Flying into Bergen, we were met by Hans-Martin from Frivannsliv.no who drove 100km deliver our hire kit to us. When he saw the size of our already very full car, he very kindly drove with us to the Rorbu where we were staying at Kvernepollen in the Oygarten peninsula and unveiled a cache of perfectly fitting 7mm wetsuits, weights, fins, masks, snorkels, gloves, socks, floats and spearguns along with plenty of spares in case we got into trouble. With a few tips on local hotspots handed over, he headed back home with a promise to come back in 4 days and collect the gear. Not the kind of service you would expect from a UK dive company, and enough to make the trip almost entirely hassle free.
The weather was not ideal - but we were further north than the Shetlands, with rain and strong winds on a couple of the days - but it doesn't rain underwater. The islands of the Oygarten peninsula are so well sheltered that there is always somewhere you can dive in flat conditions, no matter what the weather. And when the sun comes out it is paradise….. Visibility ranged from 3 - 10 meters throughout the trip which gave plenty of scope for good hunting grounds.
On the first day, we had a quick afternoon dive to get our bearings and get used to Norwegian water in Selvaagen and found big shoals of Pollack in waters ranging from 3 - 20m. The bigger fish were happily lurking just at the range of visibility, but with a bit of artful hunting we managed to close in on them by sneaking around the edges of the rocks. We managed to get a few Pollack, the biggest of which was 3kg and more than enough to feed us for the evening. Lots of empty scallop shells around, but we didn't find any live ones.
Over the next three days we dived all around the islands in the northern half of the peninsula. We found good ground marked as sand on the charts which Kvernepollen gave us which turned up plenty of good sized plaice ranging from 1 - 3kg, flounder and a couple of beautiful Halibut up to 4kg. These were also the scallop grounds and we took enough for three each for the evening, taking care to leave more than half of what we found as the locals do. There were plenty of big brown crabs and clams which went into the pots as well as a few lobsters that we left well alone - being foreigners, they are the one species we are forbidden to take.
The rorbu huts at Kvernepollen are perfectly kitted out for our needs.... Each one had a well stocked kitchen, are well heated with endless hot water and have a good sized freezer. The fish processing room where we filleted our fish had a vacuum packer and an essential wall chart showing all the fish that are found in the area. Most days ended with long discussions around the chart debating with the other guests (from Germany, Russia, Sweden and many more) where the best fish were found and how deep we would have to go to get a good sized ling.
As we ranged further afield we found places where, when the tide was right, it whipped around the headlands at 6 - 10 knots. These were the areas where the Pollack and cod gathered to feed, holding pace with the current letting the food come down to them. Drift dives down through these areas sometimes let us take big fish by surprise. Normally the first thing you knew about a big cod approaching was the other fish scattering and suddenly, a huge monster Pollack or wide-headed cod would steam into view, deceptively fast with their long slow tail strokes. This is the time the adrenaline kicked in - if you could hold it and get your timing right the ultimate prize of a 5kg plus cod could be yours. Harry managed to stone a horse of a cod early on the second day.... a monster of a fish at least 6-8kg that left him feeling very pleased with himself. as he threaded it on the stronger on his float. Until 30 minutes later, that is, when he joined up with the rest of us and pulled in his float to revel nothing but a few scales and some slime..... We looked for it for a while, but as he had popped the swim bladder to keep it away from the gulls, we had no joy. It took him a day or two to get over that one. In the mean time, I had manage to miss a sitter of a 5kg cod that was hovering directly below me... The sight of a spear missing by 5mm as it sails past is not one I like to see, no matter how often it seems to happen.
The final day brought strong winds and poor visibility, but we had a morning dive in the Nodra Straumsundet and managed to find big schools of nice 1- 2kg Pollack, a few elusive cod and some fantastic weed and rock swim-throughs to keep us busy.
Hans Martin appeared right on time and took our wet and well used kit away to his store to be dried out ready for the next team of divers, leaving us to head back home with a nicely frozen cool box of vac-packed fillets that would keep us going over the next few weeks while we planned our next mission. Hans Martin and the frivannsliv team make short trips possible without having to bring vast quantities of kit and even have their own Rorbus further north that we may have to explore next time.