A historic fishing destination with a touch of Victorian flair.
Sometimes things just fall into place perfectly and this is what happened right from the start when Barry and I made our entry to Galten farm in the Northern part of South East Norway.
Galten farm is a place we only knew from reputation, a reputation of great fly fishing situated at the end of Lake Femund, one of the most famous trout and grayling fishing areas and one of the main water systems of Norway.
A destination for both Norwegian and Swedish fly fishermen since the middle of 1980’s, a place that had regular visits from British anglers in their quest to find their fishing paradise. My grandfather (unfortunately I never met him) used to stay at the farm and my heart skipped a beat, when his name appeared in the old guestbook, duly registered by his own hand. According to my mother, he along with many other Norwegians, had befriended the brothers Charles and Richard Smith, two solicitors from London who had commissioned a fishing lodge to be built a short distance from the farm.
They stayed and fished at the lodge every year from 1892 until 1939 when World War II made the journey from the UK to Norway impossible.
It is not known how they originally came to hear about the excellent fishing in this area, but rumours have it that the famous Polar Explorer Fridtjof Nansen, a regular guest at the farm, had shared the secret of one of his favourite fishing destinations with the Smith brothers on one of his many visits to London. Being a fly fisherman he was also responsible for the most famous fly fishing quote in Norway, “Give me two March Browns and a box of matches and I can survive the whole summer in Norway” In 2013. The lodge was lovingly restored to its full splendour using traditional materials and building techniques and is now once more available to customers as a fishing lodge. The newly restored lodge that is situated only a short distance from the lake has also been beautifully furnished with period furniture and parafinelia that include hundreds of original photographic prints taken locally, for the most by one of the brothers wives. Along with an array of indigenous stuffed animals that include Reindeer, wolverine, bull moose and Golden eagle. Together they create a wonderful period atmosphere that is impossible to fake! The lodge sleeps eight people, based on self catering. With this as a backdrop Barry and I made the journey to find Galten farm and experience the place and the reputed fishing.
It is said that first impression is a lasting impression and in this case, meeting the hosts upon arrival, was a warm welcoming experience and it just got better after that! Gjertrud and Per Roar are undeniably the heart and soul of the farm and natural born hosts. They have the ability to make you feel at home from the moment you arrive, until you leave and you leave with a wish to return! Barry and I were shown to a modern two-bedroom apartment with all facilities, a place to hang waders to dry, a combined lounge and kitchenette with television. The mobile network here because of the location can be a little hit and miss, non-existent reception bars on the display (some may say this is a blessing), but when roaming on the grounds there were spots allowing you to make phone calls. Full connection to internet is available in the main reception building. The Farm offers a good variety of overnight possibilities ranging from single room to units that sleep up to nine or a whole house. All places giving you a view over Galten lake with the majestic Sulen mountain range in the West.
After settling in, and tackling up our 5 weight rods, we laid the plan on how to make the most of our short visit. So much to see and so much water to cover. The local licence covers more than hundred places to fish! All styles of fly fishing, still water, fast river, slow river, wading, fishing from the bank, from a boat, Loch style… really, you are spoilt for choice.
We decided to start the afternoon with a journey in the time machine and visit Smith Lodge. During the short boat ride from Galten farm over the lake to Smith Lodge, the lake was like a huge oil slick with no sharp tops on the waves only a almost slow motion under lating flow that was excentuated by the dark heavy low cloud, threatening rain. With these perfect conditions, we witnessed sparodic hatching of Danica mayflies, that where popping up all around us, and many that quickly disappeared again in the rings of a rise.
The Lodge is offered to visitors for rental on a weekly basis and can comfortably sleep up to eight people, for self catering only, as the logistics for catering by the hosts would be challenging to say the least!
As soon as you step off the boat onto the well worn track through the blueberry covered birch forest floor, you are catapulted back in time, knowing that the Smith brothers made the same journey year after year, all the way from London with all their provisions, everything they needed from split cane to marmalade. boy! did they know how to live in those days! Some of you, may have read “Three in Norway by two of them” and I am sure that you will recall several passages in the book when experiencing this. Even Skewes travelled and fished this area and had also discovered what Norwegian Waters have in store for the keen Fly Fisherman in search for other experiences than chasing salmon with the Lords on the West Coast .
