For 2023 WhereWiseMenFish had the opportunity to arrange five exclusive, fly-fishing only openings on the Tengs River in Southern Norway, each for 2 ½ or 3 ½ days. Groups were max 6 rods and accommodation was at the charming Elderhoi lodge, a traditional wooden fishing lodge dating from the late 1800’s.
The Tengs river has had a varied history. The fishing rights were originally purchased by Leonard Pelly, one of the original English ‘Salmon Lords’ in 1887 and the river was very productive. Over time, as a result of the industrial revolution and the subsequent fall out from acid rain, many of the lakes and rivers saw ever decreasing returns until the runs were virtually wiped out. In 2007 the Norwegian government stepped in with liming grants to lower the water acidity. The results in terms of the numbers of salmon returning to the Tengs has been nothing other than spectacular.
The start of the season in Norway produced some solid numbers of good-sized salmon, but the water levels for the time of year were low and with no snow in the mountains, as June progressed, the water got lower and lower. The first WWMF opening in late June, potentially one of the very best openings when both good numbers of grilse as well as MSW salmon can be caught, saw the water dangerously low and warm. Although of little consolation, similar conditions were being experienced across all the Norwegian rivers as well as the hot and sunny weather being mirrored across all of the UK.
The Tengs, thankfully, remained fishable throughout the June opening. Although the water in the lake was very low and subsequently was a net contributor to the rising water temperature, the rapids and waterfall did at least ensure the water was very well oxygenated. In the main pool below the waterfall, Spinnerhollen, no shortage of salmon were seen, consistently showing themselves. They were however hard to entice, despite one evening when we had good interest fishing with bombers, hitched sunrays and larger flies fished deeper.
All the fish landed were in the lowest section of the river, in the fast water where the Tengs empties into the sea pool and the smooth glide leading into the final set of rapids just above that. All were bright silver and were probably nosing their way into the Tengs with each tide, although sensibly not progressing much further on account of the water temperature. With our fishing efforts being focused morning and evenings, we took a trip to the mouth of the sea loch to check out rumours that a huge shoal of salmon was sitting offshore. Watching from the railway bridge that is exactly what we saw. Alongside two very large salmon circling below the bridge itself, easily in the 20lb range, we could see the water further out appeared as if it was rippling with silver darts, the salmon either leaping in frustration or indeed avoiding a fairly consistent attack from an army of spoon fishermen on the banks!
The follow-on group, just six days later at the start of July had a very very different trip. The rains arrived, in force and the group were faced with a rapidly rising river over their 2 ½ days. 2 fish were caught on the first afternoon, the second day nothing stayed on, but on the third day 9 fish were landed alongside a good number being lost!
These weather conditions now seemed to become prevalent for the rest of the month, again mirroring the wet British July & August. The river rose from 8 CM/s (cubic meters/second) in late June to 100 CM/s. The water conditions faced by the two groups that followed at the end of July and early August were as a result very different from those at the start of the year when higher water would have been more normal.
On both of these openings, the numbers of fish seen was off the charts! Fish were leaping everywhere, however in the middle section of the Tengs especially prolific. This area, known as ‘The Killing Stones’ has relatively smooth water but in most heights a good current to produce an excellent swing and is very appealing water to hitch. In order to try and quantify this spectacle, I counted all the salmon I could see jumping over what was approx. 100m of river over 8 x 2 min periods. The results averaged out at one fish jumping every 10 seconds. Although visible fish activity did go up and down over the days, it never came close to being quiet, whether it be dawn, midday or dusk!
Atlantic Salmon are an elusive species. Despite our seeing a quite incredible number of fish, we still had to work hard to land those that we did. 13 salmon over the late July trip, 9 over early August between the 6 rods fishing for 3 days each. Some days, despite what looked like very good conditions, the fish simply were not eager to take. When they did, it was often the classic nip rather than solidly in the scissors with the fish turning. Almost every single one of the fish landed was very fresh, well hooked and fought hard. It seemed as if those fish that had been in the river, even for a relatively short-time had their mind on other things.
Over and above those caught there was a significantly larger number of offers. On my final day, for the one fish I landed, I had no less than 9 plucks at my fly. Extremely exciting, even if the numbers in the catch book hint at a slightly less fabulous result.
With just one WWMF slot left over mid-September still to come, my summary so far is that I have seen few rivers during my life with such a healthy number of salmon. The Tengs does have a higher proportion of grilse but there are plenty of good sized MSW salmon. The largest caught by our groups was close to 20lbs but there are plenty more of similar size. Hitting perfect taking conditions this season has unquestionably been elusive, but salmon fishing is fickle, and knowing that there are literally 1,000’s of fish in the river is a wonderful antidote for those who those who have felt starved of fishing opportunities in home rivers.
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