For a long time after agreeing to head over to Sweden to tie classic winged wet flies, at the Flugbindargatan Sportfiskemassan, it seemed as though the week would never come. Then all of a sudden it was on top of me and I was in a mad rush to tie up all the loose ends and be ready to hit the road.
I started off with a quick hop from Columbus to JFK, and then after a long layover boarded a Finnair Airbus A330 for the eight hour flight over the ocean. Admittedly I was a bit rattled after getting on the plane as it was eight wide and that was a LONG way over water, but after forcing myself to calm down I had a bite to eat and then settled in for the long flight and tried to get some sleep. As I woke in the morning I looked out the window and caught my first glance of foreign soil east of the Atlantic...the Norwegian Archipelago as we crossed over land somewhere just south of Tronheim. It was a cool area to see for the 15 or 20 minutes we were over it, but I was glad to be on a plane as it looked to be a very cold and not so friendly a place to be on the ground.
We landed at the Helsinki Airport under amazing bluebird skies. After a short taxi we deboarded and I made my way towards the security and immigration checkpoint. I had a short conversation with a the man in uniform explaining my business there...which drew looks of doubt (since nearly everything there was still frozen soilid) until I explained I was just demo tying flies and through the gate I went.
The airport in Helsinki is one of the cleanest I have ever been to, and there are bits of art here and there to give travellers something to look at as they make their way to and from the gates. Not going to lie though....after being awake for most of the night as we crossed over the Atlantic my sleep deprived mind found this rabbit sculpture to be extremely creepy!
I had about three hours to kill at the Helsinki airport before the last flight back over to Gothenburg, so I decided to belly up at the Old Oak Barrel Pub and try some of the local wares. I figured that even though it was early morning there my body was feeling it to be far later in the day. For a bit I was the only one sitting there looking down the hallway, but it did not take too long before the airport came to life and there was not a spare seat in the place. For my first beer east of the ocean I went with a Lapin Kulta...and it was magnificent!
The flight from Helsinki to my final destination at Gothenburg was barely over an hour, so I caught a very short nap and woke as we touched down. I quickly moved through the airport to see if my bag made it, and was relieved to find it there and exactly as I had packed it the day before. I had some hours to wait on the ride that was coming to pick up all the international tiers and was already past security so, after a quick jump online to let the wife know I had made it, I ventured outside to a welcome 40-ish and bright sunny day. I stretched my legs with a bit of a walk and then decided to hang out with this wolf for a few hours and smoke a few cigars to pass the time. Before I knew it Marcus and Christer pulled up in the van and, after collecting the others, we were on the road headed towards Jonkoping.
We pulled in and found that we would be staying at the Sjohaga Pensionat. A Pensionat is basically a cross between a Bed and Breakfast and a Hostel. The main house contained the kitchen where the staff expertly prepared our food, a small stocked bar, a few sitting rooms, and a large dining room. Out behind this building was a second that housed all the guest rooms (pensions).
I quickly went around back to drop off my bags and splash a little water on my face. This shot was down the hall on the first floor. Each room contained a single twin, a desk, and a twin bunk so we would all be able to stay in the same place for the week between the rooms on the first and second floors.
There was also a small kithcen nook with a well stocked fridge, or as the UK boys said...a proper fridge. Guldkallan was the second beer that I had and was the one I had most of over the week we were there. It was tasty and we had both the 4.8% variety in the white cans as well as the 5.7% variety in the black, which I thought was much better.
The first night as everybody came in they all dropped off bags back in the bunkhouse and then made their way up to the sitting rooms to share beverages and stories. We had mostly all met on line before and some had met in person so there were no strangers in the room. Several beers and whiskies went down the hatch that long first night and there were a lot of laughs to be had, a bit of arm wrestling, and a few that needed assistance making it back to the bunk rooms to end the evening. Perfect way to blow off some steam and start the week!
Marcus Hoffman getting geared up. Watch out fish!
There was a bright high sun so the fishing was tough to start the day. I fished for a few hours until we had a lunch of hot dogs and beer waiting for us. As we relaxed back by the fire I spoke to Johan and Martin Agnell about what to do next, and the consensus was to go sinking line and small streamer. Martin worked his way downstream with me and we hit a few likely spots but it was not until we had gone farther than we had that morning that we found some fish.
This was a nice deep pool that lent itself especially well to swinging a small streamer. I carefully worked my way over the shelf ice lining the river and got out to a rock that I was able to get up on to have some solid fishing. After a dozen or so swings through the pool I felt a little thump-thumpthump and it was game on! After a nice fight I had my first fish to hand in Sweden, this nice female rainbow.
