Night fishing using a spear and a torch | Lystring

One ancient fishing method was to catch fish in the dark, using a multi-pronged spear and a torch. The Norwegians call it lystring; the English call it leistering.
Leistering on the lake Krøderen. A painting by Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand. | Børre Høstland - Nasjonalmuseet - nasjonalmuseet.no - CC BY.

A leister is an ancient tool

Lystring is the gerund form of the Norwegian verb å lystre – pronounced [ly`strə]. The word comes from the Old Norse verb ljósta, which means to hit, impale, or stab.

The verb comes from the noun lyster – pronounced [ly´stər] – which means a fishing spear with a long wooden shaft and a set of barbed prongs attached to its end.

In English, the verb and the noun are both spelt leister – pronounced [ˈliːstə].

A leister is a tool believed to go back thousands of years, back to the Stone Age and the hunter-gatherers.

Lured the prey using light

The hunter lured the prey towards her with the light from the torch. She usually used a boat, but could also stand in the water, on a rock, on the riverbank, and more.

The leistering often took place when darkness returned in the autumn. The fisher, or someone next to her, held a fire torch above the water’s surface to attract the fish.

The fisher could also attach the torch to the side of the boat – or to a pole sticking out from the boat over the water.

Speed was of the essence

When a fish appeared – to have any hope of catching it – the person holding the leister had to quickly thrust it towards the fish.

To avoid losing the leister into the water, the thrower often attached a piece of rope to the end of its long wooden shaft and tied the rope around her wrist.

When out leistering, you could catch trout (ørret), pike (gjedde), burbot (lake), eel (ål) and much more.

Lystring differs slightly from the fishing method lysing, where you wade in the water in the dark, using a torch to attract crabs, crayfish, and more, and catch the prey using your bare hands.

Please note: As a rule, leistering is prohibited by law in Norway today.

Nasjonalbiblioteket. (n.d.). Retrieved from nb.no. | Haugen, E. (1967,1974). Norwegian English dictionary. Wisconsin, USA: The University of Wisconsin Press ISBN 978-0-299-03874. | Det norske akademis ordbok. (n.d.). Retrieved from naob.no. | Bokmålsordboka and Nynorskordboka. (n.d.). Retrieved from ordbokene.no. | MNR.00046

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