He is in big trouble now. Mattis' head has inflated and resembles a balloon. His eyes are glazed and he mumbles incoherently – "So many of them. Too many. And they are sooo big". This being his first Laplanding-experience ever, we knew it could come to this. Stronger men have cried like babies and demanded valium, russian peppervodka and several different anaesthetics because of the perceived hordes of mosquitoes and knott, a smaller but more horrifying horror.
Me and Vidar on the other hand have not seen a single mozzie for days. This disturbs Mattis. Every time he complains about the hordes of bloodsuckers the reply is that it is amazing that he has seen one. There are no mozzies around you see. "Haven't seen one for days now Vidar. Strange that he hallucinates so much. Mushrooms should be out of season now eh?". "Quite right Vegard. No mushrooms in sight. Just like the mozzies".
Mattis gets worse as the weather improves. Mosquito hallucinations tend to be stronger when the
weather is hot and humid. Mattis starts to live inside his mosquito netting, fishing only at night
when the cool Lapland air chills his addled brains enough to relieve him from his hallucinations.
He needs The Cure fast. If he does not get it his Laplanding days will soon be over, almost before
In search for The Cure
We go to Little Secret River. Not-So-Secret-River has failed to deliver. Little Secret is a marvellous little stream, and the first rise we see is from the trout we have seen there for the last two years. We call it The Salmon.
After the standard ritual of trying to catch it we move on downstream. As on cue the caddis starts hatching and the river turns into a slurping mass of caddis and trout. Mattis gets into action, and after a short time of fishing he has landed three, fat yellow-bellies. All around 1kg, and he caught them all standing on the same rock.
The fish switch, like they often do, to eating the spinners that suddenly decides to fall, after the airborne orgy starts to peak. After several casts I manage to get the drift right. The fish takes me a good bit downstream, but I stop it before it can reach the rapids. I can hear a faint buzzing around my head as I release him. Must be the mayflies or something I rationalise. Mattis comes down to take pictures. I notice he is not wearing his mozzie-hat. Instead he is wearing the biggest grin ever. It stays on him all the way back to the cabin and probably beyond.
"Seen any mozzies today Mattis" Vidar asks. "Not one Vidar" he replies. His head is back to normal, and even though his eyes are still slightly glazed, we know the reason is that he is getting drunk. "I must have been eating some bad reindeer-heart or something". "Yup. That must be it. Bad reindeer-heart is known to induce visions of scary monsters and supercreeps", I say as I get into the bottle of cask-strength Laphroaigh. "Good thing that trout on dries and single malts negates the effect" says Vidar. "And it sure helps to use that roll-on you guys gave me" Mattis replies. "Must be the placebo-effect or something".
The Laplanding life
Fishing in Lapland has been my main priority for the last five years. The beginning of the first trip failed miserably as we were attacked by mean northwesterly winds and icy fog. The only mayfly I saw died before we reached the lake.
As we were contemplating the hows and especially the whys of Laplanding and life in general I decided that we should make a run for it. We had to get to the next weather system. Everyone thought fishing grayling in something resembling summer would be better than catching nothing while freezing our balls off. After the night the tent was blown down we broke camp. Luckily it was only a six-hour hike, followed by a five-hour drive away. The rest of the time we fished The Tana for big grayling, hooked and lost a couple of salmon and got excessively intoxicated.
It must have been hard for the women of Levajok to forget me after I walked into their kitchen, wearing my smartest long-johns and a funny hat, asking for garlic, a kettle for rice, some sewing thread and a bottle of nail-polish remover. They had never heard of shooting heads and I decided not to bring it up. I told them we were having grayling with garlic and rice though.
The second trip was worse. Vidar caught a severe depression, and stayed in the tent for days, reading what must possibly be the worst piece of literature ever created. The water levels were at an all time low, after a heat spell of hellish magnitude, and the temperature had dropped to about four degrees. I fled the warmth of my sleeping bag when the air filled up with too much nonsense, had a nice encounter with a friendly fox, and saw a big trout swimming around in the unreachable middle of a kettle shaped pool. There was no other fish to be seen.
Later we caught a few smaller trout, one or two 1kgs, and of course I lost a monster on the last day. Had we moved from that river to another we would have been right in the middle of it, but we were young and naive.
Next year passed and Vidar was extremely sceptical about going up again. Until I discovered a char-river, and he promptly forgot the misery of last year. Monrad was in as well. The river was supposed to be secret but I bribed a helicopter bushpilot, and did some serious investigative map-work. We had the time of our lives. It started out bad though. All our gear got soaked after a very dangerous river crossing where Monrad lost his wading shoe. He was pulled under by the current as his foot got stuck between two rocks. He made it, but the shoe did not.
The wind was so strong that we had to drag the canoes upstream, instead of paddling the slow water as we had planned. As we were sitting under our shelter after a hailstorm, getting drunk and wondering about why we had decided to spend the best part of summer exactly there, something happened. The skies cleared and the south east winds began. We all started having simultaneous hallucinations of mosquitoes and the char materialised.
The next day I heard Vidar shouting far downstream. As I ran down to see what was going on I spooked two char well over 1,5 kgs. They were feeding in less than 30 cms of water. A large Siphlonorus Aestavalis mayfly hit my eye. Something was definitely going on. Vidar was grinning from ear-to-ear. He could not see a single mozzie, but hundreds of mayflies were drifting downriver. He had just netted two beautiful char. Magnificent red bellied fish. The first one had taken 40 meters of line in a single run downstream. It was not a really big one, just under a kilo. We had discovered The Cure for delusions of mosquitoes. Rising fish and flat-out denial. It was so obvious. Later on that sunny night we refined it with a couple of cups of cask-strength Laphroaigh, mixed with some of the cleanest water on the planet, as we kept the fire burning for hours.
Lessons from another world
I have learned a lot from these trips. Like knowing that big char does not exist in this world when the weather is bad. They come from a different dimension, and the portal only opens up when the conditions are right. But when they are the char are eager to take a dry. More so than trout of the same size. And they fight like the freshwater version of bonefish.
We found a good handful of excellent trout-streams to pass the time while we wait for char-weather. The last three trips has been huge successes. You stay mobile and flexible. Make no unchangable plans, follow Sami-time and listen to the noaidi-shamans. If they have anything to say that is. I might take them more seriously than others do, but then I am born and raised up there.
The mountain plateau that is called Finnmarksvidda is about the size of Denmark and constitutes the northern part of Norwegian Lapland. It is called Sapmi by The Sami, the original inhabitants of this northernmost part of Europe. It has 70.000 people living there, including the coastline where most of them live. We fish inland, enjoying not just the fish, but the solitude and the big sky over the flat and rolling landscape. A large section of a small river we fished last year had not been visited by man for at least two years. The fireplaces we found were covered by thick layers of moss.
Standing one night on a hilltop in this largely flat area of uncountable lakes and rivers I could see for miles. I could not see one single column of smoke. We were alone except for the moose, swans and occasional wolverine. A bear had crossed our path a couple of days ago, probably to scared of us to show itself.
This year I am thinking about hooking up with the big ones. The ones that scare you. They are there, but they are difficult. I am tying streamers. And caddis' the size of fingers. I dream of 5kg char in the lake that the river we fished flows from, and all the other rivers and lakes we have heard about from the reindeer herders. There is this area, where no European has set his foot since the missionaries tormented The Sami, where many rivers meet and the char, according to Sami myth feed on reindeer...