Search This Blog

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Trip to Lofoten, Norway!

Arrived a couple of days ago from the Lofoten Archipelago in Northern Norway and I'll try and give a good account of my fishing there.
I was with my girlfriend (now fiancee) and we stayed in Henningsvaer, Sorvagen and Stronstad, thus covering a wide area of the main islands. We had booked 2 days on boats, one in Svolvaer with a guide and another one without guide at the end of the road in A, near where the famous Moskenstraumen maelstrom is.
I was pretty confident on the boat fishing as Norway is renown for it but I was finding very little info on the shore fishing of the area. Nevertheless, my main targets were the big coalfish and of course the cod.
With the help of Google Earth and various bottom contour maps, I marked down all the fishy-looking areas I saw and the plan was to just fish them hard and keep moving in run-and-gun style.
I had 5 rods and 3 reels covering from Light Game up to 400g lures.
I used the Light Game setup (MajorCraft Crostage CRX-784LG, Stradic 1000fc) mostly in harbours and freshwater, while the Gamakatsu Akilas Mobile 80H - Biomaster SW 4000XG was my main setup in most other 'wilder' areas.
The first couple days of the trip had us looking for sheltered spots as there were strong SW winds and significant swells. Light Game was king and I even managed to sight fish for codling under a shallow pier. The water clarity up there is unbelievable! As the winds passed it was time to try some deeper rocky marks with the heavier gear but despite my efforts, there didn't seem to be much life there.
Marks that id be pulling fish after fish over here, seemed to be unexpectedly empty...
Took me some more exploring and it wasn't until I started targeting areas with strong flows and mixed soft bottom, that the fish started coming. In contrast to the deep rock marks, these areas with strong flows (bridges, harbour entrances) seemed to have all the fish stacked into them!
Big shoals of chunky coalies and some Jumbo mackerel near the surface along with decent codling, whiting and haddock at the bottom, responded well in a variety of lures. Metals and topwaters for the coalies and mackerel while metals and cheburashka-rigged slim paddletails for the rest gave me hours of entertainment!

Sight fished codling.

From a deep harbour.

Loads of biters like this one.

My first haddock. Actually a much prettier fish than the pic shows...

Jumbo mackies were crazy.

Chunky coalies.

Codling from a breakwater.

Good fun on light game gear.

In spite of the good numbers of fish we were getting, the larger fish eluded us and I was hoping that the day out with the guide would help me suss them out.
My fiancee jokingly had me buy her a Norwegian handline with lots of gummy maks and spoons on it, in order to compete with my extensive array of expensive metal and soft plastic lures. On the day, there was still some chop to the water that made our guide Nigel keep closer in the bay than he would like. We drifted over  25-40m deep reefs that were often inundated with jumbo mackerel and baby coalies. Unbelievably I had only a few hook ups on my gear (one very solid fish) but somehow I didn't manage to land anything! The chop was getting to me and at some point I had to bend over and throw up...😵
My fiancee on the other hand, was absolutely killing them with the handline!!! She started off with a couple small ling and then the cod started coming!
By that point, I wasn't feeling well enough to tie a similar rig and I stubbornly (stupidly) persevered with the big metals and sps. After a while, my fiance started getting seasick as well and I took her handline while she was sick. It didn't take a minute and I was in to a nice cod! We landed that fish and after a couple more, we decided to call it a day as we had plenty of fish to feed us for days.
That trip really opened my eyes to how fussy these cod can be when surrounded by vast shoals of baitfish. Goes to show that all the expensive lures cant replicate the success of simple local tactics.
I've previously encountered this behaviour of predators preferring to hit shiny, multiple target presentations, when I was down south in Sark and sometimes the mackerel and garfish would show clear preference to rigs incorporating two lures (ie teasers) while almost ignoring single lure presentations. This was most prevalent when the fish were feeding on dense baitfish shoals.

The handline sorceress...

Such vivid marking on their cod.

She caught ling too!

Borrowed her handline for a minute!

Very hard getting past them.

After Henningsvaer we drove down to Sorvagen where we would be based for the next few days and where I was hoping our fishing would really fire up... And it did!
A few quick casts in Reine pier provided me with some much better coalies that pulled hard on the light Game setup. The next day we visited some of the marks I had noted down and we soon found the better fish.
It was a rocky point at the edge of a deep bay, with considerably more kelp than I had seen in other areas up there...
I was just casting and burning in a 40g slow jig, and got hit as the lure approached the kelp.
the fight was very familiar and soon after I landed a nice pollock (only 2 in the whole trip). The fish unhooked itself before the photo but I kept casting and soon enough got hit again in similar fashion. These fish weren't pollock though and were giving my gear a good workout! A group of coalies averaging 1-3kg were staging off the tip of the point and I was getting fish after fish on the jig. Pure bliss and more like how I imagined Norway fishing to be!

