My last post promised some Home truths and more photos. Well here’s my second fish of last week, which took a Park Shrimp conehead tied by this salmon adventurer’s secret weapon Mr Ross Macdonald (his link appears here on the right) in the perfect fly-fishing stream that is NFC Gaula’s Home Pool.
I know it is easy to come out with salmon-fishing baloney and off the cuff emotion (especially after you’ve just had five kilos of Gaula salmon pulling at your Helios Spey 15-footer) but after five days to sleep on last Friday’s experience, I cannot think of a more profoundly enjoyable and exciting salmon-fishing episode than the relevant half-hour period produced – and all in such a beautiful place.
It began as 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 a sink-tip Versileader’d intermediate RIO shooting head out on its mission – the one-inch 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 25lb RIO 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, then 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.
Wild Gaula? Well it is a wild river (completely free-running and unharnessed by that enemy of the Atlantic salmon – hydro). It’s also the message from a new film in the making by Daniel and Anton, who will still be out there filming and fishing on this last day of the Norwegian salmon season (see the trailer here).
But back to the fight and Anton and Dan 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! Late Gaula Silver!”
said the filmmakers) 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).
And the home truth? Sometimes those beautiful and perfect pools that look like they always should produce a fish for you, but don’t … do.