For the past 12 years my fishing activity has been related only to the area where I operate my guiding, so as I had the chance to explore new areas and stalk different species, it’s also true that it has been pretty much the same kind of thing, saltwater sight fishing in a harsh and desert environment.
It’s normal that I started to need something different, but for a while I didn’t have the chance to jump into something I really wished for, which meant a trip somewhere to the North, plenty of cold freshwater, lush, green environment and some fish I have never chased before.
A good friend of mine told me he was going to organize a small fishing season in the Swedish Lapland, in a virgin area full of Pike and Grayling, using a helicopter to reach the camp, and then camping for a week. Well, I couldn’t be anymore excited. First, I called my good mate Marcello, who was on two trips with me back in 2008 in the very beginning of my tropical fishing. Marcello was waiting for a fishing trip since then and of course after my call was on fire, with a few calls I put together a bunch of good clients, friends, everything was set, and everybody was excited.
Secondly, I had to build up my wardrobe for cold weather and start tying plenty of Pike flies, which I really like to do, and very soon we were ready to go.
There’s no rose without thorns, as we arrived in Stockholm, luggage of the three of us were missing. Of course Marcello and I, who are the only ones to fly fish, all our rain clothes, fly rods, flies and sleeping bags were in Vienna, Austria. Not a good start, it seemed this summer the situation in Europe with luggage was a total disaster.
Luckily the guys already at the camp left us clothes, jackets, sleeping bags, but no fly rods available, which kicked us down, especially because of a cold front. The Pike are super slow, and fly fishing would have been way more effective.
Shortly, on 8 days of fishing we had to spin fish for 5 days in XL clothes, taking everything in with a lot of philosophy.
The water where we fished is a big system of lakes and rivers. To move inside we had kayaks available, which made it magnificent since we had to paddle and work for our fish, while exploring the area since it’s the first season we have fished here.
During our five days of spin fishing, we moved a lot to explore the area. We mapped the surroundings to understand where to fish, especially since we didn’t have our fly rods. We spent a few hours chasing Grayling with crazy results.
Eventually we managed to get our bags on the fifth day. Meaning, we had three good days of fly fishing ahead of us, considering we were camping, this was more of a “fly fishing marathon.”
The river in front of our camp was infested with Grayling. We decided to warm up immediately on them with a fly rod, realizing how cool it is fishing for these species.
First of all it’s not that easy, nymphs are not effective, the water is turbulent, and you must present your fly in order for them to see it. Once hooked, they pulled properly. It’s definitely immaculate fishing, worth spending a lot of dedicated time to chase a very big Grayling. It seemed to us that bigger ones always stay in the same spots with some perseverance. It is possible to hook some tank Grayling on the fly, fish over 1.5 kg.
At this point, we were finally ready to chase Pike, the main reason why we are here, and we planned a long kayak paddling to cross the main lake and reach a river where none of the previous fishermen walked upstream. To make things just perfect, at the entrance of the river in the lake, there is a small cabin with 2 beds and a stove where we spent a few hours sleeping during our marathon.
Our way to the river mouth took us about 10 hours since we stopped fishing on the way. We could see how effective fly fishing was, we started having nice action in very shallow water about 1 meter down. Walking around these little bays surrounded by grass and big floating flies, we retrieved our lines very slowly. I finally managed to get a solid 110 cm Pike (43”), with my beloved Giorgio Dallari reel. This fishing immediately reminded me of saltwater. I really enjoyed the wading and shallow waters we fished. Once the Pike jumped all over the place, I was hooked.
We eventually arrived at our destination, after a solid 10 hours of fishing, we started to walk upstream this new river. It’s a very fast flowing stream but I felt like we were going to find Pike somewhere. In fact we found two big pools, mostly 1 kilometer long in a slow flowing channel where we caught a few. The third pool was a much smaller, shallower water, and a true shame to fish them with a 9 wt, to the point that I set up my 5 wt rod with a light, bulky, and long fly made of Marabou and Saddle Hackles. I caught some fish in the 70-75 cm range. On a 5wt fly rod, a super fascinating river environment, I felt it was something special.
We kept moving upstream, and the river moved extremely fast. I found a small, fast flowing pool that smelled of Trout. I put on a small and heavy streamer, and boom! A big head shakes and I think I got her, when it comes up I see another Pike that this time decided to swim downstream, taking me into the backing and giving me some proper fighting on my 5 wt rod in the rapids. What a cool catch, not a record but compared to the whole picture, made me unbelievably happy!
After about 16 hours, we decided to come back to the cabin and catch up on some rest, dry our clothes, and eat something before we continued our marathon. After some rest we start paddling and fishing our way back. As the sun warmed the water, activity picked up and we caught more Pike in many spots on our way back. We eventually got back to the camp, realizing we had been out fishing for about 29 hours, visualizing all the fish we dreamt of, we caught.
On the last day we motivated ourselves to fish for Grayling since we didn’t get much sleep. It would have been incredible if our bags didn’t get lost in Vienna. But, that’s it, when life gives you lemons you try to make lemonade, which eventually it was. All that said, now we can’t wait to go back with better flies, more knowledge, and hopefully all our fly gear in one piece!
Nicola Vitali was born in Italy and has been fishing ever since he was four years old. Since his love for fishing started at a young age he’s traveled all over the world to fly fish exotic places. Vitali, a multi-language speaker is the founder of Wild Sea Expeditions where you can find him managing trips in Sudan and the Island of Socotra. Photos by Robert Pljuscec.