Profile: Per JobsInspiration
Words & Photography: Jess McGlothlin
At first glance Per Jobs is almost too intense. Intense in the way of an old-time Hollywood star or an artist immersed in practising his craft – radiating that singular energy of a man on a mission, keen eyes set in a sharp face, intelligent in their focus. It’s only when I learn of his former – rather significant – career as a composer that something clicks and the intensity makes sense. Even now, sitting in the grass playing with a mischievous 13-week-old puppy bred to hunt moose, there’s nothing lackadaisical about the businessman and entrepreneur.
We’re at the small Sami outpost of Geunja Ecolodge, dodging the unseasonable afternoon heat with shade and conversation. Geunja’s lack of electricity and technology fosters an old-fashioned way of life. It’s here, relaxing against a century-old Sami hut and slapping away mosquitoes, that we begin to talk of the unexpected trail that has brought Per to this place.
After a nine-year career studying music, including the achievement of a Master of Fine Arts degree in Stockholm and a subsequent career as a composer, the indomitable Swede felt it was time for a change. He admits with a rueful grin that he ‘has studied music probably more than is healthy,’ but his focus changed when, one day, a friend on the southern Swedish island of Gotland took him fishing. Unexpectedly, he found chasing with a fly rod a worthy distraction and, mind churning, was soon struck by the lack of existing business in the Swedish fly-fishing community.
‘I was always thinking why was nobody doing anything with this sportfishing business,’ Per shares as we break from the puppy’s escapades and Geunja’s cool grass to make a cup of camp coffee.
A job with a media company took him to Gotland, and it was there he saw an opportunity to answer his own question – by delving into the business of sportfishing himself. He began to build packages and offer guiding services for sea-run browns from the Baltic Sea, a foundation that still continues today with his Gotland operation.
‘I thought, now is the time, if I’m going to do it,’ he adds, looking slightly wistful in the sunlight filtering through the windows of Geunja’s dining room. ‘One thing about being an entrepreneur, you have to kind of jump. Everybody thought I was crazy.’ He grins, taking a sip of coffee. ‘The illusion of a safety net holds you back. I just hopped off the edge and tried.’
And try he did. Now, 12 years later, after battles to secure funding and build businesses from the ground up, Per is the owner of three successful fishing operations: the original undertaking on Gotland, a homey fishing lodge in the small town of Ammarnäs, and the tundra fishing camp Tjuonajokk in far northern Sweden. Each is famous for its own style of fishing: Gotland for sea-run browns landed on its rocky limestone shores, Ammarnäs for large migratory brown trout, and Tjuonajokk for truly exceptional numbers of trophy grayling (and a healthy population of pike). Combined, the three locations form the Fish Your Dream portfolio.
Between the three locations, Jobs sees about 6,000 clients annually, not all of them anglers. While it would be easy to get caught up in the business of bringing in more and more tourists, Jobs is more focused on the long-term goal: sustainable tourism. He realises that the resources themselves – the place, the fish – are more important than the numbers. Ultimately, he does not have control over the waterways his operations reply upon, and can only fight for the things he can influence: how his team handles the fish, and how many people he chooses to put on the water at each location.
‘We must take care of what we have and always scout for the new… Part of me knows it’s not really possible to own anything. I know this. We all die,’ he says reflectively, glancing out the window at Lilla-Tjulträsket, the lake outside. It’s easy to imagine he’s thinking of the fish inside that water, of the history that has played out over the years on these far northern waterways.
Jobs is keen to avoid overloading the waters at Ammarnäs, Gotland, and Tjuonajokk as much as possible, and notes that lately in Sweden he is finding people more willing to pay for a proper experience in the wild, not for a falsified outdoor experience.
‘Time is more precious to people in these days,’ he comments, sipping again at the coffee. ‘People are more urbanised and are seeking a better experience [when they travel]; learning sustainability and other things. The more people are in nature, the more interest they have to protect it.’
His fishing guides are well trained in proper fish-handling techniques, and are eager to educate clients on the benefits of keeping fish in the water as long as possible and releasing them with minimal handling. He works with the Sweden-based Baltic Salmon Fund, and organised a ‘Day for the Sea Trout’ with the Gotland Sportfishing Club in 2018: a conservation day where all funds raised went directly to local conservation efforts. Realising the need for a stronger industry as a whole, he also serves as the chairman of the Swedish Trade Fishing Association – an organisation created to grow sportfishing tourism within the country, with a strong bias toward native fish and healthy fisheries.
The business side of fishing lodges is still a relatively new concept in Sweden. The familiar idea in the region has been self-serve fishing camps, cabins – and the harvesting of fish. Jobs notes flatly, ‘That’s what I want to abandon; to basically offer more service and have less pressure on fishing.’
He strives to be sustainable at all three operations, but due to the nature of the business there are unavoidable exceptions. Tjuonajokk, for example, is only accessible via a half-hour helicopter ride from the closest town, the mining community of Kiruna. He has taken steps to make the camp as sustainable as possible, including the gradual switch to solar power and using local ingredients in the meals.
In addition to his fishing businesses, Per recently founded Björk Experience, a travel company crafted on the promise of ‘great Swedish nature experiences’. Working out of the same trusted locations of Tjuonajokk, Ammarnäs and Gotland, he has curated outdoor experiences including trekking, horseback riding, skiing, biking, bird watching, and authentic experiences within the regional Sami culture. Geunja, the Sami ecolodge at which we find ourselves, is one of these cultural experiences. Welcomed by the Vinka family and their pair of moose-hunting dogs, we find Geunja makes it easy to forget there is another world out there, beyond the mountains and rivers – one filled with to-do lists and text messages.
Later in the evening, as I watch Per tilt his driving cap to block the fading Arctic sun, I watch the smooth, rhythmic motion of his cast and things make sense. His background as a composer shows itself in the attention to detail of each cast, in the finesse of the fly on the water. The business acumen and boldness – for boldness is what it takes, to jump off the edge into something new – show in the careful plying of new water, hoping for a cruising brown trout ready to sip a dry fly. The determination shows in the patient waiting for the breeze to die, for the hatch to begin, and the fish to rise.
Earlier in the day over coffee and fidgety puppies, he had reflected on business and the resource upon which our careers in the fishing industry depend. ‘It’s our responsibility as business owners to do this in a sustainable way. There’s nowhere this is more important than in fishing.’
As his fly touches the water with the graceful kiss that only a well-cast dry fly can offer, I realise that’s the answer. Business, sustainability, work. New challenges and seasoned undertakings. Ultimately, it’s all about the fish. The ability to leave the work world behind and find peace on the water defines many of the great men and women in the business – and it’s clear in Per Jobs’s cast, in the subtle relaxation of his shoulders when on the water, that he is one of these.
Jess McGlothlin is a freelance photographer and writer based in Missoula, Montana. while on assignment in the past few years she’s learned how to throw spears at coconuts in French Polynesia, dodge saltwater crocodiles in Cuba, stand-up paddleboard down Peruvian Amazon tributaries and eat all manner of unidentifiable food.