After a refreshing cup of tea we went down to the head of the river to test the waters. A cold wind had come of the mountains and was rushing down the lake towards us, this made casting a little challenging, but it didn’t stop us from catching a few good grayling on the dry fly, in the small pocket waters amongst the large boulders where the lake runs into the river. There are many old local fly patterns that still work well. Norway’s most famous fly tyer family, Jon Sand and son Erling from near by Engerdal, who, a hundred years ago where the only professional fly tyres in Norway, where said to have been taught the craft of fly tying by the Smith brothers.
On arrival back at Galten farm after a choppy boat ride from Smith Lodge, we have just enough time to change out of waders and smarten up a little when we hear a ringing bell, calling guests to dinner. We made our way to the dining room where tables were elegantly laid and Per Roar was welcoming full board guests along with others that had chosen to pay the little extra for an excellent home made dinner. Gjertrud is a proper magician and seems to use her ladle as a wand, creating the most wonderful dishes based on local game and produce. A typical set menu would consist on reindeer, moose or roe deer seasoned with herbs collected from the nearby woods garnished with wild berries and served with local vegetables. Cloudberries and cream for dessert are not uncommon before coffee is served in a separate building in the comfort of a real log fire. All guests are gathered and fishing stories and tips as to where fish have been caught, and on what during the day are shared without secrecy. After a while, a noticeable stir spreads in the crowd and most will make their way to their cabin to tackle up once again and make their way down to they lake or river for the evening rise. Most not to be seen again until breakfast and with more fishing stories to tell! Barry and I retire to plan the following days activity, to make sure we secure good pictures.
Breakfast time at the farm is a crucial event if you intend spending the best part of the day on the water. A very inviting Scandinavian country style buffet is laid out in the middle of the dining room, inviting guests to roam around the table, helping them selves to the delicate food. Whilst enjoying breakfast with the other guests and preparing sandwiches for our lunch packet, it is the perfect time to get the fishing reports from the day before, on where the fish where on and what flies where working from the other guest’s.
There was no more time to waste, get geared up and find our boat and row to the first possible location. Barry’s eye for a good spot where a strong current from the river met the slow flowing waters of the lake decided the place to anchor and start fishing. One of the other great advantages of fishing from these boats, is the boat gives a drifted fly the perfect drift with a minimum of mending the fly line. You are also not only casting to rising fish, but while drifting your fly is constantly covering new water and new fish. When drifting over faster runs of water you can change from dry fly to a single nymph or a set-up with a heavy nymph on the point and a couple of lighter nymphs as droppers and a strike indicator.
This is not only an extremely effective method for fishing pocket water but a deadly technique for searching out larger grayling and whitefish in the deeper faster water, that otherwise would be inaccessible. If you intend to maximise your fishing affectivity you can set-up two rods for the boat, one with dry fly and one with nymphs that you can alternate between as the fishing determines as you drift. After a few casts and a little more regular hatching of Danica in the flowing water, we were into the first dry fly fish from the boat. A few great grayling before the first 2 lb whitefish fell for a heavy caddis pupae fished in a deep channel. Trophy whitefish is what most fly fishermen come for at this time of the season. Both the grayling and the whitefish were more than willing to play today and we had an action filled morning.
The rise continued for another 45 minutes or so, or five more fish, and then began to fall off until there was only the odd rise here and there. We drifted a little further down towards the bridge where there seamed to be more activity. We noticed some hefty rising, there where three heavy grayling rolling in the surface one after another not more than a couple of feet from each other! Each time they came up showing their whole side and dorsal fin to us. We drifted the boat until we where 20 or so metres, We needed to get in casting distance and dropped the anchor. After quickly dusting my fly I could now see 3 huge grayling, one of them or more, rolling every 10 – 15 seconds sucking in every dun that floated over them. I made a cast, but I had misjudged the current and mid section of my fly line began forming a rapidly increasing down stream loop, that any second was going to start stripping my fly out of a natural drift. I began mending my fly line like a mad man, trying to correct the drift before my fly sailed over the rising fish. Just before my fly entered the critical part of the drift, over the graylings feeding window, I gave my rod a violent flick and lifted what fly line I could out of the water stripping my fly across the surface for about 40 cm and quickly dropped the tip of my rod again.