For many fisher(wo)men, a trip to the northernmost part of Europe with its clean air and pristine nature is a dream come true. The days are long and the sun doesn’t set, leaving more time to take in the serene surroundings and experience the local ways of fishing.
We invited four passionate outdoor enthusiasts, who all share a desire to make a memorable catch under the midnight sun. Project Vaeylae is a documentation of their experiences in Lapland, Finland.
Follow the roadtrip
Daniel is a lifestyle, adventure and landscape photographer based in Finland. His passion for nature can be seen in his photography. After a 15 year break from fishing, due to life just getting busy, Daniel is picking up his rod again. Now it’s time to see if he can reconnect with the skills that his grandpa introduced to him all those years ago
Follow Daniel’s journey on Instagram: @dansmoe
Finlay is from Aberdeenshire in Scotland and has been passionate about fishing since catching his first trout at the age of 4. He has spent four years as a professional hunting and fly fishing guide, catching salmon and trout, and has tried a variety of techniques in different parts of the world. Finlay really hopes to catch a grayling or two on this trip and can’t wait to experience the midnight sun, Lapland’s wilderness, as well as meet other folk who share his love for fishing.
Follow Finlay’s journey on Instagram: @scottish_mountain_man
This fishing team consists of Felix, an enthusiastic German fisherman YouTuber; his girlfriend Maria, a climbing, hiking and backpacking outdoor girl for whom fishing is a relatively new hobby; Milow their dog and Egon their trusty VW bus. They are currently travelling around Europe and experiencing its landscape and waters through their fishing rods. They are excited to join our crew, learn some new techniques and immerse themselves in Lapland’s wild and peaceful landscape.
Follow Team Egon’s progress on Instagram: @catchtastic
And on their YouTube channel: Catchtastic
Our epic fishing roadtrip through western Lapland kicked off in Rovaniemi in sizzling 29-degree heat on the sunny terrace of Cafe Bar 21. Summer had decided to join us after all! Our team of influencers wasn’t sure if they were in Finland or Fiji – or why they were asked to pack two layers of thermals and gloves. Now with bellies full of waffles, they clinked their brand new kuksas full of coffee and then we hit the road.
We headed out west towards Vaeylae, the fond nickname given to the longest free-flowing salmon river in Europe. The evening sun cast the landscape in a phenomenal light as we approached Pello. At the first glimpse of water by the road, our fishing team pulled up into a layby and whipped out their rods. This is when we realised that this bunch really were fishing fanatics.
Our first fishing destination was Lappea. After dodging reindeer and squinting through the mosquito-splattered windscreen, we pulled into the quiet grounds of Lappean Lohi, where our guides were waiting for us. Once we stepped out of our vehicles, we noticed that the air had turned cool. But what was really strange, was the complete lack of mosquitoes. ’We don’t have mosquitoes here’, said Marika Kylmämaa cheerfully.
We were led down to the river, where the sun was getting lower but glowing brighter, and taken into long wooden boats. The guides were going to teach us the local traditional way of salmon fishing, known as ’harling’ or ’lohensoutu’ in Finnish. Harling is a boat fishing method, in which a large wet fly or wobbler is towed behind a slow-moving boat, usually rowed. This is often done where the light changes. The low midnight sun lighting up the mist on the river in the early hours is akin to a spiritual experience, especially with salmon jumping around our boats. But only one gave us a chance to strike. The fish bit the wobbler but didn’t get caught in the hook properly. 1-0 for the salmon.
Once back on dry land, we had some sausages around the fire in a kota overlooking the river. It was about 4am when we finally fell into our cozy beds, dreaming of salmon.
After a late-ish breakfast at 10am, our team head back out onto the water to try their luck again with the salmon, who had been jumping aroundand showing off the night before, challenging us to try and catch them. They continued to tease us until Finlay caught his first grayling!
Lunch was in the riverside kota, after which we drove for an hour to Äkäslompolo, a village surrounded by seven fells at the edge of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. As soon as we arrived we checked into our accommodation, the main house at Ylläksen Yöpuu log cabins and then went shopping for food at Jouni’s Shop, where we were faced with a giant multicoloured male reindeer in the car park with its nether regions dangling proudly right above our heads. We filled our shopping cart with freshly frozen local reindeer meat, Lappish flatbread (rieska) and most importantly multiple bags of sweets and salty licorice to keep us going through our night fishing missions. Our cart was so full of goodies, we decided to wheel it all the way to our cottage and lift it inside for easy unloading.
Before venturing out into the water, we soaked up some more rays on the sunny terrace at Selvä Pyy and chowed down some tasty burgers. Then we were ready to fish. The beautiful River Äkäs runs through the area, providing a perfect playground for anglers. At the river bank we bumped into local fly fishing fanatic @jabahei who kindly offered to guide our group. The gang spent the evening casting their flies, with @catchtastic catching his first grayling! @scottish_mountain_man also made a few catches, as did @dansmoe, who refreshed his fly rod skills with style. With graylings biting hard, you couldn’t wipe the grins from our faces.
