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Salmon fishing in Norway

Do you dream about fishing in some of the world's best and most iconic salmon rivers? Look to Norway – the kingdom of wild salmon – where angling in the wilderness is still as fun for visitors today as is was when the Brits first discovered its joys in the 1820s.

There is a sudden lurch as the salmon takes the bait.

"You are on, feeling the pulse of nature. It's now or never," says Torfinn Evensen, head of Norske Lakseelver, an organisation that represents holders of fishing rights and owners of more than 100 salmon-carrying watercourses in Norway.

You may have seen a salmon leaping nearby. You need to maintain control until you can haul the fish ashore. But you never know if it's going to work. The fish can tear down the river at high speed. You have to stay calm and not force it, or the salmon may release the bait. The salmon is always the boss. "When the job is done, you will most likely have set a personal heart rate record," says Torfinn.

No GPS system can ever trump a salmon's unerring ability to return to the river in which it was born. After one to three years in the sea, it returns to the specific pond of its infancy. "It is simply magical," says Torfinn.

However, only a small number of the salmon that swim in the sea return to their rivers. "Those who come back have eaten fish and squid over vast ocean areas and have, against all odds, survived sharks, whales, tuna and swordfish. It is hard not to be a little impressed when you hold a wild salmon in your hands. It's been through an odyssey," says Jostein Henriksen, editor of Norwegian fishing website Opstrms (an abbreviation for oppstrøms, 'upstream').

Salmon fishing, Norwegian style

Jostein points out that Norway has been a world-class destination for salmon anglers since English anglers started to come here around 200 years ago. "You'll find several of the world's best and most iconic salmon rivers, and you still have the opportunity to go salmon fishing in the wilderness."

Torfinn believes that Norway differs from other salmon nations due to the fact that it is a safe country with easy access to the most famous rivers by bus or train. “Many even have an airport at the estuary, since the landscape there is usually flat,” he says.

“If you rent an electric car, you can experience several salmon rivers within a short time,” says Torfinn. The rivers run so close together that the EVs range is usually sufficient. If you fly to Sola airport in Stavanger, you will find plenty of salmon rivers, and the same goes for Værnes airport in Trøndelag.

Wildlife experiences

Long, bright summer nights make it easy to go fishing late at night or early in the morning. You will then experience completely different wildlife than during the day. "All kinds of animals may come peacefully down to the river to drink while we sit motionlessly and watch," says Torfinn.

"Norway is also home to also home to the river in the world where the salmon climbs highest above the sea," says Jostein from Opstrms, who is writing a book on wild salmon. "In the Driva river, the salmon migrate over 600 metres of altitude, up through wild rapids and narrow gorges, almost all the way up to Dovrefjell mountain. The idea of ​​fish climbing mountains is fascinating."

Before you get set up by a river, you must make sure to pay both your fishing license and the fishing fee. The fee is compulsory if you are 18 years old or older and plan to fish for salmon, sea trout, or Arctic char. Read more at Norske lakseelver (in Norwegian only). You can also to buy a local fishing license on the websites mentioned above. The cost may vary, but while some of the most famous angling spots can be expensive due to their popularity, you can save a lot by choosing one of the many lesser-known alternative rivers that can be as rewarding.

When to go

The season kicks off in June, when anglers with great expectations after a long winter of waiting, especially in the Trøndelag area in the middle of Norway and southwards, converge on the rivers. "In Northern Norway, the fishing season starts a few weeks later," says Torfinn at Norske lakseelver. "In July and August, most of the salmon have come upstream and have spread out across most of the river, but salmon that have been resting in the river for a long time may hesitate to bite."

The secret spots

"The trick is to try to think like a salmon," says Torfinn. "Where in the river would you be if you were a salmon?" Basins under small waterfalls or big rocks are often considered the best places for salmon to rest and seek shelter. A local angler will be able to tell you more about where the salmon is laying and where you should try your luck.

"Norwegian salmon anglers are pleased to get visitors and are proud that foreign angling enthusiasts choose to spend their holidays here," Torfinn says. It is easy to approach locals for advice and tips. "Here in Norway, we are keen to include more people in these pleasures, and we have enough room for everyone," he says.

Another advantage of salmon fishing in Norway is that you can meet like-minded people. "In other countries, you may be one of only a few people who share your hobby and there are few who understand you, while here in Norway people understand that salmon fishing is the meaning of life," he adds with a smile.

There is also a awareness about how crucial and vulnerable the salmon's ecosystem is, partly thanks to organisations like The Year of the Salmon 2019, an organisation working with the preservation of salmon rivers across North-Atlantic countries.

Essential salmon fishing kit

We always recommend that you pack your own gear that you are familiar with, but many destinations offer specialist shops. "You do not necessarily need to have full wading equipment. The truth is, you should avoid wading if you can, to not disturb the fish," says Jostein from Opstrms. For your own safety, you should also exercise caution in any river.

Responsible fishermen

"As an angler, you are the guardian and protector of wild salmon. But salmon fishing is also carefully regulated by law and monitored by the authorities. Salmon angling is sustainable, so it's not river fishing that is threatening wild salmon," says Torfinn, adding: "Salmon lice and escaped farmed salmon and unnatural water flows from waterway regulation are leading to fewer salmon in Norwegian rivers than there used to be in the good old days."

"When you talk about salmon in Norway, you often think of the iconic salmon rivers," says Jostein. "But salmon also swim up many small rivers, even in the most urban areas. It's a testament to how hardy the salmon is and an echo of a distant past when wild salmon were likely far more numerous."

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Welcome to the Namsen Salmon and Train Experience! A hotel that consists of four train carriages on a 180-metre long bridge above Namsen – one of Norway’s best salmon rivers.

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