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20,000 islands in a nutshell

By Viljami Huhtala

SEA Trout at Finland’s coast

I tie a couple of flies and double check the equipment before I go to sleep. An early night today, tomorrow we’ll see what the sea trouts are up to. A small but loud alarm rips the dream curtains apart. 5 am. The luminous digits shimmer through my dark, quiet room. No trouble getting up today though. I splash some water on my face and eat quickly. Half an hour later I pick up my buddy at a petrol station. We don’t talk much. Well, it is still early and we have another two hours of driving ahead of us. We’re the first ones to arrive. The shoreline is quite empty and we drink some coffee while we prepare our tackle. The sun will not rise for another hour, it is still pitch black when we start wading out into the cold, restless sea. It’s hard to know where you’re going with so little light and I almost get run over by one of the bigger waves so I start wading towards the shallows. Then I realise my mistake – the trouts move to the shallow waters in winter, especially during night time. It only happened to me last year: I waded out and scared away two large trouts. They disappeared into deeper waters. They were the only fish I saw that day.

We start casting, my fly gets stuck on bits of seaweed a couple of times, that’s about it. Dawn creeps upon the horizon, a soft, greyish pink mixed with yellow appears on the fringe of the sky. We decide to change spots but as we wade towards the shore we realise that a sunrise that beautiful is not one we want to witness driving a car. My friend goes for a couple more casts and I pick up my camera. Suddenly he starts jumping up and down and I’m about to tell him to stop fooling around, when I notice the body of a sea trout piercing the twinkling waves. A speedy cast, the fish is hooked and he lands it quickly – I take a couple of photographs and we high five. A decent start of the day, after all. After we change spots the weather, apparently not amused about our presence, starts changing rapidly. Rough winds whip through the water and the sea responds angrily. It starts raining. An autumnal day on the Finnish coast. Pretty typical. We don’t get any more action. After the sun sets we attempt to get something to bite in total darkness. Shockingly, it doesn’t work out. Call it a day.

This is a story from a couple of years ago. A standard: November fishing at Finland’s coast. Short days, rainy weather. In the end of December the days are even shorter, only about six hours. It may sound rough and uncomfortable but I love it, love everything about it. The stiff fingers from the cold, waves so high they get you wet even if you’re wearing a wader. Sound lovely doesn’t it? Some of you might understand.

Turku Archipelago

 

There are only a handful of natural rivers in Finland which the sea run brown trouts use to spawn, raise their offspring and accompany them to the Baltic Sea. Sadly most of what calls itself brown trouts today is cultivated. The cultivated ones can be discerned by their missing adipose fin. The native ones and every specimen over 50cm is not to be caught, by the way. Many rivers and thus many natural habitats were destroyed. But the archipelago is grand, unique and magnificent. You might want to take a look at it: Just google Turku Archipelago – yes, those are my home waters, a beautiful mess. Over 20.000 islands crammed together in a relatively small area. You can just imagine how many hiding places this region holds for fish. And thus, how many fishing opportunities the Finnish coast offers to anglers. My favourite spots in the whole wide world are the south and west banks of some of the islands here. A rocky sea bed, a lot of holes for the trouts to hide in – where the wind blows and the water spits in your face.

The trout season is quite short around here, especially if you don’t own a boat. I usually look for them between the end of November and March, that is, of course, disregarding the months in which the sea freezes over. Sea trout frequent the shallows in winter when the water gets cold. One reason for this is the abundance of food sources: sticklebacks, herrings, sand eels and shrimps romp about as well. Especially after heavy winds.

In Autumn I wade along the shoreline, trying to find active fish. I change spots quickly if I don’t get any action. Be on the move! I pull the fly through the waves speedily on a slow intermediate line for it to cut the waves and for the line to be kept at an optimal tension. I need to feel the drag. I find that the fish like quicker movements as well. When the water temperatures get close to freezing point of course the fish will be slower too. On calm days I use a floating line, for more variability in the fly’s speed. It allows for the fly to linger at times and it enable the angler to fish really shallow parts.

I have caught many sea trouts in these waters but I think I’ll never get used to that bolt of adrenaline that shoots through the body when the fish bites. Catching trouts at the coastline might sound strange or random to some, because it does require a lot of knowledge and a bit of luck. I still remember desperately trying to catch huge specimen in shallow waters – trying and failing. Casting and getting stuck in sea weed until the trout gets bored and vanishes. But that’s just what it is. And is it really all about catching fish in the end? I find that time spent outdoors with family and friends is worth more than most other things.

Alright damn it, I admit I would have liked to catch that trout that day! Anyway, we’ll meet again.

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