Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

Forest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman online

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in the midst of its shadowy mist.

" From the wood-skirted waters of Lago ascend at times grey-bosomed
mists, when the gates of the West are closed on the Sun's eagle eye.
Wide over Lara's stream is poured the vapour dark and deep. The
Moon, like a dim shield, is swimming through its folds.

'"Spread the sail,' said the King; 'seize the winds as they pour
from Lena.' We rose on the wave with songs, — we rushed with joy
through the foam of the deep."


" So peaceful, calm, and leaden grey,
Beneath our keel the waters lay,
Parting around the vessel's prow
With rippling murmur, sweet and low, —
And rising slowly from the lake,
The wreathing mists asunder break —
Revealing all concealed before
Of forest, hill, and rocky shore."


There was no great stir next morning at Gaddeback, con-
sidering the importance of the expedition ; as for preparations,
no more preparation was necessary than is necessary for a
detachment of soldiers that has received its route ; the guns
and ammunition were paraded, and the knapsacks were
packed in light marching order ; the carioles had been
despatched over night to the post-master at Wenersborg,
under the charge of Piersen and one of Moodie's people,
with directions to send on a forebud, and then to proceed
by land to Amal ; and the cutter having received her freight,
had, on the preceding evening, hauled out into the stream in
order to be taken in tow by the night steamer, for Wenersborg.
Moodie had determined that there was no need of disappoint-


ing himself or his friends of their day's fishing at the upper
rapids, seeing that they might easily be taken on the road.
He proposed, therefore, joining the cutter at Wenersborg in
the evening, and making the passage to Amal by night, observ-
ing, that by getting what sleep they could while at sea, they
would lose no time, and might start immediately on landing.

" This is rather close shaving, Moodie," said the Captain, as
they sat at breakfast the following morning, — rather an early
breakfast, for Moodie meant to give the fishing-ground what
he called a full due. — " You have made the evening breeze
an element in your calculation ; we shall be in a mess if this
night is anything like the last."

" O, but it will not be, ' you see ghosts by daylight,' as our
people say ; there is always a breeze on the open lake, it is
not like this valley ; besides, if it does fail us, we have only
to post ; there is a regular posting track across the lake,
with stations on the islands, where they keep boats in the
summer and horses in the winter. If the breeze does fail
us, which I tell you it will not, we have only to send the
dingy to Lecko or Luron, whichever we may be nearest to,
and get boats enough to carry us all."

The Parson made no opposition, though in his heart he
agreed with the Captain that the experiment might very
possibly involve the loss of their ultimate object, the skal ;
the salmo ferox was, however, a new fish to him, and not-
withstanding all he had said in its disparagement on the
banks of the Torjedahl, he would not much have liked to
lose his chance of landing one. By his advice a light rod
or two were added to the baggage, — for the rivers north of the
"Wener abound in grayling, though, strange to say, these
delicate fish are never found south of it.

The four-oared gig being the fastest pulling boat, carried
them up the stream to the point at which the great canal
leaves the river ; beyond this it ceases to be navigable on
account of its rocks and rapids, but for this very reason
becomes much more valuable as a fishing preserve. At these
rapids, which was the crack station of all Moodie's fishery,
was a sort of out-post, where he had a keeper's house, with a
separate establishment of boats. The Captain turned up his


eyes a little at hearing of this fresh proof of his friend's mag-
nificence ; but it sounds grander to English ears than it is in
fact, for Moodie made money by his fishery, and of course
required men, not only to preserve it, but to catch the fish
while he was absent on any roving expedition like the pre-
sent ; and as for boats, where planks may be had at the saw-
mills for almost nothing, and where every man is more 01
less of a carpenter, rough fishing punts are articles of very
small expense indeed, and are generally built at home.

