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Lofoten Islands, Norway - 14/09/22

This break was a roll over from the previous year due to Covid restrictions in Norway which also meant we had to change location to the Lofoten Islands off the north west coast and an amazing result.

Reg, Peter, Nick and I met at Heathrow taking an early flight to Oslo. We then had to take a short flight to Bodo after a 3 hour wait. Then another 3 hour wait until the local flight flew us to the islands which took all of 20 minutes. We were then collected at the airport and taken to the camp at Nappstraumen before a briefing about what the following day’s plan.

This left us just enough time to go to the supermarket in the camp van, which residents can use for free, to get provisions. We had been told that you shouldn’t take meat, dairy or potatoes into Norway.  Most people do and it is rarely checked but this can result in hefty fines if caught.  I took a cool box primarily to bring fish back, but on the way out filled it with pasta, sauces, rice etc as food is so expensive. We intended to live on the fish we caught accompanied by the foods we took.  To give you some idea of prices, pringles cost £5.50 and a 10 pack of beer (small 330ml cans) costs £28.  The only thing that seemed cheap was a large bag of prawns for bait which was only £10.

The next day we were up at 6.30 getting all our tackle sorted, having breakfast of toast or breakfast cereal which we took, and making cheese sandwiches for lunch. We got to the boat at 8 and were quickly out to catch bait fish in the sheltered area where the camp is sited. These were plentiful and consisted of coalfish (saithe) of around 8 to 10 oz for the cod and halibut whilst the plaice and dab were caught on the prawns.

Sadly, the wind was from the north east which meant we couldn’t get to the best area for the halibut we all wanted, so we tried all the marks in the sheltered area. Whilst we didn’t catch any halibut, but did manage a couple of cod for the evening meal and some good-sized plaice as the average here would be a specimen in the UK. The guides, who were excellent throughout, told us that the halibut come into this area as the weather worsens but mid-September was a little too early for ideal conditions. (I wish Sportsquest had told us this when we were offered a new location). We returned to the marina where we filleted the fish for dinner which was superb as it was so fresh. We hung our clothes in the drying room and settled for a night in the cabin.

The next day followed a similar pattern, catching the baitfish, catching plaice in the sheltered areas, when our guide said we could try to the north. The sea was a bit rough but we were all up for it. Nothing happened for an hour then out of the blue we had a triple hook up on halibut. These weren’t big fish, but two were takeable size to bring back to the UK. At the same time, the fourth angler, Peter, chipped in with a cod which was destined for our table that night.  All went quiet for an hour then Reg and I had a double hook up of halibut. We had been without one for a day and a half but now had six in short order. I had a nice coalfish and the others all had torsk.

The torsk is referred to as a s**tfish (like our lesser spotted dogfish) as it is not good to eat and steals the baits. As most readers will know by now, I like catching and seeing different species but I didn’t catch a torsk. It became a joke between me and the guides when I said they couldn’t get me one after each trip.

Dinner was cod and rice, before we all changed our tackle and rigs from what we had learnt. The halibut and plaice were filleted and put in the excellent ice room to freeze before we packed for home. There was also a tackle shop on site just in case you couldn’t get the ideal gear in the UK. The camp was very well equipped.

The next three days we couldn’t get out so we tried all around the ”lagoon” and to the south with minimal success trying all sorts of techniques and everywhere that looked hopeful. We even tried perks which caught us the smallest fish of the week – the local redfish.

On the last day, the wind finally dropped and even better, switched to the south west so we could get out to the better fishing grounds.

We had another triple hook up on small halibut, then I finally got my torsk, much to the amusement of all concerned, followed by a bigger one in quick succession. It was clearly my lucky day as I had another small halibut followed by my best cod of the week. The sport was steady all day, and how we wished we had been able to fish there all week.

Then with an hour to go, Calle, our guide spotted a big halibut coming up from the bottom to feed on the fish finder. At the same instant I had a take and said I was into a fish. For a few seconds I thought I had hooked the bottom until it started swimming off. I was armed with just a 20-30lb travel boat rod and hung on as best I could. I got it from the bottom, but when it got its head down it took line as it swam off. Calle did an excellent job manipulating the boat as I regained some line and gradually it came up.

I realised it was a big fish, but remember Calle saying “it was a super massive fish” and after 40 minutes he said it is nearly at the surface. The sheer load was by now giving me back ache and my muscles were starting to spasm but I eventually got it to the side of the boat and saw a huge mouth come up in front of me.

As the guide tried to tie it up it made another surge taking yards of line. I said the Reg that as the guide had held the fish, the capture counted so please could he take the rod and get it back for photographs as I was shot.  I’ve had tuna over 300lbs, sturgeon to nearly 8’, tarpon to 170lbs but this fight hurt the most as all the load was straight down.

Reg got the fish back up and the usual photos were taken but none showed how big the fish really was. It measured 216cm (just over 7’ 1”) and the weight given was just over 303lbs. What a great way to end the week.

The fishing was poor earlier but the guides (Nordic Sea Angling employees) got us out and found somewhere every day where we could catch a few fish and were so helpful. When I got the fish at the end, they seemed more excited than I was, all coming to the boat to congratulate me when we got back.  I just joked they were relieved that I had caught my torsk.

Like all these trips, you make the most pleasure by enjoying what nature offers and the friendship of the group and the guides were very much part of this.

One other highlight of the trip was watching the sea eagles. Every day at the end of fishing we would put the leftover bait over the side. You never saw and eagles as the black-backed gulls fought for the fish. Then they would suddenly back off as the eagles appeared and swopped down selecting their fish before the gulls felt safe to return. It was a spectacular sight and one that will stay with us into our dotage.