One of our favourite little short stories. A gem of a tale, told in a unique and original style by our Scandinavian friend Jon Skold. Fire up the kettle and soak it in, and think about this one next time you're complaining about the UK winter.... Would he have it any other way, than to be icebound for five months of the year? It is a bittersweet tale of what it means to appreciate something, on a different level
Going into another cruel and unscrupulous Scandinavian winter is what really puts a carping northern monkey on the verge of delirium. You can't by any means avoid its eagerness from grasping you, then clenching you even more and finally trying to grind you down, piece by piece from the inside and out. It's inside where it hits you the most, the bitter coldness is all on the inside of your shell, not on the outside. Mental ice age.
Muttering something incomprehensible on the other end of the line, I could tell straight away what was uncool about my angling brother. Due to a lack of angling possibilities, he was in a severe state of bitter and painful restlessness. Nothing at this point could change the fact that the past weeks sub-zero conditions had completely shut the door on what was left of any fresh autumn carping, with all of the magic it had offered. Yes, nature was still a fantastically composed mosaic of beautiful barren trees, bleached frosty meadows, swirling mist and indescribable skies, colored by something out of an acid trip along the sunset boulevard. The landscape was intact though, the snow was yet to come, but the essence and the actual magic itself was now effectively gone. The surfaces on all lakes around were now in an aquatic state of 10.000 BC. You could possibly drive your Volvo on top of some of them by now, and that was not good news to a Scandinavian carp villain, that is my brother from another mother.
'nature was still a fantastically composed mosaic of beautiful barren trees, bleached frosty meadows, swirling mist and indescribable skies, colored by something out of an acid trip along the sunset boulevard'
“ - Shit! It's here now, you know… it's bloody here...”
I knew precisely, what he meant. It's like decorating the tree on Christmas Eve. He does this every year, it's like a mantra.
“...Honestly, if this winter will be anything as cold, endless and f-ing hopeless as the last one... You'll find me dangling from the hemp-rope come April...” He said, followed by a long sigh, and some more inaudible muttering.
“What..?” I replied, already knowing the answer.
“We're living up here, in this, this... absolutely worst place imaginable for a carp angler, for almost half a year...”
So far so good, nothing new to add. I remained silent.
“...and yet we still endure... year, after year, after year, we continue on this path....right?”
I couldn't really figure out where he wanted to get with this offensive bitterness, it was the same rambling on every year. I knew he felt like life wasn't much fun anymore, I knew so well what he meant. It had started to creep upon me as well, tearing my inner energy and motivation apart, piece by piece. And the last thing I needed now was to focus on it, a bloody warm sauna and some tall stories along with it, that's what I f-ing needed for the next few months. But then he uttered the words I will never forget, ever.
“Every year at this time it comes upon us, but... at the same time every following year it also ends right?”
I peered at him for some seconds, without interfering.
“...And nothing can take that buzz away from us... nothing can compare to stepping up, partly broken inside, and standing out there, witnessing the reincarnation of our beloved northern countryside as it awakes again. To see those long awaited sunny days return, to make the circle complete again, to make it whole. It's the changing of the seasons, you know... I guess that, even though they almost destroy me from inside at times. I still need them, like a fix. I could never continue with this cause if it was ever so easy and close to hand, fishing for our creatures in open water whenever we wanted. I need them so badly, I am too Scandinavian...”
I responded with a mere intake of air, had nothing to add actually. I just smiled in silence, nothing needed to be added, nothing could ever be added to this undeniable fact. We both knew, this was as close to the truth as you could possibly get.
The winter to carp anglers in most of Scandinavia is more winter than to regular, non-carping citizens. Winter to the carping villains up here is terrible mental abuse, at it's best. Some people even throw in the towel and try to stimulate themselves with some ice fishing for pike and so on. Now this is nothing but artificial respiration, that's for sure. But for some it actually makes a difference.
The only way to try to get through it all, is by recollecting all the precious moments you've experienced throughout the season, maybe from years gone by, all over again inside your head, and at some point it is about also imagining what lies ahead. Maybe with the help of photos, but they are just tools of aid, you must actually feel those mild and fresh mornings inside you, where that left hand rod suddenly curled around, and the bite alarm melted away in the misty morning sun, as if it would never cease. You get into some sort of trance during these occasions, it's like you don't sleep, but even if you actually stand there with the rod, you dream it. It's surreal, and that feeling is often so incredibly hard to even get close to re-living.
