First we landed
Prichard, then his trout, one of the un-luckiest fish ever to swim. Olav, by
signs, indicated that the night was still young and why didn't we adjourn now
to his farmhouse up the valley. But for us the night was over. Time for bed. As
Prichard and I went up the road like a defeated army, I thought of the
questions that serious fishing friends would ask on my return: about variations
in barometric pressure, in water temperature, in salmon-taking times; about
successful fly patterns and all the rest of it. Tomorrow—just when tomorrow
would be I couldn't rightly sort out—would be different.
it was tomorrow—was just the same. Breakfast at 11:30 a.m., and the temperature
89�, the hottest they'd ever had in Sunndalsora, or so the local paper seemed
to be saying. I looked out of the window. No one was trying to fry an egg on
the pavement, but the ice-cream shop was doing a roaring trade. Kristian came
in to look at our salmon, so he said, but he seemed well informed about the
previous night. Small towns are all the same. He brought good news, though. As
we might have guessed from Prichard's catch, the trout were running. He,
personally, would take us trout fishing that evening, since these were fish
requiring a certain skill in the catching. Results were guaranteed. Meanwhile
we would inspect the hydroelectric plant before siesta time came round again.
In spite of the fact that he was making heavy weather of his breakfast,
Prichard came back strongly to this. "Could we leave the hydroelectric
plant today?" he said. "Because we really haven't seen a lot of the
local people yet, and I always like to get the feel of a place." I knew
what he meant. That swimming pool had been on his mind from the moment we had
set foot in town. "Very well, then," said Kristian, a small
metaphorical icicle forming. "I shall see you this evening at 8:30. Do not
catch a cold."
So we moved into
the curious surrealist timetable that governed the rest of our stay. Breakfast
somewhat before noon. Afternoon at the pool. Long siesta until dinner. At 8
p.m. fishing until the first of the workmen were cycling along the road to the
aluminum plant. Two waking and two sleeping periods in each 24 hours. You can
get used to anything if you try.
day I had Prichard away from the pool at a reasonable hour, but not before he
had convinced two of the local blonde bombshells that he could get their
pictures in a magazine. He didn't tell them it was a fishing magazine he worked
him back to reality that evening. It was serious fishing. We kept at it hard.
We caught some good sea trout—no salmon, though. I saw one move, fished for it
with no result and got so mad that I went off to a side stream and caught 15
small brown trout. "You should leave those alone," said Kristian
seriously. "We have put those little trout in there for the Swedish
tourists." Not all Norwegians love their neighbors. Something to do with
the war, they say.
lacked the edge of the previous night, but at least we had caught some fish.
Olav, though, had not passed out of our lives completely. There was a note for
us at the hotel. Tomorrow, if we wished, he would drive us up to the mountain
plateau where, he was confident, we should find reindeer. No hunting trip this,
though. We would simply be reindeer-spotting, since they were very positively
out of season. Anyway, who wanted to shoot a reindeer?
Now, there is
this point about Norwegian mountain roads. Since they are under ice and snow
for eight months of the year, there is not very much sense in putting a good
surface on them that is only going to be cracked and potholed by the following
thaw. A good dirt road, rolled occasionally, is all you need. The rest of the
year you just follow the birch poles that show you where the road is meant to
be. Along such a road Olav drove us up to the plateau of the Dovre Mountains in
an old German Ford, past green, glassy lakes and gleaming snow banks unmelted
even now in the burning sun. All these myths about phlegmatic Norsemen. He
drove like a Spanish taxi driver with a drop of Dublin blood in him, but he
turned pale only once, at a particular hairpin bend with a 1,000-foot drop to
one side. Prichard and I were pale the whole time.
The pass opened
out quite suddenly, and there were all those snowy peaks stretching away to
Sweden. There were lakes, too, and cloudberry bushes, lichens and moss that
reindeer feed on and mosquitoes. No reindeer, of course. We might just as well
have been looking for Santa Claus. The reindeer, sensible creatures, were far
up in the ravines.
So down we drove
again, Prichard feigning sleep, which was just an excuse to keep his eyes
closed. I went ahead with the sign language at which I was becoming very
competent. That evening, I learned, we would go higher up the river to a spot
where Olav claimed we'd catch salmon at last.
It is best to
draw a veil over that evening. It was the night of the akvavit, Olav's return
engagement. Only the personnel were different. This time we picked up a small
Swiss who cried a little toward midnight and said, "I have come so far and
I want to catch a salmon so much." "Nix laks, nix laks," said
Prichard lugubriously. He was picking up the language fast. It was one of those
sad evenings. An old Scotsman once said to me, "You have to be brave to be
a salmon fisherman." But time was running out, and our courage ebbed from