Thursday, September 20, 2007

Diving Falcons and Trout Fishing

Diving Falcons and Trout Fishing
The summer of 2007,
somewhere in Northern-Norway


A cowboy rooky

I had been driving quite a bit over the last few days and I was getting tired. I parked the car and crawled out. I took out the pack and the fishing rod to prepare for the hike.

Behind me was a flock of cattle, from newborn calves to old bulls. I looked at them, and then at my dad’s relatively new and shiny Saab. I put the pack and the rod into the car again and parked a bit further away.

I’ve seen lots of cattle in my life, but I’m no cowboy so I’m a little unsure how they react if I go close to them when they have newlyborns in the flock. I would feel more comfortable around moose. They are more aggressive, especially when they have kids, but at least I know what to expect.

The marsh was at the other side of the flock and that’s where the trail starts. I didn’t want any bush-and-marsh-acrobatics so I decided to walk right by them. As I would do with relatively friendly wild animals, I strolled slowly to not scare anyone, avoided eye contact and tried to seem interested in the grass they were feeding on.

One thing I have found with grass-eating animals, whether they are tame or wild, is this: if they are eating bushes or greens they get more comfortable around you if you do the same. I stick some grass or leaves in my mouth and chew on it. If you swallow or just take it carefully out they won’t notice. If you’re there for the same reason as they are, you’re not there to kill them, and they’ll continue eating.

So I walked slowly, looking at the vegetation.

I know cows don’t like my laughter from experience. You can honk your horn, roar your engine and shout and they won’t even look at you! But if I cry out my loud and evil “ghost laughter” they do run. So I had a secret weapon!

Most of the flock had by now fixed their eyes on me. There were a couple of big bulls I didn’t trust, and I was pretty close to some of the youngsters. Any responsible moose mother would have tried to kill me by now. But cattle aren’t that bad!
(I hoped…)

One of the cows standing quite close started to look nervous, and I could see the knees shaking a bit. I took note and slowed down, still looking carefully down and slightly to the side in case someone got angry.

But, no.

I didn’t feel too sure about them, though I have no idea what they thought about me. The nervous one started running. And then the others won’t question it. The decision is made! The small human with the fishing rod is dangerous!

So there I was, trying to be as nice and anonymous as I possibly could and the whole flock ran off the other way!



The marsh was dry and I cut right over it instead of following the path around. I missed the track on the other side, came a bit too low and had to cross uphill to find back to it. It was nice. It struck me how many times I had been here and just followed the trail. This is where some of my nicest fishing memories come from, and this hike is my sole definition on a little trip with the most magnificent view for the least effort. And then I realized…

*@#€&*”%&!! This year I had planned to bring the camera. But I was too sleepy to bother to turn around.


The lake

I got two nice trouts, quite big for this lake, but not much more than 200 grams. People don’t usually think it’s fish here, cause they think the lake is so small that it freezes to ice down to the bottom in the winter. But there’s a deep pocket down there somewhere. And I think I know where.
There is no stream connecting this lake to any other lake or stream, so the fish can’t get up here the natural way. But, ssssh… Be quiet about it! My grandfather and one of his buddies carried fish up here, in milk-buckets from the farms, a few decades ago. And the fish has reproduced ever since.

When people ask in disbelief: “do you really get anything up there?” I just answer “njaa, weeel, just a few small ones…” And I’m not lying. But hopefully it can help keeping the crowds off the spot for a few more decades. Besides, it’s too far to walk for lazy dynamite-fishers. (No, it’s not legal.)

The fact of the matter is that even though the fish is small it’s strong, and its will to fight is fantastic. It’s not easy to catch, but if you know the spot it’s not hard, and it’s amazing fun. It was up here I had the possibility to develop my fishing-skills alone in my teens. So the memories are strong.

The place is located on a nice little mountain-ridge. You walk up a long slight hill. First amongst trees, then scattered low vegetation, then it’s just moss and some rock. The lake is at the top and the colour that reflects the most in the lake is the colour of the sky. It’s a typical place where you would consider lures with blue and light colours, or just break off totally and choose the wildest contrast. The lure I’ve caught the most fish on up here is a ridiculous contrast. But I’m not telling you which one.

