Sweden, August 2014

August 2

After having been home for almost 2 weeks, I have finally arrived to the north of Sweden, my favorite place. This is the place I often daydream about when I am in Thailand. This, and the Swedish summer. The feelings overwhelming you are something I don’t think anybody can understand who doesn’t live abroad in a country so different from where you are born….I can’t describe it words.

11 hours of driving from Stockholm has finally brought me here. I almost had a tear in the corner of my eye as I stepped off the plane at Arlanda, and now it is almost there again.

I don’t have time to to drop my stuff at the camp, but instead drive straight to the river to see my friend, who arrived a couple of hours earlier. Headlamp on and jumping into the waders while tackling my 8 weight, I can finally breathe out a couple of minutes later as my fly lands in the water. As I wobble on the slippery stones while preparing my next cast, I think that this is really life. The fresh air, the silence, the peace, and no mosquitoes(??). Nothing beats it. Ok, I could had been without the line tangling there. I had managed to forget it happens, when I daydream of this back in Thailand. There, far away, the evenings here are always calm and mosquito-free with lots of bite-willing trout.
The water temperature is very high, 20 degrees, and the water level low, but I can honestly say it doesn’t bother me now, I have time. To just be here makes up for it, and I feel confident despite the bad conditions.
I have 10 days of fishing before the general arrives to the Kingdom with another friend from Thailand to resume command. If I count low, say 1 cast every other minute, and 12 hours of effective fishing/day, that would give me a total of 3600 drifts, which should be more than enough. With that amount, I reason, I even have chance on blind trouts.

August 5 – 11

5 days later, I start to despair a little. I haven’t felt a nose bump, and neither has my friend. I have tied new flies, big flies, small flies, dark flies, light flies, bushy flies and sparse flies. I have lost flies, many flies, sworn over line tangling, fallen into the water on slippery stones, basically everything of the bad stuff, but but none of the good. On the positive side, the weather has been better than I have ever experienced up here: Sunshine, blue sky and temperatures reaching 30 degrees daytime, and no mosquitoes. Unfortunately I don’t see too much of the good weather, as I fish night time. The chilly mornings are especially picturesque with a thick mist rising from the river and lakes. There is no surprise people believed in trolls, gnomes and the water sprite back in the old days when met with these sceneries.

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The river, early morning

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My friend gives up after 6 days and decides to try another river before heading back home to Uppsala, but as I am a very naive person, I decide to continue, thinking I can still turn this disaster.
As I near the end of my time by the river this year, I notice I am the only one left fishing here, at least nighttime. You always meet or see other fisherman, but now I am all alone and can fish wherever I want without having to wait for a pool to be free. “Great!”, I think and double my efforts.

Towards the end, I have one tug at the fly. The result of 10 days of fishing. A whole year or more for me, before I can come here again. The wiser fishermen sought other destinations when they realized it was hopeless. The dumbass, which would be me, remained to the end. I could as well had searched for trolls in the forest.

August 13 – 22

While driving back to my house after picking up the general and her adjutant at the airport, we discuss what to do during our time here. It is the first time for the adjutant in the country, and he very much wants to see as much of the country as possible. He likes photography and wants to see the wilderness, something very different from Thailand. Hmm, this opens possibilities, I think, and start explaining how wild the north is, with reindeer in hordes, bears, wolves, lemmings and northern light(in the winter *cough*). Where you can walk in lush forests or on bare mountains for hundreds of km in either direction without seeing a soul. The general, who is a full blown city girl, has nothing to say in the subject, but I can see how the adjutant’s eyes take on a shine, and I know he is hooked. After mentioning I happen to know of a nice and clean guest house up there, it is settled. One keyword being “clean”.

After doing some sightseeing in Stockholm, including shopping and scouting for moose in the outskirts of the city, we finally sit in the car on the way north a week later, with me whistling a happy tune. I almost cannot believe my fortune! As it just happens, another friend of mine went up there a couple of days earlier, and has reported the water level has risen and the water temperature dropped to a much better 13 degrees. Most important of all, he has caught one trout, 4.7kg and had several contacts. It seems the trouts are finally on the move!

