Fine line on the Gaula by Henry Giles

It is difficult to know what put the kybosh on the fishing on Norway’s River Gaula around Storen in the last full week of the 2011 season but here’s a thing: The previous week a ‘Flood of a Hundred Years’ saw a huge lump of water measuring 1300 m³/second at the Haga Bridge in Storen and further up the river five bridges and a few houses were damaged or carried away, writes Henry Giles.

So I ventured out to fish the week with a nagging feeling of how many fish in taking mood would realistically be left to target with my tube-flies in the higher water.

In the event the levels fell and cleared quickly and after the first day I was settling on my shooting head line of choice, the RIO AFS (or Advanced Flight Spey) intermediate 9/10wt. I’ve used these lines for over two years now and they have revolutionised my enjoyment of salmon fly-fishing. I looped to the end of this a fast-sinking VersiLeader with a 5.6in per sec sink rate and a nice longish 19lb fluorocarbon leader, all fished off a powerful 15ft 10wt Orvis Helios Spey rod and reel set-up (RIO 25lb shooting line on the reel).

There’s the hi-tech bit but the fishing itself for my first fish on Day 2 was a bit lower tech. It was classic ‘mountain goat fishin’ as I hopped from rock to rock on the right bank of the Norwegian Flyfishing Club, flicking out line in what can best be described as a ‘reverse switch’.

But it worked. A nice fresh grilse of 7lb grabbed the Dark Horse Templedog I was fishing, turning with my loop of line then running hard against a tightened drag. NFC guide Thies Reimars helped me tail the fish after a strong fight and we photographed then carefully returned this sleek late-season fish. Delightful!

A couple of blank days followed as it was not the most prolific week but all came good on the Friday. After a pleasant but fishless morning,  glorious noon sunshine at last started to dim as a bank of dark cloud passed overhead and I decided to turn my silver Citroen hire car down the track off the left-bank E30 road on which I was heading towards my designated afternoon’s lower Gaula beat, to first have a cast on the Home Pool. (I’d caught a glimpse of it from the road, it just had to be done.)

The place was deserted and the water looked perfect. The fast shallow stream at the head quickly deepened as I waded out over a submerged gravel bank and sent the same set-up described above out on its mission – the one-inch Park Shrimp tube with its battered red conehead searching out the lies below.

It was about the tenth cast and five yards down from the head when the yellow shooting line ‘ssss’d’ back through my fingers in a smooth but insistent double pull and bizarrely I thought ‘sea-trout, big trout?’ such was my disbelief. But gyrating in the fast stream below and zig-zagging on a tight line was a salmon pulling strongly now and it looked substantial – and silver!

As I played the fish all went okay with my only worry the shallow rocky water closer in then came one strong head-shaking episode followed by a long run and jump I heard voices. ‘It’s Henry – hey nice fish on, Henry!’ And there approached award-winning US filmmakers Daniel Göz and Anton Hamacher – whom I’d met staying my first night in their Maela House – plus cameras over the Gaula boulders.

The Americans provided brilliant back-up, the charismatic duo encouraging and entering into the spirit of the moment. My rod was hooped round but I managed to glance behind and give a smile of sorts at the camera running. The fish had made the Angel reel shriek on two decent runs but it was only a matter of time and just the twists and turns of direction of the fish in the fast flow caused any concern, although I sensed it was well hooked.

We beached the fish, I forget whether they got a hand round the tail or I did. Then Dan took lengthy underwater shots of the fish (with a housed camera the size of a small TV set) as it recovered which didn’t take long as I’d been able to play it with a decent pressure. As I held the fish gently around the tail I just mused on the wild beauty of the salmon, its spots on its back showed clearly through the cool water. We kept it in the water throughout (lifting it out only for a couple of photos, between which we put it back in) and closed the barbs of the size 12 Sawada treble hook in the fish’s scissors before removing it. We measured the fish on the rod – 32 inches we can call 5.5kilos, or 12lb plus. The fish lay in the stream then disappeared very quickly indeed.

It’s hard to beat the feeling of carefully releasing a fish like this. Gaula silver (“Late Gaula Silver!” said the filmmakers jumping around delighted on the bank as they had more footage for a film they are making called Gaula – River of Silver and Gold’) and five days before the end of the season. A great moment of shared joy on the bank before Anton and Dan left me to a happy lunchtime pause in the wooden shelter there (yes I fished more – I never did make it downriver to the ‘E’ beats that afternoon – but to no avail).

Salmon fishing eh? Sometimes those beautiful and perfect pools that look like they always should produce a fish for you, but don’t … do. And that is good!

All the best

Henry Giles

Henry is the Production Editor on Bauer angling titles.  He loves fishing especially salmon fishing.

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