In 2019, the producers of the famous Mortimer and Whitehouse fishing programme contacted us about arranging a trip for the duo’s one-off 2022 Christmas special. Norway was the chosen destination, considered by many as the home of Christmas, and a perfect setting for Bob to try to convince Paul that the festive season is truly ‘the most wonderful time of the year. Initially, the programme was to be filmed, produced and aired on the BBC in 2020, but the trip was postponed due to the devastating global Covid pandemic. Fast forward to 2022, and the wheels were set in motion to make the idea a reality.
Paul Stevens, our destination manager and sea fishing expert, who organised the whole experience, was requested to travel with Paul, Bob and the crew to ensure everything ran without incident. Just last week, I chatted with him in the office and got a glimpse of what the trip was about and what viewers could expect. Here is his diary from a truly memorable experience and one that everyone at Sportquest was honoured to be involved with.
If you would like to learn more about the trip that Paul and Bob enjoyed for the Mortimer And Whitehouse Christmas Special 2022, visit our tour page here.
Paul Stevens’ Gone Fishing’ diary:
The whole thing, from start to finish, was a pretty surreal experience, and as you’ll probably gleam from this blog, it was a fantastic adventure and one I’ll always remember.
Meeting everyone at the airport was strange; it didn’t seem real, especially after the trip had been in the pipeline for so long. It was nice to put some names to faces, though, especially as I’d been speaking to some of the production team via email, phone and zoom for over three years. After introducing myself to Paul and Bob and after a firm handshake, it was time for everyone to board the plane. It was funny to see the reactions of fellow passengers as they caught a glimpse of the famous duo. Inside it felt nice to be travelling with them and part of the whole experience, and even nicer to know it was my responsibility to look after them all.
Through all my years of guiding and fishing in Norway, I’d been part of filming projects, but nothing on this scale – it still blows my mind now to think of all the crew and equipment that travelled with us. In total, there was something like forty bags and cases between all of us. So as you can imagine, it was a great relief that every single bag and piece of equipment landed safely.
The first night was excellent, as I managed to sit down with Paul and Bob and enjoy a beer; it was a very relaxed atmosphere and nice to know that after all the weeks, months and years of waiting, we were finally in Norway.
I went ahead of the crew to Vesteralen, as I wanted to get there early and check that everything was ready for everyone’s arrival. After a short wait, it was a great relief to see a convoy of cars travelling down the gravel track and pulling up at the camp. Having organised the trip single-handedly, I’m not going to lie; I felt a little bit of pressure on my shoulders. I just wanted to ensure that everything ran as smoothly as possible and that everyone, from Paul and Bob to all the crew, had everything they needed.
As quickly as everyone had arrived, they were gone again; Paul and Bob had picked up their car and headed off for the first piece of filming for the trip. Just as I was halfway through unpacking, I had a phone call from one of the crew, and it went something along the lines of this:
Producer: Paul, there’s been a bit of an accident; Paul and Bob have crashed the car.
Me: What?! Is everyone okay?
Producer: Yeah, everyone is okay; no panic, but the car is currently in a ditch.
Me: Where are you? I’m now leaving!
My heart sank a little bit on the way to meet them, and I had a hundred thoughts racing around my head. However, when I pulled up and saw everyone smiling at the side of the ditch, I felt much better. Luckily no one got hurt, and the car only slipped off the side of the road, and we managed to tow it out without incident. Afterwards, it was all very amusing and set the tone of the trip – it’s undoubtedly one event I hope they leave in the programme as I’m sure everyone will find it as funny as we did.
Once everyone was back at the cabins, we enjoyed a lovely evening meal of Wolffish, potatoes and grilled vegetables, and the wine flowed. Usually, all our trips to Norway are on a self-catering basis, but for the duration of the trip, I managed to source a complete catering package for everybody.
The hot topic of conversation was the car incident, which everyone found highly amusing.
After the meal, I’d organised for everyone to continue the evening at the fire pit hut, which is the perfect place to sit, drink and chat the night away, which is what happened. Around 9.30, I stepped outside to see how the conditions were for the northern lights, and to my delight, they were already in full flow. I quickly called everyone out to witness the spectacle, and everyone sat and watched the colours dancing above our heads for the next few hours. It was a fantastic occasion and one which will be spectacular on film.
