Instead of heading south as usual, Steve and Joan point their wagon north and head towards the relatively uncharted waters of Sweden for a trip into the unknown...
Instead of heading south as usual, Steve and Joan point their wagon north and head towards the relatively uncharted waters of Sweden for a trip into the unknown…
Sometimes you just have to see a picture of a fish and you know that one day you will be heading out to where it came from. That’s how it was for me in this instance. Sweden is not a country particularly known for its carp – in fact many people I’ve spoken to didn’t even know they existed there! But exist they certainly do and while they might not grow to the immense sizes of some carp on mainland Europe, it wasn’t the size that attracted me in this case. The fish are some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen, many of them long, dark scaly mirrors, the type that most UK anglers drool over. Yet it was also the surroundings – large, reed-fringed lakes with crystal-clear water, and little in the way of angling pressure – it ticked all the boxes and raised the heart rate every time I thought about it. The chance eventually came when I met up with an expat, Gary Benney, at the Zwolle show in Holland. He asked if I’d be interested in going over and doing a talk for the Swedish Carp Group with the chance of fishing a few waters if I wanted. It was the chance I’d been waiting for and so two weeks were put aside in the diary for our Scandinavian safari!
It was a drive I wouldn’t want to do too many times! Distance-wise it was manageable but Germany was a nightmare. The country that has no speed limits on some roads, now just has no speed! Road works and traffic jams delayed us by at least three hours but finally we got through into Denmark and across the impressive Oresund Bridge, which connects Denmark to Sweden – but, even then, we were still six hours away from our first destination up towards Stockholm. We had several options of waters to fish, with varying degrees of difficulty, and also size of fish. We decided the best way forward would be to start off at the furthest point and work our way back towards the border and close to where the Swedish carp meeting would be held at the end of the trip.
The Sat Nav finally told us we’d reached our destination, and we pulled into a small gravel car park to be met by Gary’s beaming smile. It was good to see a friendly face and we followed him down a narrow track until pulling up where it widened slightly. We were still several hundred yards from the lake but the rest would have to be done by barrow. How unfortunate then, that when I got the barrow loaded I saw that the tyre was completely flat! Oh boy! I guess we’ve been used to having it easy and pulling the van up behind swims. We looked at each other and then at the mountain of gear and winced. Somehow we hauled and dragged everything we needed across the fields and to the lakeside. I collapsed in a sweating heap but the view in front of me lifted my spirits no end... 150-acres of the most beautiful Swedish lake – and not another angler in sight.
We were so grateful for Gary’s help but he had places to be, so he left us to it. There was an old rickety boat that I could use, which meant mine could stay in the van. The good areas mainly seemed to be around the margins. It was typical of a lake formed centuries ago by glaciers, which tend to slowly drop off into featureless depths with increasingly softer silt. There was a lovely long bed of lily pads over to our left but it was fairly shallow and maybe not perfect for the autumn. But it had to be worth one rod there, and one to my right, along the reed line, with my third going down into a small bay, which looked good. I was warned there could be a few nuisance species in the lake – crayfish and bream to name but two, so it was double 24mm Scopex Squid Hard-on hookbaits over 20mm and 24mm freebies. I placed the baits as well as I could but, to be honest, my main thoughts were aimed at getting the bivvy and beds sorted and having a proper kip!
I always say it’s a win-win situation at night – if I catch a fish, it is great, but if I don’t, and I get a good sleep, then that’s great too! As it turned out it was the latter and when I opened my eyes the sun was already rising behind the trees. I just drifted off again – it was quiet and peaceful and very cozy in the bag. Minutes later the peace was shattered! From nowhere the rod fishing to the pads slammed over as the alarm screamed – the shock I experienced must be very close to the feeling of being tasered! I scrambled for the waders and stumbled down to the rods, the spool was a whirling blur and I just did my best to hold on. Somehow the fish hadn’t dived into the pads but was just wrenching the tip down, heading for the distant, open water. The thick reeds in front of me meant that it was a boat job either way; once I was out in pursuit I felt a lot more in control. The fish was so angry and powerful, a wild carp in every sense! In the clear water I just saw the scales and my eyes lit up – I knew this was just what we had come for and all I had to do was get it in the net, which thankfully I did just minutes later. My first Swedish carp was a cracker, 34lb 12oz of long, dark scaly mirror – I couldn’t have asked for more.
