Four of us had decided to go to one of our dream destinations for grayling: Klarälven in Sweden
Of course, we could have crossed a few bridges and fished Danish waters, but as you probably know, there is something about the grass being greener on the other side...
So four fly fishers went to practice classic dry fly and nymph fishing in the most southern river of Sweden, which holds grayling.
The fishing started in our heads as we drove north. Martin and I in one car, Jens and Asger in the other, a bit delayed. Obviously, they did not know the saying: Even the worst day of fishing is better than the best day at work.
It was off-season. It was the beginning of autumn just before heavy rainfalls, but there was still warmth enough in the air to keep hatches going on and the grayling active.
Why grayling? Well, we are fascinated by its eagerness to rise to a dry fly on the surface even though there are no other fish rising at all. Fascinated by the colours, the dorsal fin and just fascinated by fishing in the larger rivers where it lives.
On our way to the camp, we drove along Klarälven. From time to time, we could see the water reflecting the sun and saw many fish rise to the natural midges. We hoped that they would soon rise to some of our imitations. We crossed a tributary, which looked very tempting, and we both took mental notes and promised each other to return.
We stayed in a cabin at Sysslebäck Camping, located on the bank of the river. The cabin was well designed for anglers with 4-5 meters or close to 15' to the roof so you could take your rods inside, place them against the wall, without taking them apart. To the north, it had a balcony, which acted as a perfect getting-waders-on-and-off area.
Sysslebäck is a small village, probably getting its economic base from tourists, some of them maybe fishing and skiing. Only one small supermarket supplies the citizens and travellers besides the gas station and a few smaller restaurants.
The fishing licenses were prepared as agreed. We picked up them and the key and installed ourselves. We waited for the second half of the team to show up, and had something to eat, while we dreamed about the wine, which was of course carefully placed in car no. two along with the coffee.
We tied a bunch of flies. A variant of the Swedish Rackelhanen and a new low-floating caddis tied on a Klinkhamer hook. We later named it Preben Elkhair Caddis because of the similarity between "Elk hair" and "Elkjaer" (Preben Elkjaer was a world famous soccer player in the 80s, playing for the Danish National Team).
The next day we commenced our fishing one of the calmer stretches just downstream a bridge. There were no fish to spot, but we gave it a serious go. The action was missing so after a couple of hours we gave in. Drove to another spot where we found a riffle with some boulders. Dozens of smaller fish were on the edges of the currents. The water was steadily flowing and not white or wild. Was it too calm? The fish averaged maybe 10-15 centimetres or just 5-7". They were fast, and we fished concentrated not to miss one... maybe a bigger one.
Concentration and adjustment of the gear drained some us from the last energy, but luckily, the surroundings were perfect for power napping, as the sun was shining and the wind just keeping the midges away.
We took one grayling to do an autopsy to help us crack the code. We also took many photos of its fin, and we ate the filets as an entree so it did not die in vain.
The stomach contained lots and lots of grass seed (quite hard to imitate) some larvae and ants.
It is also a good idea to take a sample from the bottom to see if there are any larvae, shrimp or other grayling food items. It may give you a hint about size and colour
Even though we took samples of the hatching insects, the bottom larvae and checked what one grayling had for breakfast, we did not crack the code for catching fish larger than 35 cm or about 15". We used longer (and longer and stille longer) leaders, smaller flies, larger flies, sub-surface flies, dries, nymphs, gold heads etc.
We fished different stretches: necks, riffles, white water, and calm water the following days but there were no obvious changes in size and numbers of the fish.
On our way back home, Martin and I stopped to fish the side river for a couple of hours. We found bigger fish. Actually, the 12 fish we caught here had a much better average size than the fish in the main river. Maybe, the side waters need to be explored.
But as you know we enjoyed ourselves even though the fishing was not that good. We had great food, great company, great weather and a great time off work. So what is there to complain about? Nothing, really!
Credit cards are used nearly everywhere. Euros (EUR €) may get you around as well, but do not forget to bring Swedish kroners.
Fishing licenses, can be bought at camping grounds and be ordered in advance on the Internet.
No state license is needed.
You will have to buy a license for the particular water. In Klarälven it costs 200 SKR for a week.
There are plenty of reasonable hostels/cabins/camp grounds and smaller hotels placed along the roads. We paid 2,000.- Swedish kroners for 5 days.
If you are camping you may take advantage of the Allemansrätt (every-mans-right or the right to public access). This is a rule that gives you the option to camp for free in the Swedish nature as long as you keep a certain distance to farms, houses and other private property. Remember to respect the rules about open fire and take out the garbage you brought in. One more thing - cans cannot burn!
A 7-9' rod class #3-4 will be sufficient in most cases. If heavy nymphs are used, consider a class #5 rod.
The leaders should be tapered and turn over nicely, so you get the most control in your cast and may place the fly where needed. I used 18' leader with a 5X tippet.
Nymphs: size 10-18, pink gold head, hares ear, caddis larvae and brightly coloured.
Dries: size 14-18, small mayflies, caddis, red tags and parachutes.
An indicator is useful when fishing nymphs. Use a yarn indicator as described by Steve Schweitzer or a large dry fly. If you are using heavier nymphs and the yarn indicator seems to spook the fish, simply attach a brightly coloured piece of backing between the leader and the line. Grease it and you will have a wonderful indicator, which you will not have to remove when shifting back to dry. A killing, flexible setup.
The most interesting species is of course grayling and brown trout, but there is also whitefish to be found, as well as pike, perch and pike perch.
Try some Swedish beers. Notice that you can only buy modestly strong beer in the supermarkets. If you need beer stronger than 3.5% or wine you have to go a liqueur store.
Are you taking a break from fishing? There is really not much to do besides hiking and canoeing. Maybe some white water rafting, moose or beaver safari.