The Bad Beginning
...or The Consequences of the Second Cast
It's quite some years ago, that a good friend of mine and I decided to broaden our fishing experience and try something new.
At that time I had a strong preference for fishing with lures for pike, bass and pikeperch in the local area of West Germany, but I also fished with fly rods for rainbow and brown trout.
I was inspired by an article in a fly fishing magazine about sea trout on the Baltic coast of Denmark.
Regarding fishing in Denmark, my only experience was with boat fishing for cod, and I had never fished from the beach for other salt water predators. So, before planning our trip, I searched thoroughly on the internet for more information, finding valuable tips about places, flies, tactics, etc.
What confused me right from the start, was the thought-provoking statement in nearly all articles that one needed at least one thousand casts to catch a single sea trout.
This impression was intensified even more as I read about the influence of the wind, the sun, the season, the flood, the time of day, the depth of the water, and many other factors on the activity of the sea trout.
I assumed that if I had to respect all of these factors in an orderly manner, I would have to live for years in the area and that as a "bloody rookie", I would in fact not stand chance of catching a single fish.
Nevertheless, after a short discussion with my friend, we decided to go to Denmark anyway and at least try our luck. This was the first step of a long trail...
The first trip
It was a stormy day in the middle of March when we reached the Danish coast after driving a couple of hundred kilometres. It was cold outside and a strong westerly wind blew in our faces.
I felt a little bit lost, when standing on the beach with the open ocean at my feet and my little wobbler dangling from my spinning rod. In wich direction should I cast and how far?
At this moment, I truly believed in the "Theory-of-the-1000-casts" but I was to be proven wrong...
Already the second cast brought the first fish I had been looking for - a sea trout of 38 centimetres or a modest 15 inches.
I was very happy and my good friend Rüdiger, who was just rigging up his spinning rod as this happened couldn't believe his ears and eyes as I shouted through the wind: "Rüdiger, look, I already got one! Hey, I really can't believe it - on my second cast!"
I grinned like a Cheshire cat from one ear to the other and told myself and Rüdiger that it really couldn't be so difficult to catch sea trout in the open ocean.
But this was to be my second failure of the day. My hasty assumption should be proven totally wrong!
I tried very hard to catch my second sea trout all the time to the end of our trip, but with no luck. And the truth is that it took me another three years to finally get it!
Thousands of casts
Therefore, I did not make just one thousand casts before succeeding on another sea trout - I made several thousands of casts - mainly with my spinning gear but also more and more with my fly rod - before catching a second one.
During these years, it became a running gag amongst my friends that I was only capable of catching cod. They even named them "Nolting-Trout" after some time.
Every time I had a fish on the line they were shouting: "Hey Kai, surely another "Nolting-Trout", eh?!
Eventually, I felt a strong growing frustration about the lack of sea trout in my statistics. This feeling grew even stronger as all my friends did not have that problem and the question of "What is wrong?" circled on and on in my head - but for a long time with no answer!
So, what exactly was I doing wrong?
I talked to many German and Danish salt water anglers and tried to follow their well-intentioned advice - you're fishing too deep, you're retrieving your line too slow, your leader is too short, better use a different fly, and so forth.
I read books and articles about sea trout and their way of living, but it seemed that nothing could really help me. All in all, I was completely mystified.
The only thing that helped me not to forsake was my success in fishing for cod and the pleasurable feeling of being close to the sea. Otherwise I would surely have given up.
The four omissions
With hindsight, there were four main reasons or a combination four omissions for my disappointment.
The first was the lack of the right feeling - call it the empathy or intuition for the possibilities of the moment. I fished more automatically than with empathy. There was no real connection between me and the other end of my line.
I merely dragged my fly through the ocean without knowing if I did it in a good way or not.
This leads me to the second omission - the lack of self-confidence as a result of ongoing failure.
These two omissions strongly influenced each other and in my situation they worked as a booster in the wrong direction. The more flops I produced, the more bad feelings I collected and the less self confidence I gained - a vicious circle.
