Personal Chemistry – Vesa Rämä

Can Vesku get hooked on fishing?  

Sometime in the early 1940s, when Väinö Linna first sketched the Finnish man on paper, he surely modelled him on someone like Vesa Rämä. The first time I met Vesku, he was coming in for his evening shift with two buckets of berries. He’d just picked them for his workmates, whose company he’s enjoyed since ’84. He talked with me confidently – but without pride – about berry picking, mushroom gathering and, of course, fishing. Vesku’s calm voice is pleasant to the ear. Just like Väinö’s heroes, Vesku doesn’t claim to be perfect. But when you listen to him carefully, you’ll notice he’s not the type of person to repeat his mistakes.

Since then, I’ve met Vesku occasionally at Chemigate events. Watching him out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his right hand twitching strangely whenever he got really excited. If you know, you know. No, it’s not Tourette’s syndrome – it’s pikeperch jigging. So I was pleased when Markku Nurminen suggested that I go fishing with Vesku for the Personal Chemistry series.

Vesku repeats a claim that had already reached me in Lapua (note that this message is not in italics). “It’s time for you to come fishing. I’ve already caught 250 kilos of fish this year – pretty soon there won’t be enough left for you.” My intention was to accompany him last summer, but life got in the way – so now we’re going ice fishing. Specifically, ice fishing with balance lures. Vesku’s repertoire includes trolling, jigging, angling, and ice fishing. Net fishing does not please him. He has a boat on his trailer, so it doesn’t matter if you fancy the lake or the sea during the summer. In 2022, he caught 400 kilos of fish (yep, the font is still the same). “June is the best month for jigging. The pikeperch come up to shallow waters to spawn.”  

His fishing hobby first took off alongside his father in a rowboat when he was a young boy. As it’s been for many Finns, Vesku’s hobby became a way of life. He has fishing friends, but also enjoys fishing alone. Vesku particularly enjoys the company of his children, Päivi and Tero, but they’re already adults with their own families. So I feel like one of the chosen few when we head down to Lake Sanijärvi’s ice. This is where Rämä’s family hails from. I don’t believe for a second that this lake was selected just because of its potential fishing catch. 

Faith, hope and a catch 

Your kit needs to be up to spec for every hobby. The auger’s battery is charged and a hundred euros worth of colourful lures are on deck. There are at least four spares in the backpack. Horizontal lures require a different set of tools than traditional ice fishing. A look of concern passes across Vesku’s face. “It snowed yesterday. That can affect the catch.” 

We drill the holes and plop down on our stools. It’s a calm day, a few degrees below zero. It could be said that the conditions are near perfect. Vesku grins and says aloud what I can already read on his face. “This is the best thing about fishing. It’s quite peaceful.” Today, the goal was to fish for perch. Our fishing gear isn’t exactly designed for bigger fish.  

I give it a try, and I think I can tap into Vesku’s mood. A sense of zen drapes over me. The silence of the lake mingles with our pleasant, monotone talk – the content of the conversation doesn’t matter so much. Our jigging motion seems to come from the lake itself, not consciously from the wrist at all. Only the constant catching of fish disturbed my flow state. I do believe that one could get hooked on fishing.  

Vesku out fishing 

A moment later, we move to another spot. We’d been reeling in fish constantly, and I was starting to feel it in my back. “I caught a perch weighing a kilo and 362 grams from that point on the headland. With a Prisma float fishing rod.” Obviously, you don’t always need expensive equipment. We must remember, of course, that Vesku is a master of his craft. A district championship’s individual bronze adorns his trophy cabinet – as well as two team golds. 

We shift to traditional ice fishing, and I try to turn the conversation towards work. I ask how he’s getting along at Chemigate, and I receive a relatively typical response. “I’ve been there so long – I guess that means I’ve enjoyed it.” Vesku’s previous employer tried to reel him back in, but he declined. As I reel in a pikeperch, I ask him carefully about his colleagues. Kaipiainen’s Operations Manager, Lauri Mäkinen, gets quick praise. He’s one who’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves when needed.  

We decide to go and grill our catch. On the trip back to the shore, Vesku mentions that the end of his career is already visible on the horizon. In another one and a half years, Vesku will retire – and with that, he’ll become a full-time fisherman.  

On the beach, we light up the grill and fillet our catch. As we enjoy our meal, we decide that Kalle Kainu could teach us something about forestry management. How about it Kalle – do you accept the challenge? 

A freshly-grilled perch