Cannabis, Rasta, fly fishing and the Scandinavian way of life.
Guhuru Milta is the owner of Split Cane Umea. He crafts custom bamboo fly rods and acts as a fly fishing guide in the northern mountains of Sweden. He's also a full-time Arts and Music teacher. The journey of this Rastafarian began on the tiny Caribbean island of Tobago. Today, he feels a deep-rooted connection to his Scandinavian way of life with a passion for fly fishing, naturally living and protecting the rivers and woodlands of his Nordic home.
Heads Lifestyle: So first, the obvious question is, How did a Rastafarian from the tiny island of Tobago become a fly fishing guide in Northern Sweden?
Guhuru Milta: How ay ended up in Sweden is quite a long story. Mi mother got killed when ay was four years old. My sistah and father left her when ay was born, so ay been livin' pon the street until ay was 12, working for food at different plantations like cocoa, pineapple, and coffee. Mi and my best friend left our island by swimming to a boat to hitchhike a ride hopefully to the U.S. But the boat went to England, so ay lived pon the street there for half a year. A lady approached mi and took mi in. She tried to get my citizenship but was denied and then was forced to turn me in. So instead she sat me on another boat and sent me to her sister in Sweden.
In my first week in southern Sweden, I got ganged by some neo-Nazi kids. I woke up in a hospital where they found out I was paperless so I had to flee again. I ended up at a farm deep in the woods of northern Sweden, so ay worked and helped out at the farm till I got my Swedish citizenship. Then I started school and studied to become a preschool teacher, and ended up here!
HL: Tell us about how you discovered and nurtured your love of fly fishing?
GM: I’ve always been a fisherman. I come from a small fishing village in Tobago, so fishing always been a natural lifestyle for me. The farmer in Sweden who took me in loved fishing in lakes and creek. We went out angling a lot as I grew up so fly fishing started pretty early in my life.
I’ve always been a fisherman. I come from a small fishing village in Tobago, so fishing always been a natural lifestyle for me.
HL: What are the differences between saltwater and freshwater fly fishing? Do you have a preference?
GM: Saltwater fishing for mi been more of a food source for survival, while freshwater fishing here in Sweden is more part of the enjoyment of my new Swedish lifestyle. Fly fishing in saltwater is not in my experience; ay been back and done some bone fishing. But ay need the sound of pouring water streams, so freshwater rivers here in Sweden is my love!
HL: You look completely at home in the cold rivers of Sweden. What other aspects of Scandinavian living have you embraced?
GM: Well, mi use to surf a lot in Tobago, so for a long time ay was kind of blue whenever winter arrived here in Sweden. But my friends took me for some powder snowboarding; it was close to surfing so now, believe it or not, I’m a full born snowboarder shredding the pow in the mountains of Sweden.
The passion for mushroom picking and berry picking mi have close to ay heart; nature is a blessing for all living things. Hiking and sleeping outdoors is also a deep-rooted passion of mine, and all these passions is straight adopted from my new life in Sweden.
The passion for mushroom picking and berry picking mi have close to ay heart; nature is a blessing for all living things.
HL: You are a self-taught splitcane rodmaker and flytier. How did you first learn your craft?
GM: Ay started fly tying quickly after mi started fly fishing. Losing flies in the bushes and buying flies was unsustainable, so I started tying classic flies. I quickly realized ay could evolve new flies, so started making my own patterns that had a more realistic look. The rod building, well, ay started looking and asking a lot how they were made, and started planning and figuring out how to achieve the product. So I guess it all started when ay bought mi first splitcane rod, and saw the structure of a bamboo rod.
HL: Where does Rastafarianism and fly fishing intersect for you?
GM: My Father is Rastafarian, as was my mother. Rastafarian is very talked about but not to one. People have their thoughts on what a "real" Rastafarian is—that always makes me laugh. Rastafarian is belief in mankind, natural living and love. It’s not that Selassie is our god or Jesus-come-again. It’s not that we think Ethiopia is our heaven. Rastafari is a believer of equality; we are all brothers and sisters. One people, one world and one love.
As Rastafarians, yes, we want to see Africa to be the rich and healthy continent it used to be. Yes, some Rastafarians want to return to their "home land." Yes, we are proud Africans that were brought to the Caribbean as slaves a long time ago. The dreads we carry are a reminder of those slaves who fled from slavery into the bush, and a reminder of the colonizing masters that forced those people to shave. It’s a 'no trim, no shave' tradition. Dreadlocks are more of a tribute then a hairstyle for us.
Rastafarians are people—people with different tastes, beliefs and ways of living, not a religious group or sect, which most people have taken us for.
Fly fishing is one of my hobbies and interests. Rastafari is what I am.
Fly fishing brings you to that same meditative state with nature as cannabis, so it’s no wonder they go so good hand-in-hand.
HL: Fly fishing requires deep focus and an understanding of nature— water flow, weather patterns, and entomology. Cannabis can enhance concentration and connectivity. Do you combine cannabis with fly fishing?
