Two months into the 2017 hunting season we went back to Norway for six weeks. There we had a nice catch-up with family and friends and also got in plenty of fishing, in the mountains and at sea. My cousin Øyvind had got into his spear fishing in Norway, after he had visited us in NZ in January. Vastly different conditions from NZ to North Norway but still a few keen free divers around. Øyvind speared a nice wolf fish while we where there. It’s a charming species, as seen in the pic above (right). The pic on the left is of me fishing in a mountain lake around midnight, just as the mountain fog is coming in like a blanket. Those lakes have been my family’s trout fishing grounds for generations. During our visit we went to several of my old trout lakes and rivers and got plenty of fish. They were either enjoyed cooked on location or prepared in different styles at home with my parents. That Arctic nature experience is unique.
My uncle Jack frying trout for Aidan in the fog filled night, while we fished until dawn. Jack has just retired, which has freed up lots of time for fishing and hunting. At sea we were chasing cod, saithe and mackerel. Aidan also caught his first pollock, while the halibut (high on his list) weren’t to be found on this trip. A particular Spanish dish of cod tongues I had been waiting to get back to Norway to make. Cod tongues are commonly eaten in North Norway but my parents were quite sceptical about trying this dish with chili and garlic. However, they had to admit it was very nice. Towards the end of our stay the berries started to get ripe, so Aidan, Finn & Hayley got their blueberry and cloudberry kick. On our last day trip into the mountains Aidan and I went to a lake which has Arctic char, a species he has only caught ice fishing. Unfortunately, the char weren’t in the mood but I caught one, so on our way back we stopped at a different lake where Aidan caught another nice brown trout.
Right: Hayley’s picture taken from a small mountain behind my childhood home, towards the island of Tjeldøya.
Naturally, I had to catch up with my mate Geir in Harstad. The day before he was going on a work field excursion to Spitsbergen, we spent a beautiful day in the island world outside Harstad on his speed boat. His better half Ingrid came along, with their newest pointer hope Barentsviddas Little Wing. Aidan was out fishing with Øyvind but Hayley and Finn also came along. Finn (left) is pictured at the old Viking seat of Bjarkøya with a whale skull. Geir (right) getting into his boat while six month old Little Wing is waiting. Geir owns both dogs behind this litter. Little Wing is out of Barentsviddas Wind Cries Mary (by the Italian superstar Titan on Barentsviddas Mafia – both Wind Cries Mary and Mafia (Kjakan – Giga) are among my favourites. Little Wing’s sire is Barentsviddas Nansen (by the Italian World champion Anter on Geir’s Italian import Giga). I’d be very interested to see where he’s heading next both with Wind Cries Mary and this young, little stunner. Little Wing is pictured below, hunting two months later. An intense point downhill, almost lying down, Geir was giving me hell that he could just as well get a setter next…
Our trip back to NZ went via Qatar, which was a first time for us. It’s certainly an interesting area of the world but I wonder how in 4 years time they will manage to play World Cup football there in that heat. There’s been talk about having the matches early in the morning. But we arrived at the hotel at 2am and it was still 38 degrees Celsius. During the day time it was in the mid 40s range. I was particularly interested in two things during our 3 night stay. That was to find some top Syrian or Persian cuisine, which we did, and to visit the falcon souk. It is located behind the traditional market and next door to a dedicated falcon hospital, with surgery, scanning and physio, all dedicated to their precious hunting falcons. The souk contains a whole building with multiple shops, with peregrine falcons and accessories. On the Arab peninsula they’re primarily used to hunt the houbara bustard bird (see stuffed birds on shelf).
Back in New Zealand we picked up the tail end of the hunting season. Earlier in the season, both Aidan and Craig’s daughter Katie had managed to shoot their first birds with shotguns. In addition to that Aidan has continued hunting with his powerful .22 air rifle, shooting possums, rabbits and pigeons. I have been quite impressed with how he has persisted with skinning and prepping possum skins. Our bird hunting may be quite limited in the next year or two, until I start up with new dogs again. Bella did alright during the season but age has admittedly caught up with her. She will in one month turn fourteen years old, a most respectable age for a working dog. At present most of our time goes to free diving and spearfishing. At Hen & Chickens Islands Aidan managed to shoot a boar fish – a very sought after fish for spearos – and many spend years of hunting this elusive and often quite deep living species. Most recently we spent a week sailing Whangaroa Harbour on a 40 ft hired boat with some great fishing. Fishing season is still going!