Sunday, January 09, 2011

Introducing Petter Gustavson

Seems like the only way to get noticed in fly fishing or fly tying these days is to be an old, grizzled veteran, who only fishes dry flies and writes books about it - or you need to be one of those Xtreme Fly Fishermen who go to Mongolia to catch teimen, have long dirty hair, a beard and film it all for the big screen to help pay for your fly fishing "habit". Being a young clean guy, living on the other side of the world, and enjoying fishing in your home country will hardly get you noticed.

That is of course unless you tie some beautiful flies, take some amazing photographs and live in Norway! Meet Petter Gustavson, who happens to be all of those and a great fisherman to boot - and yes, I dare any of you to point out Norway on a map. You may have recognized some of Petter's work from the Fly Tying Forum, where he has been posting his ties for a while. He has given me the opportunity to take a peek into his life and let you all share in his story as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Petter, thanks for answering a few questions about yourself, I appreciate you taking the time sharing your fly tying, photography and fly fishing passion/obsessions with us.

So you are in Norway - where the hell is that? Us Americans can barely pick out Europe on a map - but we can tell you where New Zealand, Christmas Island and Kamchatka are - how big is Norway?
You should know about Norway, there was a Norwegian who discovered America – Leif Erickson is believed to have discovered America around 960 AD, and there are remains of Viking settlements in America dated to this period. Norway is situated up north in Europe, and is facing the Atlantic to the west and Sweden on the east. It shares border with Sweden, Finland and Russia. Norway is a small country about the size of the State of New Mexico and is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe with only 4.8 million inhabitants. The Norwegian capital Oslo is on the same longitude as Anchorage, but the gulf stream makes the climate to be pretty warm. The summers are hot and the winters are cold, making the fly fishing season relatively short stretching from May to October.

Are you a fly fisherman? What do you fish for?
I am absolutely a fly fisherman, fly fishing is my passion and I do it as much as I can. I mainly fish for Trout with dry flies to match the hatch. There is something special about a rising trout fooled by a self made imitation. When not pursuing trout with my dry fly I also fish for the trout’s cousin the Arctic Char. The Arctic Char is a beautiful fish that also like to rise for dry flies. Fishing for Grayling is also great in Norway as well.

A new trend in Norway is fly fishing in the sea for Halibut. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks awesome to fight a 100lbs halibut on a fly rod.

Are there trout in Norway? Are there any fish species in Norway not in the US?
There are absolutely trout in Norway; we have Lake Trout, Sea Trout, Brown Trout, and Brook Trout. The Brown trout is the most popular one. I don’t believe we have species not found in the US.

Where is the coolest place you have ever been and fished?
The coolest place I have ever fished is in the Northern part of Norway – it is a place almost like the surface of the moon with almost no vegetation, and the area we fished looked untouched. Not a trace of other people being there. There where lakes and rivers everywhere and the average brown trout where 2lbs!

What type of gear do you use? Typical gear in the US is a 5wt, 9 ft rod - is it similar?
My gear is usually a 5wt 9ft rod. This set up and a 4wt is the typical trout gear here in Norway as well. Guess it’s the global idea of a Trout rod.

Who is your favorite fishing partner? Or would you rather fish alone?
I really enjoy fishing with friends and alone, both have their good sides. My favorite fishing partner is one who is as passionate and eager to be out in the wild fishing for rising trout. My main man is a guy who drops everything in his hands when I say that the mayflies are hatching in the home pool, or will go on a three week expedition away from the civilization just to catch untouched, wild brown trout.

Any pets? Take them fishing with you?
Well, I don’t have any pets yet, as I am living in Oslo in a small apartment. I will defiantly get a dog when I move out of the city. I’m a real dog person and enjoy the company of dogs.

