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This past August I fished the Gaula River in Norway that flows through a beautiful farmland valley near the town of Storen. You get to this river by flying to Oslo, then on to Trondheim, where you rent a car. A group from Hamburg, Germany, called the Norwegian Flyfishers Club (NFC) holds a number of prime leases on the Gaula, and it is through them that you can arrange a trip here.

The local guides recommended by the NFC know the salmon fishing business and they teach a great mixture of traditional and new techniques. Two fishermen are assigned four six-hour beats for a twenty-four hour period. These beats are generally about 300 yards long, about 120 feet wide and very easy to wade, particularly in low water. Most beats have riffle water or a chute in the head, accompanied by a long stretch of holding water towards the tail. Fishing is done from one side of the beat, with the two assigned fishermen alternating through the beat. You cast, then step downstream. The guides are careful to point out appropriate proximities and wading areas so as not to ruin the experience for the other angler on the beat. The beats are so sought after by many fishermen that it’s quite normal to see anglers sleeping streamside or fishing almost 24 hours a day to get the most from their beats.

The Gaula is a great place for an expert to cast for monster fish during the month of June, as evidenced by the annually returning list of a Who’s Who in salmon fishing from Europe and Japan. But the real attraction of the river here for most anglers is the overall quality of the fishing and the great help provided to anglers by the NFC. It makes the stream a fantastic place for the novice salmon fisherman to break into the sport and have a real chance to catch a salmon on his first time out.
I cannot say enough good things about the guides here. The evening I arrived my guide drove to the hotel to meet me at 11:30 pm to brief me on the next day’s fishing. The next day he met me at 7:30 am and fished with me until 11:30 p.m. He would have fished all night, too, I’m sure. Compare that to the attitude and behavior of the last guide you hired in the Florida Keys! The cost per day for a guide this last summer was 135 Euros (about $175 USD) before tip. It isn’t mandatory that you use a guide here, but I highly recommend that you do so, at least for the first few days of any trip to the Gaula to get situated. My particular guide knew that delicate balance between effectively teaching and effectively wrecking a fishing experience, so he was greatly appreciated by a guy who knew nothing about casting with a two-handed rod.

My guide was a 22-year-old, very talented German student by the name of Johannes. Thanks largely to his efforts, after a little more than a day of fishing, I caught my first Atlantic salmon on a large rod. It weighed about 7½ pounds. While it was small compared to others in the Gaula, I felt tremendously proud.

I should insert a word of caution here regarding casting. I’m a well traveled fly fisherman with over 40 years of experience, but very inexperienced when it comes to salmon. Fishing the Gaula requires the patience and practice to learn spey casting or, better yet, the Swedish style of underhand casting with a large rod. In this style of casting, the lower hand on the butt of the rod generates the force that creates line velocity. My guide did a fantastic job of teaching me this method. By the end of the second day, I felt quite confident in my newly acquired abilities to cover extended areas of water with the large rod.
Make no mistake, the guides here are patient and talented, and they want you to catch fish. Their attitude and the presence of many novice salmon anglers on the stream pretty much eliminate the snobby club-boys feel that is so prevalent in the world of salmon fishing. The result is a great experience for the beginning salmon fisherman.

The only real downer of the trip was the very average quality of the rooms at Hotel Storen, located between a chicken processing plant and a train station. That being said, this is a salmon fisherman’s hotel, as evidenced by the pictures, trophies and celebrity fishermen portraits hanging on the wall. Also, the food is surprisingly good, particularly dinner. And, the hotel manager, Danya, will go the extra mile for you. While Danya is independent of the NFC, he is German, as are most of people who operate the NFC. This means it may take a little time to break through their less than smiley approach to guests.
Danya and the entire staff of the NFC are good people. You just have to give them a chance to prove it.

Another word of caution would be regarding the prices in the fly shop operated by the NFC in the Hotel Storen. The fly lines are unique/great, the rental rods are average and everything else was somewhat sparse. The main thing to note is the prices are somewhat high relative to those charged in a US shop, so bring as much of your own equipment as possible if you’re concerned about prices of things like leaders and flies. Just be aware that, for convenience sake, I showed up with nothing but waders. I rented all the other equipment I needed. I found it both adequate and not unreasonably pricey. They can even rent you a rod holder for your car roof here if you want.

Just so you know, the rods you will need for fishing here are two-handed spey rods, 14½ feet long with weight forward floating lines and 14-foot leaders with 4x tippets. The flies I used were all local wet flies and streamers roughly No. 10 in size.
The total cost of my trip without flights was approximately $1,000/day. Lodging and beat lease fees were about $483/day. A Norwegian fishing license cost $52. A disinfection certificate was $26. The guide fee was $175/day, plus I tipped him $33/day and paid for his lunch and dinner. The latter came to about $85 per day. Rod and reel rental was $39/day and my economy rental car cost $150/day. Airfare from Newark airport to Trondheim airport last August was around $1,200.
I highly recommend this trip to any angler seriously interested in learning how to salmon fish, but I would have to insert three conditions: 1. You must be patient enough to learn how to underhand cast with a large two-handed rod. 2. You must be motivated to catch a very special fish and ready to give up the idea of catching lots of fish 3. You must be tolerant of cultural differences and prepared to accept very average accommodations. It was my understanding that I was one of only five Americans to use the NFC beats this year. Enjoy!

(Postscript: You can reach the Norwegian Flyfishers Club by e-mail at: [email protected]. The telephone number is: 011-49-40-5892302 – dialed from the US. The web address is: The contact person is Manfred Raguse. In a follow-up note near press time, Wolfe asked us to note that the water level in the Gaula River is much higher in June than it is in August, when he was there. “This makes wading and casting in June much more challenging,” he writes. Wolfe also asked us to note that the Gaula is a genuine big-fish river, not just a great spot for beginning salmon anglers. “Some 20-plus-pound monsters are still being caught on the Gaula each year well into August,” he writes.)

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