Lintukoto is one of those special kinds of words. It’s based in Finnish Mythology and literally means “home of birds”, but figuratively connotes an “imaginary warm peaceful, safe paradise”… You see, way back, the world was considered a flat disc under a giant glass dome. In the winter, no one was really sure where the birds went, but people hopefully imagined they’d escape to a warmer more hospitable climate out along the furthest perimeter of the dome, a place known as Lintukoto. I love the idea of the earliest Finns thinking of this great unknown as a paradise, as compared to maps we have from other ancient explorers. Those less optimistic cartographers drew terrifying sea monsters out along the edges of their unknowns… definitely not paradise. Let’s stick with the Finnish Mythological notion for now. In our current era of volatile uncertainty and genuine fear, it feels okay to let ourselves consider, even if only briefly, migrating to a place like Lintukoto… Paradise.
Last September, we celebrated my birthday by booking a trip with FinnAction and our Captain and fishing guide Jarkko. Jarkko was planning to do some trolling in preparation for a big lake trout tourney the following day but would be happy to take us out for a while. We jumped at the chance as it would prove to be one of the last opportunities to get out on open water before winter took hold here in the Oulu area. More on Oulu’s unique geographical position in a future post, but in summary, it lies on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia and its namesake river, Oulujoki, flows from one of the largest inland lakes in Finland, Oulujärvi, toward the city, through it, and out into the Gulf, a roughly 100km journey.
It was to a remote dock on Oulujärvi that we drove very early, and offered a hyvää huomenta! to Jarkko when we found him. I am learning Finnish at a course held by the city of Oulu twice each week. Saying a perky “Good Morning” to our guide seemed like a good place to start using my burgeoning skills. He chuckled and spoke English the rest of the day. I’ll keep practicing 😉 Everything else was perfect. Surrounded by magnificent beauty and fortunate weather we revelled in the geeky pleasures that await a technical troller. Jarkko had all the gear and knowledge and was targeting Lake Trout. He insisted on teaching us to run the outriggers and downriggers ourselves, how and when to attach the clips and the lines and new lures, and how to watch for structure and fish marks on the Garmin… Pinch Me!
The morning started relatively slow, though. We caught a couple baby pikes and I was able to teach him the phrase, “hammer handle”, which I, in turn, had learned from our dear departed Canadian fishing mentor, Nester. Mid-day we pulled onto an island for a nice bonfire and non-fish shore lunch.
The standard Finnish outdoor grilled lunch consists of Makkara (finely ground smoked sausages) with Sinappi (delicious Finnish mustard from a tube), and firepit pot coffee (a well seasoned kettle full of water and coffee grounds, boiled). We love it. This was not our first ‘grilli’ meal outdoors, and it was so fun to see some of the same products we were newly familiar with come out of Jarkko’s knapsack. After lunch I got to mosey around the island through the seemingly endless pine trees looking for the last of the Autumn wild mushrooms. I’m learning my boletes from my amanitas, or at least I fervently hope I am. I long for another Canadian mentor, Herma Lotz and her lifelong foraging knowledge, to walk with me in the forests here.
Back on the water after lunch, we shared a sense of urgency not to get “skunked”. Thankfully after a couple more near misses, one of the outrigger lines tripped! Tammy was first to the reel. I have been fishing with Tammy since 2003, an early adventure was a salmon charter out of Waukegan harbor on Lake Michigan.
The excitement and anticipation of having a fish on the line never wanes, and what she pulled in on this afternoon (over 16 years later!?!) was spectacular! Here was big mama pike! 120cm and over 24lbs. wowser! I think Jarkko was actually the most excited, despite having his aluminum net bent and broken in half by this big girl. After the requisite pics and measurements, we released her back into Oulujärvi to make more. It was truly an afternoon to remember. FinnAction even immortalized our trip on their instagram account!
Writing this story, about boating, the arc of fishing in our lives, enjoying being on the water and in the breathtaking Finnish outdoors has made me wonder… While it is scientifically true that we now know we’re not living in a snowglobe, could it still be metaphorically true that each of us has our own special paradise out along the edges of ‘real life’? I have always gravitated to water and boats and am grateful to have opportunities to enjoy them not only here in Finland, but also in Chicago, in Wisconsin, and in Florida. Whenever I’m told to think of my ‘happy place’, its standing next to loved ones at the helm of a boat, gliding atop a shimmering beautiful body of water. My Lintukoto indeed.