Swedish Scouting


    mars 2002 par Jérôme Philipon

      image 98 x 121

      In his first fishing trip to Scandinavia, Jerome Philipon samples some of the delightful waters available in Northern Sweden and enjoys warm local hospitality.

      Scandinavia brings up pictures of true wilderness characterised not only by endless numbers of lakes rich with trouts and pikes but also by numerous large rivers where runs of sea trout and salmon are still plenty : in short, an anglers paradise !!!

      Swedish Scouting Looking for a change from the more obvious destinations of Scotland or Ireland and keen for a somehow wilder adventure, I set off the third Saturday of June to the northern province of Vasterbotten, just a couple of hours south of the artic circle. The salmon season opening on 19th June, hopes were high that after a few days of putting my new Sage salmon rod to the pace, I would be in for a few good fishes on the fly. Prepared for anything, I was ready to seize opportunities. Going after coarse fish or rather migratory species according to the order of the day.

      My choice of destination had been guided by a combination of articles in the angling press and a lot of exciting research on the Internet. The plan was to fish two rivers : Byskealven and Lodgealven, I was here for a week and would split my time between these two rivers depending on circumstances. As if there was anything like ideal conditions in angling lore !

      Swedish Scouting Distant from each other by three hours driving, they both have different characters as I would later discover and would give me a flavour of the immense water resources of this country.

      Despite landing six hours late in Skelleftea because of a missed flight connexion in Stockholm Arlanda, I felt relieved that my rods had survived transport in the plane cargo. Less enthusiastic was I about the way the first mosquitoes immediately greeted me on the airport parking !

      Anyway, slightly dreading the constant company of these buzzing winged friends, I quickly picked up a hire car and headed off north to the small town of Byske where I was meeting Carl Holmkvist, my guide for the following day.

      Swedish Scouting One of only two Scandinavian A.P.G.A.I instructors, Carl is an English and music teacher who leaves in southern Sweden but travels to Byskealven every summer to guide for the short salmon season (19th June to 31st August). We met in Byske and bought my permit (fiskekort) and a few supplies at the local service station.

      After 1/2 hour driving through the forest on tarmac and gravel tracks, Carl dropped me around 9pm at his caravan parked by the river. It was going to be my base camp for the next two days. "The river, he explained, yielded several 30lb salmons this week but I am afraid it is in spate and unlikely to be in proper fishing order before three to five days." With this enlightening statement in mind, we agreed to meet at 10am the following day, an early start rended unnecessary as the river level would take time and even days to drop !

      Here I was alone right in the middle of nowhere in the Swedish forest surrounded by the evening songs of birds and the loud roar of the Byskealven in the background. Prospects were not ideal for salmon fishing but I was here to find out and very much determined to do so !
      Swedish Scouting Gathering my lunchbox for an evening picnic I drove off onto a dirt track following the river to Fallfors, the biggest falls on Byskealven where a new salmon ladder is being built. Just like in Pitlochry, exception made of the natural falls and the absence of dam, the Fallfors salmon ladder allows visitors to go in a vision chamber underneath the water level and observe ascending fish. I had my sandwich in the vicinity and admired the sheer force of these falls : quite a sight !

      Token of the abundance of wildlife, I had by the end of the first day seen one fox, two mountain hare with their white socks, several curlew (the provincial bird of Vasterbotten) and last but not least one female elk busy leaking a salt rock left by the local rangers.

      The following day, after a quick dip in the river to wash, the fishing really started and Carl guided me into about 8 different pools showing access to the water, correcting my casting and explaining the favourite lies. As expected the locals use a lot of fox hair patterns on traditional hooks but also tied on tubes. Casting tends to be very square and any mending would rather be downstream to accelerate the fly rather than anything else. Byskealven is Sweden’s largest forest river with a width varying between 50 and 100 yards in places. Of course larger rivers exist in the north (Kalixalven, Tornealven) but with Byskealven you are already talking very serious current including series of rapids and frequent falls. Banks are often lined with birch trees and the river bed made of big rocks. Hence the very tricky wading with some deep holes right by the bank and a wading staff an absolute essential.

      Pools presented a contrasted picture of situations with gentle tails above falls where fishes would rest, fast deep glides and seams created by large rocks on the bottom. Just as in the UK, remote pools with more difficult access tend to be more lightly fished and since this is association water, a guide’s knowledge is essential to discover lesser known pools where one still holds a good chance of a take but with less angling pressure.

      Swedish Scouting In Carl’s good company the day passed very quickly, just interrupted by a nice meal of reindeer cooked by the hut on an open fire. No sign of any salmon and just the odd small grayling finding the size 6 fly to its liking. Returning to the car in the evening and in way of consolation we picked up the largest morilles -wild mushroom buffs will know what I mean - that I have ever seen. Some up to a pound and twice the size of my salmon reel. They made for a nice fry up back at the caravan !

      With bright sunshine and a river level down, I fished the following day hard round the clock till 3am but to no avail. Locals were giving stories of fish being caught and indeed I saw one lucky angler succeed from the other bank. In a good year Byskealven will yield 1000 salmons for what is effectively only a two and a half months fishing season. Not bad at all with some of these fishes being 40lbs pigs as they are locally called !

