Klarälven - the quest for grayling

Published Nov 2nd 2005

Four of us had decided to go to one of our dream destinations for grayling: Klarälven in Sweden


The fin - The beauty of the dorsal fin of a grayling.
The fin
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.

Rainy trip - On our way north we passed a massive band of clouds - with rain.
Rainy trip
Clearing up - We knew we were heading for better weather, and sure enough: it soon cleared up.
Clearing up
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.

Perfect weather - We couldn\'t complain about the weather
Perfect weather
Preparing - Kasper and I managed to tie some flies before Jens and Asger arrived close to midnight
Kasper - Kasper casting out yet another time in the Klarelv.
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.

The cabin - Nice porch and lots of space, and just a few hundred yards from the river.
The cabin
Camping - Cabins this way. We stayed at Sysselbäcken Fish Camp
Nice cabin - The cabin was great. Close to the river and with lots of space. No problem bringing the rods indoors.
Nice cabin
Cheers - The team. From the left: Jens, Kasper, Asger and Martin
Getting into the waders - Jens utilising the large poarch while getting into his waders before the first day of fishing.
Getting into the waders
Rod tips - I was testing rods during our trip, so sometimes we had quite a few rods in the car when moving from place to place.
Rod tips

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.

Fishing from the bank - Many places are well suited for bank fishing with deeper stretches cutting close to the shore.
Fishing from the bank
Concentration - Kasper following a dry fly as it drifts
Nice weather - We had great weather most days
Nice weather
Signpost - Welcome to the Sysselbäck fishing area. License recquired.
Preben Elkhair Caddis - A strange name to some maybe, but not to Danish soccer-loving fly anglers.
Preben Elkhair Caddis
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.

A good way to fish - Few things are better than a power nap on the bank
A good way to fish
Reloading - Jens reloading on the bank
Large fish - Kasper showing the spproximate size of a grayling he had seen on the web.
Large fish
PO - A photo opportunity
The gold bead nymph - Grayling like the deeply fished nymph. A gold beaded nymph is very efficient.
The gold bead nymph
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

Red and blue - The red and blue translucency of a grayling dorsal fin
Red and blue
Parr - A young brown trout with clear parr marking.
Grace and style - A style study of Kasper in action
Grace and style
A caddis (on the finger) - Kasper has dug out a caddis larva of the Ryacophelia type.
A caddis (on the finger)
Small mayfly - There were other hatches than the omnipresent caddises, but the mayflies hatching were small
Small mayfly

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.

Small tributary - Kasper fishing a small side arm. It looked so appealing, but only held smaller fish.
Small tributary

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!

As large as they came - This was a large specimen from our trip. We missed the really big ones.
As large as they came
Strike indicator a la Schweitzer - Large and fluffy and way better floating than the Titanic
Strike indicator a la Schweitzer
Typical grayling - For some reason we had trouble getting grayling much bigger than this.
Typical grayling
The secret fly box - Kasper\'s fly box with an ample supply of grayling and trout flies and a few Schweitzer strike indicators
The secret fly box
Plenty headroom - The Klarelv is a large river, but so shallow that you can wade across in many places - if you don\'t mind the current.
Plenty headroom
One hand casting - Jens practising the one hand cast. No double haul, just a nice arc and setting down the fly.
One hand casting

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!

Fly reel and Fly Agaric - The old Rimlfy and a Fly Agaric mushroom
Fly reel and Fly Agaric
Light gear - A 3 or 4 weight rod in the 7½-8½ foot range is perfect for this type of fishing.
Light gear
Reel end - A collection of rods
Reel end
Average - A grayling above the average from our trip. They weren\'t big.
Resting reels - The reels in the rear window of the car - two Lamson\'s and a Leeda Rimfly.
Resting reels
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 fish
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.

Sysslebäck Camping - a camp ground with cabins close to the river
Torbjörns page - a local angler's page on Klarälven.

Arc - A gentle casting stroke and a perfect arc
Asger in the sunset - The action in the surface would generally increase when the sun was setting.
Asger in the sunset

User comments
From: john mangelschots · jmangelschotsl·at·scarlet.be  Link
Submitted November 24th 2011

Hello Martin,
Inar 2012 we intend to make a timber-rafe trip on the river Klarelven from BRANARSAENG to BJOERKEBO;during the last week of June
As a flyfisher i should be happy iff you could give me some hints about licenses and flies.esspecialyfor grayling
Best regards

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted July 25th 2010


Klarälven is actually a very nice water to fish, and your family is lucky to have a cabin on its banks. The grayling fishing is probably the most renown fishing here, but both trout and salmon can be caught in the river.

You can find plenty information online most of it in Swedish like on the web page of Sysselbackens Fiskevard.

Hope this helps.


From: Tove Bolstad · tovebol·at·online.no  Link
Submitted July 25th 2010

I wonder what sorts of fish you can get in Klarälven ? My daughter, my son in law and my grandchildren have bouht a summerhous in Uggenås and they are living by the stream for hollyday. They want to learn about fishing in Klara. We used to fish forell in Norwegian streams. Pardon my bad English, I`m an old lady and I have forgotten a lot of what I learned in school 60 years ago.

Comment to an image
From: percas  Link
Submitted November 6th 2005

very nice photos Martin...

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