"They have bitten my bum"
Call it divine inspiration if you will, but
while grimly holding onto the trailer of Johanís quad bike and getting thrown
around with all the reindeer skins, staring up at the light blue midnight sky I
somehow knew that Lapland was going to be different from my usual fishing
excursion. For one thing "itís dark and Iím wearing sunglasses" just has no
meaning up here in the summer months.
Lapland, in case you donít know (and I wasnít
too sure myself) is the region covering the top of Norway, Sweden and Finland
and I am well within the Artic Circle. I have come to the Norwegian part. Itís
a long trip to get here, not least because I was already deprived of sleep.
Sunday night was "newsletter night" and
therefore a sleepless one. Monday saw Sean and I fishing Rutland (although I
did spend some of the time drifting off soundlessly, while Sean drifted on
stoically Ė it was that sort of day). Monday night was a night of two hour
sleep and I didnít get any on the plane either because I had some unfinished
stuff to write.
In Oslo airport I met Henning Lund from the bulletin board who
told me that where I was heading they donít get a summer; they experience
"any-season" and that he would have like to have joined me but common sense had
prevailed on this occasion).
Basically by the time I was told that I
should grip tightly to the quad bike trailer "or elseÖ" I was completely
I have come here, partly at Vegardís
insistence that I should do so before I die and preferably before he leaves for
Oslo and partly because I have never caught an Artic char before, but mainly
because just being somewhere where the sun never sets and simply travels around
you in a circle (well an oval to be precise), is really cool.
I should point out that I donít wear a
watch. In fact I gave my watch to Carl while in Berlin last time (Iím in the
process of giving all my stuff away). Wearing a watch stops you being here in
the now and shackles you to a linear existence. Vegard doesnít wear a watch
either; says that if he were a watch-wearing dude he would have a nine-to-five
job and a pension.
This could get interesting.
Bumping along on the trailer Vegard shouted
back to me: "You see that mountain over there?"
"It has two names, one of which is Raufwaufwauf
(I may have missed the exact name) and the other, local Sami tradition
has it, that if you mention it the weather becomes very bad"
"I canít; I donít know it"
Oh this is going to be a good trip.
We were heading to a secret spot of
Vegardís where he thought that we could get some excellent river char fishing.
A friend, Johan, had kindly agreed to drive us in. Vegard said: "Iíll sit on
the back behind Johan, you sit on the trailer. Itís far more comfortable back there
and Iíll check around every once in while to see if you have fallen off."
Arriving at the secret spot we assembled
A luvva is a sort of wigwam/tepee and quite probably also a mistype.
It has an ineffective hole at the top to let out the smoke. If it rains you cover
half the hole in the direction of the rain, making life even smokier and in
times of mozzie invasion you simply burn greener wood and wonder if this is
what hell is like (although you only have to wait for the fire to burn out to
discover that it was indeed not what hell was like).
Maybe it is time to introduce mozzies.
Vegard flatly denies their existence; says that since life is in your head you
choose to create mosquito existence and he chooses not to. Which is fine for
him, but in my case Iím not alive because I think that Iím alive; Iím
alive because I feel that Iím alive That feeling happens to be somewhere
around my solar plexus, nowhere near my head and, call it a sixth sense if you
will, but I feel that there are a few mozzies in Lapland. In fact not to
put to fine a point on it, there are a fuck of a lot of them.
I actually went through something of a
crisis with the mozzie thing. I have somehow come around to thinking how
wonderful a gift life is, and how I should respect all life, even mosquitoes.
I went to Lapland ready to embrace the mozzie culture and welcome them to my
heart, if not my bloodline exactly.
I have just returned from the pub and so
what follows may become rather confusing, not least because I think that an
intoxicated Greenland woman just tried to pick me up and even having drunk the
most expensive (and worst) bottle of wine in the world, I was still immune to
her, no doubt, well-hidden charms. Drinking in Norway is the most expensive
thing you will ever do. It is also not without risk.
So, yes this a karma thing: could be a
problem. I mean I get loads of bad karma in this lifetime, some of which almost
certainly was from my last oneÖ actually this is not true and causes me to
wonder. I can see where things come from; everything I put out there comes
straight back at me delivered by someone else (often wearing a uniform, or if
not a uniform then a skirt). Unfortunately I donít actually have any bad karma
(or good for that matter) that I can say, "a-ha, now I canít see how that
reflects back, therefore I must have had another life!"
Even the Greenland woman I can see came
from somewhere. Apparently I have "Sami hair" incidentally, which I may as well
take as a compliment.
I wonder how they cope in Thailand for
example. There are loads of dudes over there completely respecting all life,
even insects. What do they do? At first it wasnít a problem for me; I just sort
of encouraged them to fly away. Considered them to be friends in this world of
flyfishing and insane pubs. They flew around; I smiled back. The turning point
was the tent.
