Valikko Sulje

Strange encounter on Immalanjärvi Lake

A drawn picture where there are two big fishes and a small man who is fishing through a hole in the ice.

The eastern part of Immalanjärvi, Varpaanlahti, reaches across the Russian border. An unwary traveller may accidentally cross the national boundary.

Dusk was already falling over Varpaanlahti bay, and the frost was nibbling at my cheeks. I had caught fewer fish than is deemed acceptable in proper fishing tales, but I did have something of a catch anyway. A few were still jumping by my boots, a couple of fin-tails I had dispatched to continue their winter repose.

The frozen lake was silent, ice-still. The dark edge of the forest on the shoreline rose like a wall across the landscape. The humming of low temperature hovered in the air. Drilling a new hole for ice-fishing I realised that I was not alone on the ice. A few dozen meters closer to the shore sat a figure dressed in dark clothing.

Then the fish began to bite. First I caught one, soon another, and a third directly after. I was tossing the silversides onto the frost-hardened snow. Almost as soon as I dropped a new lure through my ice hole into the darkness, a fish latched on. They were all but jumping up through the hole of their own volition! Soon I had a nice wriggling heap of the lake’s delectable gifts.

I called out something about a St. Peter’s catch to the figure still sitting nearby. But he did not seem to hear me; at least there was no reaction. He just sat still. In the darkening evening, he looked like a large, strangely shaped rock on the ice.

I started putting the fish in my rucksack. But then I thought that I had enough to share with my neighbour – as it did not look as if my luck had reached his spot. I gathered up my belongings and stepped out towards the stranger. The snow crunched under my soles, and it felt as if the frost was tightening its grip. As I approached him, the figure stirred a little, slowly turning his face hidden in the depths of a thick fur hat. The man was young, I saw, with a badge-like insignia on his hat. I said, here is some Immalanjärvi inbred osteoporosis fish for a fellow fisherman. The bones melt in your mouth!

The fellow said nothing. Looked at me for a moment, then turned away.

I left a few good fish at the chap’s side. I had not gone far when I heard a voice say in clear Russian: Thanks!

Text: Pekka Vartiainen
Pictures: Kirsi Pääskyvuori
Translation: Annira Silver
Location on map

A drawn picture where there are two big fishes and a small man who is fishing through a hole in the ice.

The story and the pictures are a part of Tarinajoki book (River of Stories), made in Rural Explorer project. As part of a culture tourism project, stories arising from the body of folk narratives and history also have a function in relation to the productisation of tourism. The stories are linked to real locations.