This June LOOP Travel and TwinPeakes Fly Fishing hosted the opening 2 weeks at Horstad Gård Lodge, on the river Åelva in Norway. Previously a private river without access, it has now opened up its books, and we were delighted to offer a group of anglers the opportunity to fish what is widely regarded to be one of the most productive Atlantic salmon rivers in Europe. With an incredible 99 salmon landed over two weeks, it’s fair to say that this claim certainly holds merit.
Al Peake provides the travel report:
“We have just returned from our annual two weeks of hosted trips at Horstad Gård Lodge, fishing the majestic river Åelva, and what a blast we had!
Arriving at 6pm on Saturday 19th June, our team of 8 rods enjoyed a welcome dinner and set up our tackle ready for a quick cast. With the time of the year offering near 24 hours of daylight, we were able to catch a couple of stunning fish under the midnight sun before retreating to the lodge to rest and prepare for the days ahead.
World class Atlantic salmon fishing
Throughout our week we were met with favourable weather conditions, with the river running between 60 and 90 cubic m/s each day at a temperature of 7.5 to 9 degrees centigrade. The river was relatively high and most of the salmon were holding in the lower 1.5km, reluctant to run over the Horstadfossen Falls. Numbers were building up dramatically as each tide brought in a new run of fish, and we soon learnt those ideal lies for intercepting them.
The pools at Åelva are extremely varied, and no two are the same. One minute you are hanging your flies in a quiet piece of water within a raging waterfall, and the next you are wading and swinging your flies through a classic pool.
We fished a range of tactics throughout the week, mainly using 14’ and 15’ rods with Scandi GDC lines and Skagit lines enabling us to be able to change the depth of the flies easily. The top set-up was without a doubt the 14’ ZT travel rod and the Sink 2 / 3 GDC Shooting Head with 8’ of 25lbs fluorocarbon and a black and blue monkey fly. Or when fishing from the drifting boat, an SDS Shooting Head with a sink 5’ tip always got the fly right in the zone.
Week 1 finished with a whopping 71 salmon landed – all between 4lbs and 22lbs – with an average size of 10lbs. Home Pool and the aptly-named 100% Pool were responsible for 60 fish alone, while there were also plenty of tales of fish lost!
After such a great week, we were very excited and full of optimism for what was to come.
The second week was quite different weather-wise, with unseasonably warm temperatures up to 30 degrees and bright sun each day, which did slow down the catches somewhat. However our team persevered and fished hard during the early mornings and evenings which led to good results.
The hot and bright days melted the snow in the hills, with each evening producing a fresh snow melt and a rising river, which provided high water levels throughout the week.
Grilse began to enter the river and were often willing to take a fly in the bright weather, however many of the fish – particularly the larger salmon that were landed and lost – were caught between 10pm and 11am.
The beauty of fishing in Norway in June is that it does not go dark, and those willing to siesta on hot bright days and focus their efforts in the early mornings and late evenings were rewarded for their attempts. We finished on 28 salmon – all between 3lbs and 20lbs – with an average of 8lbs and a sea trout of 4lbs for the week, with many more fish lost once again.
Your typical day while fishing at Horstad Gård Lodge sees breakfast is served at 8am, by which point many have already headed out for a quick cast, as Home Pool and 100% Pool are just a few minutes’ walk away from the lodge.
After breakfast, guests meet up with their guide at the main reception room, collect a pre-prepared packed lunch and head out for the morning. Beats change at lunchtime and in June the lodge will often fish a quick 6-hour rotation, giving everybody a good chance at the lower river each day.
We generally headed back to the lodge at around 6:30pm for some relaxation, before dinner is served in the homely dining room. After some fantastic food from the in-house chef, we’d then tackle up and prepare for an evening session, usually fishing between 10pm and1 am – which proved a very productive time for us this year.
The guide team is great and they can’t do enough for you. It is amazing how many of them are often willing to head out again in the evening to help guests get the very most out of their days on the water.
There are several boats which are used to get around some of the larger pools (such as the Home Pool) and sometimes we will fish from the boat, gently holding it off the stream on the oars and keeping that fly in the taking zone.
Finally, the lodge manager William Moberg-Faulds is a superb host and can’t do enough for his guests during their stay! The river is a wild river system with incredible wildlife and pools and the comfortable lodge and service brings the trip together nicely.
We will be back again in August to host a final week for this season, where we will be focusing on the upper river and targeting the strong run of sea trout that the river holds throughout August.”
Words and photography by Al Peake