The Valhalla of Salmon Fishing

I first dreamed of fishing the mighty Alta river in the North Cape of Norway as a very young boy reading a Hardy Catalogue. It took a long time but this year I was invited for a week’s fishing and the dream came true. The Alta – 300 miles north of the Artic Circle – is undoubtedly the best big fish river in the world. Visitors are allowed to fish from 24 June to end of August. The river is 27 miles long and 10 fly fishing rods are permitted to fish. In June the average weight is 25 lb. Guiding and boating skills are past on from generation to generation and many men take a vacation from their regular job to act as guides. Fishing is 99% from boats, each with a two guide crew. The angler stands in the middle of the boat with one guide rowing in the stern and the other in the bow. When a large fish is hooked it will often leave the pool, whereupon the angler kneels down in the boat and endeavours to keep in touch with the fish while the boat is brought down, often through fast and heavy water to the point where the battle can be resumed. Fishing starts at 8 p.m. and you fish through the night when the sun’s glare is absorbed by the mountains and woods of one of Europe’s deepest canyons. This year, when I was there, two 50 pounders (5l and 53 1b) and another big fish lost after a nearly two hour battle and three 30 pounders (37, 38 and 38½lb) were landed and all five were returned. With these big fish our average for the week was 31 lb. For someone who regularly fishes Iceland and Scotland, where a large part of the catch is grilse, to catch fish of this size was truly remarkable. Certainly it endorses the words of the famous hotelier and fly fisherman Charles Ritz – the Alta is the Valhalla of salmon fishing and once you have tasted it nothing in your life is the same. For me it answered all my dreams. Barrie Welham Field Sports Ambassadeur The Orvis Company