I was eventually seduced by one of those luscious brochures put out by Angler’s World Holidays, the Chesterfield specialists in this sort of thing. Their Swedish operator Top Ten Angling had some wonderful places on offer, so I settled down to choose a venue.
That’s where the problems started, because they all sounded amazing; too good to be true, almost. As usual, I ended up with an itinerary that read like an eighteenth century Continental grand tour, with all species in mind, and a fishing program that threatened to leave me with little time to sleep.
I flew Scandinavian Airlines. Having looked at all the options, it made the most sense, because many of the best Swedish venues are out in the backwoods, and SAS run linking flights to small country airports that allow easy access to the Swedish hinterland.
So, my bags, tackle boxes, and rod caddy disappeared up a conveyor belt at Heathrow. There’s always a nagging doubt when the big green bag slides out of sight, like a coffin on its one-way journey to the gas jets of the crematorium. But miraculously they appeared right on time at the little airport at Jönköping, deep in the Swedish woods. The whole business of modern travelling is beset by these slightly Faustian sorts of magic tricks.
All the kit safely stored aboard one of Mr. Hertz’s lovely new Volvo S 40’s I headed (predictably) up the wrong side of the road to Hökensås.
You have to get used to the Viking place names. I know loads of English towns are supposed to have Viking names, but even if you have to call York by its old Viking name of Yorvik, it’s a darn sight easier than having to pronounce Jönköping as Yernsherping. The good one to remember is ö which makes a sound we just don’t have; but it’s something like er (or ur, as in purchase).
Once back onto the proper foreign side of the road, I looked around to discover that Sweden has lakes and rivers all over the place. There was fishing wherever I looked, and not a rod-pod in sight. Promising – very promising.
At Hökensås (say Herkensass) I rented a nice little wooden cabin for a night in the pine forest, and turned-in at about nine o’clock, to be ready to a 5 am. start. If course, in these northern climes the days are long. It was still pretty light at 11 o’clock, and my body was telling me that it was bright enough to boogie. And it was light again when my blasted alarm shrilled me out of bed, what seemed like twenty minutes later.
My guide the next day was Henrik Larsson, who has fished these Hökensås waters for many a long year. He mentioned casually that the rainbows run to 15 lbs. and the browns to 13 lbs. As you can imagine, I needed little further encouragement.
In England, I a confirmed cane devotee, but with the impossible thought of having to entrust my wondrous cane to baggage handlers of the world, I use carbon in foreign lands.
If you got to use Satan’s black fish sticks, they don’t come much more seductive than the new Fenwick that I’d brought along: a Techna AV AVF906 (a totally daft name for what is otherwise a superb rod). A nine footer for a #6. Neither do fly-reels get much sexier than the Fenwick World Class F71021 (yet another wonderfully catchy name) 5/6 that I attached to it. Henrick nodded approvingly, and flexed the rod with the air of a man who has just spent next month’s rent allocation.
A two minute drive and three minute walk through the pines brought to the banks of a beautiful woodland lake. Not a sound was there, save the drip of dew from the trees, and the gentle chatter of birds in the pines. It occurred to me forcibly at that moment that there are so few truly silent places left in England. No cars with extended bass woofers intruded into this delicious little outpost. (Have you noticed? the greater the car hi-fi’s bass output, the dimmer-witted the driver seems to be. You have wonder, is it cause or effect My own feeling on this is that on-going exposure to 130 decibels of bass actually exacerbates the pre-existing condition.)
Henrik suggested a substantial damsel fly nymph pattern, and pointed out a rather dismal olive green marabou concoction that I think I’d rescued from a fence somewhere. The fish are often to be found along the margins where the water seemed to be about 5’ deep. Crouching, well back from the edge, I started casting along the bank; retrieving with a slow figure of eight.
The first fish came after just ten minutes or so, an aerobatic rainbow of about two pounds, then a brown, and several more rainbows smaller than the first.
At about 9 o’clock the action slowed, and we stopped for coffee and coriander cakes (marvellous). Still, we were the only anglers on that lake.
Henrik elected to move to another pretty little lake just a short walk away through the woods. The warm sun burnt off the early morning mist, and it was time to shed a layer or two of clothing.
Then it was back to our happy task, and immediately I was into something that stripped me onto the backing in very short order. The little Fenwick was bent through to its handle for the next fifteen minutes as I discussed matters with a very big fish indeed. With a 4X point I wasn’t about to get too bossy with this lady, but she lost the game eventually, and provided me with a new best of 11.15.0. Henrick was pleased, but said he would have been happier if I’d tied into one of the really big ones. The show-off.
