Traditional country pursuits reimagined for a modern world
We talk to the Finnish star of highly acclaimed drama series Vikings, lead bad guy in Spike Lee’s Oscar-winning film BlacKkKlansman, and fanatical fly fisherman Jasper Pääkkönen.
To continue reading this content please register for our newsletter.
Please read our policy notice for details of how we use your data.
I am registered, skip this step
Photographer / @theflyfishingnation
I have been an actor since the age of 18 (I’m now 38), starting my career in the ’90s in Finnish TV and film. My first significant international role was Halfdan the Black in Vikings, followed by the main villain Felix in Spike Lee’s Oscar-winning BlacKkKlansman.
I walked into an audition for Spike Lee’s film not really even knowing what I was auditioning for – the only information I had was that Spike was making a KKK film. Just getting into the room with Spike was a major deal for me; I’ve been a huge fan of not just his films but his fight for racial equality ever since I was a teenager. But the fact that he chose to cast a random guy from Finland to play the lead villain, a white supremacist from the deep south, was beyond a dream come true. To be honest, had someone told me a couple of years ago that I’d be playing the bad guy in a Spike Lee joint I would have thought they had lost their minds!
According to my parents I started fishing before the age of two and became incredibly passionate about fish, water and rivers. My first time fishing was with a hook and a worm on the Lake Saimaa in eastern Finland where I spent hours staring at the red and white float, and occasionally catching a small perch or roach.
My favourite fishing trips are the annual weeks I spend in Norway and the Kola Peninsula (Russian tundra) fishing for Atlantic salmon. I’m a single-handed fly fisherman and tend to choose rivers based on their size so I can cover most of the water with an 8wt single-handed rod. Dry fly fishing for big Atlantic salmon is the ultimate form of fly fishing, but I am also passionate about giant trevallies. I just got back from Astove Island in the Seychelles – what an incredible place.
A good day on the water doesn’t necessarily mean catching fish: the most important components are the surrounding nature and good company. For me fishing has always been a combination of solitary moments in nature and sharing incredible experiences with good friends. You switch between those two extremes during a day. And catching a nice fish is just an added bonus.
As with all fishermen, I remember some of the ones that got away vividly and always go back to those memories. Like the massive cock fish I lost on a dry fly last fall in Norway after a long fight. I’ve caught some 30lb-plus salmon on dry flies and this one was much, much bigger. It’s an overwhelming feeling, the honour of being hooked into a fish of a lifetime, but fishing really isn’t about catching all the big fish. Sometimes we need to lose them, too. It’s what makes the sport so magical.
Acting doesn’t keep me off the water much, vice versa, actually; I have a lot of time in between productions so I’m able to fish a lot all around the world. And my agents know not to mess with my summer schedules (and my Norway and Russia plans) too much! Haha.
My big passion really is to continue fighting for healthier fisheries and rivers. I spend a lot of time criticising the hydropower companies and politicians for their lack of environmental responsibility and hopefully can do so on a more global scale in the future.
There are not many actors or filmmakers who are passionate fly fishermen. Michael Keaton is one of the only ones, and I’ve chatted about fly fishing with him a couple of times. One of my missions has been to try and promote fly fishing to the younger generation as the cool lifestyle hobby it is, and nowadays Instagram makes it possible for me to do so. I reach hundreds of thousands of Vikings fans around the world through Instagram and can try and brainwash them into trying this beautiful hobby of ours!
I fish with an 8wt single-handed rod by a Finnish manufacturer called Vision. Besides dry flies I also fish a lot with hitched Sunray Shadows and heavy micro cone tubes, often dead drifted.
To this day I haven’t fished in the UK because Scandinavia and Russia offer such amazing trout and salmon fishing. Unfortunately, the fisheries in the UK have deteriorated through poor management and conservation.
The salmon populations have been clearly affected by environmental issues such as fish farming, commercial overfishing and even climate change. In Finland we have been able to revive the Baltic Sea salmon population through rigorous public campaigning. The River Tornio has some of the biggest runs of Atlantic salmon – or its Baltic cousin – in the world, with over 100,000 salmon running the river a couple of years ago, and an average of 50,000 salmon returning annually. However, the vast majority of Finland’s salmon rivers have been destroyed by the hydropower industry, so the situation is still quite miserable.
Being a Patagonia ambassador is like a partnership between two likeminded environmental activists: they only want me to keep campaigning for healthier fisheries and rivers, nothing else. They couldn’t care less about me being an actor – it is all about the environmental side of my work that resonates with them, and that makes for a healthy partnership.
Traditional country persuits reimagined for the modern world
The professional fly-tyer and salmon guide who has devoted his whole life to the art of fishing for Atlantic salmon. Starring in Patagonia’s film Artifishal, he highlights the great challenges they face.
Exhilarating, exotic, action-packed... the South American rainforest is a fly fishing wonderland explains Matt Harris.
Register for our newsletter to receive Fieldsports news, tips and advice direct to your inbox.
More information |
If you choose to block cookies some parts of this website may not operate. To block cookies please do this within your browser settings. Most browsers allow you to block cookies within their settings and we have provided links to the most commonly used browsers.
Please view our cookie details page for more information on the cookies we use.