'The only way to try to get through it all, is by recollecting all the precious moments you've experienced throughout the season, maybe from years gone by, all over again inside your head, and at some point it is about also imagining what lies ahead'
What you would like to do instead, is to try and stop those moments, to try to freeze them, put them in your pocket and carry them in your hand for as long as you like. To put them in a frame, and manage to taste them over and over again.
This is absolutely the most thrilling essence of carp fishing. To be out there and exist in those very moments that we sometimes manage to capture a slice of, in form of a still picture. Or sometimes manage to capture, like the bigger piece of the cake, on some film sequences. But they are the very same moments that we very rarely succeed to grasp and fully experience when we are in them. When we're instead being busy texting a friend, distracting ourselves with smart phones or perverted angling magazines stuffed with adverts. The truth is that today we must actively force ourselves to avoid all these signs of silliness while being out there, when being able to enjoy nature and freshwater life at its best, watching the seasons as they come and go. How can we not spare ourselves that distraction and instead keep our senses fully focused on the blessings of being able to walk out in nature at all? Who knows what the future generations will have to deal with when it comes to open waters or accessible nature?
Most up here would consider the season to be over in late October, when the first sub-zero nights have occurred. If you, however, are a soul craving for time out chasing those mystical creatures, there is no such thing as to give in for a vast six months of complete inactivity, due to all lakes being covered with ice lids up to 1 meter thick, and growing anxiety to add. If you experience even the slightest changes in weather and manage to find an opening anywhere, you throw yourself in there to get what you need, even if only for a few hours time spent on the bank. It's like therapy, and it actually helps you to keep the faith during the times of year when you get maybe five to six hours of daylight at all…
Upon those first days of open water, you step outdoors with a certain state of mind. Imagine being unable to inspect the waters for half a year or so, other than on top of them in two feet of white powder. And then, all of a sudden, the sun, the wind and the rain of early spring have made their impact on the just before seemingly so invincible snow and ice. And like a villain on parole you decide that, straight out of prison, you have no choice but to go straight back to where you found yourself on those final days, just before imprisonment. There is nothing that can change who you are and what you so earnestly seek. And when finally being present at the location, there is no way you can not feel that magic fix you came for.
Lurking along the reeds in search of that spot where you sense the inhabitants beneath the surface may well present themselves to you. You manage to picture it all over and over again many, many times. But as you find yourself perched in the branches, and that dark slate grey and bulky silhouette all of a sudden actually reveals itself, all those pictures turn so strikingly pale in comparison. All you can do is to hold your breath, petrified trying to decide whether you should, or shouldn't reach for the camera, and eventually spoil it all...
'But as you find yourself perched in the branches, and that dark slate grey and bulky silhouette all of a sudden actually reveals itself, all those pictures turn so strikingly pale in comparison'
One major aspect of carp life in northern Scandinavia is that you have been, in one way or another, inspired by the roots of carp fishing, as it has been portrayed in the UK. But as opposed to mild British winters you face the unavoidable fact that you will most certainly have to give up carp fishing at home for some time. This means five to six months of prison under normal circumstances, due to the climate.
This carp angling prison forced upon you, makes you develop certain rituals to cope with it at all. But few, if anyone, I spoke to concerning this dilemma would actually want to change what we have to encounter, and instead be able to angle for carp all year around. Things just wouldn't be the same.
The polar lights and minus 25 degrees are without doubt as much an ingredient for the Scandinavian way of carp life, as the carp anglers parole from prison. Being out there on that first sunny day by a freshly re-opened water surface of a wild forest lake, could never be the same without it, ever. And the best part about it is, that back on the crime scene you are completely confident about the fact that you won't get busted, at least not for the next six months. To learn to love that crime scene part of the year, fulfills itself, no additives needed. I'm on parole!
'few, if anyone, I spoke to concerning this dilemma would actually want to change what we have to encounter, and instead be able to angle for carp all year around. Things just wouldn't be the same.'