If I didn’t catch another fish the whole trip, it wouldn’t have mattered, but of course I was hoping to see a few more. I did check out a few more likely areas with the boat but really most of the day was just spent relaxing and taking in the atmosphere. Peace and quiet are two things Joan and I value most and we had it here in abundance, with just a few cows for company – otherwise it was just us and the carp. Going into the second night I added a bit more bait as it was obvious the carp were active enough. Although these carp were hardly under much pressure, I had been told that most times the lake was really tricky and in fact some guys had yet to catch anything from there. To get one the first night made me think that more could be out there and that they were looking for food.
My thoughts were confirmed at 3am when once again the alarm went in to meltdown! The takes were incredible, as were the battles, and this was another one determined to pull my arms out of their sockets! It didn’t quite have the weight of the first one but was every bit as stunning – maybe even better, if that was possible. It would be getting light in a couple of hours so I sacked the fish up in the clear margins and got the rod back out on the spot before firing the stove up for a celebratory cuppa. I wasn’t really going to get back to sleep after that adrenaline rush so I just sat there and watched night turn to day. I was loving it here. I always say to people that I don’t judge lakes on their size or stock but rather how they make me feel when I’m there – and this place was giving me a great feeling! Even more so when the same rod rattled off once again at 8am with a smaller but again equally lovely, long, dark mirror. This was going way beyond what I could’ve hoped for. We only had three or four nights at most on this lake before moving on, and to be three fish to the good, just two nights in was great – could there be more?
The lily pads were the place to be and so a second rod went a few yards to the right of the first. The other rods had been quiet, apart from a tench and a ravenous pike that had taken one bait ‘on the drop’! It seemed that the carp were grouped together and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. As expected, the next morning at 10am another screaming run had me leaping into action. However, not everything goes to plan. As I was struggling to shift the boat from an underwater boulder I wasn’t quite in full control of the fish and, before I knew it, the hook had popped out leaving me cursing. It didn’t feel like a huge fish but I knew that it would’ve looked good and I didn’t want to miss out on any of those gems. I suppose it just made me even more determined to make what would be the last night count even more. It would be all or nothing – all three rods placed a few yards apart along the line
of pads with a line of Scopex Squid baits forming the trail of enticement. Just one more fish would at least send us off on a high.
A rare drop-back at 4am seemed a bit suspicious and sure enough my first Swedish bream was soon skimming across the surface. I got the rod back out and hoped that the swim hadn’t been disturbed too much. Then, at 6am, I got the answer I wanted! Another belting run and there was no guessing this time what was on the end. The usual mad battle out in the boat and yet another stunning mirror was soon in the bottom of the net. It was one of those misty autumn mornings, so atmospheric and quiet, and made all the better with a cracking carp to look at. It was a great way to finish up on this first water. Although I really didn’t want to leave, we had already made arrangements to move on to another lake further south. Packing the gear away did give me that sinking feeling, but at the same time I did wonder what other delights were in store for us?
The five hour drive south was broken only by a pit stop at Mcdonald’s for the biggest cheeseburger they had – and a much-needed coffee! Finding the next venue wouldn’t be easy we were told – and we were told right! The Sat Nav said turn right but there was no road, only forest! There were tracks leading off in various directions but I could see a spot of blue in the top corner of the screen and so I headed for that. Sure enough we were soon at the banks of the amazing Haga Lake, being met by owner, Jonas. We looked around and just smiled as this was a carp angler’s dream, much smaller than
We looked around and just smiled as this was a carp angler’s dream, much smaller than the first venue but full of islands, bays and various carpy-looking features – it was going to be good!
the first venue but full of islands, bays and various carpy-looking features – it was going to be good!
It was late, so that night we just got the Titan up and slept like logs. The approach would have to be totally different on here – it was casting only and the lake was mostly shallow and silty. So I’d have to swap the braid for mono, 6oz leads for 3oz versions, and, instead of double 24mm hookbaits, it would be 15mm snowmen. With the back of the van looking like a skip full of junk it was nearly midday by the time I had rods ready to go. The advice was that it was worth taking a rod to the far end of the lake and doing a bit of stalking – but I needed to chill out and what was in front of me looked like everything I needed. There was a line of islands running across in front of me at around 50 yards range with lovely overhung channels in between. It was too shallow to feel for a drop so I just feathered the lead as it landed to give what I hoped was a good presentation. A few Scopex Squid freebies were spread across the channels and that was it – I was fishing again.
