river you will see spinning etc.
Though there are many different beats available, I have always used the NFC waters, which are really good, perfect for the fly and are very varied in their character, with a good rod rotation system in operation.
These beats are however located some 7 miles upstream from “The Fosse” (water fall in Norwegian) , which is a very steep , ragging torrent of water that passes through a rocky gorge which was created by glacial activity and which is only passable by the salmon in medium to low water.
As such you don’t want to fish above the Fosse in really high flood conditions, as resident fish will run, but new fish cannot enter, and my own experience has been that the NFC waters fish best in medium water that is dropping.
Access to 90% of the pools provided by the NFC are good, with vehicular access possible to many , however I would strongly recommend hiring a proper 4 x 4 jeep , (not a car) as I have seen many anglers get stuck in the softer sandier parts of tracks , with the odd exhaust being knocked off not an unusual occurrence and repair and recovery costs are high.
The fishing season in Norway is relatively short, and commences on the 1st of June, though only lasts for some 3 months. During the winter months, this part of the world is in permanent darkness, with the river freezing over, and they get a lot of snow.
As such the first 2 to 3 weeks of the season can be very hit or miss, as the river can be in high flood from the snow melt and it can be very cold, though that said, this is a notorious time when the really big fish run the Gaula, with 40lb+ fish being experienced.
I fished the Gaula for the first time in 2000 and enjoyed it so much that I have returned every year since, with week 26 (end of June) being the slot that I like to use. The reason for this is that the river should still be benefiting from the tail end of the snow melt, and as such will be clear, though flowing at a reasonable height and at a good temperature.
At this time the fish begin to enter the river in much greater numbers, with good levels of 15lb + fish being in the system. The air temperature in the day at this time ranges between 12 to 18 degrees centigrade, spring is well underway and the banks of the river are covered in Loopins , the Oyster Catchers can be seen on the river and even if you are not catching anything , the whole atmosphere is fantastic. There are also very few midges, but you will need some protection from the little devils when fishing on warm still evenings.
I would however recommend that you do take clothing for very cold conditions, as the weather can change very quickly. I have only experienced one very bad season on the river, which was 2004, when even in week 26, Spring hadn’t started. As such the mountains were still covered in loads of snow and it was freezing, and I was even fishing in snow and hail, so go prepared.
A weeks fishing in Norway costs me circa £2500 , Flights £200, Car Hire £600, and then you have got your food etc. The price of living in Norway is high, with a beer costing in the region of £6 a pint, fuel at circa £1.50 per litre, with food also being expensive and with little choice. I have to say I don’t drink when I visit Norway, as they have a very low Drink Drive threshold, with about 1 pint taking you over the legal limit. They also don’t like speeding, be warned as visitors are asked to leave the country if caught and speeding fines are very high. You don’t however see many Police, but they do have a zero tolerance policy, so I just mention this as its best to forewarned!
The cost is however worth it, as you are able to fish 24 hours a day if you so wish, as the sun never sets at this time of the year. The locals call it the land of the “midnight sun as the light conditions at night never drop to any darker than dusk, and this invariable offers the best fishing conditions, and to fish throughout this period is magical.
Tackle and tactics
Since fishing the Gaula , I have seen a lot of people experience broken tackle when fighting fish, with rods broken at the spigot, reel clutches burnt out and many many fish lost due to leader breakage , as many employ a standard UK approach to fishing this river. These are the hardest fighting fish I have ever experienced and runs in excess of 200m are not uncommon, so you need to really consider your approach, as 40lb + salmon are regular captures each season.
Firstly the fish are not leader shy , and in one particular pool , Bridge Pool , I use 35lb leader as if you get a big fish in this pool you will need to hang on , as the big fish try to exit the tail of the pool , which is straight into a 300m + white water run , which the locals call the gauntlet .Believe me you don’t want to run the gauntlet , as if a fish goes down it you have to follow , by jumping down a boulder constructed bank , with the boulders as big as a car , though generally I use 25lb Flouro Carbon leader.
For a rod I use a 16ft Thomas & Thomas double handed rod, coupled with an Abel Super 10 large arbour reel and a Rio interchangeable tip system line. This set up has worked extremely well , allowing me to cover a high proportion of the water and is powerful enough to handle the very hard fighting salmon.
Going onto flies, I generally find Green & Silver flies work best, due to the green tinge in the water from the snow melt, but blacks and red/brown flies also work well. I prefer Loop Tubes and Waddington’s , with the latter being anything from an inch and a quarter upwards being the most successful , though surface Bomber tactics also work well in the summer.
You seldom see fish jump, and fishing in Norway is not like Russia, where you hear of catches of 50 fish a week. A good week on the Gaula would be 5 or 6 fish in the week and you do need to put your hours in, however if you keep persevering I am sure you will catch fish.
I have proved this point now on 2 separate occasions, as the first year I went there were not many fish showing, several people had caught fish at the beginning of the week, but not a single fish had been taken for 4 days. I kept fishing and fishing and literally within the final half hour of my weeks fishing I hooked and landed a 28lb , sea liced Salmon.
Similarly in 2005 after catching a fish in the first hour of my week, only six other fish had been caught during the week. Many German fisherman had given up and were in the Bar moaning , I kept fishing and caught seven Salmon in 45 minutes and when returning to the Hotel with a massive smile on my face nobody believed me , but then I showed them the photographic evidence and you should have seen their faces!!!
My only tip would be, put your hours in, vary the fly speed and enjoy the scenery and wait for your arm to be pulled off!
Rules and Regulations
Prior to fishing all tackle must be disinfected and you must carry with you at all times the appropriate disinfection certificate.
In addition you will need to purchase a Rod Licence, however both of these aspects will be sorted out for you by the NFC, or where you decide to fish.
You can keep up to 2 fish per day, with catch and release allowed.
You can fly from Gatwick to Oslo and then catch an internal flight to Trondheim which is run by SAS, however allow at least 1 and a half hours to catch your connecting flight, as although the connecting flights are some 35 minutes apart, you will not have sufficient time to catch it, and although the airline says you will you wont. I have missed 2 connections previously due to delays in both Passport Control and unloading luggage from the plane, so just give yourself added time and less pressure!
For 2007 however I will be flying direct to Trondheim from Stansted , which is a flight now offered by Norwegian Airlines. Direct flights should be much better, as I am always concerned about lost luggage, especially on the outbound flight.
Both airlines have good websites for ease of booking.
Not many of the hire car companies offer 4 x 4 Jeeps , though Avis do , but you will need to liaise with the hire desk at Trondheim Airport during April as they only have a few , but before Easter there is no point as they don’t get their allocation of vehicles prior to this time.
Phone number 0047 73841790
Please note there are several Toll Roads between Trondheim Airport and Storen , where NFC are based , so you will need some Norwegian coins with you , as the Tolls are unmanned.