      With very warm weather but the water still much too high and a recent large influx of anglers queuing to occupy pools at night, I decided to make my way to Lodgealven and try a different river. At this time of the year, although the sun actually sets for a few hours, there is daylight 24 hours a day and anglers can fish round the clock enjoying the fresher moments when fish become more active.

      Lesser known than Byskealven where fishing permits for salmon cost £8 a day, Lower Lodgealven managed by Lodgealvens FVO can be enjoyed for a mere £3.50 a day. Subject to hydroelectric schemes unlike Byskealven, the river had for decades its whole ecosystem devastated by the reckless removal of stones from its bottom to facilitate the carriage of millions of trees downstream to the local paper industry. Nowadays methods have changed for the best and the river is described by the locals as the "best northern river to dip a fly in !" Not only salmons but also sea trouts run it and the habitat especially upstream of Fallfors, is compared by local expert Harry Salmgren as identical to the Kola Peninsula where 6lbs brownies are common encounters.

      Swedish Scouting My Internet searches had resulted in contacts with local anglers both in the lower river near Nordmaling and upper catchments in Bjurholm. I was going to spend the rest of the week further trying my luck at salmon and eventually finishing by concentrating on graylings and brown trout in the upper river.

      All along my trip were the Swedish very friendly and eager to help, whether fellow anglers or camping owner, but the real warm welcome came from Rickard Sjostrom who runs laxguiden.com, an internet portal specialised in salmon angling in Northern Sweden. We had been chatting by email for months and Rickard made a point of showing me the river himself. We fished his favourite pools and indeed saw some fish although were not lucky enough to land one. Rickard guided me just like a true knowledgeable professional and confirmed that Lodgealven is indeed ideal fly water. Much shallower than
      Swedish Scouting Byskealven it is not as wide and powerful but still with plenty of character. This is fishing as wild as it gets and pools such as Tobole or Klose offer true wilderness. Access is good via dirt tracks and sightings of elk a strong possibility especially at night (we saw three in a few hours).

      The Swedish love their outdoor and their taste is reflected in the infrastructure for anglers : toilet sheds are usually provided even in the most remote of pools (watch out for bee nests though !) and I even slept free of charge for two nights by the river in a very robust and comfortable log cabin. An angler who was going home even lent me his sleeping bag to make the night a bit warmer.

      Bed and Breakfast do exist but with a low population density there are not so many of them and advanced bookings are advisable. In Sweden, a tent can freely be erected almost anywhere. It all comes down to anglers expectations both in terms of fishing and standard of accommodation.

      Half way between the rough sleeping experienced earlier in the week and a five star lodge with all modern comforts stands Gammelgarden Camp where my trip ended. Situated up river in a stunning forest location by a lake through which Lodgealven passes, it is run by world fly fishing championship contestant and organiser Harry Salmgren. Traditional log cabins with open fire and a massive Indian tepee where meals are cooked add to the delightful character of the camp. Harry and Nicke, the two guides, manage a private stretch of the river home for large brownies and grayling. A tunnel now exists through Fallfors allowing future generations of sea trout and salmon to access miles of good spawning territory.

      Swedish Scouting I stayed in the camp for three days fishing different pools in search of these huge browns that can be seen chasing anglers flies forming an impressive water bulge right behind the leader. To tell the truth all anglers in the party but myself succeeded in their quest of catching each at least one of these leviathans. The biggest was just short of 8lbs. We all enjoyed bags of 3 to 10 fish a day with a mixture of grayling to 2lbs and brownies. Still I had my own exhilarating moment when a huge fish leaped in the air right in front of me ostentatiously ignoring my fly. Each party needs its poor soul !

      For the whole week the weather was excellent , may be too good, and altogether Sweden delivered its promise of wild fishing and pleasing encounters with fellow anglers and locals. Opportunities to learn are plenty with wet fly fishing, Czech nymphing, the occasional dry fly fishing not to mention excursions on Gammelgarden lake to tempt pikes with colourful streamers. Even in Sweden, salmon fishing keeps its degree of uncertainty and although I had to go home without a fish, this definitely was quality fishing ! I am up for it next year without a doubt !!! A last word of warning about mosquitoes : go prepared as they mean serious business !!!

      PRACTICAL INFORMATIONS

      Currency
      Swedish Krone : £1 is currently worth 14.64 krones.

      Travelling
      Direct flights to Stockholm via Heathrow - From there internal flights to Umea or Skelleftea
      Return fare approximately £240.
      Car hire : All major rental companies operate in Sweden - One week with a Vauxhall Astra with Budget £140 excluding petrol.

      Local Guides
      Byskealven-Carl Holmkvist
      Lodgealven
      Gammelgarden Camp - Harry Salmgren

      Information resources
      Rickard Sjöström

      Specialist providers
      Deep Forest
      Top 10 Fishing Sweden
      Lapland Project (Vasterbotten Tourist Board)

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