Cod, Aurora And Quarantine
On the 10th of March ten very keen sea anglers from Burnham Boats Sea Angling Association set off for a week’s fishing to the lovely island of Skjervøy in Norway in search of the big skrei cod. Little did they realise how their fjord adventures would finish.
Despite everyone being slightly over the baggage limit at Heathrow we managed to check-in with SAS, Scandinavian Airlines, without any problems. Everyone picked up their duty free rations and I’m sure if everyone knew what was in store for this holiday we would have bought a couple more bottles.
After a delicious cooked English breakfast we boarded the plane and took off for Oslo where we would catch another flight to Tromsø. A visit to the bar dealt with the waiting time for the connecting flight. A warning of things to come was the sight of two fellow Chinese passengers on the Tromsø leg wearing face masks.
The view from the plane was stunning, looking down on the snowy mountains and the flowing fjords of Norway. You couldn’t ask for a better sight out of the plane windows, absolutely breathtaking. We touched down after the flight of one hour and fifty minutes, a smooth flight albeit with a bumpy landing. We were greeted with a temperature of -4OC, a big drop from the UK.
En Route To Skjervøy
Collecting our suitcases and the two rod bazookas we hopped on a bus into Tromsø city centre where we had a walk around the local town and admired the local shops. The fishing and hunting shop attracted us before we grabbed a bite to eat at Burger King, two hundred fifty too three hundred NOK, around £30, for a meal was a shock to the system.
We waited until 16:00hrs for the fast ferry to take us to our final destination, Skjervøy Fish Camp. A two hour steam, with regular stops to drop and uplift passengers en route, saw us arrive at Skjervøy We were met by Frank who works at the fish camp. With the ground covered by snow up to our shins we arrived at our cabins and settled in nicely. Little did we know that this is where we would stay not just for one week but for two weeks.
Despite the long journey and the onset of tiredness the anticipation of fishing had us all getting the gear ready for the next day on the Norwegian fjords. Cabins and boat groups were sorted with Nigel Devey, James Devey and Martin Quinn in the first group, Andy Georgiou, Anthony Georgiou, Pete Watson and Liam Batt made up the second and the final crew would comprise Chris Lindsay, Andy Reeves, and Dave Teather. With everything sorted we all decided to get some shut eye and wake up early and get out fishing.
Off To See Reindeer
The first day saw us up bright and early, the weather was absolutely lovely not a breath of wind as we headed straight out to a mark called Reindeer about twenty miles out.
All the boats had plenty of fish over double figures. Liam beat his personal best with a 32lb cod as did Andy Georgiou with a beauty of a cod weighing in at 52lb. As the week progressed we managed a couple of days out on the Reindeer mark but nothing to brag about although on one of the days James hooked into a big fish only to lose it. A couple of other lads also lost some big fish as well not to mention Andy who tried in vain to steer Chris’s cod of 35 lb to 40lb closer to the boat to grab it for him as it was very lightly hooked while Dave was trying to find the hand gaff. The hook came out and the cod headed back down into the deep of the Norwegian fjords Chris was gutted.
Martin Lands A Halibut
Thursday arrived and with little reward over the previous two days we woke up to a glistening sight of a winter wonderland as we had a heavy snow fall over night. As the sun gleamed over the mountains reflecting off the snow fish eagles hovered over the camp in search of food, an incredible sight.
We headed out to Yokafjord, a place well known in Skjervøy and around the world where many well known anglers have fished including the legend John Wilson and Dave Lewis. Big cod and halibut are known to inhabit this area. Despite our efforts the catches were average but a stop on the way back to camp saw Martin land the first halibut, only 6lb 2oz but a start. Later, worsening weather limited us to the back of the island but even here conditions were not great.
Friday saw us decide to stay ashore and have a walk down town. Our outing was cut short when Frank arrived in a panic to advise us that we had to return to our cabins immediately. With our squad having arrived via Tromsø there was concern following reports of cases around there. We were told that were not allowed to be in contact with others or with any of the Skjervøy community under threat of legal action. The local doctor arrived to give us a brief and to check if we were all fine.
I called Martin, who runs Angler’s World and he advised me that we would be under a 14 day quarantine. This meant that instead of returning home at the end of the week we would be here until the 24th of March. Not only were we unable to return home but we couldn’t use the boats either. The holiday was turning into a nightmare, despite this Martin and Angler’s World were outstanding making us feel safe and keeping us informed of the constantly changing situation.
We couldn’t ask for a better place to be under these conditions as the Skjervøy fish camp workers, Manta, Joanne and Frank did a brilliant job looking after us. They provided shopping for us and tried to keep our minds and bodies occupied, even providing sledges for use in the snow.
Martin managed to convince the Skjervøy commune, the local authority, that we would be no danger to anyone at sea and we were given permission to use the boats again. The agreement was that we would stick together when out because if something happened to us no one would be able to retrieve us or rescue us. We hadn’t used the boats for a couple of days and were hoping the weather would give us a break but as it was still windy it didn’t look like we would get out.
We celebrated Andy’s 61st birthday and the weather finally broke on Friday the 20th.
