Zen and the art of ice fishing

Travelling through Sweden on a cold winter’s day, you may well spot a succession of lone figures perched incongruously out in the middle of a lake, surrounded on all sides by a huge empty expanse of glassy ice, clutching a tiny fishing rod in one hand while gazing hopefully down a small round hole. You may be forgiven for thinking that these strange displaced anglers, levitating as if by magic above the watery depths beneath, are some frozen relic from a peaceful summer fishing trip gone horribly wrong, perhaps caught in some freak snowstorm and preserved for eternity (or at least until the spring melt) in the timeless pose of the expectant fisherman.

But no, these hunched adventurers are in entirely sound mind and exactly where they would wish to be. Though largely unknown in the UK and other less wintry climes, ice fishing is a popular way to spend a winter’s afternoon across much of Sweden, and has to be one of the most peaceful and even meditative ways to enjoy the beauty of the frozen winter landscape.

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To go ice fishing, it is of course necessary to have some specialised equipment not in the normal arsenal of the summer angler. Firstly, you will need an ice saw or ice drill to make your hole (ice drills are fearsome-looking contraptions but very simple to use, resembling a traditional DIY manual drill but of mad-scientist proportions). Though it is possible to go ice fishing with spears (as you might imagine the Inuit doing), in Sweden most people fish with small, light fishing rods. Popular fish to go for include trout, salmon, pike, perch, grayling or the delicious Arctic char.

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Ice fishing, while an excellent way of communing with nature and appreciating the grandeur and silence of the Swedish winter world, is not without its dangers. Though the ice beneath you may well be several feet thick in many places, in others it may be deceptively thin, and it is important to be aware of local conditions and respectful of potential hazards. For this reason, the services of an experienced and knowledgeable guide are essential – not only will they be able to advise on the best places to fish and increase your chance of a good catch, but they will know where you can fish in safety. In the unlikely event that someone should fall through the ice, they will also know how to get them out!

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If a dedicated ice fishing holiday sounds just a little too relaxing, our Ice Fishing and Dog Sledding expedition combines the thrills of a dog sledding holiday with the gentle pleasures of a few hours’ ice fishing. With your base in a traditional teepee, to which you return each night to recount your stories of “the one that got away” and cook your catch over the wood-burning stove, you head out each day to try your luck at various fishing spots on both sides of the Swedish/Norwegian border. This tour takes place in late April/early May, when the low temperatures and shorter days of winter are giving way to the warming sunshine and extended daylight of spring.

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Whether you are a committed fisherman or have never picked up a fishing rod before, ice fishing offers a unique way to engage with the glorious quiet and sense of calm that typifies a Swedish winter. As the song says, “Gone fishin’, instead of just a-wishin’……”

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Best regards

The Nature Travels Team

If you prefer to be out on the ice without a fishing rod in your hand, you may also be interested in our Ice Skating on Natural Ice experience.

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