Cast adrift in a salmon fisher’s par­adise

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Mar­itza Ilich

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.

Check­list

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

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