I was fortunate in summer 2016 to secure a job running a salmon lodge in northern Norway along with my husband Jonny. It was long hours and tough work, but the lure, of course, was the fishing! Getting the chance to fish for new species and in spectacular surroundings, what could be better?
Salmon fishing was new to me and it was a massive learning curve – dealing with the obsession, disappointment, and frustration at my lack of skills that only years of dedication to salmon can bring.
But I am not one to chase only after one species and I had been told halibut sometimes come into the shallows of the local fjords to sunbathe and feed. I asked a few people if they could be caught on a fly, most said no, one guy said yes he had done it! So I did a bit of research, tied up a red and white half-and-half on a 4/0 partridge sea prince, I set my Greys salt 9# up with a 5ft sink tip and asked our friend Morton, one of the lodge guides to take us out on the fjords in his boat.
We cruised and drifted in the shallows looking for halibut, and sure enough, we saw a few either sitting or slowly moving. We spent two days fishing here, I would cast out and wait for my fly get taken down by the sink tip then slowly strip in bouncing the fly on the bottom.
On the second day, it hit! A massive 147cm halibut! It was probably one of the most awesome fish I have felt on a rod, the rod was almost bent double at times and it would rip off at such a rate we had to chase it in the boat. It was super hard on a single handed rod, and my bicep was burning almost straight away. We were all convinced that it may not be possible to land this fish, but because of the fight being in only 3 – 5 m of water the fish could not swim down too far, so after only 35 minutes I had him boat side.
Morten secured him by the mouth whilst we fitted a tail rope to get him to shore. The length estimated him at 44kg which we later had confirmed as the new Norwegian fly caught halibut record. After I had released him back into the salt waters of the fjord, I was absolutely stunned by what had happened. That strange aftermath feeling you get once you have held a fish of a lifetime and been able to let it swim off cannot be explained unless you have been fortunate enough to experience it. It was like a weird dream, I had given myself a mission, done my research and manage to achieve what I set out to do. But I felt that I had not put in enough mileage, hours of obsession and drive. I felt almost empty as if I was thinking what now? But there is always something to pursue that is the beauty of fishing… a bigger one next time maybe?
For more content from Jo, you can find her on Instagram @jolenestevie_fishing