Lystring is the gerund form of the verb å lystre (to lystre) | conjugation: å lystre – lystret – lystret – lystring | å lystre comes from the Old Norse verb ljósta, which means hit, impale, stab.
What does the word mean?
The verb lystre is derived from the noun lyster, which means a fishing spear with a long wooden shaft and a set of barbed prongs attached to its end. In English, this tool is called a leister. The lyster is a tool that goes back thousands of years, to the Stone Age and the early hunter-gatherers.
The gerund form lystring means the act of fishing with a lyster – leistering in English.
Similar or related words
Other words for a lyster are a lystergaffel or lystregaffel. The word gaffel means a fork.
Lystring vs. lysing: lystring must not be confused with the Norwegian word and fishing method lysing. Lysing is the similar process of wading in the water in the dark, also using a torch to attract and spot crabs, crayfish, and more. The big difference is that in this case, you catch the catch using your hands.
More on the traditional context
It began in the Stone age
The first Norwegians were fishers, hunters, and gatherers, and appeared in the Scandinavian landscape after the latest ice age, some 10-15,000 years ago. The Stone age hunter-gatherers were inventive people and always on the lookout for new ways to provide food for themselves and their families. The method of lystring has roots that stretch back to this early era.
On, in, or by the water
The lystring normally happens from a small boat – on a lake, a river, or in the sea. But people can also stand in the water, on a rock, on the riverbank, and more.
In the dark
The lystring normally takes place when it is dark, often in the early autumn. The fisher, or someone next to her, holds a fire-torch above the water’s surface to attract the fish. The torch can also be attached to the side of the boat – or to a pole sticking out from the boat over the water.
Speed is of the essence
When the fish appears, the person holding the lyster must be quick and thrust it towards the fish, like she would a spear. To avoid losing the lyster into the water, there is often a rope attached to the end of its long wooden shaft, which again is attached to the thrower’s hand.
Examples from books and stories
Sigurd Telnes Fra fjord til fjell med Reidar Fritzvold 1990
→ Hugen til å fiske blei sterkare etter som tida gjekk, og bestefaren fortalde om dei ulike fangstmåtane, lystring med tyriloge og jakt på gjedde.
→ The desire to go fishing grew stronger with time, and his grandfather told him about the different methods of fishing, like lystring with a pine torch, and pike-hunting.
Sven R. Gjems Livet på Finnskogen 1992
→ Man kunne få både ørret, gjedde, og lake ved lystring. Ja, til og med ål ble tatt på dette viset.
→ You could get both trout, pike, and burbot (lake) when out leistering. Yes, even eels were caught in this way.
Please note: As a general rule, lystring is forbidden by law in Norway today
Sources: Nasjonalbiblioteket nb.no | Einar Haugen’s Norwegian-English dictionary | Det Norske Akademis ordbok | Bokmålsordboka and Nynorskordboka.