Being from the Rocky Mountain region we are spoiled with amazing scenery, mountains, canyons, bald eagles, elk, bears and sometimes lots of people - can you explain what your favorite fishing spot looks like?
My favorite fishing spot is probably just like the Rocky Mountains, but there are rarely people around in the fishing season. There are as many lakes and small rivers in this area as there are stars on the sky, and the fish have probably never seen an artificial fly. In the summer the sun never goes down and you can fish as much as you can handle without getting interrupted by the sun going down. The nature up north in Norway is amazing and the wildlife is amazing.

Have you ever fished in the United States? How does it compare to Norway?
I have yet to fish in the US, and I’m planning to go as soon as my wallet approves. I have always had a dream to go fishing in the United States, and there are numerous places I would like to go! I’d like to fish the Henry’s Fork in Idaho and of course Blackfoot and Gallatin in Montana. I think I’ll need a month or more if I get the opportunity to fish in the United States. I’d have to finish it off with a grand slam at the Florida Key’s – that question really got me dreaming!

Do you use size 22 midges in Norway?
Well sometimes, but I personally don’t fish flies sized 20 or smaller.

Obviously you are a great fly tier, but what else do you like to do in your free time?
As you might know, the winters are long in Norway, so fly tying is a big part of the fly fishing passion of mine. I have a big passion for basketball, and beer as well. Quite a mix. Actually American lagers are my favorite beers.

How long have you been tying?
I’ve been tying since I was 10, so I have been fly tying for about 18 years now. The reason why I’m tying is to use them to fish with. It’s like a hobby within the hobby if you understand what I mean.

Do you sell your flies? Do you do demos? Are you sponsored by any fly shops?
I don’t sell my flies, but my fly fishing pals usually get loads as I tend to tie more than I can use. I’m not sponsored by any fly shops. Norway is a small country and there are not that many fly shops around. I would love to be sponsored and do demos ;)

I’ve sold some flies, but I don’t appreciate fly tying if it’s a task. I never plan what to tie until I’m at my fly tying bench.

Do you or have you ever worked for a fly shop or gear manufacturer?
I have never worked for anyone in the fly fishing industry, I would love to get a job within the industry, but there are few opportunities to get in the industry here in Norway as the people are holding on to their jobs. And I really understand why!

Ok, so you don’t tie commercially, you don’t work at a fly shop, so what do you do for a real job?
Right now I don’t have a real job to be honest. I’ve just graduated from a University in England, and I’m applying jobs at the moment (lots of time to do some fly tying). In my spare time I volunteer working on a cultivation project in my home river, helping the trout population to reproduce.

What is your favorite rod, reel, fly line? and why?
My favorite rod is a Loop Yellow Line 9’3 ft #5. The reason why I really enjoy this rod is that it’s not for people in a hurry, it’s a rod that you can enjoy with every cast and it presents even the smallest dry fly in a delicate matter. The reel that is usually on that rod is an old Loop Original Dry Fly (now called a Danielsson) - it’s a simple but lovely reel. It’s my favorite reel because I always wanted one when I was a young kid looking in the shops.

The fly line I’m using is a Guideline Highwater. It’s a great line for nice presentation, and it’s perfect for my rod and reel combo!

What is the most time you have ever taken to tie one fly?
To be honest I’m not sure, maybe when I first tried to tie the Mohican Mayfly by Oliver Edwards. I spent about an hour tying the first one. But after I got a hang of it, I found out that it’s not as hard to tie, you just need to take your time and be thorough.

Is there a pattern you can't tie? Something you just can't get it to look right, or just won't try because you know you won't be able to do it?
This is kind of embarrassing, but I just can’t get the Lafontaine's Sparkle Pupae Emerger. I just can’t get the antron to look right, so I don’t tie that fly and it’s a shame because I know it’s a killer fly for those caddis hatches!!

Mohican Mayfly

What is your favorite fly tying hook, material, hackle?
My favorite fly tying hook is the Tiemco 102y. I love the light black finish and the wide gape. It hooks trout perfectly almost every time.

