IN THE SPELL OF NORWEGIAN GRAYLING
by Hans van Klinken
When I look back to my Norwegian fishing trips my heart directly starts to beat faster. As soon as I arrive in Scandinavia I always feel as if I come home and it really hurts when I have to leave these countries again. I think those feelings gives you the best impression how much I like the wonderful fishing paradises in the north. During all the years I visit Scandinavia, Norway became a second home for me. When I think about Norway I see the fjords, mountains and mighty rivers as clear as if I am really standing there.
The midsummer night has always fascinates me and is a welcome bonus for many extra fishing hours. When I think about all the fishing, its the "Lady of stream" that impressed me the most. The Norwegian grayling is my favourite by far and I have a strong personal tie with her. Of course there are hundreds of rivers in Scandinavia that produce excellent grayling fishing, so let me tell you why it is just the Norwegian grayling that drove me crazy. It actually happened in 1981 when I fished the River Sömåa in Eastern Norway and caught my biggest ever grayling on a pattern called Rackelhanen. It was a beautiful fish and I never broke the record again. I only match the unbelievable size of 61cm ones more in 1984 and almost again in 1989 when I caught a 59.4cm male.
However, the memories of my first "black grayling" are the strongest. I never had seen such a dark coloured and large grayling before. She was well hooked and started to bleed when I took out the hook. When I released her, she turned her head as if she looked at me before she slowly disappeared into the dept again. If she really watched me I still dont know but it made such a big impression on me that my passion for grayling became a fact. I knew I must hurt her and from that moment I learned another lesson; I never used a barbed hook anymore to temp the lady of the stream.
WHERE TO FISH FOR NORWEGIAN GRAYLING?
This is a very difficult question because there are so many good places to fish. The best suggestion I can give you is to buy a good map of Norway and Sweden. Then drawn a huge circle between the places Rena, Folldal. Nybergsund, Idre (Sweden), Funäsdalen (Sweden), Brekken and Röros The result will be an area in which you will find one of the best wild grayling fishing in Europe. The two most important river systems will be the Glåma (Glomma) and Trysilelva (Klara in Sweden).
To get the best impression about Norwegian grayling fishing I only can advice you to follow both rivers upstream to the north as far as you can. Try all tributaries you meet and dont forget the dozens of smaller rivers in the upper parts. This is exactly what I did and how I found my favourite spots during the last 20 years. Start your research for the Glomma in Rena and follow the Klara from the place called Edebäck. With your journey the experience and catches will improve slowly but day by day!
HOW IT ALL STARTED
In 1980 I discovered a few important "rules" that became the key for my Scandinavian grayling fishing. One of them was covering long distances beside riverbanks and through the forest. Make miles and you are sure you will hit many hot spots! I walked many miles when I followed the Klarälven (Sweden) upstream and camped out beside the river. I worked my way up north slowly and explore the river with the little knowledge I had built up above the Arctic Circle. At some days I walked more then 7 miles.
During the fishing the silence and peace beside the river brought me very close to nature and wildlife. Those days I only used dry flies and my catches were not plentiful but I enjoyed every single minute of it. Of course we all like to catch fish and it gives you an enormous satisfaction when you see a fish coming up and take your fly from the surface but for me fly-fishing became a little more then just catching fish. We all like a good and strong fight with many jumps and I am happy that more and more people start to enjoy the releasing afterwards too. I discovered that catches and playing are very important to build up your skill but I also noticed that they are not the most important to be a good fly fisherman. Maybe thats why I am not competitive at all. A simple animal behaviour at the waterside can make my day too.
I still remember the day I saw a beaver playing with their cubs and I simply forgot the evening rise. I learned quickly and the longer distances I covered the more feeling I got with the river, nature and wildlife. Each day brought me closer to Norway and time and distances taught me how to improve my catches for the larger grayling. Sometimes I couldnt handle the river, especially when catches stay out or when I couldnt reach the feeding fish. Instead of getting frustrated I just took a longer brake by setting me down and eat my lunch while I glance at the river. I watched rising fish for hours and it gave me new inspiration and many ideas. I started to recognise holding places, food seems, and feeding lies and learned how to read the river. My casting was not very spectacular or far either because I had no special need for it but therefore I tried to avoid the busy fishing places. Most people fished the quiet water so my poor distance casting made the broken water and rapids to my favourite.
