My route led me around the southern shores of lake Vättern. Well, that’s what it’s called, but to call this huge body of water a lake is to do it no justice, because Vättern is really a great freshwater sea, with beaches, currents, a climate all its own, and a considerable fishing industry. They say the fishing on Vättern can be spectacularly wonderful, but the weather changes can be treacherous, and the winds violently unpredictable. As I watched, a huge bank of cloud rolled across the lake from the east. I wouldn’t have cared to be under that all-enveloping shroud.
So huge is Vättern that salmon (these are the same species as Atlantic salmon) regard it as their sea, running the rivers that feed the lake only to spawn. Stocks are sufficient to maintain a thriving commercial salmon fishery. Much of the lake is hugely deep, but the coarse fishing potential of Vättern’s shallows and bays is staggering, and is so far largely untapped. With so much easy coarse fishing in the smaller Swedish lakes, it is likely to remain so for a long time. Just imagine the pike such a rich and fish-full lake must produce.
The coarse fishing of Vimmerby was next on my Swedish menu. I’d arranged to meet Ronny Johansson who had agreed to act as my guide. As holder of three current Swedish fish records, Ronny offers an impressive set of credentials.
Ronny had brought along his photograph album. As I leaved through the pages my jaw dropped lower and lower. Using methods gleaned from reading the British angling press, Ronny had accumulated a simply staggering number of big fish – all from the local waters of Vimmerby. Now they stared from the pages: chub to over 7 lbs., bream to 11 lbs., roach and rudd to nearly 3 lbs., crucians over 4 lbs., and pike well over 30 lbs. Added to this were exotic creatures such as ide, and asp, and armfuls of vast trout from Vättern. I was beginning to get an idea of this area’s real potential.
‘Of course,’ said Ronny, ‘that’s only what I’ve caught over the past two years.’ Apart from it’s lack of barbel, Sweden sounded as though it might be a very good place to live as an angler.
My whistle-stop tour was beginning to feel a little too short on angling hours. I had only a short time to experience this seeming fish soup.
Ronny suggested that we try for a really big rudd or roach. ‘A three pounder is very possible here’, he said, as we drew alongside the most beautiful lake you can imagine. Lilly and reed-fringed bays stretched into the distance, with islands here and there offering deeper, clearer swims. Not another soul was to be seen; we had the whole thing to ourselves.
You can fish Swedish lakes from the shore, but it would take at least a day to crash you way round the banks of a lake like this, and you’d hardy see any of it. With so few anglers, and almost no bank anglers, there are few open swims. The result is that it’s just a lot easier and more flexible to fish from a boat.
To start, I set up a light waggler outfit – an ABU Suveran 13’ with a matching Severan 2000 reel (both featured in the review pages). Ronnie said the fish are not at all tackle shy, so I selected a 6" peacock quill stopped with two ‘BB’ shot, with a further no. 4 shot half-way to a no.14 hook baited with a small sweetcorn grain. Line was 2lb. straight through. Ronny was even less concerned about his tackle, and sported a 10 direct to 2 kg (4lb) line
Anchoring in a bay, we had rudd boiling to catapulted sweetcorn within minutes of starting – and soon we were getting a fish a throw.
I would like to report that we found those huge roach and rudd, but the best we had in a couple of hours of fishing were about a pound. In that short time we must have accumulated about 40 lbs. of fish each, so a practiced match angler would have needed a seriously large net, I reckon. Although the three pounders eluded us, I know they’re there, because I’ve seen the pictures. So little time, and so many fish. Of course, if you give yourself that little time, and expect to catch a three pound, then you’re pretty-well bound to fail. I have got to get back to that lake.
With the sun dropping slowly to the west, we set off to another of Ronny’s small local lakes – the quarry, zander. Now I have to admit, I had never caught a European zander, although I had caught their close colonial cousins, the walleye.
The ‘small’ lake we arrived at turned out to be some thousands of acres in extent. The water was shallow, clean, and warm, after weeks of hot weather.
We set off on a slow troll, my big Berkley lure about thirty yards behind the boat, wriggling enticingly at a depth of about 6’. I am no great lover of trolling because it does seem to be such a lazy way of fishing. But Ronny assured me that this was the most certain way of finding a big zander in a short time, and by big, he was talking about fish of 18 – 20 lbs. That would do well enough, I thought.
Even here, in the lower half of Sweden, the days are long, and it was still quite light at 11 o’clock when my rod turned a swift half-circle, as my first Swedish zander engulfed the lure. The fight was not spectacular; indeed, it was quite a disappointment, and the fish was soon in the net, where it pretended to be dead. On the other hand this zander really was a quite spectacularly beautiful creature, which took the balance to just under ten pounds. Not bad for a beginner. Having done its unspirited wet-sack-act on the way in, the zander went off at such a rate when I released it, that it soaked me with it thrashing tail-strokes. Strange creature.
As if to confirm my novice status, Ronny then took three more zander within the space of half an hour, but my first fish proved to be the biggest of the evening, albeit by only an ounce.
A late and highly aerobatic pike of about twelve pounds completed a very enjoyable evening.
Ronny was genuinely disappointed at the size of the fish we had caught. His standards are obviously impossibly high. But I was delighted.
Vimmerby would be an excellent place for a group of coarse anglers to sample the delights of Swedish fishing. As an enthusiastic coarse angler himself, Ronny is atuned to the needs of visiting Brits, and he can arrange bait, boats, and the essential local knowledge. Ronny’s direct number in Sweden is 46(0)703-923258 and he can also be contacted through the Björkbacken hotel on Vimmerby, which is also a good place to stay. Anglers World Holidays may have alternative ideas on that front.
This area would require a lifetime to know properly, so a week of fishing would hardly be sufficient to get to grips with its wonders. Although enjoyable in itself, in a touristy sort of way, travelling is a great thief of angling time. Anyone contemplating a two centre trip would do well to select venues that are reasonably close to each other. With that in mind, depending upon what sorts of fishing you prefer, I’d suggest a combination selected from Hökensås, Vimmerby, and Västervik on the Baltic. Ah yes, Västervik: I haven’t mentioned that before. This was to be my next stopping point, and I’ll tell you all about that little event next month. It’s quite a place, is Västervik.
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
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.