After a few pictures she went back to the water and there were plenty of smiles and high fives to go around. That was not the biggest rainbow I have ever caught but it may have been one of the biggest smiles on my face as that was my first fish there. The moment was marked with a fresh cigar and a beer before getting back to work on the pool.
Good shot of me and my friend Ulf Hagstrom. I think Ulf and I had been messaging and emailing back and forth for a number of years before meeting in person at the 2011 Fly Tying Symposium. It was great to see him again and get out on the water for the day.
This shot pretty well sums up the pace and mood of the day. It was a blast!
After having a nice fish take nearly at my feet and spit the fly back at me I did keep at it and got in to this nice male late in the afternoon not too long before it was time to go. He had a much lighter take but once the hook was set he did his best to put me around some rocks and get under the ice shelf...but to no avail. After a few minutes he was in hand.
He of course also went back and there was another round of high fives. I will never get tired of bringing these guys in and then watching them swim strongly away.
As the day wound down I took a few shots of the river as it had some truly spectacular areas to it. This particular set of pools and runs was just below where I had gotten in to the last fish and looked extremely fishy to me, though I did not end up hooked up here.
The sun on this old riverside building was just about perfect for my last shot of the day on the Tidan. It was a great day filled with laughs, beer, and a few fish.
Back at the Pensionat in short order we put down dinner as a group and then proceeded to share whisky, beer, and stories late in to the night again.
Before I went to bed though I made sure to set aside the fly that caught my first fish in Sweden so it could be put in the frame once I have a print made up as a momento from the trip.
This is a bit out of order as it was not until after the fist day of tying, but I think it fits better here than breaking up the show shots. Each year for the show Hakan Karsnaser invites all the tiers over to his house to share a meal with him and his family. This is the shot I took from his kitchen as the sun was headed down over the lake in his back yard. Pretty awesome spot!
He had multiple tables set up in his kitchen to try and get us all crammed in for what was a delicious meal of stew and rice. It was great to have everyone together for a grat meal and more stories...pretty much a nightly occurance while we were there.
While the first few days were a blast the day had come to get some work done...Friday was the start of the Fishing Fair. We got up early and put down some food and then headed a half hour up the road to Elmia convention center in Jonkoping.
The show this year was by all accounts a huge success. The entire floor of the of the center was covered with every manner of fishing equipment, bait, lures, flies...and a sea of people. Day one saw well over 3,000 people come through, and by the end it was nearly 14,000 by the time the weekend was over.
Anders Grunning put together one hell of a nice tying row...pretty much the nicest I have ever tied at. We were set up to occupy the corner of the convention hall bordering on the casting competition and demonstration pond. Throughout the weekend we had a steady flow of people coming through to see what was happening in front of the red walls. We had quite a variety of flies from streamers to wet flies, realistics to Catskills, shrimp to full dressed salmon flies...something for everyone even if they did not fly fish.
Over the weekend I tied a whole mess of wet flies and on day two decided to tie up a Jock Scott based on the shots from Trout. I did not have any white tipped turkey for the bottom slip so I just used black. I was pretty happy with how it turned out; always fun to tie complex patterns on small hooks.
This is the view from the other end of the side I was on.
And this is the other side. We had tiers that were Swedish, Norwegian, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Finnish, British, and American. It was an awesome group of guys.
This was a very common site for me throughout the weekend...people dropping by to see the amazing split wing technique that Trevor Jones was tying for the show. Difference in this shot is the audience is one of the best full dressed salmon tiers in the world, Paul Little. No doubt that we all learned from each other over the weekend.
One of the cool other exhibits that was there was this tanker sized tank that held some pretty large rainbows, browns, and pike. They had lure demonstrations from up on the casting platform to some good sized crowds. The fish generally stayed away from the demonstrations, but it was cool to see them swimming around in the tank all day.
Overall it was a fantastic show with great crowds. I would not hesitate to go back to share the stage with that group of guys to entertain the masses!
On the final evening after the show Dougie Loughridge, Ted Patlen and I laughed some more over a few beers at the airport hotel while the Tigers game was on the TV over the bar. Early in the morning we got up and made the couple hundred yard walk back over to the airport and settled in for a long day of travel back to our homes. I had an amazing time taking in the culture, enjoying time with my friends, and of course tying a few flies. It was my first time headed overseas for a show but I am certain it will not be my last. Next up on the radar are some shows in Galway, northern Ireland, and BFFI...will have to see how I can make them happen so I can get back over there for some flies and fishing!