I stood there and pulled in the line. On the opposite side of the lake there’s a tiny outlet where water will run out if the lake is full enough. Then the terrain drops down into the valley. When you look at it, it looks like water with a few rocks at the end, and then nothing. Just open air for several kilometres before your vision crashes into the next mountain. This night it was particularly beautiful and I thought about my camera. But then I realised how hard it was to capture. To really get the picture of how it’s like you need a really wide angle. And my computer screen wouldn’t do. You’d have to enlarge it to fit a wall; at least. Maybe I would just ruin it? Maybe you can make better mental images? And maybe I’ll remember it better this way? Maybe it will be clearer in my mind and not on my Mac…
And I slowly started to realize that God had spared me from making what I love too cheap, and I was thankful to soak in the scenery once more, knowing that the pictures in my head will be even more precious now.


The Falcons

An elderly couple was out on a late night walk and came by to look at the fish I had caught. Something happened to the wind and the light. Nothing big, and I can’t remember what it was anymore, but no more fish bit after that. Stubborn as I am I tried for a little while longer before I packed up my gear. I’m up here at the most only once a year so I stay in the hope of another catch as long as I can.

The top of the ridge is just an arrowshot uphill, and I walked up there. I don’t know how high it is, but the drop at the backside is probably around 500 meters, more or less right down into the sea. It’s a fantastic sight and you can see the sea at almost every side, interrupted by islands, tall mountains, hills, valleys and small settlements. On the other side of the mountain plateau there is a similar drop. A vast valley creates the plateau, but each side stops brutally in steep cliffs leading right down into the fjords. I climbed down to a tiny shelf on the opposite ridge once. As I sat there, more than 500 meters above the water my eyes lost contact with land on the side where I was sitting. It was so steep that there were nothing left to put my eyes on, and I felt like I was flying over the sea, 500 meters up in the air. For a split second it was really cool. Then it made me dizzy and I turned around and climbed up again. –got a little bit shaky…

As I was standing there admiring the view I heard a sound over my head. It’s the type of sound you get from big birds or parachutes. I looked up and saw two falcons over my head. One had just dived after me and the other one was circling around higher up. Falcons, ravens and eagles like to make nests in steep places and I was standing at the edge of the cliff. Several times the bird dived after me while the other one kept circling. I assume it was the male furthest up keeping constant watch while an angry mother was warning me not to come to close to her kids or eggs. Some birds are totally faithful creatures and stay together for life and remind surprisingly much about us that way. I don’t know much about the falcons’ love-life but this couple seemed like a strong team.

I know they can dive fast. Amazingly fast!
Be kind to wildlife, yes, but I just had to test out how much more spectacularly she would dive. So I climbed down the hill over the cliffs and tried to stand as tall as I could so she would get something to aim for. The nest was probably in the cliffs somewhere. I stood there in the hill for a little while, but I couldn’t really watch the birds like I wanted because I had to watch my step. If you don’t you’ll end up flying like the birds. –so I climbed back up. But it had paid off. Their interest in me had grown.
She would gain altitude and then drop down and level out a few meters over my head before she repeated the procedure again. But as I was about to climb up I got my big surprise! She flew rapidly up, but then, instead of turning around on her wings she folded them in and flipped around in the air, nose down and no, NO, lift! If she stayed like that she would drop like a rock. It’s a manoeuvre that would take the breath of even the most experienced fighter pilot! And then, after flipping around from her rapid climb to free fall she regained control by folding out her wings alongside her body, just like F-14 and F-111 fighter jets do when they go supersonic. The aim was clear.
My head!
Closer to me than she had gone before she folded out her wings and levelled out. It was awesome! And she did it again, and again, and again… The sound of many feathers in swift and powerful flight through the air was the only thing to be heard.

If I only had a camera… I would probably have spoiled it.
…and never written to you about it.

I stood and watched for a while. The fantastic view, the amazing falcons, strong and brave young parents sacrificing their own safety against a scary unknown enemy.


I had been there long enough and headed back to the lake to find the track. It was already past midnight, but with the midnight-sun it might as well have been 7pm. I really had to take out my watch from my pocket to be able to even approximate the time. As I walked I turned around to look for my friends in the sky. They were circling over the plateau now and were following a bit behind me. Obviously not clearing my enemy-status yet.

I remember saying goodbye to the mountain as I walked down. I’m this far North only once a year, and it means more to me than I can tell you. I prayed the falcons would multiply and be blessed, and that my son (when I grow up and get one…) would get to see the kids of the bold and beautiful birds.


The car was still standing there, but the cattle were gone.

Someone had licked on the side of my dad’s car! Cows looking… licking for salt I assume.

The flight-show was still fresh in mind and gave me inspiration for the flight… drive down from the mountain.

One more summer in the most beautiful place on earth.
And so many pictures.

In my mind.