We wanted to do something similar. A float trip, camping, fishing, adventure, away from the popular and crowded fishing areas. Do-it-yourself as much as possible. But where could we do such a thing? I know from this forum that Uhrs Wehrli and his friends from www.floaters.ch do magnificent float trips in far away Alaska. But for a first experience we wanted to find something nearby. In Europe. But where? That was the main question. And then we saw the report from Ralf and we knew immediately that this was our holy grail.
So we started planning and there was a lot that we had to deal with if we wanted to float down the Råstoätno river. From now on we will call it "Rasta", because that is easier to write...
First of all we needed to obtain the special fishing permits from the Province of Norbotten to fish on the upper part of the Rasta river. This is a QUOTA area for which 120 daily fishing permits are given each year through some kind of lottery system. We were lucky and we "won" 12 permits. That was 3 days for our group of 4 people.
Second little problem was to get our inflatable canoe-rafts in Kiruna. We have a Gumotex Orinoco which is 28 KG and that is no problem to take along on the flight with SAS. But our second boat is larger and heavier, the AquaDesign Voyager. It is 34 KG and it exceeds the maximum weight limit of SAS. So there was no other possibility than shipping it to Kiruna 1 week before our flight. We used FEDEX to send it directly to the helicopter base of KallaxFlyg in Kurravaara.
The third issue was the food. It is OK to eat a couple of fish now and then, but you don't wanna eat fish for breakfast, lunch and diner, do you? And there are no shops of course. Thank you Clemens Rathschan and others for the good advice! Thanks to you guys, we did a very good planning, had nice foodpacks with plenty of calories. And it did taste rather good :)
Another important matter was "communication". We were going to a place that was more than 100 KM away from civilzation. No network coverage for mobile phones. How could we inform our families that everything was OK? ANd how could we ask for help in case of troubles? We decided to use a SPOT Satellite Communication device. It is small and relatively cheap. The functionality is basic. You can send 4 types of pre-defined messages...
- message 1 = everything is OK (for our wifes at home)
- message 2 = Come pick us with helicopter (for the last day)
- message 3 = We need HELP (don't send that to the wife at home to avoid panic)
- message 4 = International SOS (to a worldwide 24/7 Rescue Center)
On Friday morning, the 5th of July, we took off from Brussels and in the afternoon we arrived in the airport of Kiruna, in the far North of Sweden. KallaxFlyg had already arranged a taxi to bring us to their base in Kurravaara. We loaded everything into the helicopter and away we went. The experienced pilot dropped us at a very lovely spot alongside the Rasta. We had 10 days, so we agreed with the pilot that we would float down the Rasta until its conjunction with the Tavvaätno. That is the place where they start the Lainioälv together. I know that Ralf did also a big part of the Lainio, but we did not have enough time for that.
We unpacked and set up our camp very quickly. Within 1 hour we were already fishing a small river that is a tributary to the Rasta. The plan was to save our 3 days on the QUOTA part, so the first evening we fished that small tributary and the second day we did a hike to a nearby char lake. The first cast of Steven was a perfect start because he hooked a nice brown trout. It was quickly released. And after that one, there were more. Bigger ones. And also grayling of course! This was paradise.
The next day we went to the char lake. Nice hike, nice lake, but where are the nice char? We did not see a fin! On the way back to the camp we fished the same tributary as the evening before. And we had some good fun again.
Meanwhile the Rasta was calling to us and its call was getting louder and louder. After all, this was the main target of our holiday. So we jumped in our boats and went to the opposite side of the large pool in front of our camp. We had been observing plenty of haid and tail rises of large fish on Friday and Saturday. So the tension was quite high on Sunday. The wind was coming from our back so that was good. I used a streamer, called the "horny stickleback" (it can imitate "Stichling" and "Elritze"). After a few casts, I hooked a fat and large grayling. The "horny stickleback" is my favorite fly for this kind of fishing.
On Sunday we had our first real "float day" with the boats. The idea was to float about 10 KM and set up a new camp. We had 3 float days like that. Enough to cover the entire Rasta. We underestimated the Rasta however. The water level was unusually low and passage was sometimes very difficult. Sometimes the strong wind was coming from the wrong direction and it was almost as if we were not moving at all. At other places, there were lots and lots of rocks in the river. But somehow we managed.
We floated, we fished, we slept in our tents and it was great. Unfortunately, our team member Patrick had an accident after the second float day. He fell against a large rock and he knew immediately that something was not OK with his ribs. Maybe broken? He said that there are cyclist who can finish the Tour de France with 2 broken ribs... Sure, but those guys have experienced medical teams at their disposal, a luxury that we did not have here. So Patrick said that the next morning would be decisive. Unfortunately the night did not bring the relief that he had hoped for. There was no other solution than to use the SPOT and ask for HELP in order to evacuate him by helicopter. The helicopter from KallaxFlyg was there within less than 1 hour to bring him back to the civilized world where proper doctors and beautiful nurses would take care of him. Patrick felt a bit "guilty" that his accident had changed our plans. But something like this could have happened to all of us. And we felt a bit bad that we were staying behind, but Patrick insisted that we would stay at the Rasta and go on.
The 3 of us who stayed behind had to discuss what we were going to do for the remainder of this adventure. It was clear that 3 people in 2 canoe-rafts on such a difficult river was really not a good idea. We could not risk more accidents. So we decided to stay at that place and make a permanent camp. This way it would also be easy for the helicopter pilot to find us for the pick up on Saturday 13 July.
The following days we decided to fish upstream and downstream from our beautiful camp place. A good decision because we had fish everywhere. Yet, it was not always easy. One moment verything had to be 200% correct. The right fly. Perfect presentation. A small sedge was the solution. Without it, no fish! But on other moments you could catch fish on everything that you could find in your fly-box. Dry, wet, nymph and streamer. The grayling and trout were so eager to taste our flies that they would have come out from the water to help us to put on our waders.
We really made the best of our troublesome situation and on Saturday, at 4 PM sharp, the helicopter arrived. Back at the base in Kurravaara we contacted our loved ones in Belgium and Patrick. He was already back in Belgium. That night we slept in a real bed and we had a real shower in Kiruna. Oh, what a luxury :)
About the weather. It was dry. Some days we had a little bit of rain, but never much. However, the summer period in the area was unusually dry and the water level of the Rasta was a bit too low. 5 CM more would have made a big difference for the floating. There was also a lot of wind. Hard wind! And the temperature was around 6 - 12°C. When there is a strong wind, then the advantage is that the mosquitos don't bother you so much. But I remember that we were surrounded by 3 billion bloodthirsty mosquitos and 2 billion radical extremist knuts on the couple of days that the wind was not blowing. We were lucky to have bugshirts for these moments.