August 23

“I will only fish nighttime, for 3 days, and will be free to spend the days with you”, I assert, as I put on my waders. The general, who is so caring of me, has actually told me I can fish as much as I want, but I don’t have the heart to. The plan is to fish for 3 days with minimal sleep, so I can socialize during the days. I think I can manage that before collapsing. The problem is forgotten as soon as I meet my friend at the river. He has already lost one earlier in the evening.

We fish through the night without neither of us feeling anything. “It must be karma”, I think, as I stumble over a stone in the dark. The nights are now much darker than when I was here last time. Almost pitch black. I remember several years ago, when I was up alone in the north, fishing at night and scared shitless. Even if you’re not afraid of the dark in general, you’re not so cocky alone in the forest at night, unable to see anything, with bears and wolves in every bush. A creak of a branch then almost make you poop in your waders.

When dawn arrives, we change to a place which requires some wading, as the current there runs on the other side of the river. We decide I will fish the upper stretch, and my friend the next pool just downstream.
Almost at the end of my stretch, and the end of my cast, as I begin to retrieve my line and take a few steps downstream, it feels like something jumps and lands on my fly. After all this time, I can’t believe it is a fish, and I look around, believing my friend is pulling a joke on me. Not until I see the line quickly move out towards the stronger current do I really believe. Out there at the edge, it stops and shakes its head violently in a very uncomfortable manner for quite some time. During this time, I have shouted for my friend, who comes running and asks if it is big. I reply “no, it is a small one I think”. Jokingly I say it could be a big grayling, which we both know it isn’t. Even though it certainly doesn’t feel like one, it wouldn’t surprise me with my luck. Finally it stops and just stays still, it doesn’t even move when I apply pressure. Afraid my line is around a stone, I wade downstream and apply some pressure from the side. No movement. “Crap!”, I think and wade a bit more downstream. When I apply some pressure again, it finally moves and begins to swim around fast and shake its head, but not taking much line, seemingly content in staying in the pool.
I start thinking about landing the fish, and slowly wade back towards land where the current is much calmer. The fish cooperates and nicely lets itself be led towards land, but once it starts getting closer to shallow water, it gets really wild and sets off towards the current again. Again, it wants to remain in the pool, and I can soon start winding it back in again. This time it lets itself be led into the shallows, but as my friend nears with the net, it sets off again in the shallows at high speed, creating a very cool plow in the water. Shortly after that, my friend informs me it isn’t that small at all, while looking into the net. The scale shows 4.75kg, minus 0.5kg net, which leaves 71 cm and 4.25kg golden, fat, beautiful trout. That weighs up the whole previous trip and turns this one into a success.

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My 4.25kg trout.

After releasing the fish, my friend moves upstream of where I was, while I sit down to watch. Just a couple of minutes later he is hooked up. The fish is pretty calm, slowly moving upstream while taking line. A larger subject, but how large? A minute later, the question becomes academic as the leader breaks. My friend swears loudly and recalls before he even inspects the break point, that just before that very cast he changed fly, and had then noticed a knot on the leader, which he even told me about; but we both had forgotten the knot while he was choosing a fly. The breakpoint on the leader also clearly shows it broke at a knot. A high price to pay.

Not long after, he has another one on, which he eventually also brings in. The scale lands at 2.8 kg. A beautiful 63 cm golden male trout.

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My friend fighting his 2.8kg trout.

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My friend’s 2.8kg trout

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Release

 

We both continue to fish for a few more hours, without any of us feeling anything, before returning back to the guest house. By the time I go to bed, it is already 11:00 and I am wondering how I will feel when I have to get up some time later. The answer is clear 2 hours later, when my bad conscience forces me up for 3 quick cups of coffee.

After having spent the day with the general and adjutant, I now know that I will not be able to fish coming night. I am simply too tired. The fishing also seems better early mornings, so we agree to meet up 04:00 at the cafeteria and have breakfast before heading out. My friend, knowing me, suggest we message each other 03:45 to make sure we both are up.