Aside from queries about fish and fishing, I think ‘will we see the northern lights?’ has to be the question I get most asked. It’s undoubtedly one of nature’s most impressive sights and one, depending on the time of year you travel, that you can regularly witness when fishing in Norway.
This was the first fishing day of the trip and one I was looking forward to; it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve fished out in Norway, the first day of any trip is always super exciting. After studying the tides and weather, I ideally wanted to be on the water around 9 am, but by the time everyone was ready, and the cameras had secured on the b-roll they needed, it was nearer 11 am.
The action plan was to try and catch some Cod first and then move on to some Halibut. Unfortunately, with the weather a little rougher than expected, we couldn’t quite get to the Cod mark as quickly as we’d have liked, but by around 12.30, we’d located some fish and Paul, and Bob was soon in on the action.
With the sea somewhat choppy, a few of the crew were a little ‘green around the gills’, including the young camera assistant on my boat, who said, ‘I don’t know whether to be sick or poo myself’ – which had everyone in stitches.
After lunch, we motored to an area that had good autumn form for Halibut, and I was confident we’d see a fish or two. After Bob and Paul were in position, it wasn’t long before they got hooked up to one of these famous flatfish and one which looked promising. After a good battle, they eventually secured a nice fish measuring 155cm or approximately 100lb. With fish of this size, as with all Halibut, they’re cared for and looked after brilliantly, and with the minimum amount of fuss, the specimen was soon released back to the depths without ever leaving the water.
As they say, ‘And awaaay…!’
With Cod and Halibut ticked off the list, the day had been a success, and everyone was happy with how everything unfolded. It was such an experience to fish with two celebrities; after doing my job for 15 years, it was surreal to see them on the same boats I’m so accustomed to.
The day had been put aside as a day off from fishing and for Paul and Bob to visit a local lighthouse that had been converted into some stunning accommodation. We had organised for them to see this unique property on a small rib-style boat, and due to the swell of the sea, it was a roller coaster journey, completely safe and great fun. For the entirety of the day and evening, Paul and Bob filmed on location and were catered for by a local chef who cooked them some famous dishes to sample.
We were up reasonably early, and once Paul and Bob arrived back from the lighthouse on the rib, we were on our way to Leknes. On the way, there were plenty of opportunities to stop and gather B-roll and a stop at a traditional Norweigian jumper-making shop where the duo knitted their own. Unfortunately, we waited outside while they did their thing, as the shop was tiny and the temperature was like an oven! It looked very entertaining, though, and a section I look forward to seeing in the finished production. Once we arrived in Leknes, everyone enjoyed the evening off to relax and have a nice meal and drinks.
This was a free day for everyone to relax and recharge their batteries after an action-packed few days.
After our day off, everyone made the journey to Nappstraumen, where some freshwater fishing had been organised, at a picturesque lake just ten minutes from the camp. However, due to the time of year, I thought it might be a long shot, as Arctic Char (the intended species) aren’t the easiest fish to catch at the best of times. Nevertheless, the day passed quickly, and the cameras and drone operator were incredibly busy gathering all the footage they needed. I must mention that some of the drone shots were insane, and I can’t wait for everyone to see them!
On the way home from fishing, we stopped at a local church where a Norwegian choir sang several traditional Christmas carols. Only Paul and Bob were allowed in out of respect, but from the outside, it sounded incredible. Back at the camp, we all had a lovely meal and some drinks, like before with Vesteralen, we had organised a complete catering package.
This day had been set aside for shore fishing with our guide Zac Harrow-Deitz and was one I was looking forward to as I’d yet to witness our shore fishing trip in action – I was curious to see how it all unfolded.
Before we set off for the day, we all had a detailed discussion about where to fish, as many different factors had to be considered – the weather being the main one (as it was still very windy), the backdrop for filming and, of course, the fishing.
The area we opted for was Nesland, with its location allowing Paul and Bob to fish with the wind off their backs; it also provided the crew with some breathtaking filming opportunities. Once everyone was in position, we cast the rods out and waited for the day’s first fish.
This day was thoroughly entertaining, and there were far too many funny moments to share, as from the first minute to the last, Bob and Paul had everyone in stitches, and it was, without a doubt, the funniest day of the trip. A highlight was when Bob pulled a trumpet out of the carrier bag he’d been carrying all day and proceeded to play us a somewhat out of tune, tune (Sorry, Bob!) to try and encourage some fish to feed. Unfortunately, this tactic wasn’t successful, and after a couple of tough hours, we decided to call it a day and return to the comfort of the cabins.