Open water coalies seem darker...

Great fight!

Soon after our arrival at Sorvagen, It was time for our day on the boat, fishing the Moskenstraumen waters. The weather report wasn't showing ideal weather, with the wind being opposite to the tide's direction, something that causes sharply humped waves, but was meant to ease later in the day.
As soon as we got out of the harbour, we saw birds flying and diving all around us. They weren't concentrated over any particular piece of structure, but just following shoals of fish (and feeding coalfish) over a wide area. I saw coalfish smashing on the surface, but despite putting the topwater lures on, I could see that most of the fish were keeping under the bait balls in 20-30m depth. Down went my 180g-250g metal jigs (with an added gummy mak as a teaser this time) and I hooked up first drop! the rod arched over and the fish was pulling hard or were pulling hard as it was two of them at almost every drop. they ranged from 3-6kg most of them and I couldn't believe how much pressure they put on my heavy rod (7'7" Spro Salty Beast Mega Jig/Spin/Boat Traveller). Unfortunately the chop was getting to my girl and with a heavy heart we decided to stop after only being on the water for a couple hours.. I did mange to get some cod too though by landing two of them along with a coalie on each of the rig's hooks!

They were everywhere!

Proper feeding frenzy down there...

I am convinced that it would have been a red letter day had we kept at it and in retrospect we should have just gone out a few hours later as the weather did improve markedly... Instead, we got engaged and went for a coffee and a rock fishing session! 😄
We fished the rocks near A, again simply retrieving 40g metals near the kelp edges.
Here though the fish were of a better size and within a couple hours, I smashed my shore coalfish PB again and again with fish of 3.5kg and 4 kg! I even managed to get some better fish on the topwaters and had a big fish smash the surface lure out of the water but without hooking up...

PB time!

Moskenstraumen at the back...


And another PB...

I went to bed with sore arms that day...
After that day I had a few more sessions on the rocks, mostly trying to get a decent cod, and finally I got a 2.5kg fish from deeper water on a paddletail. Nothing to shout about in Norway but a shore PB for me nonetheless...
Huge head on that cod.

I have to say that if I was going back to Lofoten again, then Id definitely just go near A as the fishing potential of that area alone is huge! Nevertheless, we spent the last few days of our trip near Stronstad at the norther part of Vagan. Thanks to Airbnb we had found a spectacular house in a valley with a whole lake to ourselves and a rowing boat!
We had great fun fishing for brownies and small sea trout amidst unbelievable scenery and surprisingly good weather. It would've been nice if one of them Arctic char found its way to my spoons but I suppose this may be something for the next time...

Plenty of these..

Thus the days passed and I'm now back to wind/rainswept Skye. I have to say though that apart from the areas near A with the big coalies, most other areas I fished weren't really that spectacular fishingwise. As everywhere, the best fishing areas require various factors (current, depth etc) and its not like the whole of Norway is one big fish paradise (more like the notion I had). You still need to get out and search for the fish though the chances of success are far higher than in the UK.
Regarding light game fishing,  the variety is very good and them coalies and jumbo mackies are mad especially when they would hit topwaters so much more readily than over here.
Below are a couple videos (more to be uploaded in my Youtube channel soon) and some footnotes/observations of mine.

Fishing notes for Lofoten.

  • Marks can be all or nothing from shore. Don't waste too much time staying in one.
  • Current and sandy bottom the most important factors to find fish.
  • Deep harbours and piers at the mouths of channels very good areas.
  • Any kelp/seaweed always a good sign, barren rock not so.
  • For coalfish find the bait and use straight retrieves.
  • Add a couple gummy maks as teasers along with your main lure when boat fishing.
  • Around the maelstrom might need jigs of 250g-400g or more to fish effectively over 30-50m. Considerably less around Svolvaer.
  • A 9' heavy spinning/ LSJ rod (15-45g) paired with a 4000-5000 reel and PE1.5 will suit most cases when shore fishing. 
  • The bigger coalies are really more of a pelagic species and far less structure related than pollock. The bait is key thus exposed areas with strong currents will have more of them.
  • White topwaters were taken more keenly.
  • Fishing on the bottom can be slow as rock cod are usually solitary and there aren't many/any wrasse.
  • SWest facing marks usually better than N facing ones.
  • Clashing wind-tide direction at the maelstrom makes for uncomfortable conditions.
  • Follow the birds!