It is said that the great lake, Wener, even now the largest
in Europe, was once much larger ; that it once extended to the
falls of Trollhatten ; that all the low-lying and marshy shores,
which are now the delight of ducks and the glory of mus-
quitoes, were once under water, but that the stream having
gradually worked its way over the falls, like a saw, continu-
ally wearing away the rock from which it fell, and
carrying it off, portion by portion, opened a deeper passage,
and that the lake has gradually receded to its present

This of course, happened in Preadamite times, or, to use
the language of the allegorical history of creation supplied by
the prose Edda — in those days, " before the sons of Bor had
slain the giant Ymir."* And certainly the formation of the
valley afforded some grounds for the conjecture : two low
lines of hills, steep and cliff- shaped, suggested readily the
idea of Preadamite banks; while the flat bottom of the
valley, in many places irrecoverably marshy, in all liable to
be covered with water whenever the river is in flood, looked
quite as much like the bottom of a drained pond as it did
like the real land. It was not without its beauty, either ;
if ever it had been a lake, it must have been a lake studded
with low islands, and these, as well as much of the marshy
ground, were covered with forests, hiding, by the luxuriance
of their growth, the numerous cultivated spots which inter-

It was a very different description of scenery to that of

* Bor, civilized man, — from herein, to bear ; the same etymology as
that of barn, a child. Ymir, Chaos, — literally, a confused noise the
meaning is, " before civilization had subdued Chaos."


Norway certainly, for the hills of Hunneberg and Halleberg,
which bound the view to the east and contain some very
valuable limestone quarries, are, what limestone soil invariably
is, tame and monotonous. They, however, abound in oak — a
very rare tree in the north, — and also in deer and roe-bucks,
which are not common either, but this being a royal forest,
they were probably better looked after than they are in private
lands, and Moodie, who, practically, had the rangership, as
he was the only man allowed to shoot there, was scrupulously
particular, and would as soon have thought of shooting a
keeper as of shooting a deer.

The rapids are formed by a ridge of rock which crosses
the river, over which it pours down one or two steps leaving
deep broad pools of eddying water between them. The
whole of this part of the river is overhung with trees of the
largest growth which Sweden affords, and is as beautiful a spot
as any they had seen. As the rocks are extremely rugged,
the river is of very unequal breadth, — the banks, at one place,
approaching so near to each other, that an Alpine bridge is
formed of pine trees thrown across it. Four of the longest
firs that could be found, with their stems resting on the
rocks, are tied together in pairs, at their upper ends, by
means of two iron bands, forming a broad Gothic arch. This
is the skeleton of the bridge ; the horizontal timbers, which
were laid for the footways, passed them at about a third of
their height, like the cross-bar of the letter A, and formed
ties to steady them as well as to support the rest of the
structure. It was an exceedingly picturesque affair, and told
well for the ingenuity of the architect.

This bridge was their first stage. The keeper's hut com-
manded the pools both above and below the bridge, and had
establishments of boats for both divisions of the river — for
there was considerable difficulty in getting a boat from one
to the other.

The salmo ferox, when small, is often caught with a fly,
and may be so caught when fourteen or sixteen pounds
weight, but this is not a very common occurrence. The
usual way of fishing for him is with a large litch of six pairs
of hooks and a lip-hook, very heavily loaded and baited with


a bleak or a gwinead, of which there are plenty in the river.
A boat is absolutely necessary. The fisherman stands in the
stern, and runs out some thirty yards of the line heavily
loaded, with a short stiff pike-rod ; the boat must be kept
continually traversing the stream, beginning at the head of
it and quartering it down to the foot, while the troller at the
stern, with the point of his rod low, keeps his bait spinning
in jerks, — the object being to imitate a sick or wounded fish.
At each turn of the boat, the line must be gathered in by
the hand, or the edges of the rapids, which indeed are the
most likely parts, would be untried ; four out of five fish are
caught while the boats are in the act of turning.

This rather monotonous description of sport had gone on
for some time, when the Parson felt the rod nearly taken
out of his hand by the rush of a fish. The battle was furious,
for the salmo ferox does not belie his name, but it was a mere
trial of tackle, without any opportunity for the exercise of
skill, — carried on, too, at the bottom of water twenty feet
deep ; and when, after a quarter of an hour's boring against
the bottom, the Parson succeeded in bringing to the gaff his
huge capture, he declared he had done enough for fame,
struck up his rod, sought the lower pool in pursuit of gos
and id, with which, as well as with trout, it was said to

