The Evolution of the Norwegian Flyfishers’ Club
I first came to Norway as a youngster more than 35 years ago – the Gaula was the first river I fished and immediately fell in love with the river and some of the magnificent and seductive pools in the Storen area. I’ve fished various parts of the river every year since then. During those first years I stayed for several weeks and then latterly for the whole season. I have fished all the named rivers in Norway from the very south to the Border Rivers to Finland, Russia and Sweden in the north, and there have been forays to almost all Atlantic salmon countries around the globe. For all that the Gaula is still very much “home”.

Manfred Raguse fishes the Gaula since the early 70’s…

During the first years on the Gaula I loved to fish a fly only section where I lived in a tent pitched in a little forest close to the river. The fishing was run by the local fishing association and only two day tickets were sold to visitors. As the tickets were sold on a first come, first served basis one had to be at the front of the queue when the kiosk opened in the morning. For a number of years I achieved this by sleeping in front of the kiosk after my nights fishing! This was on the stairs between the two waste bins where the wasps were very active chasing around the discarded ice cream paper wrappers!

After a few years this rule was changed and the two non-resident cards were sold to the winners of a daily lottery. The first time I tried to get one of these tickets there were 42 other hopeful anglers – and I seem to never win in games like this. I went away in a bitter mood telling myself that the only answer was to have my own water. This was the basis for my leases, which a few years later became a reality.

old nfc logo
At that time I was writing regularly for fishing magazines, covering technique and tactics for salmon and sea-trout, plus environmental issues. I often was asked by readers where I fished and if they could join me. Based on this I started to lease a nice beat on the on the Laerdal River in the early ‘80s. This was on a weekly basis for almost half of the season – having paying guests with me. Admittedly my ten and-a-half years of further high school and university education were combined with approximately five months of solid fishing per year (happy days!). My income during this time was generated by importing and selling fishing tackle and guiding some of my readers on fly fishing trips to water I had leased. From 1978 onwards I was running fly fishing courses for salmon.

I got my first lease on the Gaula in 1985 on a small piece of river. From there through 1988 I expanded the operation by adding selective fly water to the portfolio. 1988 was also the year I, along with a few friends, founded the Norwegian Flyfishers Club.

A great day catch in 1991. Only on this day we caught 6 fish over 27 ½ pound. The largest fish caught on the Tweed that year during the 11 month season weighed 27 ½ pound.

Short stretches of river belonging to small farms are the norm in Norway. As a rule such pockets of water are far too small to provide the quality needed for visiting anglers. It was very hard work arranging leases with a large number of riparian owners in order to gather together large enough stretches of attractive fly-water to offer visiting rods.

Today the NFC arranges exclusive private fishing for a maximum of 26 to 30 rods on approximately 40 pools on the Gaula, some of which exceed 350 yards in length. Salmon enthusiasts from a minimum of 22 countries around the globe come every year to fish the NFC beats. Our fishing’s are well distributed over a large part of the Gaula, covering the upper river, the middle reaches, and the lower part of the river below the Gaulfossen. This enables us to ensure best chances to catch salmon under all conditions, during all parts of the season and to provide a maximum of variety.

The Storen Hotel has been catering for international salmon anglers for more than 100 years and is the most convenient place to stay if you fish with the NFC, or on other beats on the Gaula. The hotel, the only hotel for about 40 km in each direction, has 32 double rooms and is styled to the liking of fishermen and hunters. The hotel has been in our ownership since 2001. Whilst the Storen Hotel is the most convenient accommodation for our fishers, we also have four lodges for clients who prefer the self-catering option. A chef and/or a housekeeper can be arranged at extra cost.

Fishing on the Gaula has been good in recent years - we have experienced several record seasons since the start of the new millennium, with the annual rod catch being as high as up to 50 tons during the short three-month season. This was even before the NASF initiated a five-year buyout of the fjord nets came into being in 2005. The agreement was with bag-netters who accounted for over 80% of the run entering the Trondheim Fjord. These net fishermen are compensated for not using their right to fish, and many more salmon are being allowed to run into the rivers of the Trondheim Fjord. Of the fish entering the fjord, 28-30% of the run is destined for the Gaula. This is why the Gaula is not only the most productive river in the Trondheim Fjord, but was also the most productive angling river in Norway in 2005 and 2006. In those two years the Gaula produced more fish to rod and line than even the mighty Tana River, which is ten times longer.

With the removal of 80% of the bag nets in the Trondheim Fjord we should see the runs improve even further. Hence we are sure that the near future for the Gaula looks very bright. We hope that this buyout is seen as a successful pilot project that inspires other regions of Norway to run similar schemes.

Manfred Raguse with a superb salmon…

We encourage catch and release on the NFC beats and we are certainly the operation which releases more fish than anyone else in this river - probably in Norway. The release rate last season was as high as 39% of all fish caught on our water.

