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Catching salmon the traditional

By Hákon Kjalar

Hunting Ground



It’s Thursday,8 o’clock in the morning.I’m strolling across the island towards my dock, which lies under the cliffs that over look the pithur river. That’s where I’ve set my salmon net. I’ve been up for a while, have had my breakfast of yogurt and granola and a full pot of coffee. That is all I need to greet the day. The dock is a ten minutes walk from the house.I could speed over there in my ATV in a couple of minutes,but I like to walk. It’s meditative; a time to think.

When I get to the dock the sun is still behind the cliffs that line the island’s northern end. Even though it’s mid-summer the cold will find you when you step out of the sun this early in the morning. A few fish have gotten caught in the night.I tighten my grip and haul the whole thing on to the dock.There are five salmons in my net this morning. I have to untangle the net so it will release my catch; a job that will test your patience. You can’t let that affect your mood. You have to go slow;unravel the tangles and free the salmon with out losing your composure and start tearing at their scales or ripping the net. My fingers are numb, frozen stiff. They feel clumsy and useless against the wet tangles that the fish is caught in. I want to get my knife out and cut the damn things loose and I have to stop and look out over the river before my mood sours any more than it has.

“Kneeling down, I get a good grip on the net and start pulling it in”

“In the shade under the cliffs, my fingers are cold after dragging the net out of the glacial river.”

A seal is swimming on the other side of the current. Further upstream from the dock, Skuggi, my dog, sits on the bank and wonders why there is a dog swimming in the middle of the Þjórsá river. I like to imagine that Skuggi thinks the seals are dogs that live in the river. A loon floats down river near the dock. Further along a family of geese bobs on the current and arctic terns circle above. On the bank near Skuggi, a sea-pie plods along the grass,looking for something to eat. With all this beautybeforemy eyesmymood lifts and mycold fingersare forgotten. I recognize my fortune in working in such surroundings. This is my office,so to speak.I turn back to the netwith a lightheart, filled with renewed vigor, and free the remaining fish.

“The river shimmers in the sun,the glittering white rapids like diamond sin the stream.”

You have to plant your feet firmly in a wide stance,make sure that you’re not tangled up in the net. You don’t want to follow it into the stream.

I lay the fishes on my work table there on the dock, tie a few loops at the net’s edges and get into position. I swing the net a back and forth a few times, letting its weight do the work. Then I let go, throw it as far as I can. It hits the muddy water and immediately starts floating downriver on the heavy stream, pulling behind it the remaining net that’s lying on the dock. When the whole thing is out it pulls hard against the dock,which creaks and shifts beneath my feet. Then everything goes quiet again.

“You have to plant your feet firmly in a wide stance,make sure that you’re not tangled up in the net. You don’t want to follow it into the stream.”

I weigh the salmon and scribble the numbers in my register. Gut it, clean itandbag it. Later, I’ll carry it back across the island and store it in the turf-hut that’s dug into the side of a hill near the main house. Its dark and coldthere,and the fish will keep well. After thatthere will be more coffee, before moving onto the other daily tasksthat await me.

“After that there will be more coffee, before moving onto the other daily tasks that await me.”

There are three gardens on my island

Catching salmon the traditional way