August 24 – 25

I remember waking up 03:45 from the alarm, and in my drowsiness see my friend yet hadn’t contacted me. I came to the conclusion my friend must be very tired and probably needed some more sleep. With that, I happily went back to sleep again, to wake up 05:00 by a call from my friend. He hadn’t wanted to call me earlier, because he was afraid he might wake up my general. The messages he sent had been unanswered, but he was now out at the river and was wondering if I was coming. Yes, he had already had contact, but lost it after just a few seconds. No, he had not see any other fishermen yet. The water was sinking fast, but the temperature was at a good 12 degrees C.
On my with my stuff and jumping into the car, I find myself at the river shortly after, thanking my friend for daring to risk the general’s wrath. I had told him I was going to check another pool a couple of kilometers upstream of his location. If nobody was there, I would fish it off before joining him. If he finished before me, he would come to me.

To my joy, I see nobody there, and probably nobody has fished it since previous day. As my friend stated, the water level is really low, almost as low as it was when I was there before, but there really isn’t much to do about it, except start fishing.
I have almost fished the whole pool, when I feel 2 bumps at the fly. A couple of years ago, I would had raised my rod at that, but I manage to keep my cool and wait. It could be a grayling or juvenile trout. A second or two later, I feel a decisive and sucking pull, much like a salmon take and not at all like how trouts generally take the fly. When I lift my rod, it is there. Like the previous trout, it starts by shaking its head and doesn’t move much. Afraid it will go downstream to the rapids, I take it easy, not applying much pressure on the fish, and slowly backing up. The fish follows nicely, like a dog on a leash. Once I get it into calmer water and start leading it into the shallows, it starts swimming around and then head for the current, but it is too small to have the strength to swim the whole way out. I am still amazed at its stamina and strength in the calm water. As I recall, a baramundi will fight harder, not to mention a queenfish, but I must say I had forgotten how strong these trouts were. Their endurance beating that of the barramundi, and their strength about equal. Of course, these trouts have the current to help them, but they also live in much colder water. A queenfish is a totally different story however, and it is unfair to compare them.
Just as I am about to call my friend, he comes walking down the trail, just seconds after I release the 59cm and 2.2kg female. He hasn’t felt anything more, and we decide to try the place where we had fish previous day. The morning progresses without any of us feeling anything, and we give up 11:00 am. I need to get some sleep to manage the day. I have now realized it doesn’t work to socialize daytime and fish nighttime.

As evening approaches, me and my company decide to do some barbecue by the river. My friend is already there and we decide to meet up with him. As the sausages are taking on a mouthwatering brown color, I hear my friend shout, and we can all watch at ringside as he takes on a 3.2kg trout. My company, who never have seen a trout before, make wide eyes as the fish is netted, and I can see the adjutant casting lustful eyes between the fish and the barbecue. Disappointed he later watch the trout swim away in the dark.

Just as previous day, we decide to start early morning and meet up 04:00. This is the last fishing day, so I have no problem getting up this time.
Out at the river, we can see the water level has gone down even more, and we conclude the best fishing is behind us for this time. We fish until 11:00 am before giving up and head back for brunch. The fishing is over here for this time, but has in all honestly been better than I had expected with 2 trouts in 3 days.

August 26 – 27

My friend has has packed and left already, but me and my company decides to head up the mountains to the highlands the two remaining days. I want to show them the incredibly beautiful nature up there, and also hope to see some reindeer, snow and maybe lemmings. The nature in Sweden is as exotic to them, as the nature in Thailand to us, and it sometimes almost gets comical at what they find fascinating. I can really understand Thais shaking their heads at the ‘farangs’. An example being all the mushrooms and blueberries. The season was already over for blueberries in the lowlands, but up here, it was at its peak. There are no blueberries in Thailand, but you can buy them imported at a very high price. They could not believe what they saw here, and it was difficult to drag them back from it.

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Blueberries everywhere

 

In the end, we did see reindeer, but never any lemmings. Instead, we saw something better: Northern Lights. A rare phenomenon at this time of the year. This was something that truly made them jump out of their pants.

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Northern lights in August

 

Everything must come to an end, and it is with sadness I pack the car for the drive back to Stockholm. I promise myself I will be back again next year. I don’t want to miss this again for as long as I live. Thinking about it, it probably isn’t going to be that many. There really aren’t that many summers you experience in a lifetime. Even a hundred are way too few.