However, my big change in fly fishing and fly tying started during the same trip when I met an old solitary angler who caught a few real big grayling in heavily broken water. Interested in his skills and achievement I stuck up a conversation at the riverbank. We had a lot in common and maybe thats why he became very generous and was willing to help me with good advices and tips. After a long pleasant talk about flies and techniques we exchanged some flies and before he left, he gave me a very strange fly named "The Rackelhanen". It was one of his unsinkable and favourite traditional Swedish sedge patterns, which he emphatically requested me to try. This size 10 Rackelhanen was a huge fly and attracted my attention and when I was using it, I obtained nearly the same success as my Swedish friend had enjoyed.
It was the perfect fly for broken water and strong rapids and in no time the Rackelhanen was put with my other favourites. Full of confidence I travelled further upstream, staying at several locations but this time I caught bigger fish until the worst happened: I lost my new "favourite" fly and had to revert to my old English shoulder-hackled dry flies again. They were still effective, especially the Red Tag and Greenwell's Glory, but the Rackelhanen had achieved so much that there was nothing for it but to make a copy. After trying several designs I arrived at my "own" version of the Rackelhanen which seems almost as successful as the original.
I have no idea how my fly fishing life would look today without the discovery of the Rackelhanen. I can confirm that the success of this creation gave me enormous self-confidence in making own patterns and stimulated me to start a complete new way of fly-tying. Big flies seemed the secret to catch the bigger fish and thats why my Scandinavian patters increased in size. With my own variations of the Rackelhanen began my fly fishing obsession and started my fly tying development. For me, the Rackelhanen is a lot more than just an ordinary fly. Not because of my personal grayling record but it finally leads me to the development of patterns like the Poly Sedge and Klinkhamer Special. For me, the 1980 fishing season was one of the most educational and ended after 4 weeks of intensively fishing as far upstream as the famous rapids named Isterfossen (Norway). It is close to Lake Femund with the best result a wonderful 51cm grayling. Until then it was my biggest grayling ever and from that moment I knew my destination for the following years.
THE FEEDERS OF THE TRYSILELVA
When I returned to the Femund area I changed my fishing strategy too. This time I choose one location for my base camp. I camp out at Johnsgård a nice camping place located directly at Lake Langsjöen from which I could cover many new fishing areas. In all the years we stayed at this place I started to recognise some of the best grayling waters in central Scandinavia. The four months of completely wilderness experience that I build up in northern Finland was a great help in my research and exploring. Rivers like the Sölna, Sömåa, Hola, Röa, Mugga, Femunsdelva and Glöta must be "The Garden of Eden" for every grayling angler and Lakes like Femund, Sölensjöen, Aresjöen, Isteren, and Feragen where just a few of many new discovered paradises to me.
Most waters are located between 600 and 1000 meters above sea level and the weather conditions are tough with an extremely high population of wild and hungry mosquitos. You have to learn to deal with them first and I guess some people never will or can. This area is what I believe the grayling like the most. It is a short fishing season but very productive. The lakes give the grayling very good surviving possibilities during the strong winters and the will have an excellent food supply too. The insect life is abundant with superb caddis hatches and many species of upwing flies.
Most of the streams in the area are very similar and they have a large variety in size and dept. Sometimes you can walk across easily but at other places you only can swim to get on the other side. To reach the best places you need a long walk or canoe. The Sömåa River is relative short comparing to the others but it is a wonderful stream with loads of deep holding pools. Most of the pools and ponds are well feed by nice rapids and have a beautiful flow out. Perfect conditions for dry fly fishing. The Sömåa flows between the lakes Langsjöen and Isteren and access to the river is easy because it runs parallel with road nr 26. That makes the grayling population in this river very vulnerable for fishing pressure. The River Hola connects the lakes Langsjöen and Storsjöen. The latter is the largest from several lakes that we known better as the lakes of Hodalen.
