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March 6, 2010

Hemsila - home of the big brownies!!!

"The salmon is the King of the river - and the grayling are the Queen" - somebody once said to me, and that is a statement I can live with. But what about the "brown beauties"?? - where do they fit in?? - To me the Brown trout must be the Prince of the river, with it's fantastic red doted patterns and royal elegance. It never fails to amaze me - I simply love this beautiful fish, no doubt about that. They are always a challenge, never easy - especially the bigger one's can make the most experienced fly fisher frustrated.
Here is a story about frustration on completely different level, a story about what it really means to be a fly fisher in real life.

Some years ago I went to Hemsedal to write an article about this fascinating place.
Normally Hemsedal is known for it's skiing and winter activities, but Hemsedal is much more than that, especially the potential for brown trouts - big brown trouts!!!.
Hemsila, the river that runs trough the city of Hemsedal, has a huge potential for giving fly fishers, a very good experience indeed.

I heard about this river from a swedish guy, I met when I was fly fishing for Steelheads in BC (British Columbia). He told stories about huge brown trout's rising for may flies. But he also explained how difficult the circumstances were, when it came to fly fishing for these big brownies. My curiosity was immediately awakened. I had to find out what this place was all about. It was time to do some serious fly fishing research - Where to stay? - Where to live? - Where to get a fishing license? - What fly's to use? - When the hatching was at it's highest? - How to approach these difficult brownies? - I simply had to visit this place, the sooner the better!!!
The internet had helped me before in situations like this one, so of course I went right home, turned on my PC and "dived right into" the "World Wide Web".

One person kept on showing up in Googles search engine - "Mr. Brown trout himself" - Tor Grøthe.
Tor Grøthe grew up in this place, and I found out that he were running a guide company and at the same time he could offered different kinds of accommodation - perfect packaged solution - everything in one place.
As we started our mail communication regarding my trip up there, I quick sensed that Tor was the perfect person to get in contact with, if you wanted to know more about the fly fishing scene in Hemsila.

After a short while I booked two weeks in one of Tor Grøthes Norwegian wooden cabins - and a always when I plan my fishing trips, I have a really hard time waiting for it to happen, I am usually ready to go right away!!! - But as wise person once have said - "patience is a virtue" !!! - so I just had to wait for a couple of - MONTHS!!!!!!
(Life is hard - and then you die!!! - as you know :O)

Well anyway time went by, and suddenly I was sitting in my car with my daughter, on my way to Hemsedal. Two weeks of excellent fly fishing, for the "beautiful brown Prince" of river Hemsila, were ahead of me.
We arrived on a beautiful and sunny day, met up with Tor and his kind wife, where they gave us the key to our new home for the next fourteen days. Everything were just perfect. I arranged a quick sandwich and then down to the river, to have a look, before it got to dark.

The river looked fantastic, I already saw several nice brownies raising for fly's in the surface. I couldn't wait for tomorrow, the first day of my new fishing license.
Life was great, super and sublime!!! :O)
It was hard to sleep, listening the river, so close to where I was lying - but I came trough the first night. Do I have to write that I was ready - before sun set!!!! - more than ready!!! :O)

Finally I had my first cast to a rising trout in Himsila, and it was a moment full of joy and expectation. I saw rising fish all over, and heard the splashes. Some of them were impressing big brownies. In a kind of lazy manner, they came from underneath the drifting flies, on the surface, and then they just swallowed every fly within reach - very fascinating to watch.
BUT!!! - they never touched any of my flies!!!!???? - several hours like that went by. I became desperate, frustrated and kind of angry - not at all the right mood, if you want approach these difficult fish.
After a while I met a couple of guys who was walking by, we started talking about this fascinating place, and I mentioned my problems to them. Then one of them said " well you are in Hemsila, if you can catch fish here, you can catch fish anywhere"!!!!.
This gave me a perspective of the situation, it wasn't an easy catch like I was used to from Austria. How the fly was presented and how long and thick your leader was, compared to the fish you wanted to approach. But most important were the fly. You had to make absolutely sure that your fly wasn't sinking at all. It had to float and drift in a very natural way, otherwise the fish didn't even look at it. After the smallest disturbance, you had to dry your fly and make sure it was floating perfect. This was a very different approach - you really had to think every little detail through. It was Hemsila, and it meant difficult fishing for big brown trouts.

