Monday, 3 March 2014

Flies of 2013: Norski Lad

The Norski Lad first came to my knowledge in 2012 when reading a series of articles in FF & FT magazine about fishing in Shetland. A full article was devoted to the Norski Lad, including how it came to be, how to dress it, fish it and some information about its inventor. I found it a slightly surprising fly to look at, not really like anything I'd seen used before for brown trout in lochs; it was more of rainbow trout competition fly in my eyes. The article sang its praises so much that I had a few tied for me and put them in my fly box ready for Shetland. I don't remember using it anywhere until an overnight wild camping trip to Cow Green Reservoir at the very end of May...

...It is rare that we get two days with such contrasting weather as I did on those two days in the high Pennines. I was due to meet my friend Jim in the car park at Cow Green and introduce him to the delights of this outstanding lake. We had not seen each other in a couple of years so we were going to have a fews hours fishing together before I headed off into the sunset to camp on the far side of this huge expanse of water. As I drove into Middleton-in-Teesdale I received a voicemail from Jim saying he'd had to drop down from Cow Green because the fog was so thick we would never find each other. I must admit I found it hard to believe this but we met at Langdon Beck Hotel and drove up to the lake in convoy. He was true to his word though; the fog was so thick you couldn't see anything of the water from the car park and everything was eerily quiet. I would estimate visibility to be about 50 metres at most and you were literally at the water's edge before you could make out water. It was very still, the water flat calm and the greyness of the atmosphere meant there was no contrast and, therefore, no horizon. Water and fog were seamlessly blended together.


We fished round the north shore of lake heading west, in and out of the bays, as the fog began to slowly lift and wind picked up slightly. We caught many fish between us that afternoon, the Black Diawl Bach and Hutch's Pennell building their reputations with me further. I bid Jim farewell around teatime and continued fishing round the lake, past the River Tees inlet, looking for a flat spot to camp.
The Norski Lad
The Norski Lad

By the time I'd pitched the tent it was a beautiful sunny evening, warm, with blue skies and trout rising everywhere - you wouldn't believe it was the same day. The next morning dawned very bright, hardly a cloud in sight but there was a stiff wind blowing out of the NW. Fishing the same flies as the evening before I caught a few early fish but as the sun rose ever higher in the sky the fishing got harder and takes dried up. I knew I had to do something different if I was to get back into the fish, something drastically different given the conditions. I felt I needed to go deeper because of the bright conditions and also get below the wave action, so out came my DI3 sinker, but what fly? Peering into my flybox at row after row of flies the Norski Lad was begging for a chance. It was like a young footballer sat on the bench at a big game waiting for the nod from his manager and the chance to prove himself. So on it went and out it went into the murky peat stained depths of Cow Green.

Cow Green trout on a Norski Lad
Cow Green trout on a Norski Lad
I don't remember if I fished it singularly or in a team, but there's is good reason for that, because the Norski Lad took every fish I caught during the remainder of that day fishing the far side of Cow Green Reservoir! And there were plenty of them! Now it is slightly wrong of me to put the Norski Lad in a blog about my best performing flies of 2013 because other than the day I have just described at Cow Green I can't recall catching anything else on it despite giving it a few chances. But any fly that could not only get you out of such difficult conditions, but catch you as many fish as you'd expect in good conditions, is, in my opinion, worthy of a mention. It took some good trout as well as trout that would have struggled to eat something of such proportions.


Clearly a fish/fry imitation it combines good contrast between the white deer hair head and black marabou wing, and subtle flash with pearl in the body and twinkle in the wing. So I'm certainly not suggesting this should be one of your first choice flies, or promising you this fly will transform your fishing, but I am saying it might just turn a difficult day into a respectable day and it is well worth having a few in your box just in case. And you never know, it might work as well for you as it clearly does for its inventor.

A short video depicting the changing weather over that 24 hour period at Cow Green...