Our first week would be spent in the area around Kautokeino, an ugly and depressing ‘city’ in the south of the famous Finnmarksvidda.
The vidda is a highland filled with lakes and rivers, some so remote it would take days to get there or heaps of money to pay a ride on a helicopter.
A fairly difficult choice, but since all of our money goes to girlfriends, drinks and fishing gear (not specificly in that order), walking it was!
Rodtrip Lapland, Norway, Part 1
Read the second part of this rodtrip via this link.
UGLY MOUSTACHE RIVER
To make an easy start we decided to try our luck for a river not that far away from civilisation. Google gave exactly one hit when we searched for the various names of this river, leading to a 2011 blog from a crazy Finnish guy with an ugly moustache, but posing with darn big brown mamas in his hands. We knew it would be a long shot, since most rivers and lakes so far north are very vulnerable.
Once the word is on the street that these big fish are around this will be the start for many fishermen to go there to fill the freezer and show their trophies to their moms. That is the main reason for us not to mention any river in this article by name or nickname, unless we made it up.
Ugly Moustache River is a beautifull river, easily 40m wide with calm flowing deeper pools alternated with rapids, zones of at least 100m long where big rocks, eddies and veins give the perfect hidaway for trout.
Mainly smaller trout. The bigger ones will be in the slow walking water, but since some of those zones are up to 1km of length and have an average depth of 2m, you’d have to hope for a rise to spot the fish. Summer had been excellent up here in lapland, resulting in early caddis hatches, fairly warm water temperatures, only to leave us with barely any surface activity whatsoever.
We pitched our tents and gathered enough wood to cook and keep us warm before we hit the river. Excited but maybe afraid aswell. Though we had the river to ourselfs, there were numerous remains of abandoned campsites, often resulting in heaps of left litter and used toiletpaper between the scarse shrubbery. Was Ugly Moustache River already ruined?
After a first attempt of fishing the rapids just below our campsite with nymphs and wet flies, we all caught fish, but it wasn’t easy, and they weren’t big either.
After watching the slow walking water upstream, we saw one discrete rise. I gave Jeremy a hook 12 caddis emerger I often used succesfully in difficult days at Glomma river, and at his first cast the fish took it without any hesitation. A nice brown, but no big momma.
Further downstream there were some promessing deep pools behind various rapids. They all gave us browns up to 35cm, but nothing more.
A bit worried we headed back to the camp to warm up and cook dinner, and decided to go way up stream the next day, hoping that lazy freezerfilling fishermen wouldn’t have the nerve to go there.
The hiking GPS we brought showed us a good sized lake fairly close to the river, about 10 km upstream. It wouldn’t be an easy walk, but it might result in encounters with unspoilt fish, maybe even artic char!
After a rainy and cold night the sun hit the valley. We left our tents and packed enough food for the day. Crossed the river, up the hill to avoid the dense berchwooden banks of the river. We walked and walked through swamps for hours, encountering our first reindeers and breathtaking sights over the valley, untill we finally arrived at a beautifull lake.
The water was cristal clear, the banks surrounded by big trees, and the whole thing was… much bigger than we expected. After spending some time trying to spot any kind of fish (no result, no insects, nothing!), we knew we had to wade to the edge of the deeper middle and try with nymphs. But as soon as we entered the freezing cold water, we started ‘sinking’. An underwater swamp. This was just not the right place at the right time, and we decided we had to go back to the river to save the day.
Though the weather was great, again there wasn’t any sign of surface activity. And so we started fishing two nymphs with a big wet fly on the top dropper. The trick was to fish them upstream and across, mending to get some depth and letting them swing out at the end of the drift. We found nice stretches and hooked heaps of trout up to 42cm.
No trophy fish, but in excellent shape and stronger than we’ve ever encountered before. Streamerfishing in the deeper pools results in one biggie that got away, and some smaller fish. Not what we hoped for, and so no reason to stay a day longer.
BAD ROAD RIVER
The next day we decided to move to a river about 20kms further north. Not a secret river, but known for it’s large stock of grayling. Grayling fishing is not popular in Norway, simply because most Norwegians don’t consider them to be good foodfish, and Norwegian flyfishermen think of them as fish that likes to be caught. But with Sweden and Finland (and they do like grayling- fishing and eating it) not too far away this river is frequented by anglers every summer.
