Due to the declining stocks in most salmon rivers of the North Atlantic, many people feared that the last stocks of big salmon could have gone forever. It seems that we always have to come to that point before the politicians react. Looking back at the "millennium" season in 2000 those problems seemed to lead to a collapse of the salmon stocks in some rivers. On the other hand, some salmon rivers in Norway showed a run of salmon which can only be described as sensational. Some of the rivers showed the best results for over 100 years. Among them were not only small streams with the occasional good run but also some of the reliable big salmon rivers, like the famous Gaula.

It is well known that the run of salmon is not the same every year and there can be big differences in the catches from year to year. But this, the Gaula, is famous for its constancy through the years.

The year 2000 showed most Norwegian rivers with good runs and a total catch of more than 41,000 kg on the Gaula. The Gaula runs through unspoilt surroundings starting from the mountains near the Swedish border and enters the sea at Trondheim Fjord. On average, the catch over the last 20 years on the Gaula has been, among Norway’s 629 salmon rivers, second only to the Tana River, which is 10 times longer and yet produces only twice as many rod-caught salmon. Most important for us, the sport fishermen, is the fact that the Gaula is fished from the bank. We do not need a boat to reach the salmon like in some other rivers; there "harling" is the only way to catch salmon.

Let's take a look at the famous Bridge pool, which is part of the water of the Norwegian Flyfishers Club. It provides fishing at all heights of water and is one of the best holding pools on the river. Bridge pool has always been a prime location for battles with really big salmon throughout the years. Many of them were lost after very long hard fights, like the one which Mary Anne Sawada hooked on June 1st right after the start of the salmon season. Ken Sawada, the famous Japanese Fly tier, saw the fish about ten times on the surface. Even after catching many big fish from the Norwegian Flyfishers Club water (including a 40 pounder in '97) he could only guess how big this salmon was. He only mentioned that Mary Anne’s fish was much bigger than his forty!

June is the time of the big fish with an average weight of close to 20 lbs during the 2000 season on the Gaula. The beats of the Norwegian Flyfishers Club are fished on a rotational basis, giving each angler equal rights, and a maximum of four anglers per beat. Many regular rods return every year and than they meet at the riverbank to fish for the king of our native fish, the Atlantic salmon. They remember fights both lost and won with these huge Gaula salmon. Among them is Grant Foreman who describes salmon fishing as an essential part of his life. I'll let him describe his last years adventure himself:

"On the evening of July 14th I was fishing the fabulous Renna pool during very high water. On reaching the tail of the Pool just below the power lines I hooked a fish, which I soon realised, was substantial. I immediately walked the fish up 50m where it became very angry and made an incredible long jump (with its tail wagging) towards the right bank which Robert and I (another rod who was walking back from the tail of the pool) clearly saw. It was huge with a tail the size of a shovel. On finding it had jumped into shallow water it shot across the pool and made another spectacular jump in the fast water. The fish then raced down and out of the tail at an unbelievable speed with me in hot pursuit, just managing to keep the line clear of the shingle as it turned right, into the deep hole at the head of Tilseth pool; I was now regaining some of the (150m) backing but with all of the shooting line still out when the fish gave a couple of big tugs and sadly the hook came out. On seeing a large fish of about 40lbs back at headquarters that night, I know for sure that this leviathan was in excess of that weight."

Another salmon fisher, Bruce Bomphrey described the fishing as follows:

"Now that I am back at work I wanted to write to say how much I enjoyed my week salmon fly-fishing with the NFC on the Gaula. I know it was one of our best weeks ever in terms of numbers of fish caught, but although numerous, they were obviously not all grilse, and one always had the feeling when fishing down a pool that at any time a monster might take the fly and disappear over the horizon with it!"

What makes fishing on the Gaula so fascinating? On one hand there is a reliable stock of big salmon that runs the river. On the other hand, it is the nature of the river itself. The Gaula is a fair-sized river, the NFC beats are easy to wade, but hardly ever get too low to produce decent fishing. Bridge pool is a fascinating pool. The salmon have to run long rapids before they reach this pool, which is the only place to rest for a long stretch of water. Langoy Pool, New Pool, Maela pool and Home Pool provide lovely, long stretches of beautiful fly water at most heights and there are good low-water lies at Tilseth Run, Junction Pool and Upper Pool. The beautiful Long Pool is said to be a fisherman’s dream.

Dream destination Norway will always tantalise those salmon anglers who relish the prospects of fishing for the king of fish amongst some of the greatest scenery on the planet.

The Gaula - also known as the "Golden river" - is one of the best places in Norway to flyfish for salmon. Once in touch with it’s magic, especially when that line comes alive and is drawn tight, followed by the slow rhythmic pulse of a large hooked fish out in the stream, you will always remember these moments.

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salmon and the NFC beat on the Gaula river