Back at the cottage at 2am, we found our production manager Becky waiting up to find out what time we wanted breakfast. But we couldn’t resist heading back out onto the water. Äkäslompolo, the lake that the village is situated around and named after, was calling us from under the beautiful orange and pink haze of a sunrise with fog gently hovering above its surface. We knew that there was pike waiting to be found amongst the weeds. Even Becky turned her back on a full night’s sleep to come and row a boat for us after trying out the scenic lakeside swing.
Out on two rowing boats we continued fishing into the morning on the still glassy water, surrounded by a serene atmosphere. Felix @catchtastic fished with a frog lure and managed to fool a small but nicely coloured pike that was hanging out by the grasses. Finlay also caught a pike, using a fly tied by Arctic Anglers. The warm weather we had been having had pushed the big monsters down to the cool waters in the bottom of the lake, out of our reach. We decided to finally turn in at 6am. But only because Becky made us.
Our day started at 12pm with breakfast in our cottage. Milow, our canine fishing companion who is part of the @catchtastic crew, had spent the night in the pet-friendly cottage with us. Despite his intimidating appearance (he’s half Doberman, half German Shepherd), he has a soft soul, but showed that wasn’t really a ‘morning’ person by grumbling at the male members of the team as they came down to greet him in the kitchen.
Once all our gear was packed, we set off towards Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park for something a little different. When in Lapland, you mustn’t miss the opportunity to catch the midnight sun on top of a fell, and what better spot for this than Taivaskero, the highest fell in the National Park at 809 metres. We had also heard that the route to the top was clearly marked and easy to follow, so we thought this would be a perfect way to stretch our legs in the middle of all this fishing and driving.
We drove to Pallastunturi Visitor Centre, the starting point for the hike, to get a bit more information before it closed at 5pm. The staff were very helpful and gave us a free map. Before starting the 9km round trip, it was time for some dinner at the only restaurant on the fell, in the historical building of Pallas Hotel. The restaurant has a quirkily stylish interior with views over the national park. Not wanting anything too heavy before the hike, we had a divine meal of Arctic Char with beautifully crispy skin, on a bed of roasted turnip and some mashed potato.
Although originally the whole gang was supposed to head up for the hike, we could see from Felix’s face that all he could think about was fishing. Finlay was also itching to get back out on the water. Having never seen such passionate young fisherman, who have travelled all this way to experience Lapland’s waters, it seemed unfair to keep them on dry land any longer. We therefore decided to split the group and send Felix and Finlay off in search of fish. The other half of @catchtastic, Maria, a keen hiker and @dansmoe, an adventure and outdoor photographer were both eager to make the climb, as was Becky, who fell for Lapland’s fells a few years back, resulting in her moving up here.
The hiking crew started up the trail under some extensive cloud cover, wondering if they actually would see the sun. Many would have given it a miss, but locals know that Lapland’s weather and cloud movement often has surprises in store and rewards those who have faith in it. Committing to the hike paid off. We heard the tinkle of a metal bell, and a small herd of reindeer appeared on the horizon, coming closer towards us and then heading to the peak, as if to show us where to go. The clouds started to part and lift as we reached the stop revealing the low-lying sun, as if on demand. The light was unbelievable, casting the most spectacular dusky glow over the 360° landscape, highlighting layers of fells and forest and gleaming lakes. Then the clouds set on fire, looking like neon pink flames in the sky. It was pure magic. More info from the hike.
Meanwhile, @scottish_mountain_man and @catchtastic were joined by fishing guide Juho Oksanen from Arctic Anglers, who took them to a small river outside the border of National Park, where they struck on little muddlers and klinkhammers in tiny pools that held a nice population of beautiful brookies. Our fishing fanatics caught fish with their flies pool after pool, wearing smiles on their faces as wide as the river.
Yet another perfect day was crowned with a session in a traditional sauna used by the well-liked, outdoors-loving Finnish president Urho Kekkonen (in office 1956-82) in a beautiful location on the edge of lake Pallas. Our roadtrip crew spent some quality time together cooking sausages on the campfire, watching the pink sunrise before resting their heads in Metsähallitus (Finnish Forest and Parks Service) cabins.
Our fishing fanatics were kept in suspense as we packed on the morning of day 4. They were told to pack a separate bag with sleeping bags and camping gear, along with specific fishing gear, with no idea where they were going.
After everyone had been for a morning swim in the lucid waters of Lake Pallas, we set off around midday for the long drive north. We took the scenic route through the idyllic Lappish villages of Raattama, Vuontisjärvi and Hetta to Palojoensuu, where we joined the main road to Kilpisjärvi, also known as the Northern Lights Route.
On approaching Kilpisjärvi, with the distinctive view of Saana fell looming ahead of us, the cars took a sudden turn down a little road on the left, towards the lake. We arrived at a small car park and at the end was a jetty where a Polar Lento float plane was ready and waiting. The reaction of our fishing crew was priceless, mouths dropping open in disbelief, eyes flashing with excitement, uttering whoops and cheers and ‘I can’t believe it’s.