Despite being shallow, the fish were very elusive and there were no real signs of activity anywhere. In fact it was so still and quiet it was as if all of nature was tip-toeing around. All of that peace and serenity was obliterated during the early evening by an R3 alarm screaming out for attention. A big eruption in one of the channels was the signal for me to hold on as tight as possible. The fish pulled so hard that I actually burned my finger on the spool but I managed to guide it back through the gap where it then charged up and down like a torpedo, sending bow waves off across the flat surface. It wasn’t long and scaly like the fish from the first lake – in fact they looked a little more English-style, albeit dark and looking brand new but I’d got my first Haga carp!
It felt like catching that fish would spook everything for miles around and so I wasn’t surprised when the night was quiet. But at 7am the same rod was away again and this time the fish charged in my direction from the gap making life a lot easier. The shoulders and head looked as black as coal as it neared the net. The fish actually looked deceptively small and I never would have known it was just short of 30lb until I went to lift it on to the mat – Haga carp are just very stocky, solid fish.
Jonas arrived to see how things were going and was pleased to hear we’d caught, as by all accounts it wasn’t easy fishing and one fish in a weekend is an okay result – so two fish after one night was something to be celebrated, which we did that evening when Jonas came back and cooked us one of the famous Haga barbeques. Even though a dog Jonas was looking after had eaten half of the meat before leaving, there was still more than enough to go around – and it was cooked to perfection!
The night passed by quietly and so I thought that I should at least make the effort and head off to the far end of the lake for a go. So the Scope rods were assembled and the barrow loaded and four and a half hours were put aside to see if I could get one from the dam margins. Joan meanwhile would stay behind and keep guard on the other rods back in the swim. It looked good around the dam and I did indeed see signs of fish, but, for whatever reason, I couldn’t tempt one in to picking up a bait. Perhaps I should’ve given it longer but I couldn’t do that as a text came through from Joan that
she’d only gone and caught her first Swedish carp back at base – so I did no more than wind them all in and head back to do the camera work. It wasn’t a monster but it was another jet-black mirror and she’d done well to deal with it in my absence, as always.
We had one night left on Haga and I figured that I was just better off fishing from our base swim where all of our action had happened so far. Sure enough in the morning one of the narrow channels produced my first common of the trip, which again just looked as though it had never been touched by human hands before.
Once again it was time to move on, made far easier by having the van right behind us this time. We had one last venue to go and fish but, unfortunately, this time I was asked not to give anything away about the venue. So I couldn’t film there or even say the rough location, which I could totally understand and I was just honoured that they would even let me fish there in the first place. It was actually the toughest fishing of all the venues, although I probably did go in with the wrong tactics. I started off with the double 24mm Hard-ons again, which didn’t work. But scaling everything down I did manage, on the last morning, to catch one more absolutely stunning Swedish mirror, which I was allowed to take a few pics of.
It was a nice way to finish up what had been an amazing couple of weeks. We were invited back to Birger’s house to clean up before heading over to the carp meeting where we got fed extremely well and I ended up giving not one but two talks. It was great to meet some more Swedish carp anglers; some we had met many years ago on Cassien, but it was great to meet new ones too and they were all so welcoming and friendly – lovely people. Then, before we knew it, we were on the road again heading for mainland Europe and onto home back in the UK. There were a few wrong turns and the German roads were every bit as bad as on the journey out. But in between those two long drives we’d had a fantastic time, fishing some wonderful waters and catching some of the most stunning fish I have ever seen. Memories that will no doubt last forever.
RIGHT TOP Peace and quiet in ABUNDANCE. DEFINITELY ONE OF MY MOST favourite swims RIGHT BOTTOM THE PERFECT WAY TO GET off the mark BELOW Big, hard baits helped deter the attention of unwanted species
RIGHT One more beauty before moving on BELOW THE fish WERE HELD UP ALONG THE LONG LINE OF LILY PADS
TOP RIGHT It was the gap between the islands that produced the action BOTTOM RIGHT The Haga carp were different, but no less beautiful BELOW The amazing Haga Lake
BELOW One final Swedish stunner on the last morning
We couldn’t go to Sweden without seeing a moose