The Swedes say that gos is a fish very difficult to catch ;
to an Englishman, by far the most difficult part of the busi-
ness is to name the fish when he has caught it. Certainly, no
one is qualified to do so who speaks of Gothe under his
English appellations of Goth and Goaty : the dotted o affects
and softens the preceding consonant as well as the vowel, and
the name of this fish is pronounced much as if it was spelt
" yeus," in French letters. The difficulty experienced by
the Swedes in catching it, arises from the fact of its requiring
fine tackle in the clear waters which it frequents, instead of
the coarse gimp or wire which is sufficient ior the rash and
headlong pike ; in all other respects the habits of the two
fish are very similar, except that the gos is a much smaller
fish, and very much more prized. For him, the Parson was
content with setting lay-lines with live baits and conside-


rable length cf fine gut, while he directed his personal atten-
tion to the id.

In every particular, except one, the id is a chub ; his
haunts, his habits, his food are those of a chub ; in looks, too
— though certainly not altogether so clumsy, and, so to speak,
chubby, — he reminds one forcibly of the chub family. He is
something like the half-polished parvenu in his transition
state of existence, just admitted into aristocratic circles, but,
as yet, unable entirely to lay aside his brandy-and-water
habits and feelings. In every particular, except one, the id
is a chub, and that is, that he is by far the best eating of
any of the cyprinse ; in fact, so far as the pot goes, he is a
very respectable prize. The Parson, who, in his youth, had
caught many a chub, and was fully aware of the zoological
affinity of the two fish, was by no means at a loss for subjects
of mutual interest between himself and his new introduction ;
a fly, resembling, as near as it could be made on the spur of
the moment, a humble-bee, was tied on his finest gut, and the
boat, anchored in the stern, was by slow degrees permitted
to descend within long-cast of a still, over-shaded pool : the
fly, thrown from as great a distance as he could command,
fell as lightly as so clumsy a combination of fur and feathers
could be expected to fall, and was moved very slowly and
regularly over, or rather through, the water ; for, as it may
be supposed, the length of line caused it to sink a few inches
below the surface.

His science was not unrewarded, for, before long, a slug-
gish roll in the waters, and a strong, obstinate, pig-headed
pull at his line announced a capture. This was quickly fol-
lowed by others, for id, though gregarious, are quite as indif-
ferent to the troubles of their neighbours as if they were
human creatures ; provided you do not show yourself and
alarm them for their individual safety, their friend may kick
and struggle before their eyes, without causing a single wag
of their selfish tails.

It was not bad fun upon the whole, for the id, though not
possessing a tithe of the life and activity of the salmo genus,
pull like donkeys, and might have lasted some time longer,
for the Parson was getting interested, when Jacob was seen


making his leisurely way along the bank, for the purpose of
announcing " mid-dag's mad." The ground was sufficiently
tangled, and Torkel, who was managing the boat and landing
the fish, was extremely amused at the air of vexation and
annoyance with which he dipped under a low-spreading fir
branch, or put aside a too affectionate bramble. About a
hundred yards above the id pool was a little beach of the
whitest and smoothest sand that ever fairy danced upon.
From the point where the boat was anchored, it was evident
that this was caused by a little dull-looking stream, which
had brought the white particles from the hills during the
floods ; but which then, very suspiciously, did not run into the
river, but lost itself behind the white beach. All this was
lost upon Jacob, who was in the wood, and who, not liking
the tangled ground, made a valorous jump on to the white

" Der var et spring af en Leerovn !" shouted Torkel, quoting
a Danish proverb (" there was a jump for a tile-stove !") — as
poor Jacob flopped through the thin crust of white sand into
a bed of black, tenacious clay, in which he seemed planted up
to his middle, with his long flowing coat-tails spread out
upon the unbroken sand.

The more he screamed with fear, the more they screamed
with laughter. There was not the slightest danger, for he
had evidently got as far as he meant to sink ; but as for
getting out without a purchase from something solid, the
thing was impossible.

" We must have another fish," said Torkel, to make up the
dozen ; " and it will be impossible to get Jacob out without
spoiling the pool by pulling the boat across it."

The Parson coolly took another cast, — Jacob screamed
louder than ever.

" Bother that fellow, — I have missed him," said the Parson,
meaning not Jacob, but the fish.