I have been very much engaged in salmon conservation and I started to write for fishing magazines in the seventies and have published a number of articles on salmon biology and conservation. At this time the drift netting along the Norwegian coast and the outbuilding for hydro-electric purposes were the main threats against the Atlantic salmon stocks. I’ve had articles published in Germany and Sweden and my first article in The Atlantic Salmon Journal was published in 1979, calling for a boycott against Norway if the country fails to stop the drift netting for salmon. It was published as the editorial in both in English and French language and was titled “Boycott Seems Unavoidable”. I have as well published articles against the outbuilding of rivers for hydro-electric purposes, e.g. "Deadly Threat against the Alta River" (1979), and "The Alta Is Not Yet Lost" (1981) in "Der Fliegenfischer".

I have been working closely with the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF) and Orri Vigfusson since its early days, and I am one of the founder members of the first German Salmon Conservation organisation “LMS”, which is working for the reintroduction of salmon into the historic German salmon rivers. The NFC has supported Trout Unlimited (Canada) and the Flyfishers’ Club in London, and I am a long standing member of the latter.

Early Stepps of the NASF – 1994 – Orri’s first visit at the NFC on the Gaula - from l. to r. Mortan Carlsson, Manfred Raguse, Orri Vigfusson

Over the years, I have produced six films about our fishery; the last three are called "Flyfishing in Norway", "A Fisherman's Dream" and "Salmon of a Lifetime". All these three films are still available and are the perfect introduction to the NFC experience.

by Manfred Raguse

Gaula’s history as a fishing river,
written by Manfred Raguse
As early as 1440 there were written reports about salmon fishing in the Gaula. The salmon fishing rights were used for validation of properties. Custom papers dating back to 1571 show that there has long been a lively export of smoked and salted salmon from Trondheim to Denmark and Holland. A lot of different equipment like nets, spears and the like was used during those days to catch salmon.

Fishing with rod and line is known to have been in use a long way back in time, but did not become really important before 1825 when the first English fishers with greenheart fly rods, silk lines and salmon flies laid the foundations for sport fishing for salmon on the Gaula. Some travelled by boat to Kristiania (now Oslo) and were using coach and horses to get up to Storen and the Storen Hotell, the center of the Gaula valley, crossing the Dovre mountains on their way. Most of them came by boat to Trondheim and from there they had only a short journey to the valley of the Gaula. After the railway from Oslo to Trondheim was built in 1864, and the railway line from Trondheim to Röros was established in 1877, it was easier to access different parts of the Gaula valley.

In 1835 Mr. Andrews and other English fishers stayed and fished around Storen. At a farm up stream of Storen an English House right on the river bank was finally built in 1837, after English fishers had been fishing there for some years. The lease on this water, which includes the original and now fully renovated English House, is held today by the Norwegian Flyfishers Club (NFC) and is a cosy place for small parties to stay. The NFC has many other leases of beautiful fly water along the course of the Gaula which has been known from historic times and which is fished nowadays by some of the most passionate English fly fishers. The Storen Hotel which has been catering for international salmon anglers for more than one hundred years is now owned by the NFC.

After the early fly fishers – like Mr. Rogers and Mr. Hunt – experienced such fantastic fishing on the Gaula catching 266 salmon within 26 days in 1848 – more and more fly fishers appeared began to appear. Often the wealthy British came with a lot of relatives, friends and servants. Many came back year after year. One of them was John Gordon who did virtually come every summer, from 1860 until he died in 1899. He fished the Bogen water and lived during his first years on the Bogen Farm. On several other farms various English tenants lived during the summer, hiring the services of the farmers for guiding, transport, cooking etc. and contributed important income to the riparian owners. The pilgrimage of English fly fishers to the Gaula - “perhaps the best Salmon river in Norway” continued until World War I.

In the well known book, the Jones Guide to Norway, edited by Frederic Tolfrey and published in 1848, the Gaula is described as follows: “It is not only renowned in Norway, but its fame has spread far and wide, and it is held by all who have visited it, to be one of the noblest streams in which the Salmon-fisher ever wetted a line. Wondrous has been the sport met with by our Countrymen; and, to this day, the Guul (Gaula) is remembered by them with feelings that none but a real lover of the Art can enter into or appreciate”. The same book reports about a Mr. Hornden who landed a thirty- pounder after he had to follow it swimming over to the other bank: “This is a fact worthy of being recorded, and adds, if possible, to the celebrity Mr. Hornden has gained for himself as a first-class Salmon fisher. This gentleman has been known to kill three hundred weight of fish on the Guul (Gaula) in two days.” Jones Guide to Norway closes with the words: “May we meet on the banks of the Guul (Gaula), the Namsen or the Alten (Alta)… and drink success to Salmon-fishing in general, and to the Jones Guide to Norway in particular.