Swedish & Finnish Northern Pike Fishing Unlimited

by Harry Salmgren, Swedish Editor

This article is also in German

Fishing in Aland between Sweden and Finland, where fly fishing often tops the list, takes you to waters where the giant pike lurk. Like sorcery from ancient times, with schamans and magicians, and later for the sake of Viking chieftains, the pike were sacrificed, their skulls raised above cult sites. For modern fishers, a reminder of bygone days remained above the the cleaning table at Basto in Aland when I came there for the very first time.

Astounded, I stared at the graying pike crania with which fishers before me had decorated the trees. This practice probably aims at insuring continued fishing luck. Some of pike skulls had become the habitant for spiders whose webs captured them once again. Others were bird nests in the making.

I had come to fish in this island kingdom of giant northerns. According to the legends, the pike are mystical apparitons. Certainly, I had heard, and I knew, that both salmon and sea trout are abundant in the skerries. But as so often in my youth when Atlantic Salmon were still everywhere, it was our Scandinavian "crocodile" that mesmerized. It still does.

Flashy Flies

The trip from the mainland by boat passed rapidly abd the few kilometers left to Basto Fishing Camp by car took little longer. From the stairway of the log, fishing cabin, you could still see the glistening, promising water through the trees.

There were boats, life jackets - everything your heart could desire - even equipment for rent. There were also that cleaning table with its pike crania, quiet proof of catches in the bays and channels among the innumerable islands in this unique archipelago between Sweden and Finland. It's part of the Baltic see, but the water's fresh from the many rivers that lace Scandanavia

The staring skulls have witnessed dramatic catches and maybe a few letdowns too. Most of them were probably caught by casting with plugs. Spinners and spoons aren´t bad choices either. "Turus Ukko" or "Mepps" or may be "Rasanen", international as all get out. Don´t count out Hi-Lo or Swim Whizz or Rapala either. In spite of these modern times, a newer bait has come forth.

The fly - big bushy bucktails with flashy, decemeter-long trailers in varying shades of Flaschabou in icy-blue and silver. With a # 6-7 line and a nine-foot rod armed with a suitable view and these baits, the pike are defenseless.

They hit unpredictably, wildly and in voilent attacks - without compassion. This is the submerged, black-backed gull of the skerries, the same kind of scheming beast of prey. Pike will force the young of the merganser to flee hopelessly until they drown themselves. Pike will divide a school of fish and those that go astray become easy prey. Brutal but effective. The bare teeth on the skulls around the cleaning table aren´t there for nothing.

Catch & Release

Given the teeth on pike, wire leaders are a must for this kind of fishing. In addition, the last 20 cm in front of the fly in fly fishing must be at least a nylon leader, size .80 mm. As I rigged my gear I was getting a lot of good advice. "Let the fly float, then quick jerks, then let it rest again. Pike usually hit when you start taking in the line again."

This kind of fly fishing should be done in rather shallow water, not more than 3 meters deep. The spinning or bait casting gear will let you go much deeper when trying for lunkers that follow schools of Baltic herring back and forth across the bays.

Guides Basto-Pelle and Vidar did their best to help me with pike. In fact, I caught the summer´s biggest -nope, not pike - but perch. It came as a surprise when it took a big spoon. But a big northern that got away was a sign that Basto-Pelle had brought me to the right place. I was still focused on fly fishing.

With the pike skulls still haunting me, like a kind of omen, I wanted to challenge the norhterns with my light #6 weight fly rod. The venue for this match was at Vidar´s from the island Ango, south of Aland´s Lumparland and quite a way from Basto. Basto´s unique old dried northern skulls were not found here, instead, all the more living pike! Catch and release is the name of the game here and elswhere throughout Aland.

Pike Dance

A stiff wind was blowing when Vidar let his boat drift along the edge of the high reeds. Using high-velocity line speed and a tight, hard loop, it was just possible to drop the fly just outside the reeds. On my second cast, a pike fiercely attacked my fly, got hooked and went under the boat. It was only the smooth hull of Vidar´s water-jet powered boat that kept my line and leader from breaking.

The northern fought with violent frenzy. It was in the air, made a run, and then in the air again. This was more like a battle with a tarpon that I´ve seen off the coast of Florida. In the end, Vidar´s experienced hands gaffed the northern through its lower jaw so it could be released. It weighed in at 4.3 kg!

This was just the beginning of a two-hour-long, fishing ball. The catch was unbelievable. Now, afterwards, it doesn´t even seem real. I caught at least a dozen big fish, and at least that many more hit or were lost. Is that possible? Yes my arm still feels the powerful and savage pull on the line and rod. But in accord with new custom, all were put back to sea. There is no proof exept for a picture. The northern skulls still loom above the cleaning table reminding of times gone by when this fish was not as treasured as it is today. Now each pike is much too precious to be caught only once!