Frankly, fishing in the Kainuu was "Plan B". My wife Julia and I had hoped to find salmon but were told that the first week of June was too early. So I turned to Janne Virkkunen of the Helsingin Sanomat, who was hosting the General Assembly of the International Press Institute. While not a fisherman, himself, he knew just the man to help us.
Jyrki Johnainen is an editor at Kuukausiliite magazine but spends enough time fishing to ask exactly what like-minded people really mean when they say "I'd like to do a little fishing." With salmon eliminated, he asked what was really important. "Charm," we said. That meant natural beauty of the streams for Julia. For her, the fish are interesting, but mostly as a complement to flowers, birds, animal life and countryside. Both of us would rather see more fish than huge fish. "That means the Kainuu," said Jyrki. We agreed without ever having heard of the place.
It was a great decision. He contacted SimoYli-Lonttinen, a remarkable entrepreneur/conservationist who operates a school for fishing guides, takes occasional groups to Russian rivers and has organized "Eco Rapids" in streams around his hometown of Kajaani, which has Finnair flights from Helsinki. Funding from the European Community enables him and his colleagues to keep the stretches in pristine condition and enforce a system we found just about perfect: you return most of the fish to the river...but can also "release" a few to the frying pan.
On the Kynakoski river, powerful and deep with big-boulder wading, I released a broad-shouldered male brown trout of 56 cms that was the most beautiful of its species I have ever taken. However, we actually preferred the small Syvajoki river nearby, which reminded us of our own gravel-bottom "home waters" in Michigan. Our state is home to most Finnish-Americans and some classic trout streams of its own.
I have to admit that Julia outfished me. But I was the one who supplied a lovely 47 cm grayling for dinner. Our brand-new log cabin at the Ukkohalla ski resort had a well-equipped kitchen, a beautiful view and everything needed—even a sauna, novel for us.
Our young guide, Aleksi Maatta, seemed to find the sauna as normal as a micro-wave, however. Trained in Simo's guiding school, he was full of information about the territory, great company at mealtimes and an enthusiastic wildlife photographer. His pictures were lovely, a wonderful record of the trip. After fishing in the U.S., Canada, Iceland and Argentina, "Kainuu" is now among our fondest memories on the stream.
Prof. Charles R. Eisendrath, USA