A tanked-up car, tough rod holders and a few intensely driven salmon fishers as company is a great start if you’re going to do some serious salmontrippin’ in Swedish Lapland. This is the story of three high-pitched days in four wild salmon rivers in what sometimes is referred to as Europe’s last wilderness.
– One hundred seventeen, one hundred twenty-two, one hundred twenty-nine…
Ronny Landin and Erling Holmström are scrolling through the last fishes registered by the camera in the fish-path in the Kalix River during the recent days.
– Shit, I comment without even saying hello. That’s some big fishes.
Ronny hums as a response without taking his eyes off the screen.
Erling, who is in charge of the fish-path project, says nothing. Minutes pass. We are spellbound by the screen. One after the other large salmon is scrolled by.
– The largest one, I say and clear my throat. How big?
Erling doesn’t respond, but I can tell he’s looking for something.
– There, he finally says. 137 centimetres. Largest so far. But it’s only July and the salmon is late this year. Surely someone bigger is going to come along before the ice sets.*
He clicks one the 137 fellow and a short film sequence with a gigantic salmon appears on the screen.
– And it measures correctly, I comment with scepticism in my voice.
– What we’ve reckon, Ronny responds, is that it can be one or a few centimeters on the small side on really big fishes.
– 137 plus a few centimeters then, I say and let my imagination get the better of me.
The plan is to fish in three different rivers in the same amount of days. Kalix, Torne and Lainio River. If it’s an efficient idea? Probably not. We’re going to be spending a lot of time in the car. At least 300 km one-way. And as you know, you rarely get a bite sitting in a car.
– What do you think about going to Ängesån first? says Ronny.
Ängesån (Änge stream) isn’t really part of our plans but you can tell that Ronny really wants to give it a go.
– Ok, but then we have a total of four salmon rivers in three days, I say laughing.
Ängesån is a tributary and joins Kalix River in Överkalix. It really isn’t part of our plans.
About ten years ago, Ängesån had great salmon fishing, perfect for fly fishing. But heavy fishing and lack of proper regulations resulted in a radically weaker salmon stock. Today the salmon fishing here is only a shadow of what it once was. But it is improving.
It’s a message from his mother in law responding to the image he sent. DAMMIT WHAT A SALMON, she writes. In capital letters.
– But the river in amazingly beautiful, says Ronny and tells us that he, even though the fishing isn’t great, sometimes rather fishes in Ängesån than Kalix River.
We really pay tribute to the forest roads of Swedish Lapland. The road surface is generously dusty. Sometimes we turn right, sometimes left.
– Here, says Ronny and swings the door open.
We arrive at a fantastic pool. It’s not difficult to comprehend that Ängesån would be something out of the ordinary if it was holding more salmon. The sun is quite low. I try to find a good angle to shoot some nice images of Ronny whilst he swings his rod over and over again with the fly landing somewhat 40 meters away.
Through the lens I suddenly detect how he raises his rod slowly and the next second the surface explodes. A rare salmon of Ängesån have been absolutely pissed off by Ronnnys fly. I press down the shutter release on my camera.
Unfortunately the fight doesn’t last for long. His leader breaks.
– What the heck, Ronny comments when he inspects the nylon. I just checked it.
– There’s that thing with big fish, I say, you lose some.
– The leader wasn’t even damaged.
Absentmindedly he lets his fingers slide back and forth over the broken nylon line.