Rainbows from hell

Scierra Brook meets rainbows from Hell

Another day dawned, inconspicuously like its recent predecessors, but I woke up with a strange feeling of muted elation, even though my brain could find no evidence to back up this state of mind. The ever present night fog was slowly dissipating as I rose from bed to take a welcoming shower before breakfast.

I collected a couple of slices of the “un-Norwegian”,  white bread, filled the rest of my plate with omelet and vegetables and said “yes, please” to the landlady’s daily question about coffee. Juré was already at the table, finishing his second cup as I joined him. That’s when I remembered. Because this was a “moving day”, Juré had planned something special for Patrik and me. Let me bring you up to speed: We were in Slovenia, just outside Bled, for Scierra’s annual presale event for shops in Norway and Sweden. Patrik is country manager for the same two countries, I am responsible for designing all the rods and lines and Juré was our knowledgeable, service-minded and almost always working guide.

This Thursday the guys from the latest group were leaving and a new group would be arriving. In other words, it was kind of a day off, but who wants to relax when Juré had planned something extraordinary? “Expect something absolutely spectacular”, he said, and the only thing we knew was that it involved belly boats. As usual, I brought far too much equipment, but better safe than sorry. Patrik, on the other hand, brought almost nothing but his fancy camera and a pair of thigh high woolen socks. In other words, the situation was almost perfectly balanced as we entered Juré’s car.

When we parked, we knew we weren’t fishing for anything small, even though we were told to rig four weight rods and tapered leaders with 0,14mm tippets. We were then equipped with different kinds of nymphs in sizes from 10 to 16 and the main colors were grey, green and red. From previous experiences with four weight rods and thin tippets, I nervously told myself that there would be a limit to how big fish we could land. I wanted to test one of the new rods I had designed for the up-coming 2017 season; a 10’ four weight in the Brook series. A beautifully deep rod with a deliciously smooth and unbroken bending curve that I thought would be the perfect rod for this kind of fishing. When sitting down in a belly boat, the extra foot will give you more control when casting and I instinctively “knew” that this rod was going to be a fantastic fish-tamer.

My former experience with belly boats consisted of one lousy fishing trip more than 25 years ago and I wasn’t even certain which way to sit (but asking was definitely out of the question, of course). I put on my flippers, placed my rear end in the seat, anxiously kicked myself out towards deep water and started using my legs. Directional control was absolutely not straight forward and the moves that would make my vessel turn were hidden in the murky water of my Teflon coated brain. I more than doubled the distance representing the straight line to the first fishing spot, but finally discovered my bearings and entered the “stage” a good ten minutes after Patrik, who had already caught and released one fish and lost another. “Rainbows”, he said. “Close to two kilos and the one I lost was a lot bigger. I saw the line move, I struck and the bastard just took off like a Formula 1 car and broke the leader. 0,12mm must be too thin, don’t you think?”

“Juré said 0,14, not 0,12”, I replied, “so you might consider changing your tippet”. While he did so, I started fishing. The light ten-footer was the perfect rod for the belly boat. I “opened” the rod sufficiently to engage the deeper and stronger sections of it and the Reflection WF-line floated over the surface, seemingly weightless, and when I let the line go, it landed gracefully on the water, followed by a little “plop”, as the grey, almost boring looking, nymph went through the film a mere 25 meters away. I went through Juré’s instructions in my head. “Let the nymph sink, take up the line slack, but slowly and not completely, to make sure the nymph moves as freely as possible and always watch the tip of the line. If it moves or only looks as it moves, you strike”.  This sounded easy enough, but reality is never as straight forward as one might wish. The combination of small ripples, direct sun rays and my hopelessly myopic eyes made it extremely difficult to see the tip of the line from certain angles, but the first fish was of the merciful kind and attacked the nymph aggressively enough to hook itself. “Wow”, I thought, as the line left the reel. “This must be a nice one”. Reality, however, revealed a rainbow that was a lot smaller than the ”not a gram under two kilos” I would have told everyone if I’d lost it. Just over half a kilo, but fat as a pig and faster than Usain Bolt.

The next one was only marginally bigger than the first and I was already beginning to doubt the wondrous tales of our guide. I had met a few guides during the years and knew that some of them were ingenious inventors of fantasy. Juré didn’t seem like one of these pathologic mythomaniacs, but I’d been fooled before…. As I pondered these negative thoughts, my eyes caught an almost imperceptible sideways movement of the tip of the line. As my brain started to explain my mind that this was only a wishful thought or a fata morgana, my spine took over and there was no cognitive thought behind the fact that my right arm lifted the rod as though my life depended on it.

It felt like the rod had been hit by lightning.  Millions of Volts and Watts flowed into my poor, unsuspecting body as something huge, primeval and undeniably angry took off from the limited depth, broke the surface and rose into the air in a flight that seemed to last forever. The silvery gleam of the enormous trout almost outshone the rest of its rainbow colors and the splash when it finally landed made my nervous core think about tsunamis. My next thoughts centered on how much backing this little reel was filled with. A few seconds after, there were just a few rounds of this precious material left, but as I started to tell myself how pathetically hopeless my genetic loss of meticulousness was, the beast stopped, turned and came towards me. I frenetically reeled in as fast as I could and finally regained contact as the maniac passed me and continued in the opposite direction. The next few minutes were filled with all kinds of spectacular jumps and unexpected turns and both Patrik and Juré were busy with their cameras, trying to catch the most fantastic combinations of fish, erratic drops of water and beautiful scenery. After about ten minutes, the fight went in to a stand-still. About three meters under the surface, the massive rainbow was relentlessly circling around me. On the opposite side of the fight, I held my ground with as much force as I dared use; my sole focus on not ever loosing contact again. The almost impossible curve of the bent four weight rod was already working on the fish (and on me as well) and I praised myself on choosing exactly the right rod for this kind of fishing. My right arm was literally throbbing, the local blood vessels filled to the brim with immobilizing lactic acid and I had to change arms all the time to prevent catastrophes.

After almost half an hour of “epic” struggle, the giant started to relent. A few minutes later, I managed to lift its head over the surface a few times, and after that it was more or less over. Juré was ready with Patrik’s undersized net and I thought it would be impossible to get the beast into something that small, but finally I managed to drag the fish in the right direction, where Juré was waiting. Had the fish been a couple of centimeters longer it would not have worked, but it seemed that today fate was on my side. The primal scream that lifted from the usually controlled Norwegian lingered over the landscape for minutes. My hands went for the net and the beautiful fish and we were both photographed from possible and impossible angles, my stupid grin not leaving my face even for a split second. The best thing about these giant rainbows was the fact that they all were wild and that their tails and fins were wondrously intact.

Juré estimated it to well over 70 centimeters and probably closer to seven than six kilos. Pure and undiluted elation racing through my unprepared body, took its toll and I just had to take ten to relax. As Patrik hooked a 65 cm, I had the best seat possible for watching his fight.

Then it was my turn again and just as I landed a sixty plus while Patrik was filming, I heard him scream “what the f***” and then the sound of his reel taking off as another giant had taken his nymph and hooked itself.

In the afternoon everything calmed down and we casted for more than half an hour without any response. “Time to leave”, said Juré. “One more cast”, said I. The second time I carefully took up the slack, it happened again. The almost imperceptible movement of the line, the unmistakable strike and the half an hour fight resulted in another beautiful rainbow over 70 centimeters.

What a fish, what a rod, what a day, what a river, what a guide and what a country. “Slovenia, I’ll definitely be back”!

Mathias Lilleheim


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