This was another day I was looking forward to, as another celebrity I’d grown up watching would join us for the day. The crew and I had been sworn to secrecy as Paul and Bob genuinely didn’t know who it was. However, when Ulrika Jonsson arrived, it was a genuinely lovely moment as they all shared an embrace and looked truly happy. I had been introduced to Ulrika a few hours before Paul and Bob had turned up and was a little star-struck, she was ever so friendly and we had a lovely chat and yes she still is extremely attractive, but please don’t tell my wife!!
After the greetings, Ulrika got busy in the kitchen preparing various snacks from their homeland to feed Paul and Bob – I’ve said it multiple times, but I cannot wait to see this segment in the finished production.
We were meant to be on our way to our famous destination of Å, but due to the unpredictable weather and winds gusting to nearly 100mph, I suggested we stay put in Nappstraumen, where there was a bit more shelter and the conditions more stable. Moreover, it would give us a great chance to get out and target a Plaice too – another species for which the country is famous. So, after agreeing with Paul, Bob, the producer and the crew that this was a sensible move, I got three boats together and another guide, and we headed out to the fishing grounds.
At Nappstraumen, they have what we class as a mini Moskenstraumen, an area where two tides collide, creating an impressive tide rip and whirlpool. Despite not being as famous as the one we witness at Å, the largest in the world, with no signs of the weather improving there, there was a risk we may not get to see it. So with this in mind, I suggested to the crew we gather some footage and explore the one offshore in Nappstraumen – which is what we did. Seeing Paul and Bob’s faces behind me, grinning from ear to ear as we negotiated the turbulent water, was a special moment and one that will always live with me. The footage we gathered on this day will be very impressive, especially the drone footage which followed us as we steamed through the strong tidal current which had Paul and Bob giggling like children.
They commented afterwards that the journey through the Moskenstraumen was like being on a roller coaster at sea, something which you’ll be able to see from the footage.
Once the camera crew were pleased with the footage, we found some shelter in a small fjord and caught some lovely Plaice, which was the perfect ending to another good day. Looking back on everything we were dealing with, it turned out to be a great decision.
Despite the unsavoury conditions, we headed to Å in the hope of getting a small weather window, where we could film its Moskenstraumen and some Coalfish fishing. On arrival, the film crew got to work and gathered an array of footage around the camp whilst I kept an eye on the sea state and weather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good; with scary five to seven-metre waves, with the safety of everyone always paramount, it was a day on land.
The trip’s final day was set aside for Paul and Bob to finish the programme. They decorated their cabin at Å with a Christmas tree and all the trimmings before cooking a Christmas dinner and chatting about the trip they’d experienced. The perfect way to end the filming and our trip away.
Also on this day, we had a very special Christmas cake baked by the one and only Mary Berry another moment I will never forget. Many people have asked if it is as good as the mother-in-law’s cake, and my answer has always been “is the mother-in-law near us? If she isnt, then hell yes it was, it was cooked by Mary Berry”
It was a pleasure to spend time with everyone involved with the making of the programme, and of course, Paul and Bob were true gents and precisely as they appeared on camera. From when we woke up to when we went to bed, they bounced off each other and made everyone laugh.
I was asked to add a few highlights, but the whole trip was a highlight, but a few moments do stick out:
- The crash at the beginning, after we knew no one was injured.
- When the entire crew felt seasick at Vesteralen!
- Paul landed his Halibut, one of the biggest fish of his life.
- Bob playing the trumpet had everyone laughing.
- The whole Arctic Char fishing experience.
- Meeting Ulrika Jonsson at Nappstraumen
- Seeing Paul and Bob’s faces when we drove through the Moskenstraumen.
- Eating Mary Berry’s Christmas Cake
- Enjoying a glass of wine in the evenings with everyone on the trip.
I want to thank Paul, Bob and everyone involved in the trip for helping make everything run smoothly; it was an absolute pleasure to arrange and be part of. If you’ve seen the programme, I hope you enjoyed it and if you haven’t, catch up with it, as it’s worth a watch.
If you would like more information about any of the fantastic sea fishing destinations in the programme or any of the others we offer, please feel free to contact me on 01603 407 596 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.