Zen and the art of fly-fishing in Sweden – a photo essay


Rob Schoenbaum

Following two anglers into an area of deep forests and swift rivers brings a new appreciation of the mindful appeal of fly-fishing

I first learned about fly-fishing in a story by Truman Capote called Handcarved Coffins. In America’s midwest, Capote’s help is solicited by a small-town sheriff stumped by a string of diabolically ingenious murders in his remote farming community. The victims have been killed in ways suggesting intimate knowledge of their habits, yet nowhere is there any apparent motive. In the end Capote has no evidence but meets up with the man he reasons must be the killer. He’s fly-fishing. Waist-high in a stream, he talks about the “will of God”. As little as I then knew about the sport, it somehow made perfect sense that the killer would be fly-fishing.

In a larger sense, fly-fishing is a discipline of the mind, about things unseen. In the run-up to my trip to Sweden’s fly-fishing mecca Älvdalen, four hours north of Stockholm, I listened to fly-fishing stories on the internet. Many are about technique, or about making the “flies,” the tiny lures fly-fishers use; also, oddly, there are a great many tales about fly-fishing as a sort of personal, even spiritual, quest, about people who go to restore a relationship, to help them unravel some knotty issue in their lives or just find peace of mind. Somehow fly-fishing makes that possible.

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