Thank you Norway!

Thursday, 23 August 2018

New developments!

Been a hectic time lately as I've been sorting out quite a few things...
Firstly, I got a SIB!  Been a while now on my list, and I was torn between a kayak or a boat, but in the end my laziness got the hold of me and I decided to get the boat. Its 3.8m (Yam 380S) and got a 10hp 2 stroke Evinrude outboard on it. Had the maiden trip on it the other day and even though conditions were far from ideal, the potential is evident... Just with the Navionics app on my phone, it was very easy to find interesting looking spots and even though I didn't fish much, I found some mackerel. Can't wait to get it out again, though in much better weather conditions and with an electric pump!

It's so much fun!

looking forward to many trips...

Secondly, Ive been having some success with the hookup ratio on my topwaters, due to the treble changes. So far the most successful tweak has been an upgrade in size in both trebles (a couple sizes over), switching the back ones with Owner STY-35MF short shank and the middle one with a ST36RD red treble. I've had purposely used topwaters of 10-12cm as they come out of the box, got hit (but the fish not sticking) and then immediately switched to similar size and profile 'tweaked' lures and the fish hit the middle treble and got hooked in both times. I'm sure this hookup rate won't be 100% positive all the time but every little helps...

The bottom right lure and configuration has worked best..

A superb striker!

Hit the middle (red) treble and the back hook stuck too.

Same thing again after missing 2 strikes with another lure...
And the vids.

Moreover I've bought new rockboots and went for the well known FiveTen Canyoneering model. I've not added any studs to them yet, as to be honest, I haven't felt the need to do so... They grip extremely well to even wet rocks and only feel like they need studs when over kelp and seaweed. Will give them some more rock time and I'll report back with results...

So far so good...

And lastly, Its now only 4 days until my first trip to the Lofoten archipelago in Norway!
I'm going there for 2 weeks with my girlfriend but I've already booked two days on boats and also planning to do plenty of shore fishing as usual. My main targets are cod and coalfish, with the hope that Ill manage to get the latter on topwaters!
Will be taking 5 rods to cover from LRF to heavy pirking and I honestly cant wait to get there!

Prep time...

XXHeavy HRF Jika rig...
 A bit of a mish mash of a report but there's a lot going on at the moment and not much time... Hopefully, the next blog will be from Norway and the monsters of the North...

Tight Lines!

Thursday, 9 August 2018

They're back!

Had a great day yesterday with the return of the fishing-mad Geordies from last year! The day also saw us catch the first mackerel of the year and I'm so glad they're finally in!
We started the day around 06:30 in a shallow bay hoping for a topwater bite. The lads have been here since the weekend and the weather hadn't been kind to them. Constant Southwesterlies and rain made fishing hard for them but yesterday the wind died down and I was hoping that the fish would be up for it. There seemed to be some bait in the bay keeping very close to the shore and I am not sure if it affected things but despite our efforts, the topwater stuff wasn't happening...
Change of plans and on went the softplasics and metals, and we were soon catching.
The fish were surprisingly deep in the morning and the bites relatively slow. It could be that most fish were concentrated where the bait was but we persisted at our spot and soon enough things got better.
It was only Keith and Mick over this time and they were both hooking into average fish in turns thus keeping me busy with the net. Mick was working mostly metals while Keith had softplastics on and the fish showed an equal preference in the morning. They were both kitted out with new ''finnessy'' rods and that made a difference on the day as the bites were more often gentle taps.
On the day we tried 3 marks and caught fish in all of them. The last mark was a sheltered, deep water  rock-wall and it was there that Mick lost a big fish at our feet (unhooked itself on the rocks!) and soon after Keith got the best fish of the day. We were seeing lots of sandeels around and the Fiiish Crazy Sandeel matched the hatch well!
By that time I had to go but the lads kept fishing and by the time I arrived home, Keith had gone and caught an even better fish!
Below some pics of the day.

Nice pic for Keith

A decent one for Mick.

Keith's in!

Mick's in!

Slab of bronze.

Hello there!

Best fish of the day to Keith!

And an even better one after I left!!

I was elated that the lads managed to get such a great day after the tough few days they had..
August is usually very unsettled here but now that the mackerel are in, its time for some light gear fun!
Great to see and guide the lads again and Skye showed its colours once more. Pity that the fish weren't up for the topwater bite, especially since I've changed trebles to all my lures and needing to test the treble configurations, hopefully will get some settled weather to do that soon...

Tight Lines!