cultural contrast

cultural contrast

t.z. | Friday, 20 April 2018

The world of North Country spiders such an interesting one. I am making my own humble trials on the old patterns and try to stay true to the tradition and the thinking of the fishermen back then. A tradition of down to earth and effective fishing flies. 

After I have been introduced to them by Mike Connor many years back, I have fished spiders on and off, always with great success. They seem to catch fish in these “impossible” situations.

In 2009 I was working as tourist guide at the roadside information center in Norway between Nord-Trøndelag and Nordland, about 250km south of the artic circle. Many tourists came through this place, mostly middle age and above people hauled around in big busses. They seemed oddly mal-placed in the nature surrounding the center. They stopped mainly of two reasons - the bus driver had to take the legal brake and the tourists had to empty their bladder and stomach, so they could sit still for the next few hours.

It is amazing what perception some people have. I got asked more then once where the polar-bears are and if one could see them from right in front of the center. Sad really. So these bus tourists went to the toilet, asked strange questions like “where are the bears” and bought their ice creams on sticks. Some of them were very good in the art of “dropping your plastic dump where ever you just stand”.

This roadside tourist center was in the middle of some the most amazing mountain fishing one can have in Scandinavia. Lakes and rivers all around, and I was even paid to be there. 500m meters away from the road on the other side was an ecological farm. They kept sheep and produced honey and all sorts of things they could get from the land, even wooden outdoor furniture. The endurance and stamina these people had to operate a farm like that in these harsch conditions and long winters is amazing to watch.

The family had two 8 and 11 years old boys. The guys dropped by one day as they heard rumours that there was fly fisher working at the tourist hut. They came to have chat and ask me loads of questions. It turned out that they were enthusiastic fishermen using spin rods and nets for farming the lakes they were responsible for. Their father gave them responsibility very early in their lives. First it was a little strange talking to them as these kids behaved adult in a way. You could see that they liked to play and that they were kids, but when called upon or seeing a task needed fixing, they switched to being responsible adults. They were the highest possible contrast in character to the majority of the tourists coming through. Without a word the kids kept picking up the garage the tourist had dropped, for example. They didn’t even complain. They new that these people wouldn't understand.

When they asked me to teach them fly casting and tying I agreed to with great enthusiasm. It was great fun sharing some of my knowledge with them as they learned very quickly. We fished together almost every night of the three month I stayed at this place. It was amazing. I learned a lot from their bush skills. They also knew their boats and the lakes and waters inside out. I must admit that I was fascinated and humbled by the two brothers.

I still remember the first day they came to the tourist hut. During our conversation I showed them my huge flybox which I also use as sort of shop. Their eyes grew bigger and bigger. They almost broke in tears of joy when I said that each of them could pick 6 flies of their liking. I did not advise them on what to choose. I wanted to see what a bushcraft skilled fisherman unplugged by modern fly fishing media would pick from the selection of around 30 different patterns I had in that box. The spectrum of flies reached from fancy Oliver Edwards style flies to simple designs. I also had a few spiders in one of the compartments.

The guys picked a Red Tag, a Deer Hair Caddis, a Griffith’s Gnat, a Klinkhåmer and two Spiders. They discussed the Snipe and Purple and the Orange and Partridge spiders in length depth amongst themselves. They said that these were the most realistic of all flies, which left me speechless, which is a very rare state of mind for me. I am still very thankful for all they taught me. I went back visiting them for several years until we eventually lost contact.

The boys

The picture of the younger one fishing by midnight made it onto he cover of "Fly Tying".
fly tying poster A3

my ride back then ...


midnight mountain lake

I was a tourist as wel and made trip to the Lofoten Islands

The place I stayed during summer.

The moose grwo big in this area ....

(c) t.z. - 2018

on a side note - I'll be hosting a weeks fly fishing fun @Skålestrømmen in Norway. Sign up quickly, there's only 6 rods total - here's the link


Written by 
Thomas Züllich, or - “t.z.” as most call him - is a German flyfisher & flytier living in Norway. His flydressing is based on old traditions as well as very modern and innovative methods of creating flies. 

Thomas is the author of "Fly Tying - Modern Classics for Trout and Grayling which is availbale on iTunes -