A couple weeks ago Eirik and I hired a sitter and went fishing! Aksel, a colleague of Eirik’s from Oslo grew up in Vadsø, so when he came up to visit his family he invited us to come fishing with him and his sister. Eirik and I haven’t been fishing since we were kids, so we were a little anxious. Most of the anxiety was over weather or not one of us would come home empty handed. There’s nothing worse than being the only person who doesn’t catch a fish. Also, there was the matter of killing a fish. When the time came would we be able to do it or would we be too chicken? These thoughts and others melted away as we motored out of the harbor and onto the sea.
As the shoreline receded behind us our little boat began to pick up speed. We bounced and skipped over the choppy water towards a point that was teeming with birds. Aksel’s sister shouted over the noise of the motor that the best place to fish was where the birds were. The cries of the birds grew louder and louder, they were circling and diving, filling their mouths with small fish. Fights broke out as some birds tried to steal another’s catch. Some birds rested on the water but began flying up in panic as our boat motored into the middle of the frenzy. We turned our motor off and got ready to drop our lines.
Aksel handed Eirik and I our fishing lines. I have never fished like this before, without a pole. These lines have hooks knotted on them with a small weight at the end. They are attached to a handle. We unwound our lines and carefully dropped them over the side of the boat, and waited…And waited…And waited. After a few minutes Aksel and his sister decided we should pull up our lines and head toward another patch of gulls, as the one we were in the middle of had settled down and were mostly just resting now. I began to pull mine up. Then, it got a little harder. Maybe my line got tangled with someone elses? I checked but everyone else were almost finished pulling theirs up. So I asked Aksel’s sister to take mine and see if she thought I had caught something. She wasn’t sure, but maybe. I began pulling my line in faster, and soon enough we could see the outline of a fish. YES! I smiled at Eirik and announced to him that I had caught the first fish. He made a face at me and mumbled something as I pulled the fish up over the side of the boat.
I looked at the fish flopping around at our feet. Finally, I told Aksel I didn’t know what to do. So he grabbed the fish, ripped out the hook, and broke its neck. Blood spurted everywhere. It was carnage. He told me to grab it and hold it under the gills for a picture. As I reached out it made a horrible gurgling sound as it tried to breath. I couldn’t take it from him. I wanted to cry, but I kept telling myself I ate fish all the time so I needed to woman up and deal. I told it I was sorry and we’d make sure to cook it beautifully in lots of butter.
We put the fish in a plastic bin and headed towards a new spot. We dropped our lines and waited again. It wasn’t long before we began catching fish. Since our lines had multiple hooks we’d often get more than one fish in one haul. One time I had three on a line! When our spot quieted down we’d pull the lines up and move to where the action was. I began to notice that it wasn’t just birds going crazy but the fish we were catching were swimming close to the surface and frantically feeding on the small fish too. Then I noticed a dorsal fin, and another. Aksel said it was a small whale that was related to the dolphin, but he didn’t know what they were called in English. I can’t remember the Norwegian name for them. When we were finished we had hauled in about 30 Pollock and one Mackerel.
When we got back to the dock Aksel and his sister invited us back to her house for a coffee. She told us she’d fillet the fish for us while we relaxed. Eirik and I agreed and we headed to her home. Her husband greeted us when we arrived and had us sit while he brought beer, coffee, some snacks and a beef heart that he had cured himself. It was delicious and we felt so spoiled and cared for. I think we could have stayed there forever, but we had to move on to Aksel’s Mom’s house because she was going to make us dinner with some of the fish we had caught.
Aksel’s mother has lived her entire life in Vadsø. She worked for decades at the fish oil factory on Vadsøya (Vadsø Island). Vadsø is historically a fishing village. But fishing became industrialized and the factory eventually closed as the fish are now sent to China for processing. How crazy is that? Norway ships it’s fish to China and then it’s shipped back. Anyway, there is a bit of a benefit to no longer processing the fish here: Apparently it smelled so bad in the town during the summer that some people literally walked around with their nose pinned shut with a clothes-pin. Everyone says it’s sad that so many people lost their jobs and had to move, BUT it no longer smells like rotten fish all the time which is a huge plus for those who stayed. Aksel said the older generations used to say it was the smell of money. But I’m sure when you’re a kid you don’t care so much about that. Ok, back to our dinner: We arrived and were told to sit in the living room and enjoy a beer while Aksel’s Mom fried up the fish. So we did. I had brought my knitting along because I had expected our fishing expedition to be a bit more traditional, in that we’d be waiting a while to catch anything. So I got cozy on the couch and started knitting the hat I was working on. When dinner was ready we were called to the table and Eirik told me that what we were having was a very traditional Norwegian meal. And let me tell you, IT WAS SO GOOD! The fish we ate had been swimming in the sea only a few hours earlier. It was sweet and delicious.
After dinner we cleared the table and the women (Aksel’s Mom, his sister, and family friend) turned the vent on above the stove to enjoy a smoke. I kinda wished I had smoked with them, but I feel guilty now that I have Emmy about that sort of indulgence. So I went and picked up my knitting again. This is when Aksel’s Mom came in and commented on it. She loves to knit too and has knitted for years. Aksel translated for us as we chatted about it. Then she asked for my knitting. I handed her my work and held my breath. She looked it over closely then handed it to her friend who turned it over slowly and ran her fingers over it. They talked to each other about it and finally looked at me and said it was very good work. Then they told me I could come with them to Finland sometime because the yarn there is super cheap. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my day until Aksel’s Mom gifted me a beautiful pair of socks she had knitted.
When we left, the sun had already dipped below the horizon and the sky was deepening into an inky blue. We climbed into the car and rode home content, and full, and filled with gratitude for these new friends and our life here.
I have 3 images from this day available for purchase through the 19th! You can place your order here. I’ll put an order in on the 20th and send them to you after I receive them. They are high-quality giclee prints on archival photo paper.