I’ve often wondered how the art of fly fishing translates across the globe into foreign waters. I’ve always been intrigued by the possible similarities and differences it takes hold of through cultural variances. That curiosity lead me to reach out to one of the most passionate female anglers I have been exposed to through social media, Hanna Huhtala. Aside from the impeccable photography that captures Hanna’s fly fishing diary, her passion and love for the outdoors is nothing short of captivating. Hanna, a native of Finland, is somewhat new to the world of fly fishing, but one would never know based on her natural ability and infallible drive. Naturally, I wanted to learn more about Hanna’s own personal evolution into a lifestyle that shows no sign of slowing down.
Hanna when exactly did you start fly fishing?
I started fly fishing only a couple of years ago, it was may 2014 when I held fly rod in my hand for the very first time. But already before casting the first cast I knew this was going to be my thing. I didn’t want to “try” it, I wanted to “learn” it! So I immediately gave this lifestyle all my free time and became very passionate about it very quickly.
How did you get involved I fly fishing? Was it a family member? A friend?
My husband has been fishing for years but it had never actually caught my attention and interest. It has been his thing, and neither of us would have ever thought I would be into it at some point. I love being outdoors, but fishing has seem to be a bit boring in my eyes, something you can do for a half an hour at the summer cottage but nothing more. The turning point was when he started to more and more combine his other passion, photographing, into fly fishing and little by little I caught myself going through his and all the other anglers’ fly fishing pictures in Instagram. First I started to admire all those beautiful trouts, and I also noticed the artistic and photogenic side of fly fishing and fly casting. The final step was the moment I found pictures of the first female anglers and that was the moment I realized this could be my thing too. I spent my time in the internet trying to learn all those new terms and what they meant. After some time I told my husband he needed to teach me to catch “little and beautiful fish”, in which I meant brown trout. He was surprised but he took me to a little pond, where I caught my first brook trouts and brown trouts, tiny little and the most beautiful things I had ever seen.
What is your favorite fish/trout to catch and why? Do you prefer catching them in the river or lake?
My favorite fish to catch is brown trout for many reasons. First of all it’s the only native trout species we have in Finland. Secondly I love how beautiful it is with all those incredible colors. All of them are different, and the colors vary from very dark brown to lightest yellow and even orange. Not to even mention all those awesome spots! At the same time brown trout is so soft and delicate beauty, but also such a great fighter. At the time I started I had no clue of the adrenaline of fighting a big fish, but now I know it’s something special too. Third reason to love brown trout fishing is the diversity it provides. River fishing is awesome, and I really love dry fly fishing and casting streamers, but chasing those silver searun brown trouts from the sea is something special. I respect the elements of randomness and luck in still water fishing. It’s not so obvious where the fish may stay, they just swim along the coastline and I can only hope we come across as I wade in there. The best seasons for catching searun brown trout from the coast is in autumn and spring, which means cold weather and sometimes very tough weather conditions, but somehow it makes it even more spectacular. I also love the feeling of fighting a fish that can’t use the help of a stream to pull against the rod, for it many times means a lots of jumps, runs and rush.
How does being out in nature/fly fishing make you feel? At peace? Is it a source of meditation?
For me fly fishing is about being in the nature. I prefer places where there are no other fishermen. When it comes to finding a peaceful place I don’t mind doing a little (or long) hike, it’s part of the experience. Most of our fishing days last from rise to dawn, just fishing all day long. It provides an unique opportunity to relax and forget about everything else. I find fly casting very meditative. It’s also something you can always learn more and notice the progress, which is really motivational.
Where is your favorite place to fly fish?
My favorite places to fish are in the wilderness. In Lapland, the very north of Scandinavia or in the wild and bare archipelago in the southwest of Finland.
Do you have a lucky fly? If so, what kind?
I always have some flies I trust more than the others, but I guess my only actual lucky fly must be one of my pike flies. I picked up the materials from the floor after my husband had tied some flies, and it seemed to me I had enough of material in my hand to tie a fly of it. I call it a “trash fly”, and I have caught many decent sized northern pikes with it.
How do you think fly fishing differs in Finland compared to the US?
Comparing to USA, Finland is a tiny little country with only 5.5 million people, but as we have almost 200,000 lakes, and our unique archipelago in the Baltic sea has 20,000 islands, I must say we have enough of waters and coastline for everyone to fish. We have many different opportunities to enjoy fly fishing in many very different styles and ways. We have our native species of brown trout, and the Atlantic salmon running from the Arctic Ocean and the Baltic Sea. Thanks to our climate, the summer is quite short and the river fishing season lasts only for a couple of months, but the season continues by the sea. Because the water in Baltic sea is brackish water, there are those same species of freshwater fish as we have in our lakes. You can find Northern Pike in the Baltic sea as well as all the lakes and many rivers in the inland. Fly fishing for other species such as zander, perch and asp has become more and more famous as the native brown trout and salmon has become endangered in the past.
Where is your dream location to fly fish if you could pick anywhere in the world?
I have so many dreams when it comes to fly fishing and travelling. I would love to fish for the incredible brown trouts in the lake Thingvallavatn in Iceland, or hike and fish in New Zealand. I also love northern Norway, I can’t get enough of exploring it. And I don’t even have bravery to dream of a saltwater fishing in some warm place, for I’m quite sure I would love it way too much!
What species of fish is on your bucket list to catch?
I would love to catch one day some different kinds of trout, such as bull trout or marble trout. I’m also planning on trying to catch a salmon one day with a single hand rod. I would also love to catch a fresh searun brown from the river, since I only have had one opportunity so far, and I lost it in the very last minute.
What do you hope to improve on with your fly fishing in 2017?
Next year I will cast further to reach the spots I didn’t reach this year.
Is there a female angler you admire in the fly fishing community? Someone you look to as an example?
There are many awesome female flyfishers I follow in the social media, and they inspire me a lot. Just to mention a few, there are my favorite Scandinavian fly fishers Lotte Aulom and Regine Emilie Mathisen from Norway and Emilie Björkman from Sweden. From across the sea I’d like to mention Jennifer de Graaf and Timbre Pringle from Canada. Not only they catch fish like a boss but they also have a good eye for esthetics so their pictures are enjoyable.
Do you think female fly fishers differ from male fly fishers? If so, how?
I don’t feel female and male anglers differ so much in general. The only difference I’ve noticed is that I need to wear more layers of warm clothes for the cold gets us girls differently than the guys. Sometimes it seems that female anglers have more to prove to be taken seriously, but the women I know don’t want to be treated in any differently for there’s no reason for that at all.
Do you have any fun fly fishing adventures planned for 2017?
I hope I will be able to travel to my favorite destinations, which are fishing for searun brown trout in the island of Gotland in Sweden and the two weeks of adventure in Lapland of Norway. Beside that I don’t have any certain plans yet, but I’m sure 2017 will be awesome and there will hopefully be some new destinations as well.
Most memorable fish or experience you’ve had in your fly fishing career so far?
It’s not easy to pick up the top experience or fish because there are so many options. The most difficult yet most awesome adventures have been in the wilderness of Lapland in Norway, where the weather conditions are so tough I can’t describe it properly, but the brown trouts and arctic chars I’ve caught there have been out of this world.
Note from the author: I want to thank Hanna for taking time out of her schedule to share with all of us what life as a female Finnish fly fisher is like. Finland is most definitely on my bucket list of places to fly fish, as I continue living vicariously through Hanna’s social media adventures. Be sure to give her a follow at @myflyfishingdiary you won’t regret it!