The third error and perhaps the most important one was that I fished with suboptimal gear. Not that the gear that I fished with was to cheap or improper to catch fish. It was simply not suitable for me and my personal fishing style.
On advice from one of my fishing friends, I fished with a 7-weight rod and an intermediate line. It was nearly the same gear he used and caught fish with.
When watching him cast and fish, I saw no difference between his style and mine. But there was a significant difference - since he was able to catch fish and I was not.
The fourth problem was simply and miserably the lack of luck - mostly in the beginning as the vicious circle started.
The slow ending of the bad beginning
It was in autumn 2000, and we stayed on an island called Mon in Denmark, when redemption came as I caught my second sea trout.
I stood with two friends on a reef what was called Pommlerende and by early evening we were suddenly surrounded by sea trout.
We had takes and takes, but I had only brought my spinning gear and the trout were very spooky and reluctant to take the lures.
At least I managed to hook and land a sea trout of 54 centimetres that wasn't spooked. On this evening we caught lots of good cod, but only one sea trout and it was me who caught it! And it was definetely not a "Nolting-Trout"! YEAH!
Furthermore, I was absolutely sure if I only had brought my fly rods with me (they were lying safely in my car), I would have had many more options of catching sea trout.
This was a crucial experience for me and since that time I never forgot my fly rod in the car again.
The silver lining on the horizon
Still, even after this encouraging experience, it was difficult for me to catch sea trout, especially with fly fishing gear. From time to time I got one on my spinning equipment but my goal was different.
Meanwhile, I was more and more convinced that I, my rods and my lines didn't work well together. So after years, I was ready to file the petition for ‘divorce' and sold these rods to let them find a more successful master!
Then I started a new era by buying a new 6 weight rod with a tip-flex action, a new reel and a floating 6 weight WF line.
I tied myself unweighted flies, which were hovering in the water and could slowly be retrieved without sinking to the bottom. And what can I say, the vicious circle of miserable, disappointments and frustration was finally broken...
It was in March 2003, while working close to the border between Denmark and Germany, I decided to go on another trip to Denmark.
The temperatures during the first night were very cold, almost icy. On the first place I tried my luck, there was a small stream flowing into the sea. All of its water was completely iced and the weather turned rapidly back and forth between blue sunny sky to dark clouds with rain and sleet.
As I entered the water my boots burst through the ice and I was absolutely sure that these were not perfect conditions for a successful fishing experience.
But I was there and I surely wanted give it a try.
And the first time since I fished in the Baltic Sea, I was absolutely right!
I started fishing over a dark muddy ground and after a couple of casts I got my first take and landed a slim sea trout of approximately 45 cm or 18 inches. I stayed almost the whole day in that area and caught at least seven sea trout this day and five more the next day before noon. All between 40 and 55 cm or in the range of 16-22 inches.
What a result for someone who had tried for years to catch sea trout with nearly no success!
After a photo shooting they were all released except for one, which I took home for the pan.
Only the one who has experienced failure really deserves victory
Since that time there was a total change in my success when fishing in the Baltic Sea for sea trout. Today I fish with my fly rods nearly all the time and the spinning gear mostly remains in the trunk of my car.
A great help was surely to watch the inspiring DVD's of Mel Krieger regarding casting and to read the articles on the web side of the Global FlyFisher and not at least to hear the thoughtful podcasts of Martin Joergensen.
Sometimes it was only a hint or a tip mentioned in a small sentence that brought the success.
Now, why did I tell you all of this?
During all these years I met a couple of anglers or heard of others who have had the same problems. Some of them gave up and sold all of their gear. What a pity, but I have not forgotten the frustration of always coming home with the same result - no fish, no hookups and no takes.
In hindsight I would kindly like to give one advice to all the unlucky guys who have spent a lot of money on their fishing gear and still have no satisfying results in fishing for sea trout: "Don't give up, hang in there and find out about your personal style!"
And above all, struggling with frustration as well as ups and downs is only typical for an angler's life...
The bottom-line of my fly fishing experience can be summarized by the motto of one of Germany's most popular crooners, Udo Jürgens, who once said: "Only the one who has experienced failure, really deserves victory!"