Dateline – July 20, 2010. Kaantpronounzit, Norway.
Norway is known by many names – “Land of the Midnight Sun” and “Land of the Shocking Amex Bill” come to mind. But it is also known as “Land of the Hidden Stairs,” as Norway features a sneaky half-step in many doorways, especially those leading into shops or bathrooms. Marta awoke several late nights to my cheerful cries of “&$%*ing *#%!! Who put that $!#%ing step there?” The Norwegians did, that’s who. You’ll get used to it after a few stubbed toes and falls going out of a shop.
There are a couple of other things we need to get out of the way before we start. Norway is expensive. This is fine for Norwegians, because they make lots of money, but can be a bit of a stunner for vistors from poor countries, like Saudi Arabia. My advice – deal with it. It’s a great place and you need to go there. Also, try to go around your birthday so you can shame your travel companion into paying for things. (This is how Marta ended up buying me a sweater that cost the approximate GDP of Zaire.)
My new fishing sweater – the awesomest one yet. Modelled by Anne Boleyn.
Another thing. There is a campaign to convince us all that Norwegians speak perfect English. This is technically true, but this still does not mean we can communicate with them, especially with regard to place names. Do not be afraid to bring notes on your destination in writing, and always, always bring a map. There is no chance you will be able to to pronounce it correctly, or even close enough to have them figure it out. The diabolical usage of umlauts, reticulated whatsits, and assorted random dots means it never sounds like it looks. The actual sounds can not be made by Americans and will only result in a sprained lip.
Right. We didn’t come here to tear the end off my big toe, we came here to fish! On to the good stuff!
Of course, I was forced into a day of cultural tourism-type stuff in Oslo before we went up to the fishing lodge. I suppose I should thank Marta for making sure I actually see something besides a fishing boat in these exotic locations. I suppose. She was, after all, the one who pointed out that some of these places, like Paris, have museums. Who knew? And in Oslo, we got to see Munch’s painting “The Scream” – it gets stolen every other week, but we were lucky enough to show up before the art thieves. A post-modern commentary on the stress of life, it reminds me of how I feel every time I miss a bite. The painting is set on the water, and this can not be a coincidence.
How the hell did that hook pull out?
And so, the evening of Tuesday the 20th, we flew up to Trondheim (pronouced “Trahn-yem”) and got our rental car (a Toyota, not a Fjord) and about a thousand bucks worth of groceries. (Two bags.) We cruised north toward Inderoy (pronounced “Iaend-laaaaaah”) and headed for the hamlet of Vangshylla (pronounced “Cleveland.”) The scenery was spectacular, and the GPS made sure we did not get totally lost, although the best we could do was set it to Irish English, so listening to “Bridget” stumble through the names was a delight. (We always name our GPS units. We had one in France in 2007 – “Fifi” – that apparently hit the Calvados at 3pm every day and would start taking us in a circle until we rebooted her.) As we got close to Vangshylla, the sun poked out, and the countryside had gotten to look like a travel brochure.
Approaching the Vangshylla bridge
Once we found the lodge, we met the host – Claus-Jaan, and a couple of the guides, Phil and Kevin. Everyone had heard of my bizarre quest and they all had ideas on creatures to add to the list. Interestingly, none of the guys were Norwegian. I pretty much unpacked in about 10 minutes, put together a couple of rods, and set to fishing. I didn’t expect to catch anything new from the shore – I have caught most of the North Atlantic ground fish, but I figured I could at least add Norway to my countries list. I went to the end of a long rock jetty and began casting a plastic shad imitation. There were patchy clouds with drizzle here and there, and a rainbow appeared off in the distance. I got a couple of bites, and then, about 10 minutes in, I hooked up on something small. It was a Gray Gurnard, so called because of its red color, something I had not expected at all, and it was species #995. And country #63.
A very ambitious gurnard
The bridge. At 11:15PM.
But the real fun was off the harbor wall as the twilight deepened. It never really got dark, and I played around with small hooks in the harbor while I let a big, smelly piece of bait soak in the deep water outside the rockwall. Several times, the big rod leaned over and screamed out line while I sprinted up the ramp to find that the fish had dropped the bait the minute I got there. In the interim, I started catching small, cod-like critters in the harbor. These turned out to be a small cod relation called “Poor Cod,” common and completely inedible, even to the British. But whatever it tasted like, it was species #996. I hadn’t expected that. Perhaps Norway could be the place?
A Poor Cod. It’s poor because the prices are so high.
Finally, one of the bites stayed on until I could race up the gangway and set the hook. It turned out to be a large haddock, an incredibly slimy fish which is also known as a “snotty.” The British think they are good to eat. Of course, the British boil almost everything, so I felt just fine releasing him to fight another day. (I had caught haddock previously, in New Hampshire and Maine.)
A haddock. Don’t eat this.
As evening wore on, it got dimmer but stayed twilight, and I got one more ferocious hit off in the fjord. This was a different fight – much more head shaking and even a few small runs. I scrambled down on to the rocks to land it, and I caught myself saying those wonderful words – “What the hell is that?” It was a shark of some type, about 3 feet long, with an odd pattern of small circles along the flanks, big green eyes, and a black mouth. It was a Blackmouth Catshark, species #997 – somehing I might have expected from deep water, but certainly not from the shore. I took plenty of photos, then finally went inside to sleep a few hours before the serious fishing started in the morning.
Blackmouth Cat Shark
I would like to think I finally stopped – at 2am – because I wanted to go inside and keep Marta company, but she had gone to bed hours before. The simple truth is, I ran out of bait.