My favorite hackle is a Whiting hackle, and the color is coachman brown. Love that color.

My favorite materials at the moment are snowshoe, CDC and deer hair. I like to tie my flies with a mix of natural ingredients and modern synthetics.

Do you use any material different than its intended use? Like maybe computer foam for wings, or something crazy?
Well, it’s not my idea but a Norwegian fly tier named Staffan Linström who came up with a material called VAG. It’s the pollen filter for Volkwagen Passats 90 model. I used as a caddis wing, and it floats all day and looks pretty realistic.

Dark Olive Dun

Your house is burning down, you have 5 seconds to save something, the dog, the cat or your fly tying stuff?
Definitely not the cat, and I don’t have a dog so it has to be my fly tying stuff. If I had a dog I would go for the dog. I could always get new fly tying stuff.

Caddis Trio

Weirdest material used in a fly? And don't say belly button lint - that isn't so weird!
Not that I know of, but those danish people are crazy. Check out That’s weird!! (yikes Petter, this is a kids show! j/k, but that is pretty damn weird!!)

VAG Caddis

Obviously you are quite a talented fly tier - your flies are all over the internet - but your photography is stunning - great close-ups of well tied flies, great lighting and contrast with deep colors. What do you love more, tying the fly or photographing it?
Thanks! I will definitely say fly tying. The photo’s are just so I can share my passion with other fly fishermen/women.

Organza Ribbon Caddis

Do you have an online gallery we can link to? Is it in development?
I have a web page coming up soon, but I’m not sure when it will be ready. The site is


Your photography is amazing - do you take photos of more than flies?
Well, I usually take photos of nature and fishing stuff, but I’m all about fishing and tying. Photography is just an extra thing to it all.

Streaking Caddis

Any tips for us fly photographers who can't seem to figure out how to take a decent pic?
There’s one thing that is really important and that is light, you can never get to much light. And don’t use yellow light, white bright light is the best you can add to photos! I use a lot of tin foil to remove as much shadow as possible.

Caddis Pupae

Explain your camera set up for photographing flies?
Well, a lot of people don’t believe me when I say this. But I only use a mounted Olympus compact camera that I bought several years ago. Its macro settings are fairly good, and as I mentioned before, light is very important.

Biot Mayfly Emergers

Do you share tips with other fly photographers?
No, not really, there are many, many photographers better than me!


What other fly tiers inspire you? Who do you look to for ideas?
Well one of my biggest inspirations is Oliver Edwards, he has created lots of fantastic looking, fishable flies that I love. There is also lot’s of great Norwegian fly tiers that has inspired me over the years. Pål Krogvold, Staffan Lindström, Terje Refsahl (aka DryFlyPurist), Rune Stokkebekk, Andre Brun to mention some of the great fly tyers.

PG CDC & Foam

What fly fishing forums/boards do you frequent?
I’m usually on Norwegian fly tying forums, and one of the greatest is It’s great, and a lot of inspiration and information on fly tying and fishing. I also frequent A lot of great ties on this forum, and a lot of great American fly tiers who have given me a lot of inspiration!

Claret Dun

Family? Kids? Wife?
No kids or wife, but I have a girlfriend. She’s not really into fly fishing, but she understands my needs and is really patient when it comes to me fishing 24/7.

Big Caddis


If you'd like to reach Petter, you can check out his site at, or you can contact him on under the name PetterG.

All photos were taken by Petter Gustavson.

Thank you again Petter, I hope that I have somehow showcased your work (to my 6 readers - hi Mom!) to a larger fly tying/fishing audience here in the US. If you are ever in the US, look us up so we can take you to a beautiful place in the rockies and have one of those American Lager's!


Bigerrfish said...

wow! you will love the US

DP said...

Amazing flies, Petter!

Nice interview

petter.gustavson said...

Thanks guys!

will definitely visit US for some fly fishing soon!