The fishing at Hökensås is reasonably certain, but there are occasions when a really fine approach is necessary. All the fish I had were in excellent fighting form, and I gathered from Henrik that the difficult over-wintering rainbows offer a real challenge, and then an exhilarating battle.
We took ten for a snack of delicious Swedish seedy bread with ham and cheese, then it was off to the nearby river Tidan.
An interesting little river this, clear, swift, apparently very rich, and full of HNV crayfish that the big trout are extremely fond of snaffling. The natural stock of browns is supplemented with both browns and rainbows from the Hökensås hatcheries. The river appears to be entirely natural, but I understand that in the distant past a well-known Swedish angler spent many years shifting great bulks of rock around the river bed to provide the idyllic pools and runs that characterise the river today. Whatever its original form, this part of the Tidan is now a quite delightful river that hints of the English West Country, although anglers of West Country rivers would be staggered to find fish of the size found here.
Henrik suggested a weirpool where he’d had some very big browns earlier in the season. Again, for those who feel such things are important, the prospects for huge fish are good. Ten pounders are caught regularly. I had several pounders, and was entirely content with a beautiful and very powerful brown of nearly three pounds that stayed very deep for ages.
We two happy lads stopped for shore lunch. Fresh trout cooked on a green stick over an open fire. With crusty buttered bread, a good Swedish lager to wash it all down, and fresh-brewed coffee, we both felt like lottery winners.
Many anglers have succumbed to inflated modern visions of fish sizes. Given my normal undemanding view of fish weight, I’d have been tickled pink with such a morning’s fishing. But here in the fish soup of Sweden I realised over that good strong coffee that I’d succumbed to a bit of 21st century size matters illness. It came as a bit of a shock to find I’d reverted so easily. Henrik laughed when I told him about my troubled state of mind. ‘You’ll have to think like a Swedish man,’ he said. All the same, with two fish that surpassed the wildest angling ambitions of any reasonable man, I was happy to call it a day, and get on the road to my next venue.
There are about 30 lakes at Hökensås, and that lovely Tidan river. It’s certainly more than enough fishing to keep the average British trout man happy for a week. On some of the lakes you can spin, if you’ve a mind for it, and on others you can trog off afloat in a belly-boat, like some displaced Californian.
For the family man, Hökensås might well provide an answer to the question of the summer holiday. The well-appointed cabins offer all the usual requirements for a family, and while Dad is plying his trade on the trout fishery, there are plenty of glorious walks through the pine forests, for other outdoors-types. There’s restaurant, a general store, and a well stocked tackle shop.
An angling group might prefer to include Hökensås within a two centre visit: with perhaps three days trouting, and three or four days pursuing the pike of the Baltic, or the salmon of the great northern Lapland rivers.
For me, the immediate prospect was the coarse fishing of Vimmerby, to the south-east, past the southern shores of the great lake Vättern. So, once more unto the Volvo.
The easiest route to Swedish holidays is through British angling holiday specialists.
Anglers World Holidays
46 Knifesmithgate, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S40 1RQ
Telephone 01246 221717
You’ll find that SAS have these routes so well covered, you really need no other airline. If you book through Anglers World Holidays the flights will all be taken care of, but you can visit the SAS website direct at
Further information can be had from the
Swedish Travel and Tourist Council
11 Montague Place, London W1H 2AL
To find out more about the wonderful fishing in Sweden, please visit Swedish Travel & Tourism.
Standard British tackle appropriate for each species is fine. If you’re coarse fishing then you should take groundbait, which is sometimes difficult to source in Sweden. Maggots and worms can usually be arranged at your venue if you book them in advance. If you elect to take your own car on one of the ferry routes, you can obviously carry everything you need in the car.
If you hope to go afloat you can usually find boats for hire, but it pays to book them ahead to be sure, and to save time. Boats give access to thousands of acres of water inaccessible from the banks. Most Swedes fish the huge lakes from boats, so bank access is less certain than in Britain.
Scandinavia has a reputation for its bugs. To be sure, the north has em to spare, although deet spray will keep them at bay. In the south of Sweden there seemed to be far fewer mozzies. I wasn’t bitten at all.
Communication with the natives
Most younger Swedes speak very good English, and the majority understand when Swedish place names, impossible to pronounce for a Brit, are converted into something more manageable. You’d never believe what the Swedes call the city of Gothenburg.