Cast adrift in a salmon fisher’s paradise
WILD salmon— those magical fish that swim upstream to spawn 10,000 golden eggs and then die in a flutter of exhaustion — swish apricot and rose-pink in clear, cold Norwegian rivers. This species is piscine royalty to those for whom salmon fishing is the sport of kings.
English aristocrats of the 19th century were keen fishers along the fjords and rivers of western Norway. The surprise is that the same experience, with all the lordly trappings of comfort and personalised service, is available today.
Memories of childhood holidays, overpowered by the stench of raw bait and the uncertainty of catching anything, have put me off the idea. But curled up on a deep leather lounge at the Fisherman’s Lodge at Nygard Farm, I begin to understand that salmon fishing belongs to a different world.
Nygard is a small farm bordering the salmon-rich Surna River, which flows into the northernmost fjord in western Norway. Its lodge is fashioned from a 200-year-old byre and hayloft that has been lovingly converted into a cosy retreat where guests discover poetry in the language of fishing, in the names of the artificial flies and lures.
From the fishing addict’s perspective, Nygard is ideal. It is situated at a pivotal point along the Surna, one of the few rivers in Norway that has not been infected by the parasite Gyrodactylussalaris , and the average salmon caught here weighs in at a respectable 5kg; most years there will be fortunate fishers who land a 17kg specimen. All fishing equipment is provided and, most important, as in the days of the visiting English gentry, local advice and instruction is available. Guests are guided to the deepest holes and, if required, a local lad is on hand to row the boat and even land the fish.
I amhere with friends for the evening. Although it is too early in the season for salmon, they have caught trout from the Vindola, the mountain river that tumbles into the Surna. We dine on their catch and, as we sip sweet golden liqueur distilled from the arctic cloudberry, it seems a shame we must leave tomorrow morning.
This place inspires lingering.
On the wall above the heavy pine dining table hangs a detailed sketch of the Surna. Every fishing hole is lovingly described and the curves and islands of the river invite you to imagine the next day’s expedition. Windows, cut deep into the stone walls, look out to a superb vista of mountain and forest; the steep slopes of Knykken, wreathed in cloud, loom 1000m above the valley.
Our hosts, Jan Gunnar and Anita Opsal, speak excellent English. Their dream has been to create an intimate haven for those keen to explore nature in peace and comfort. Creating snug spaces is a Norwegian tradition that has its roots in the long, dark winters.
In the conversion of the old farm building, the owners have drawn heavily on this heritage while adding intimate touches. Old fishing rods hang on the heavy beams, candles are placed on the deep windowsills beside wooden bowls and tools from the days when Nygard was a working farm.
Scattered throughout are books on salmon and fly-fishing in English and Norwegian. Gunnar is expansive as he outlines plans for a library and the guest book is full of praise for the food and the quality of the lodgings.
The Fisherman’s Lodge at Nygard Farm, 6653 Ovre Surnadal, Norway. +47 7165 9056; www.bergul.com. Tariff: A room for two with three meals is Nkr3800 ($770) a night. Salmon fishing packages with equipment and guides available. The salmon season (and the best time to visit) is June 1 to August 31, but trout fishing is possible all year. Getting there: From Trondheim airport, it is a two-hour drive to Nygard; the lodge can organise transfers by taxi, hire car or helicopter. Checking in: Mostly salmon fishers from Britain and Norway keen to enjoy one of the best rivers in the country; couples looking for accommodation close to the Trollheimen Mountains. Wheelchair access: Awkward, as thresholds (about 10cm) between all rooms are common in older buildings in the countryside, and so it is at Nygard. (There are excellent wheelchair facilities in modern public buildings in Norway.) Bedtime reading: KristinLavransdatter by Nobel prize-winner Sigrid Undset; it’s a wonderfully evocative tale of life in 14th-century Norway. Stepping out: Hike into the Vindola valley; admire the 300-year old red-painted church. Hire a car to visit the open-air museum in Surnadal and then take the car ferry across the fjord and experience the switchback thrills of Aursjovegen, one of the highest roads in Norway. Brickbats: Norwegian prices for accommodation pinch at the best of times, but when coupled with shared-bathroom facilities, they seem hard to justify. (Nygard has three bathrooms for 10 single and four twin rooms.) Bouquets: Nygard is a place to step back in time and experience clean air, water and peace in a spectacular wilderness setting. There’s an admirable selection of Australian wines to be enjoyed from impeccably clean glassware.
Catch of the day: The Fisherman’s Lodge at Nygard Farm, a two-hour drive from Trondheim