" Try again," said Torkel, coolly, " you will get him next

A despairing shriek from Jacob.

" Ah ! that is in him ! — this is the biggest we have had
yet ! mind what you are about with the landing-net, — do


not let hira run under the boat ! Well, really, we must
pull out poor Jacob, or lie will poison us with bad cookery,
out of revenge. Up killick ! or whatever you call it in your
language, and shove across to him."

But when they landed, they seemed as far from the
rescue as ever. Jacob had jumped vigorously, and the
bank from which he had jumped was high. To reach him
was impossible, and to get out on the sand would be to
share his fate. While Torkel was trying to slip down the
bank, the Parson took out his knife to cut a branch.

" Stop ! stop !" said Torkel, who, unsuccessful, had scram-
bled back. " What are you doing 1 — we shall all suffer for
this j it is elder that you are cutting."

" Well ! what then ?"

" Why, if we take it without asking for it, the elves will
have power over us for nine days, and the chances are, some
of us will die suddenly."

The Parson was inclined to laugh, but he did not, and
turned to look for a branch of less dangerous wood ; but
Torkel, placing himself before it, taking off his hat and
bowing three times to the tree, said, " Elf-mother ! elf-
mother ! let me have some of thy elder, and I will give thee
something of mine."

The elf-mother certainly did not refuse, and Torkel took
silence for consent, which it proverbially is, and cut away at
the bough, which, stripped of its side branches, formed a
communication with the imbedded Jacob, who, black with-
out and sulky within, and, as Torkel said, looking more like
a pig than ever, was dragged floundering to the shore, — not
at all the more pleased when Torkel reminded him that, as
they were in light marching order, he would have to wash
his shirt, trousers, and stockings, and to sit without them
till they were dry.

When the party met at their mid-dag's mad, which was not
till long after the Swedish time for mid-dag's mad had passed,
there was a very respectable show of fish — not only enough
for the cutter, but also a very handsome basket for the
Gotheborg steamer that evening, which was duly packed
and forwarded in a light cart to the locks ; while the party,


shouldering their weapons and that part of their prize which
they had reserved for themselves, took the forest path to
Wenersborg. Before sundown they were safely established
on board the little cutter, who immediately tripped her
anchor, hoisted iib and foresail — for the mainsail was already
set, — payed off slowly before it, and stood out into the lake,
which was glowingly reflecting the red beams of the setting
sun, but still faintly rippling under the easterly breeze.

" Did not I tell you so V* said Moodie, who, seating himself
with his legs dangling down the well, had assumed the
tiller just as a gentleman drives his own carriage; "we
have had a capital day's sport, and got a glorious breakfast
for to-morrow. I have turned a few bancos, which will help
to pay for the trip, and here we are, resting from our labours
while the wind is carrying us on our journey."

" I hope it will stand," said old Nils, " but it is easterly,
you see, and the sun is setting ; the wind does not like to
blow in the face of the sun."

" Go to the — Stromkarl — your old croaker, and check the
main-sheet ; 3 r ou have got the sail a fathom too flat. The
wind is drawing round to the southward, as any one may
see ; ease off the jib and foresail too, while you are
about it."

The fact was, that the wind had. stood steady enough, but
Moodie, in his anxiety, had let her fall off a couple of points,
which Nils saw, but was too sulky to mention, and which the
rest of the party did not see, because, as strangers, they were
ignorant of the true course, and there was no binnacle, or,
so far as they could see, compass of any kind, besides those
they had in their pockets.

The cutter was half-decked, with a tidy little cabin for-
ward, and a couple of bunks for sleeping — one on each side of
the well ; in these the party very shortly disposed them-
selves, for they knew that a pretty stiff day's work lay before
them ; and having established the best defence in their
power against the musquitoes, slept as campaigners sleep, in
right down earnest.

" Hallo, Nils ! where are we ?" asked a sleepy voice next


The Captain, who had curled himself into the opposite
"bunk, was not quite certain whether it was not still a part
of his dreams.

The next call was quite enough to settle this fact.

" Nils ! " roared Moodie, " why Nils ! confound the fellow,
I believe he is asleep."

