Gösta Serlachius’ fishing trip to Petsamo

APRIL 2021

Paper mill owner Gösta Serlachius was known a passionate nature enthusiast. Beside art, hunting and fishing were relaxing hobbies he could engage himself in also when other areas of life provided challenges. Data that came to light in organising Serlachius’ personal archive that documents planning of a fishing trip in height of summer 1935.      

”The fact of the matter is that I have long wanted to make a trip to Petsamo which I would naturally want to combine to fishing river trout and salmon. My heart is, however, not at its prime, I have twice suffered from a heart failure and my wife will therefore not let me travel alone without demanding that there be a doctor available during the trip.” 

Gösta Serlachius wrote a letter to chief physician Ludvig J. Lindström at Vaasa hospital in late May 1935. In January, the persistent heart disease had forced the 59-year-old industrialist to seek hospital treatment and, due to several unfinished projects, the first part of the year had been challenging. Serlachius did not want to give up the idea of relaxing in the northern landscapes because of his health problems but spend time in finding a suited travelling companion.  Lindstöm’s affirmative reponse was comforting, because he was an eager hiker and knew the territory of Petsamo. Lindström’s 17 year-old son who had been ‘bitten by salmon’ as well, would travel as their companion.  

Tourism in Petsamo which was part of Finland in years 1920–1944 could become active in a couple of decades due to the efforts of Finland’s Tourist Association. Gösta Serlachius, who was a first-time visitor of Lapland, had read about the fishing possibilities of Petsamo in Suomen Kuvalehti magazine. In his letter to Lindström he requests for advice how to cope in Nordic circumstances. Is there a flood of mosquitos to be expected? Does one need to wear waders? Lindström send Serlachius a book by Petsamo-resident consul Eero Lampio, Eräretkiä pohjolan kalavesillä ja riistamailla 1930  [Wilderness expeditions to Nordic fishing waters and game country] and had tipped for good articles in outdoor magazines.  Also, the extensive social network of the gentlemen was consulted in planning the trip. 

On July 19th the group entered the north-bound night train. Serlachius had sent ahead his driver to Rovaniemi and guaranteed Lindström that his first-class seven-seat Packard had enough space for everything they needed. Based on their correspondence, beside the long fishing rods and other equipment, they had with them also some selected items from Serlachius’ wine cellar.  After the breakfast at Hotel Lipponen in Rovaniemi their trip continued to Ivalo where they overnighted before their last passage. 

The area of Petsamonjoki was chosen the main attraction of the trip because they had hoped for a possibility to flyfish from the shore. Their entourage accommodated there at Ylä-Luostari hostel and according to the recommendation of Lindström, they had reserved rooms at a small and peaceful hostel of Lohilinna. Deadline for returning home had been attached to the July 31st so that they could spend a week at the destination. A boating trip to the Arctic Sea was one of Serlachius’ dreams, but there is no evidence of that being realized. They managed to fish at Ylä-Luostari and Lohilinna, and the sociable industrialist had time to get to know also other guests staying in the area.   

After the trip Serlachius and Lindström exchanged letters in August. Serlachius included to his thanking note copies of photographs taken during the trip and Lindström wrote in his reply to the industrialist travelling in Marienbad spa town:

”A splendid recreation, in spite of its briefness. Your pleasant company, good arrangements and meals served by “the most important cook of Lapland” made a great contribution to our well-being on the trip. I have received your photographs and send in exchange some taken by Björn. While following a diet there, it may be comforting to contemplate over salmon in its various forms.”     

Heidi Pitkänen
Curator of Archives

Gösta Serlachius’ archives, Serlachius Museums.
Partanen, Seppo J., Unelmia ja unelmien raunioita: Lapin matkailun perusta valettiin Petsamon tiellä. Teoksessa Tunne maasi! Suomen matkailun kehitys ja kehittäjiä. 2009, 16–20.  
Silvennoinen, Oula, Paperisydän. Gösta Serlachiuksen elämä. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Siltala, Helsinki 2012.

Gösta Serlachius (on left) and senior physician L. J. Lindström dresses in mosquito hats and fishing wadels at Lohilinna hostel in Petsamo in July 1935. Photographer is probably 17-year-old Björn Lindström, who later became a Professor of Medicine and a successful surgeon.
Correspondence from the year 1935 on fishing.