During the years the Lakes of Hodalen became one of my most favourite lake fishing spots for grayling in Europe. It is a very tough and rough area with strong windy conditions but take my advice and fish it at sunny and windless days because only then you are able to locate the fish. There are some nice bonuses to because my biggest perch on fly I caught here while grayling fishing.
The lower part of the Sölna River took me long time to explore but the reward was unbelievable when I finally found five extremely good hot spots. I still remember well how much effort it took me before I could wet my flies. I had to swim across the Femundselva and a trip like this would be stupid to repeat in these days. It was one of my most wonderful experiences from the past. The best way is to fish from the lake downstream by canoe. Unfortunately there is a road now going from Galtseter to the East Side of the Sölna and Lake Sölesjöen what surely must have increased the present fishing pressure.
The rivers Mugga and Röa are located in Femundsmarka National Park north east of Lake Femund. During my first visits to the Röa I let me dropped off at the mouth by boat from Sorvika and once I rent a canoe and paddled myself all the way up the mouth of the river. The Mugga I fully explored by foot started from the place called Langen with some excellent fishing on the way up at the crossing places in the outlet from Lake Langtjönn. Both rivers are exclusive wilderness fishing and the only way to be successful is to camp out and work you way upstream. At this unique and quiet places I always met one or two "crazy" fishermen and a good chat on the way is essential to improve your successes.
When you follow all lakes and rivers you will notice that most of them belong to the same watercourse of the mighty Trysileva. Even Lake Femund and Isteren are connected by the Glöta River so it is a huge river system and it still has their natural course from which the largest part isw totally unaffected by humans. With all the space and perfect living conditions this water produces grayling that grown quickly and fights very well. Thats another reason for my returning year after year. Unfortunately the excellent fishing in the Sömåa decreased enormously during the eighties due retains large catches by too many of the visitors. Today there is New Hope again and catches of larger fish are improved. A few 50 plus fish were caught in 1998 and released so that they hopefully can reach the magic size in the year 2000 again!
THE SHINING RIVER AND ITS TRIBUTARIES (the Glomma)
For the Glomma my exploring was not much different but I follow my way upstream more quickly because of more fishing pressure and men made regulations. I just past all the areas where embankment changed the natural watercourse and dept. In the early eighties the River Rena produced an excellent fishing but declined and got better again since the nineties. I dont know the reason. It is one of the most favourite tributaries by the Danes today. I stayed quiet a long time in the Koppang area to explore and discover superb fishing in all the channels the river produced. Sometimes it was a real challenge to find or even reach the main river. I often hooked huge pike that took my playing fish.
Further upstream you will meet the River Atna. It is a wonderful river but it has been always a great mystery to me. Some years I had unbelievable catches while at other years I hardly could find any fish at all. It was in this river were trout fishing become very popular to me! Between the Atna River and the place Alvdal you never will see many fishermen but I can assure you that there are a good number of hot spots. The river runs here a bit further from road no 3 maybe thats the reason. Not many people seem to like it to walk far distances anymore. In Alvdal I had a great time especially when I learned how the fish the awesome Folla River. If you ever fish the Glomma you surely should explore this river and follow it upstream as far as Sletten. My best fishing pall had his best ever grayling fishing in this river. Unfortunately he died too soon and we never could fish his favourite place together.
Between Alvdal and Tynset the fishing is less interesting because of huge regulations. The best place is probably the lower part of the Tuna River especially close to the mouth of the river before it runs into the Glomma. Sometimes this flow out holds a nice population of big fish but it is extremely vulnerable for fishing pressure. About 10 kilometres upstream from Tynset you will hit the area of the shining river.
From this area all the way up to the outflow from Lake Rien the Glomma can be considered as the creme the la creme for the Grayling angler. It is not my own experience only because in many books you will read exactly the same and they all were right. The only way to be successful is to get one with the river. Look for the shining produced by the broken surface water. The area is not only beautiful but also very quiet. There are just a few peaceful towns in which you can fall in love easily. The people are extremely nice and friendly and always willing to help you. It is in this area where I spend most of my time and I surely could live here forever.