Commune Permitted Day
We headed out intending to fish back at Yokafjord deteriorating weather saw us divert back to Skjervøy, underneath the bridge, where all three boats caught couple cod and there were some decent haddock up to 7lb. We were battling the snowy blizzards as rods and reels became layered with ice. It really can get to extreme fishing out here in Norway but no matter how hard it got we all managed to catch at least something. A hard day but good to be out.
After dinner Manta, the lady who had been taking great care of us, advised us that the Northern Lights were on the show. Thanks to Manta we had an amazing glimpse of the aurora above Skjervøy. People pay a lot of money to see sights like these so we were very privileged to view this magical scene.
Despite the aurora uplift we were all listening to the worsening virus news we were all missing our loved ones and couldn’t wait to get home.
Winter Fishing Challenges
Saturday arrived and we headed out starting to steam to a local halibut mark in the middle of the fjords but once again the wind was still a tad breezy so we decided to try a couple of marks just off the Skjervøy island in search for the king of flatfish and cod using 250g blue and pink sidewinder sandeels. After a couple of hours it was clear that it was going to be a hard day’s fishing with the westerly wind pushing us all over the place with up to twelve mile per hour and gusts up to twenty-six miles per hour.
It is certainly a challenge in the winter months, if you cant get out in the open sea then the fish are hard to come by unless you are lucky. The tides also play a big part on the fish biting so if you ever go to Skjervøy or any other island areas such as Lofoten, Bodø or Sørøya make sure to take advice on the best tides. Big running tides tend to produce a lot more fish as we have learnt over the last fifteen years of visiting this beautiful place in Skjervøy.
With the day ending we soon made our way back to the fish camp for food and drink and a good nights rest after a hard days fishing with nothing decent to talk about. The last day was around the corner and we couldn’t be any more pleased and we were eager to get home.
News Of Trip Home
We received confirmation that we would be taking a four hour coach trip to Tromsø on Tuesday morning to catch our two forty-five flight with SAS to Oslo airport. We would hopefully pass through security with no problems. Fingers crossed as the Norwegian military were in control.
Our thirteenth day in isolation dawned and we were all doing our best to keep occupied and stick together at this horrible time as business close worldwide. Tomorrow is our last day before we say goodbye to this beautiful island filled with caring and wonderful people. I’m sure none of us will forget how the camp staff had looked after us not to mention Helene the women in charge of Skjervøy commune who made drastic decisions to help us get by. All food and drink was paid for so there was no worrying about money which we was all very grateful for we couldn’t thank everyone enough.
Final Day At Sea
In calm conditions on Monday we headed down to the boats, shovelled all the snow off and made our way out. A call from Martin around nine in the morning confirming that the flight to Oslo was on but that we need to find accommodation in Oslo for two days with the help of the Embassy as our London flight had been cancelled. The next possible flight was at seven in the morning on Thursday with British Airways.
After an hour or two of fishing the cod mark Chris’ crew decided to head back into Skjervøy fish camp while the other two boats decided to make the most of the remaining time. The crews were rewarded for their persistence with cod to 48lb. All the lads caught decent fish and everyone was worn out hauling fish from eighty to hundred twenty metres depth of water. The light was beginning to fade and it was time to get back to the fish camp as we needed to clean the boats down and pack everything ready for tomorrow.
The fishing was hard work at times with the weather but we still managed to catch some excellent fish on the trip.
Unexpected Swedish Trip
It was an early start tomorrow morning so when we finished packing we soon hit the sack for some shut eye.
Everyone was up bright and early at five o’clock ready to make our journey to Tromsø airport with everyone on board the coach we drove for about twenty five minutes through the mountain tunnels admiring the beautiful landscapes. Our driver suddenly pulled to the side of the road with a loud beeping noise and the emergency light was flashing on the dash. We thought surely nothing more can go wrong and fortunately a roadside repair to the power steering got us back underway without the necessity of a change of coach.
The breath taking views of the Norwegian landscape are amazing as the mountains, snow covered trees and frozen expanses of water temporarily took our minds off the virus. Tromsø airport it was like a ghost town as we quickly boarded and headed to Oslo. We collected our luggage and had a word with an acquaintance of mine, Jennifer, on the SAS desk. With couple of phone calls she soon worked her magic and gave us the good news we all been waiting for. We were to fly out the next day to Stockholm and then home to London. Jennifer organised food vouchers and an overnight stay in the Clarion Hotel so we didn’t have hang about in the airport over night.
Everyone finally had a smile on their face knowing that we were finally going home.
Home Sweet Home
With an early start we were aboard the Stockholm flight where we landed late morning and transshipped to our SAS London flight just before noon.
After a two hour and twenty minute flight it was good to see the UK as we finally touched down.
What an experience its been for the 10 of us anglers it was a struggle but we got there in the end and we can not wait to see our families so one weeks fishing went into two weeks we was also very well looked after by the Norwegians with plenty of food and drink and SAS Scandinavian airlines done there fully best to get us home as well as Anglers world (Martin) we are very grateful and last but not least we had visited two different countries.
The group and I would all like to wish anyone isolated over the globe away from there homes a safe and pleasant journey back also thanks to all the lads for bearing with me for sorting things out this really is a trip we will never forget.
I hope you enjoyed our journey and thanks for following it along with us.