Scan­di­na­vian Sa­fari

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Steve Briggs

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

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