In our little campground on the hill, as
well as having a luvva, we also had a tent.
The tent was a mozzie-free zone. Or
at least it was until Vegard opened the zip to give me a cup of water (I should
explain; both Vegard and I got impossibly drunk on our first night in the
Lapland bush and finished a bottle of whisky between us; Vegard in his
enthusiasm to get me up in the morning, decided it would be a good plan to give
me a cup of water. Of course this plan, albeit no doubt conceived with great
cunning and foresight, had one hidden flaw; namely that I hadnít slept for what
felt like weeks and nothing from this world would stir meÖ not even a cup of
water) and in doing so he let in two mozzies.
Actually it doesnít matter how hung over
you are, nor how tired, you cannot sleep in the presence of mozzies, raising
the question do they come from another world? I was in no mood to catch them
and put them back outside again either. I did in fact flatten them. And worse
still, I killed many more in the subsequent days. No doubt a bus will now
flatten me later in the week. And Iíll deserve it.
I had an interesting conversation with
Vegard regarding Catch and Release. Vegard says that he only kills fish that
are wounded and that he thinks will die. These fish he eats. I listened to
this, thought about it and almost accepted the argument for myself,
until I watched him kill a fish. Up until that point I was considering what it
was I believed in. After that I understood that I am a vegetarian flyfisherman
(donít even like vegetables) because I feel like this. That and itís
better for the fish of course.
I cannot decide whether a fish will die or
not. I know that if I kill it, it will certainly die, but that is not the
point. I am told that fish that bleed will almost certainly die, and yet I have
caught fish having suffered huge injuries from other animals. The simple answer
is that I do not know. I do know this though; you cannot base the ethics of fishing
upon the principle that you will accidentally kill a few fish and therefore eat
them and that this justifies fishing in the first place.
I think if I did catch a fish that was
mortally wounded I would kill it. Fortunately I havenít been given this difficult
decision for a very long time indeed.
Why are we not having these discussions on
the bulletin board? For me, it is not about food gathering - we are way past
that. It is about whatever makes you happy, about what is right and trying to
put the two together. Sometimes you canít. AnywayÖ
The river we went to was a very nice place
indeed. Sure there were many mozzies (although Vegard flatly denies this) but
armed with a headnet and stacks of Carlís crocodile repellent (the under-arm
roll on version proved best) I managed to set foot into this world of
flyfishing and curious insects.
This was char fishing in Lapland. According
to Vegard char come from another dimension. When the weather conditions are
right (warm and humid Ė ideal for mozzies Ė "if there were any there" he
quickly adds) a portal opens up and they filter through. As it happens, he may
actually be right (for once) since we caught and saw bugger all until the
weather conditions were right. Interesting this "other dimension" theory
and it may go a long way to explain how difficult it is to catch the Mugwai.
"You know Paul, the thing about char is
that they come from another dimension"
"And when the weather is right a portal
"Do you understand why we are not catching
"Oh I understand everything Vegard"
The weather that first day was pretty bad
(the portal was obviously closed) however since we were both asleep it didnít
seem to matter. It was about then that we lost track of time. In actual fact we
even lost track of which day it was. Great speculation was made
governing this point. In the end we decided that it didnít really matter. When
we felt like fishing we would fish. When we felt like sleeping we would sleep.
When we felt like eating we would eat. Life would be just like this. We would
allow things to happen and live our Zen existence out here in the Lapland
For two days very little happened; we ate,
we fished, we slept. Vegard and I swapped jokes, coffee, breakfast cereal,
mozzie bites, flies, stories about women; you know the usual campfire
flyfishing stuff (without the darkness). He also told me about the Sami people;
about how they sang (Yoiked) for different souls (everything has a soul;
mountains, trees, mosquitoes) and how they measured distances by how many times
they would stop to make coffee in order to get there.
It was on the third day (Friday) that the
portal opened up and the char appeared. I caught one of about a pound and a
half and lost one a little bigger. Vegard caught one a lot smaller and later
one of over three pounds while I was involved in the hundred-mile march
downstream Ė something you should only do incidentally if you wish to have a
million little enthusiastic followers.
Johan picked us up again on the Saturday.
Vegard said it was great to be back and how he longed for a chair. I pointed
out that (perhaps) a beer and a woman would be preferable to your normal
everyday household chair experience. He said, "No, Paul, right now I would like
As it turned out he was in fact half right.
For the next three days we will be trout
fishing and on Wednesday Iíll fly back again to the land of (partial) darkness
where I will not be on the lookout for a "really good sit".
Next weekend Iíll be at the Gamefair
supporting Carl and crocodile in Fishermanís Row if you fancy a chat.