And so, sure enough, he was, with his head on the rudder-
case, as fast as any one of the seven sleepers of Ejmesus ; and
poor Nils was by no means singular in this respect — passen-
gers were asleep, attendants were asleep, dogs were asleep,
Jacob was asleep and snoring, the winds were asleep, every-
thing was asleep but the sails, and they were waving to and fro
with the knittles pattering against their surfaces, and shaking
the night dew on the deck like rain, while over all, like an
eider-down coverlet, had sunk on them all a steaming white
fog, so thick that the sharpest eyes could not see the little
burgee at the mast-head, or the out-haul block at the bowsprit
end. It was not dark, it never is in summer, but no one
could tell whether the sun had risen or not.

" Here's a go !" said the Captain.

" Faith ! I wish it was a go," said the Parson, putting
his head out of the cabin door; ' ; it seems to me just the


Mooclie, whose clever plan seemed to promise anything but
success, was as sulky as Nils had been overnight, and rated
the poor fellow soundly for going to sleep.

Nils represented, not altogether unreasonably, that the
wind had gone to sleep first.

" What is to be done now V said Moodie, breaking off a
discontented and reflective whistle, the last notes of which
had been singularly out of tune ; " I cannot send this sleepy
old fool to Leckb, or anywhere else, for I do not know where
Lecko is, or where we are, or anything about it in this fog ;
who was to have thought of this ?"

" Never mind," said the Parson —

"The wisest schemes of mice and men
Gang aft ajee ;" —

"I suppose this fog will clear off some time or other, and
we are well provisioned, at all events."



" Yes," said Moodie, " but we have sent on a forebud,
and we shall have to pay for the horses all the way

"Well, that is a bad job," said the Parson, "as far as it
goes ; but the worst that can come of it is to pay double, —
once for the failure, and once for the real journey."

" No, that is not the worst, by any means ; we have not
only lost our money, but our forebud ; we shall be kept
waiting for an hour or two at every station, and shall most
probably arrive when the fun is over. At such out-of-the-
way places there is not a chance of holl-horses, that is to say,
horses which the post-master keeps himself on speculation,
and we shall have to send to the farms, whose turn it is to
furnish them. 1 have been kept waiting that way for four
hours at a single station."

Here Nils, who had been up to the mast-head to see if he
could make out anything (for these fogs very often lie on
the surface, not a dozen feet thick, looking from above like
so much cotton wool in a box, while the sun is shining
brightly above them), slid down the back-stay, and declared
he could feel a light air aloft on the starboard beam ; " his
cheek felt quite cold," he said, "though the heavy main-
sail, dripping with dew, did not acknowledge the breeze
at all."

" How is her head ; why, confound you, you have forgotten
the compass" (not at all an unlikely piece of forgetfulness in
a river yacht.) This was soon remedied, for the Parson put
his own little pocket affair on the deck, which, as it was a
calm, did quite as well as her own.

She was looking a little southward of east, having pro
bably turned round and round a dozen times during th(

" That would do, the wind was southerly then ; but where
were they T

The day was now getting bright, and the fog was lookiu<
like a silver veil ; the tiresome pattering of the knittles ha(
ceased, or was renewed only at intervals ; she was evidently
gliding through the water, — but which way were the]
to steer 1 Amal certainly must be somewhere to the north


ward, but within six or eight points it was impossible to tell
where after such a sleepy watch as had been kept during
the past night. Reluctantly, Moodie brought her to the
wind, and hauled his foresheet to windward.

But the breeze increased, and the fog began to lift now
and then; it could be seen under, as it were, and though just
as thick about the mast-head as ever, a hundred yards or so
of the surface could be seen plainly on either side.

Nils rubbed his hands at this infallible sign of the rising
of the fog, and Moodie, somewhat easier in his mind, ordered

"There's land on the port-beam," said the Captain,
during one of these lifts. " I am sure I saw land, whatever
it is."

" There ought to be no land there," said Moodie ; for, lying
as she did now, close to the wind, she had brought the east,
that is to say, the great expanse of the lake, to her port-side,
and was looking exactly on the opposite direction to her
course ; " get a cast of the lead, and keep a bright look out
for rocks."

Just then the curtain of the fog rose in earnest, and dis-
closed a cluster of rocks and islets, among which they had

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 25 of 36)