Norway's fabled Malangsfoss Pool, far above the Arctic Circle, has provided superb salmon fishing for centuries, but only for a favored few. Now it has been opened to anyone who wants to lease it—at $435 a day
By long acclamation, the king of freshwater game fishes is the Atlantic salmon. He can be taken in the New World and the Old, in Maine (to some extent), Canada, Scotland and Ireland, but his finest domain is Norway, where the world-record salmon of 75 pounds was killed in 1928. And now Norway, "for the first time in a thousand years," as one awed Norwegian put it, has opened one of the world's best salmon pools to the general public.
It is the Malangsfoss, situated on the Maals River 250 miles above the Arctic Circle. The farmers who own it were persuaded by Eric Myhre of Mytravel International, Oslo, that anglers from the world over would flock to it once they learned it was available for short-term leases to be obtained through Myhre's agency. They have begun to do so, even though an individual who wants it all to himself is taxed $435 a day. A party of four, on the other hand, may fish it for $148 a day apiece, a rate that includes comfortable accommodations in a pine-paneled, sod-roofed lodge, good meals and expert gillies—among them the celebrated Konrad Foshaug, who has assisted some of the world's foremost anglers.
If the price seems high, consider that since 1954 Sampson R. Field, an angler of renown and high desire, has paid $35,000 each year for fishing rights to the Alta River during the month of July and next year expects the price to go up to almost $50,000. Six friends share the lease with him, but the lease is not the only expense.
"Once you have secured your beat," says Field, "your problems have just started. On the Alta we have to keep guards posted constantly to protect the river from poachers. This year we had to bring in 12 policemen from various parts of Norway and police dogs. It was worth the trouble. We caught, red-handed, six poachers who were working as a group. They even had walkie-talkies, and women acting as lookouts."
Field has fished Norway for the past 14 summers, 10 of them on the Alta, which he leases in its entirety. He took over Tony Pulitzer's Alta lease 10 years ago. Pulitzer had acquired it from the late Duke of Westminster, who in 1926 took 33 salmon there in a single "night." (In the Land of the Midnight Sun one may fish in broad daylight 24 hours a day, but the best fishing, it is said, comes when the sun is lowest on the horizon, and that period is called night.) Field himself has taken 17 fish in one night on the Alta. Before Westminster the river was controlled for decades by Scotland's Duke of Roxburghe.
Even outside Norway, salmon fishing can be mighty expensive. An angler fishing New Brunswick's famed Restigouche on a beat owned by the exclusive Ristigouche (that's the way they spell it) Salmon Club might find that his expenditure came to $1,000 a fish. In this year of high prosperity in Europe and America, salmon-fishing rates are escalating, as they say in Washington, like moon rockets. Nor have the best beats ever been cheap. Laval University has calculated that the annual average number of salmon taken by Quebec Club anglers from 1950 to 1954 was 7,000 and that each salmon brought in by rod and reel cost its proud conqueror $175, or, averaging them at 12 pounds each, $14.60 a pound. But to keep it all relative and in scale, let us remember that last winter some persons paid $250 a ticket to see Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, neither of whom can fight as well as a salmon.
Besides, not all good salmon beats are so expensive. The Tana, where that record 75-pounder was taken, holds heavier fish than any other river in the world and can be fished for as little as a license fee of $5 a week on some stretches, $12 on others. Unfortunately, 90% of the Tana's fish are netted, legally and illegally. On some of the best salmon-fishing waters of Ireland the cost averages about $6 a day, though on the River Black-water in County Cork it can rise to as much as $450 per rod per week. In Norway some beats can be had for no more than the price of a night's lodging. Thus, if you check in at the Lilands Hotel at Bulken, free fishing is available in the Vossa River, where on just one day in 1958 three 60-pound salmon were taken.
Perhaps the most interesting Norwegian river to watch over the next few years will be the Sand, whose lodge is only one hour by hydrofoil from Stavanger. From 1884 to 1924 the entire Sand was leased by British anglers. Thereafter it was turned over to commercial nets and traps, which vastly reduced the stock of salmon. Since 1957 the rights have been owned by Charles Bergesen, one of the shareholders of Stavanger's very modern Hotel Atlantic, through which fishing reservations may be made at a cost of $126 a day for a party of six. The price, one may expect, will rise as the Sand fulfills its promise. All commercial fishing on it ceased in 1956 after a restocking program was instituted, and the salmon have now begun to come back in quantity. Early this season, which started late in May, a 52-pounder was taken. The year 1964 looks to be 200% better than was 1963, and next year ought to be wonderful.
If you would like to fish the river that General Eisenhower visited on weekends just after World War II, flying in from his Berlin headquarters, you might try the small but very pretty Figgen, a dozen miles from Stavanger, for as little as $3.60 per rod per day. The season runs from April 15 to September 15, with the salmon at their best from mid-July onward and sea trout (salmo trutta forma trutta), well worth angling for, taking over in August and September.