GM: Well, Sweden has pretty strict laws against cannabis. It’s insane how they hunt down cannabis users and treat them like heavy criminals and lock them up for years in prison. Smoking herb helps you to meditate within yourself, and soon enough you will see that we all come from Mother Nature. We are drawn to Nature and naturally living, and that lifestyle is what Babylon civilization wants to take away from us. Fly fishing brings you to that same meditative state with nature as cannabis, so it’s no wonder they go so good hand-in-hand.
HL: Building splitcane fly rods is a very artisanal form of craftsmanship. Do the tenets of Rastafarianism inform your craft?
GM: Rastafarians are drawn to naturally living as much they can, so crafting things with your hands comes naturally. Ay can't speak for other Rastafarians but only for mi own. I’ve always been into creating things with mi own hands. Ay built my own cabin up at the mountains and love woodworking. Ay used to build acoustic guitars and now bamboo fly rods. Ay also just recently started making my own snowboards. I have a love for gardening. I love sewing, making bags and clothes and crocheting my own hats.
Rastafarians are drawn to naturally living as much they can, so crafting things with your hands comes naturally. Ay can't speak for other Rastafarians but only for mi own. I’ve always been into creating things with mi own hands.
HL: Are your fly fishing rods eco-friendly? Where do you source your bamboo and other materials?
GM: My rods are eco-friendly, ay hope. I use natural materials and not carbon. I don't exploit poor people manufacturing my rods. My rods are handmade by me and only me. The bamboo comes from the Tonkin region in China. It is a wild weed, growing fast and vast, so I’m not cutting down rainforest or something like that. The reel seat wood is only local Swedish wood. I collect it myself, taken from forest plantations that have already been harvested; ay go in and take the bi-product which is left to rot. So ay only use Swedish wood, not exotic wood from some rainforest. I use hemp tube socks for the rods and imitation leather for my rod tubes. The snake rings ay bend myself and the reel mechanisms ay lathe myself. So 95% of what goes into creating a fly rod is made by myself and not in a third world country with slave labour. And if you dislike the cork industry, I offer birch bark or wood handles.
HL: Have you ever considered using hemp to build your rods?
GM: Ye mon! Hemp is a wonderful material so I try to implement it as much as ay can! Hopefully, in the future, ay can start using hemp in my snowboards.
Some say my rods are too beautiful to fish with, but I correct them and say my rods are made for fishing and not hang on a wall.
HL: Work of art or highly effective tool? What is your philosophy when it comes to your fly fishing rods?
GM: I'd say both; it’s a crafting art by me for you, but at the same time it’s a tool. Some say my rods are too beautiful to fish with, but I correct them and say my rods are made for fishing and not hang on a wall. I like to personalize every rod for my customers. All of my clients have requirements or a degree of specification to fit their liking and taste.
HL: You are committed to the stewardship of your local fishery including habitat rehabilitation. Tell us about this?
GM: Yes, my passion to help the rivers came naturally with my love of fly fishing. I’ve been working with restoration projects in our local rivers for 10 years. I’ve been involved with a small creek for a long time now, which started out with poor fish life, and now is teeming with fish, insects, birds and wildlife. My passion for habitat rehabilitation is almost as big as my fly fishing passion.
My relationship with the fish is one of respect. Trout and grayling have a growing span of up to 2 to 3 cm per year so if you catch a 30 cm fish, it’s quite an old champ.
HL: What is your relationship to the fish you catch?
GM: We know for a fact that hooking a fish is stressful and tiring for the fish, so I always use single barbless hooks and try to land the fish quickly and keep it underneath the water at all time. I also use a knot-free fishing net for the fish to rest in. I always make sure the fish survives the fight with me. If you’re going to catch and release, you’ve got to become good at it. If we kill all the fish we catch, there will come a time when there are no more fish to fish.
My relationship with the fish is one of respect. Trout and grayling have a growing span of up to 2 to 3 cm per year so if you catch a 30 cm fish, it’s quite an old champ. Char grow even slower. Some small creek trout can be over 20 years old. Take care of the fish, I say!
Irresponsible fishing has taking a toll on fish populations so we are unsure what the future holds. Hopefully, stricter rules and regulations will secure the future of fishing and fly fishing.
HL: In addition to building custom fly rods, what other services do you offer?
GM: Aside from making custom fly rods, I work as a fly fishing guide. I do salmon and trout guiding in our coastal rivers, and mountain guiding up at my cabin in Marsfjall. I also offer casting (two-handed rods) and fly tying courses. And I make naturally hand-bent fishing nets, which are perfect for catch and release. I can also help if you have a broken rod that needs repairing.
HL: Favourite trumpet player?
GM: I'd say my favourite trumpet player is Clifford brown who died in a car crash at the age of 25. I don't want to sound cliché and say Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy or Freddie Hubbard. See how I managed to sneak those!
Listen on Spotify
A Guhuru Milta curated mix straight from the riverside of Northern Sweden.