A local guy from Kautokeino told us to go by car and take ‘the old road, suited for normal cars’. We missed the entrance by the main road several times, as this old mountain road is hardly wider than a normal car. The beginning of the road is steep and challenging. Big rocks pointing out make it dangerous for a flat tire, but once you drive up, there’s no way of turning back, but to put the car in reverse.
After about 300m, we all started to have our doubts wether this road was suited for ‘normal cars’. As a matter of fact, we started wondering what people around here mean by ‘normal cars’. A tractor maybe? But we continued, and after the first kilometer we arrived up on the vidda, with a breathtaking farsight over lakes and slopes as far as the eye reached.
After 12 kms (which took us more than 2 hours of ‘driving’) we finally reached Bad Road River, a pure beauty and completely different than Ugly Moustache River, and again we had the whole river to ourselfs.
The only bad thing: the rental car was full of scratches and we hit numerous of rocks, even had to fill holes in the road that were half a meter deep before we could continue, but the stress of loosing the caution gave way to the overwhelming feeling of this magical place.
We left the car and took our backpacks to search for a spot to spend the night. Although it was passed 6PM we couldn’t be stopped and prepared for our first fishing hours in this river.
Close to our tents was a promessing cascade resulting in a perfect gravelstream of big length, a classic spot to hit a pack of grayling. We all tried dries, nymphs and wets, but didn’t get a single fish. Moving upstream took us to a completely different stretch of water.
The river made it’s way through a massive rock, almost like a plate of lava, creating islands, pools, sandy bays… the whole lot. 2 nymphs and a big wet as top fly was again the right technique, and the first fish found their way to our nets. Not a single grayling, only trout. Bigger and stronger than Bad Road Rivers trout, and soon we started loosing our first trophy fish.
In order to get your nymphs deep, you shouldn’t fish bigger than 16/100. And when a biggie runs in between the sharp rocks, it’s over. ‘Shiiiit’, Jeremy shouted after we first heard some big splashes. Dissapointment, but also hope, to hook such beautifull brown so close to the basecamp gave us hope to get even more.
As the eternal dusk came in, we headed back downstream. After dinner we fished the longer gravel pools downstream, thinking again we would hit grayling, as on most water up north, the top segment of the rivers is ruled by king trout as the lower part is owned by queen grayling. Again a misunderstanding. We immedately hit the browns, again, and the first occasional rises took place.
Just as the two first days of our journey they were scarse, as was the insect life, but when you saw a rise and presented a fairly big sized klinkhammer pattern, you were almost sure it would be ‘sucked’ away from the surface. ‘Big fish!’ I heared, but something went wrong and the barbless hook lost it’s grip. And then it was my turn. Nymphing in between two outsticking rocks in the middle of a stream, a huge brown jumped out of the water… he… he took the nymph! I set the hook and the fish slowly moved downstream. I had a good contact but was fishing very light. Too light. I followed downstream keeping my rod up high, the adrenaline made me laugh, but I also knew this was going to be difficult. And then it happened. All contact, all pressure on the rod vanished in a split second. I lost it.
The next day we decided to go way up stream, far away from the last visible footprints along the banks. Again the river changed, small islands of gravel and sand and slow streaming veins. The wind was strong and came from northern direction, we noticed during the night that temperatures dropped away, which resulted in the disappearing of the last mosquitos. Not a good sign for dryfly fishing, so again we swapped our dries for nymphs. We took our first graylings of the trip, but they seemed to be playing solo slim.
Further up stream the sun got out and the cold wind dropped a bit. First rises were seen and finally we hit the jackpot. All together the three of us easily caught 200 fish, mainly grayling up to 45cm.
Big klinkhammer imitations did the trick. A magical day. When we reached basecamp, we decided to leave the next morning. Mixed feelings took over, we knew our chances of encountering big trout downstream would rise, especially since locals considered this to be a grayling river and thus didn’t go fishing there. But we still had a lot on our wishlist, and since this voyage was to discover the possibilities and this wasn’t the ideal place to get our ‘into the wild’, we moved on.
To be continued.
Jeff, Jérémy & Mathias