|The tranquil beauty of the Gaula at 2am, prime fishing time|
There's no point beating about the bush or hiding in a fog of elegant prose. Nine months' planning, preparation and anticipation came to naught. Despite fishing myself into exhaustion and trying every tactic and fly in my arsenal, I caught nothing, absolutely nothing. Indeed, I didn't even get a single positive take. Adjectives are inadequate to describe my disappointment.
Perhaps I should stop there and make this my shortest post ever. You may, however, wish to gain some idea of how this misfortune occurred. I have no wish to turn this article into a litany of excuses and whinging, so I shall keep the plea in mitigation as brief as possible. My trauma of gloom isn't solitary: the other 17 multi-national anglers on the GFF water that week caught no more than a handful of fish between them, despite representing over 100 years' aggregate experience on its beats. We were all equally bewildered and bereft, especially the angler who lost a 40 pounder early on the Saturday morning and touched nothing thereafter.
The problem was a lack of water, caused by a complete absence of rain in the catchment area for 6 weeks. Once all the snow had melted, by early July there was nothing to follow and the water level went down with increasing rapidity. It was very low when we arrived and then fell by a further 2' 6" / 75cm, as illustrated in the photos below.
|Sunday - very low, 200 square metres of viable fish-holding water in a strip 4 metres wide against the far bank|
|Wednesday - less than 50 square metres metres of viable water towards the tail by the grey stone|
Totally transparent and fishable only with surface flies
This 75% contraction in fishable area was replicated in the majority of pools as depth and flow declined. Some fish continued to run - one passed my legs in 12" / 30 cm of water in broad daylight - while others hunkered down in the deep holes that afforded protection from the increasingly intense sunlight and soaring temperatures. Over the week the daily mean air and water temperatures almost doubled, with peaks of 30C and 19.5C respectively. In contrast, at 0400 on the Sunday morning the readings had been 6.5 and 10C. In the face of these conditions the run of replacement cohorts of fish from the estuary appeared to stop, causing the number of fish in the holding pools to decline markedly. This beautiful gem of a river was on its bones and its anglers on their knees.
|The Bend Pool on Tuesday|
by Friday its width had halved
The fish rose in the small inlet in the centre directly below the right hand end of the railings
This picture shows the location of the only salmon I moved, late on Friday with a hitched Sunray. Needless to say, it was a complete duffer and missed the fly altogether. A little later one of our Finnish colleagues caught a fish of the same size on a Sunray in the next pool. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but it was the only salmon taken that night.
Amidst the sadness and disappointment there were many positives. The Gaula and its valley are stunningly beautiful. The locals are charming, kind and incredibly friendly, forming a community of trust in which you lock neither house nor car. Norwegian salmon anglers and enthusiasts will go far beyond the extra mile to help, advise and encourage. My special thanks are due to SFF member Gauldalen who gave unstintingly of his vast knowledge, experience and local contacts over many months in helping me put this trip together. Our fellow anglers - from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Holland - were great company and generous with their experience amidst the banter (BREXIT gave them ample scope for teasing).
I will write another post describing some of the useful things that joined my knowledge bank. For now I leave you with some photos of this magical place, some taken during the small hours.
|Early morning mist rising below Bridge|
|Mid morning on Stadion|
|Night view from Bend upstream to Main|
|The tail of Saeteroy|
|Eafossen 20 miles upstream where we watched a succession of 15 pounders ascending|
|The Eggfossen 4 miles further on which are impassable to salmon|
|Copper, the mining of which destroyed the Gaula fishery. The last mine closed in 1986 and recovery followed|
|Clouds, mist and half darkness in which you share your pool with your imagination......and the trolls|