My journey into fly fishing. Post by Per Arneberg.
I grew up with a dad who was my idol. Spending time with him was fun, exciting, and I always wanted to be like him. Growing up we spent summers hiking into the mountains of Telemark, to our log cabin camp. The journey in by foot is roughly two hours. The valley meanders along a string of lakes along the way, each with its own row boat, and each with its own healthy stock of vibrant, wild brown trout.
We used to fish quite a bit with the row boat, harling both spoons and flies. Secretly both of us hoped the fly would catch more, out of some deeply ingrained, yet falsely informed notion that the fly was a superior means by which to fish. Yet despondently, but predictably, the fly rarely caught more. We fished mostly classic Scandinavian wet flies like the Telemark Kongen (Telemark King).
Later in the summer the entire family would pile into our 1972 International Harvester Scout II- one of America’s first real SUV’s; an orange and white beast of a car, with saddle cloth bench seats, and an undeniably comforting smell of diesel fumes permeating through the cabin. We would road trip past Hemsedal, to the fabled Lærdal river to fish for salmon and sea trout.
When I was young, most of the fishing happened after bedtime- for us kids anyway, as it was an event reserved for the adults. As I grew older, I was allowed to go along and try some sea trout fishing in the evening with a single hand rod. Eventually as I was admitted into the world of being a man, I was allowed to finally fish for the king of fish, the salmon!
For quite a few years in my life, while preoccupied with school, girls, friends and then on to university, fishing became less important to me. For no particular reason, and while fishing still remained a positive endeavor, and was something I had fond memories of, I simply didn’t find the time. Eventually, living in Vermont, attending university, I picked up a fly rod again. I found my way to such classic American trout streams as the Winooski, the Lamoille, the Battenkill, and many more. I began to experience fly fishing from a new place- entirely on my own, and in my own right. While the roots of this pursuit lay deeply imbedded in the relationship and reverence of my father’s influence, I began to discover my own passion, reborn in my own terms, with a much deeper, albeit unconscious level of appreciation and importance to my mind, body and soul.
From then on I was hooked. My obsession with fly angling, and all aspects I could ensconce myself with continued to grow. At this time in my life, my girlfriend and I decided to take a great leap of faith, and moved to my family’s homeland, Norway. We moved back into my father’s childhood home. Little did I know this would start a whole new chapter of my life, with fly fishing laying the tracks for where life would take me.
After having moved back to Norway, and spending a few wonderful Scandinavian summers beginning to explore, my curiosity for Norway’s native anadromous fish perked once again. I began to explore the various possibilities of Norway’s over 300 salmon and sea trout rivers. After exploring and fishing along the way throughout some of Norway’s famous watersheds, I ended up setting my sights on the mighty Gaula River, in the Sør Trøndelag region of Mid-Norway.
This is where my obsession with Atlantic Salmon fishing took root, and it wasn’t more than a few years later that I found myself at the helm of the Norwegian Flyfishers Club, the premier salmon fishing operation on the Gaula.
I began to harken back to my childhood years of fishing salmon with my father, and as I began to rediscover the chase of salmo salar on my own terms. I began the enthralling, yet humbling process of learning the Scandinavian style of spey casting, the underhand cast. Spey casting, since my childhood fishing days, had taken a forefront on the modern day salmon fisherman. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of little known, yet world-class skilled Scandinavian style spey casters who I met along the banks of the Gaula River, and through the Norwegian Flyfishers Club.
I remember my first experience with the mighty Gaula in early June, a river bursting at its seams, in full spring flood conditions. Feeble attempts to wield my 15ft. Sage rod, with the Sink 5/7 line hanging like a strand of lead spaghetti off the end of my rod tip. I struggled my way through my first 100,000 casts, with little to show for it. Eventually, when all hope had resigned itself from my psyche, and I had become a Scandi-style casting robot, fueled only by milk chocolate, instant black coffee and block-headed determination, I felt what must have been a rock caught on the end of my line. So little did this feeling resemble a living creature, that I- as all good salmon fishermen quickly learn not to do- lifted and yanked the line back, trying to dislodge my brutally large treble hook from its purchase. Before I could realize what had happened, this rock of mine starting slowly, yet with an overwhelming feeling of power and determination, moving away from me with my fly in tow. After landing my first real Atlantic salmon on my own, having spent countless hours working on my spey cast, that was a moment from which I could never return. Chasing that same feeling would become, and still is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world- one that for those who have not experienced it, is nearly impossible to expound upon.
All of these experiences embedded in me a deep love of the natural world, its rivers, and lakes, and the fish that swim within them. I feel a deep gratitude to have had fly fishing, from an early age, become such a deeply engrained part of my life, and something which I can always return to as a place of excitement, reflection, meditation and connection, both with other people and with the wild.
And yet, the longer I fish, the more the words of Henry David Thoreau ring true in my head, “Many men fish all their lives with ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.”
Per Aleksander Arneberg is a Norwegian-American who grew up spending his summers in Norway chasing trout in the mountains of Telemark, and sea trout and salmon on the west coast and Finnmark in famous rivers such as the Lærdal and the Alta.