Each piece of gear was weighed before being put on the plane. Two tents were taken along, but two were sacrificed as the team decided that they probably weren’t going to sleep. Maria from the @catchtastic team stayed behind to look after Milow, as the float plane experience would be too much for him. Becky also stayed behind, knowing that there was a risk that the food she packed for them wasn’t going to be eaten. She felt like she was sending her children off into the wild to fend for themselves.
The propellers started to spin, the engine roared and the plane glided along the surface of the water for a while before taking off into the air against a mountain backdrop. The crew were dropped at wilderness lake with no cabins and no sign of man. Camp was set up on a small hill on a peninsular dividing one of the bays. On went the waders and the boys started fishing for trout that had risen after a caddis hatch. It was the grown-up fishing version of Lord of the (black) Flies (and mosquitoes). Our @scottish_mountain_man Finlay made the first catch before dinner was even ready. The meal was reindeer stew and potatoes, cooked on the campfire. After a quick refreshing skinny dip taken by two of the crew, we then hiked a couple of kilometres to a small river flowing from the lake, where we spent the whole night fishing with dry flies in crystal clear water, catching trout after trout. Felix @catchtastic landed the biggest catch of the day! All the fish were released apart from two that bit the flies hard and deep, causing bleeding. They made a good snack when we returned to our camp.
No-one felt like sleeping, fishing around the lake through the night and into the morning. The atmosphere amongst our anglers was jolly, filled with laughter and smiles. Finlay couldn’t be called away from the water, even for a bite to eat, fishing from a belly boat in the middle of the lake until the float plane came to make the first pick up at 8.30am.
Maria, Becky and Milow met the exhausted but deliriously happy fishermen at the jetty, after spending their own night camping in Kilpisjärvi.
After a buffet breakfast in the village, the team was allowed into their comfortable and well-equipped log cabin provided by Tunturimajat, with a view across to Saana fell. The picturesque bubbling stream that ran right next to the cabin did not go unnoticed by our fishing fanatics, but exhaustion won and they fell into their beds for a few hours.
When they woke up, most of the team had no idea what time of day it was. We had dinner in the neighbouring restaurant before going to spend the evening relaxing and unwinding at the sauna and wood-fired hot tub provided by Arctic Land Reindeer Ranch. 20km south of Kilpisjärvi. The location was stunningly peaceful, tucked away from the main road by the edge of Peera Lake, with a view to the surrounding fells. This place felt like true luxury, with only a handful of glass igloos and reindeer wandering around on the ranch without a care in the world. Of course, you can’t take a fisherman near water without him trying to make a catch, so of course Felix @catchtastic head straight to the edge of the lake with his spin rod to see if any of its whitefish, grayling, trout or perch would bite.
In between sessions in the wood-fired sauna and soaks in the outdoor hot tub, our angler team took it in turns to be interviewed by our crew for the mini documentary film of this trip, finding it hard not to giggle when it wasn’t their turn.
We returned to our cabin in the early hours, and of course Finlay @scottish_mountain_man marched straight down to the neighbouring stream and caught a grayling…
With a long drive ahead of us on our last day, we left at 8am to go and have a luxurious breakfast in a kota back at the Arctic Land Reindeer Ranch before hitting the road properly. The home-baked bread, home-cured reindeer meat, smoked salmon and all the less exotic things you would wish for at breakfast were just what we needed.
Tanked up on coffee, we drove to our final location before heading back to Rovaniemi. We had organised for Jari Rossi @laplandshaman to show us the traditional fishing practice of seine fishing on Jeris lake. We were welcomed by Jari to his home in Keimiöniemi, where he and local fisherman Jouko (aka Jopi) welcomed us and let us swim in the warm waters from his sandy beach, before taking us by boat to the charming and historic Keimiöniemi fishing huts. The huts have been used for accommodation for local fisherman since the 1500s. We were lucky enough to have a peak inside one of them, as one of our filming crew had keys due to having family roots in the area.
After our tour and tales of a giant one-eyed pike told by master storyteller @laplandshaman, it was time to head back into the boats and drop the seine net to see what we could catch. It took around an hour to drop the net and drag it back to shore, where lunch was waiting. Jopi then cleaned the 5 white fish that we caught in one and a half minutes before heading back to his house on an island on Jeris lake.
On return to Rovaniemi, our fishing influencers checked into the dog and people-friendly Hostel Cafe Koti for their last night. Our final farewell meal was provided by Pure Pizza. We all concluded that it had been a successful trip. Fishing in Lapland had certainly influenced our influencers and left them with a wealth of warm memories. Warm sunny weather, unique locations, hospitable locals, an abundance of good food, plenty of fish, the midnight sun, a few surprises, countless laughs, no need for sleep and a fun-loving bunch of outdoor enthusiasts made this the perfect fishing roadtrip.