A hush hangs over Kiruna. It’s Saturday morning, and yet barely a car passes by. No-one’s out walking their dogs outside our house, or struggling home up the hill with bags of shopping. Kiruna seems almost deserted. It’s the weekend of Rautas Premiere

Let me explain. Rautas is a river – a big river – which north and west of here forms a wide section more like a lake, in a deep valley between two mountains. It’s rich in fish, but the authorities have decreed that, to preserve the fish stocks, there will be no fishing in Rautas until this particular weekend in March. Rautas Premiere.

This has been the case for so many years that it’s become a strong tradition, and families seem keen to preserve it. Traditionally people didn’t wait until sometime in the week after the first allowed date for fishing to head out for Rautas – they’d be there right from the beginning. That meant driving a couple of hours by snow scooter along a winding and bumpy track, in a slow queue behind all the other people from Kiruna, to spend the weekend at Rautas fishing among a mass of other people. Nowadays the queues are so long, and the track (through overuse) so poor, that, to beat the crowds, many people head out the day before. (This is what is known in Swedish as a ‘Tjuvstart’, or a ‘Thieving start’.)

For their time in Rautas people will come well prepared. This will involve at the very least bringing a tent, equipment for cooking, and some cans of beer. Most people will also have (neatly folded in their trailers) their own home-made ‘arc’ – a small portable shed to sleep in, which conveniently comes with a hole in the floor to fish through.

From this point the particular rituals and experiences that make up ‘Rautas Premiere’ are shrouded in mystery. Every year we see the trails of snow scooters heading out to Rautas, but they leave us behind at the road side. Not owning a snow scooter, we cannot follow.

So what happens beyond the mountain is a well kept local secret. A bit like a freemasonry meeting perhaps. I imagine locals greeting each other with a fish stuck in their ear, muttering secret codes to identify one another – ‘it’s a fishy business’ perhaps, or ‘last one to put a fish on the fire is a cissy’. We may never know.