I cant tell you exactly where to go because there are too many places. Some people say you only should fish between Tolga and Oss but I would suggest stay at least 2 weeks in the area and explore it yourself. Concentrate at the Glomma first and when it seems difficult just travel to one of the many tributaries. I only can give a few tips but talk with other fishermen, have a chat at camping places and try to use all the information you can get.
WHERE AND HOW TO START FISHING IN THE TRIBUTARIES
For newcomers to this Norwegian grayling paradise the fishing will be extremely difficult but ones found a way it seems very easy. Most rivers have grayling, trout, whitefish and even perch and pike. The distances will be the greatest problem and today most fishermen dont like to walk with backpacks anymore. Most tributaries flow through large lakes or just have many little ponds or deep-holding pools in their watercourse but that can make the fishing much easier, at least if you are not afraid to walk. I usual start at an easy access point where I can park my car and prepare myself well. I never will travel without a backpack filled up with extra fishing equipment, clothing, food and even some emergency stuff. Drinks are not necessary because the crystal clear water will supply you well. I just start walking sometimes even 2 or 3 kilometres before I go fishing. I just look around and watch out mainly for human tracks. I know most people dont walk very far anyway. As soon as there are no tracks anymore I start fishing. Those are the areas where you have the best changes for the bigger fish because many people still fish for the freezer and where people have been a lot of fish have been taken out. Often I passed a few fishermen and ask how they are doing. They usually are enthusiastic about their catches so I just leave them stocking in their pools. They dont know what other pools can bring up anyway.
I learned that when a river runs into a small pond or big pool you hit a hot spot. I also learned that you mostly have only one or two changes to get a real good size grayling. Never walk into the water before you explore it well and know what you are doing. Look at the feeding line first and if there are no rises dont worry. Try to analyse the best place for your cast and where exactly you want to land your fly. Be sure the fly drift without any drag.
Always start with a huge dry fly and let it float with the edge of the current into the pool. Make just a few casts and if there is big grayling in a feeding mood he or she surely will take it. If success stays out try to do the same with a weighted nymph. In this case cast upstream and use a bite indicator to present the nymph at the right dept and without drag. It has to drift with the bottom current into the pool and not with the surface current. Safe a cast with a smaller fly for the way back. Depending about the size of the pool I never made more then 10 unsuccessful casts. Then I walk further and try the tail of the pool or I just walk to the next pool. If I succeed I only take 2 or 3 fish out of the pool release them and try again on the way back or at one of the other days. This way of fishing leads me to some real nice fish and every year I still got several 50 plus grayling. This is the technique I use to catch the big ones and it works as I prove to many of my friends who joined me in Scandinavia. Most of them got there biggest ever grayling too.
Sometimes when you walk from pool to pool the fish started to rise all over the place. You can start fishing or just try to recognise the feeding lies. I prefer to do both for those moments the weather change and you have to grab back to nymph fishing only. Make notes and write down as much information you can find. Times of feeding, weather conditions and insect life will be a good source for the next time.
Places where rivers run out of lakes are other hot spots. Sometimes the current is very smooth and even if you try hard it seems impossible to catch anything. At such a moment you surely should try small emergers or midge imitations.
THE FISHING EQUIPMENT
My favourite rod is for the Glomma is a rate 4 up to 9 ft. For the smaller tributaries I use 8.5 ft 4 piece travel rod weight 4 or 5. It is handy when you have to walk and can leave it in your backpack until your reach the place you want to fish. I still use the small "System Two" reel with an olive coloured Cortland Clear Creek floating line. This line is my favourite by far. It has a nice fine taper and is excellent for windy conditions. Because of my preferences for huge parachute flies I use a tapered braided leader from about 9ft-12ft connected with tying thread and waterproof super glue directly on the fly line . This prevents wind knots during the casting very well. For the tippet I mostly use 0,12mm or 0,14mm Stroft monofilament with lengths up to 2 meters. I have a good selection of dry flies and nymphs from which you will find the most popular ones on other pages at this site.
I prefer to fish in June and September but I dont like it when it gets dark early. So my prime time is June. There are not many tourists and the grayling are well feeding.
All text and pictures by Hans van Klinken