Salmon of River Børselv (Norway) 


by P.Majeran  

Finnmark is a vast, scarcely populated area in the very north of Norway. The nature here is largely intact, due to little pressure from population. Air and water are as pure as one can still find on our planet. For the fly fisher, Finnmark offers numerous opportunities. The most prominent is certainly the hunt for wild atlantic salmon. World famous salmon rivers like the Alta, Tana or Lakselv cut across. But there’s also a number of less known salmon rivers in the area. One of these is the Borselva, and that’s where the team around had chosen to try it for salmon in 2014.

Once checked in into our wooden hut with view on the Porsangerfjorden, we pack our salmon gear (that is: I have to mount my ‘reserve rod’, bacause the larger part of my oversized luggage got lost with the airline, which unfortunately to our experience is more often the rule than the exception...), mount the rods ‘Scandinavian style’ onto the car and head off towards our first casts at the Borselva. The road takes us along the Fjord through the village of Borselv, where we get the fishing permit, and then a few kilometers towards the valley of the Borselva.

To obtain the fishing permit proves to be easier then we thought, although the number of licenses for guests is limited. No upfront reservation is possible, each day at 5 pm the anglers need to line up at the license office (approx. 1 km upstream of the village of Borselv), but this time, and for our remaining fishing days, there ‘s enough space for everybody. The Borselv is divided into 3 zones, each several kilometers long. We will be fishing the ‘zone 1’, most popular and stretching from the inlet of the Borselv into Porsangerfjord, up to another 10+ km to the impressive canyon.....

Impressive and tempting as the canyon may look, it cannot be we decide to start further downstream. From the high bank, the river looks quite ‘fishable’, even shallow, but.....coming down the waters’ level, we realize that we have been deceived by its’ crystal clarity. Actually, the water level is quite high, and the current subsequently very strong. Conditions for succeeding to tempt a salmon to the fly are not the best....

So, lost in the wide Nordic landscape, we start our struggle against the odds....the river is not only high and strong, it is in places also very wide. Long casts are often enough necessary, while a high bank in the back makes spey casting obligatory.

Another challenge (and yes, salmon fishing is always full of challenges..) is the choice of the fly. All local experts that we consult recommend for the Borselva green or greenish patterns. Well, murphy\’s law strikes again, and guess which color is rather scarce in our otherwise very well filled salmon fly boxes? Nevertheless, we tie on what we have, mostly tube flies, and present them on sinking lines and leaders, given the high water....

The first day leaves us without a trace of a salmon. After a days\’ break, catching at least some fish (no salmon, of course..) in the nearby fjord, we are again at the Borselva. This time, however, we choose to fish from the other (left) bank, where the access to the river is more difficult and long walks through the woods are necessary. It proves yet again a challenge – the left bank holds less accessible salmon pools, no wonder we are almost the only ones fishing there..... Looking further, we see them as they try to jump the waterfall on their way upstream. Moved by the fascinating spectacle, we pause and just watch. Among the many salmon, we discover also some sea trout (picture bottom right).

Not even the locally famous ‘Smirnoff-pool’ – named after the favorite drink of some fishermen, who left the empty bottles of their brand of choice hanging from a tree – grants us a fish, not even the sight of a fish. Nevertheless, we won’t give up and cast through the night, pausing from time to time at the fireplace. Please note: what you see on the pictures, is actually the darkest hour in mid July up in Finnmark, we are merely 100 km south of Cape North. So, by buying one weeks’ fishing, you get actually two weeks (if you cut on sleep completely, that is..)...(-:

On our 3rd day for salmon, we are back again on the right bank. We choose to try it on a popular beat more or less half way between the canyon and the fjord. To our surprise, we fish there alone for hours. However, maybe due to the glaring sunshine and temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius (must have been a heat record in Finnmark!), we have no success. The water is moderately warm, but the water level has not yet fallen, at least not that we notice.

Towards the evening, shadow begins to spread across the beat and....we are not fishing alone any more. A local fly fisherman appears, and expertly casts his way step by step down the beat. Not before long, and he is hooked to a salmon.....

As we watch, the friendly fellow shows great skill in first playing, then hand tailing the salmon. Clearly, he is doing that not for the first time. The fish is fresh from the sea and weighs 4,8 kg. With fresh motivation, we try our best for another few hours...yet again without success.

After nearly 20 hrs of continuous fishing, we decide to give ourselves and the river a full day\’s rest. Back on the same beat on our fourth, and last, salmon fishing day, we notice that the water level has finally fallen a bit. After seeing some salmon frequently showing on the surface at the very end of the beat and far towards the other bank, I decide to wade across the stream towards a small island in the middle of the river, thus getting within casting range. After a few casts, our first salmon is hooked....

Although equipped with a strong 15 ft rod, I have some struggle to stop the salmon in the strong current and prevent it from running straight downstream into the nearby whitewater at the end of the beat. My hand landing skills prove less developed then the local hero’s, and I do not manage to tail the fish at the spot where I hooked it, also due to the strong current. Finally deciding to use the ‘walk the dog’ technique, I direct the salmon into shallow water nearby the island.

It turns out to be a fresh run male of 2,8 kg and excellent condition. The successful fly was a traditional Blue Charm size 4 double hook (no trace of green!). It remains also the last salmon that we catch, although, on the same day, we have several takes that unfortunately do not materialize. So, was it worth it?...Yes, definitely. That’s also part of the Atlantic salmon fishing magic, no sign of life for days, and suddenly the odds makes the scarce catch experience all the more memorable. We’ll be back!