After a whole day's fishing without even the smallest pull in my flies, I returned to our cosy wooden hut - tired, depressed and disillusioned. 
In the evening Tor came by, I told the result of my day, and he just smiled big time :O)
Next day we agreed that he would show me some tips and tricks, I couldn't wait.

Raising fish - every fly fishers dream!!

We meet up after breakfast, I was full of expectations and felt very motivated, now that I had Tor as my trout-mentor, by my side.
As we got ready to leave, the weather was changing, it was getting colder, and dark rain clouds were gathering in the sky.
When we came down to the river, it began to rain, first slowly and light. But then it started to pore down massively, and we simply had to give up our fishing plans for the rest of the day. This was the end of my second day.
All night it rained, and I woke up by the sound of heavy rain on the windows, it rained all that day as well.
It kept on raining for the next 6 days straight, not just rain, strong heavy rain, I had never seen anything like that before. The friendly crystal clear river had changed into a muddy monster, with a roaring sound of a constant thunder. It was scary yet fascinating to watch this scenery, mother nature went crazy in a few days.
But it didn't stop after those 6 days, a small break came, and a single whole in the sky showed up for half an hour, and then it began to rain again, this time even more violent than before. At midday it became as dark as in the middle of the night, and fishing was not a option at all.
It rained, and rained and rained for another 5 days, everything was turned into chaos. The local camping were under water, the river had simply disappeared and the military was send in to help the local community - the river had turned into an ocean!!!.
A "40 years flom" - as they called it up there in Hemsedal. the worst rain storm in 40 years.
Who said that these brown trouts would be an easy catch?

The river had turned into an ocean!!

Rain, rain and more rain!!!

Rain - Waiting! - Patience - Rain!!

Dangerously high water level.


Once a river - now an ocean!!


Difficult to keep your dry flies dry!!

After 12 days straight with heavy rain, and very cold weather, it slowly cleared up. The water level was beyond every imagination - witch off course made fishing nearly impossible.
The end of my trip to Hemsedal was a reality and the last day Tor and I arranged one last trip to the river. Trough all of my stay in Hemsedal, Tor had struggled to give me positive fishing experience, but these weather conditions made it completely impossible, you can't fight a 40 years flom. But I must say he really tried!! 

The sorcerer and his apprentice!!!

When we arrived to the river the last afternoon, it was beautiful weather and very quiet, witch felt strange after all these days, with a heavy rain storm going on. First thing I noticed  was that a big hatching were going on, it was perfect conditions - finally - but still with a very high water level.
Tor showed me how to approach these shy "Hemsila brown's" - and it was fascinating to watch how he caught several brown trouts, with no struggle at all. Impressing skills!!!. I learnd more that last evening from Tor, that I have learned for several years fishing for brown trouts. Tor simply is Mr. brown trout himself !!!!! :O)

Mr. Brown trout himself.

That last evening, I had a fantastic experience - everything came together, and Hemsila "smiled at me" for the first time in 14 days, but what a smile it was. 
I hopefully one day will return to Hemsedal, to challenge it's big brownies again, and if I do, I will cross my fingers (and toes) that the weather Gods will give me a chance to really explore this fascinating place, an learn much more about this amazing fly fishing scene.
And when it comes to choosing a guide, there is only one choice - Mr. Brown trout himself - Tor Grøthe :O)

If you want to get in touch with Tor Grøthe - here is a link to his website:

Tight lines

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