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Sea Trout Gear
This article will try to point you in the right direction when choosing fly rod, reel and line for Danish and Baltic coastal fishing for sea trout.
In Denmark there is one kind of fishing, which is by far the most common, popular and widespread, and that is fishing in the ocean for sea run brown trout or sea trout as we just call them here. A lot of Danes fish for sea trout, and lots of foreign anglers come here to try it. Many are in doubt about the gear to use.
The fishing is performed wading in fairly shallow water, typically moving in the knee to waist deep range, and occasionally even fishing directly from the beach, walking on dry land. A few anglers fish from boats or float tubes, but most of them will be using the same type of gear as the rest of us.
This article will try to give the best advice for putting together a fly rod, reel and line for the purpose.
A personal view
I will most likely get a large part of the experienced Danish and foreign coastal anglers on my neck for sticking it out as I do, because the view on gear is as different as anglers are, and my opinion is definitely not the gospel or the eternal truth.
On the other hand I will defend it by saying that I have been fishing the coast for 30 years under all kinds of strange conditions and my opinion and the advice I offer isn't just pulled out of thin air, but based on many years of personal experience and the experience of fishing friends with whom I have shared countless hours in the pursuit of inshore trout.
It's a casting game
The first thing I want to stress is that our kind of fishing usually involves a lot of casting. A lot!
There are of course different approaches, and some anglers spend more time scouting for fish with the eyes than others, while some never see fish in the water, but search for fish by casting and retrieving.
By far the most common way of fishing is to wade parallel to the shoreline at a certain depth and cast outwards towards deeper water and maybe targeting weed patches, collections of rocks, deeper troughs and other structures.
But no matter what tactics you use, you will be casting a lot, and most definitely be casting more than you will be fighting fish, and your gear needs to be suited for casts rather than fights.
And as a side note I can add that even though we all dream about numerous large and heavy, silvery fish that bring us into the backing again and again. The truth is that the average fish size is more like 43 centimeters and weighs just over one kilo. While such a fish is great fun to catch, it will offer no challenge even for a light rod.
Not like saltwater
Another remark that I have to make is that we are not fishing saltwater in the traditional sense. It's salt, OK, but that's about where the comparison to other types of saltwater stops.
Gear for bonefish, not to mention tarpon, trevally or permit is not suitable. Gear for stripers can be, but rarely is.
The fishing we perform is more like lake fishing as it's done in many US, New Zealand and South American lakes (but not anything like lake fishing done in the UK)
But if I were to choose a type of gear from another kind of fishing, it would be gear suited for streamer or wet fly fishing in streams. Fairly long and powerful rods in the 9' 5-6 weight range.
I will not recommend specific rod models or brands, but in the end of this article, you will find a list of the rods that I fish on a regular basis.
My personal rod choice
Regarding gear for fishing the Danish coast, I can only recommend you to go light. My personal favorite rod for the coast is a 9 foot 5 or 6 weight rod. I like rods that are built for saltwater fishing with reel seat and eyes that are similar to what's used on saltwater gear for tropical use. Such rods aren't common, but can be found even from the larger manufacturers. Of course you can easily build such a rod yourself if you are a rod builder, and custom rod builders and rod shops can also put together a rod for the purpose based on your specifications.
As an alternative you can use a freshwater rod, but make sure you get one with a metal reel seat and no fine details. We are talking salt, and even though the water is quite brackish and much less salt than oceanic water, you can be sure that the salt will find its way, and start corroding your gear already after your first trip. I have a few freshwater rods with wooden reel seats that I use on the coast (as you can see on the images), and it does take its toll on the finer details even though many stand the stress quite well.
My coastal rods are all 9 feet or longer. I have a couple of favorites that are 9'2" and 9'6", but none longer than that. Length is no advantage when you have wind to fight, which is very often the case on the coast. And you don't need the line control offered by 10 and 11 foot rods, which are better suited for stream fishing where reaching and mending is needed.
Shorter rods are sometimes used for saltwater fishing, and many bonefish and permit rods are 8'8" or shorter, which facilitates fighting the wind. I personally haven't found the need for such short rods, but on the other hand, I don't want to go too long either. I have longer rods, but use them in calm conditions. 10' rods are far too long for this kind of fishing in my eyes.
It's a very normal opinion that saltwater fishing calls for the fastest and stiffest rods you can get. I have no idea where this comes from, and I certainly don't follow that contingent of anglers! On the contrary, actually, because I will prefer a soft and medium slow rod over a stiff and fast one any day.
This is partly a personal choice based on taste, but also a choice based on the fact that a rod like that is much less demanding on your casting skills, and a lot more forgiving. It may not be able to pound out line under all conditions, but if you keep your line arcs narrow and the rod pace fast enough, it will cast more than far enough for the purpose, and let you fumble and miss a backcast and still deliver the fly. Faster rods can do the same, but will not forgive any errors.
Several of my fishing friends prefer really fast rods, but I go in the opposite direction.
The reel isn't that critical as long as you take good care of it. The reel is more of a personal choice. I prefer good quality, high end saltwater reels while other anglers use less expensive composite reels or cheap metal reels.
You often hear people say that a brake isn't needed, but I think that reel with a good brake will land far more fish than one with no brake - or even worse: a bad brake.
I'm usually a pig with my gear and need stuff that can take some abuse. If you are the drying and rinsing type of angler, who always takes very good care of everything, you may not need things quite as saltwater tolerant as I prefer it. But in my opinion it's a shame to expose nice freshwater gear to salt, sand and the rough treatment on the coast.
I almost always equip my coastal rods with a neutral, very slow sinking shooting head. On a 5-6 weight rod, such a head needs to weigh some 13-15 grams depending on the rod and the casting style. My own preferred length is about 9.5 meters or 31 feet. Some anglers like to fish longer shooting heads, which can potentially give longer casts, but will l also be more difficult to control and keep free of the water and the bank in the backcast.
I use a braided line for a shooting line, but many others prefer a monofilament line. A few will use a coated shooting or running line, but I only occasionally see these lines on the reels of Danish anglers.
The shooting head setup enables me to cast fairly long casts with very little effort. The price is elegance. Shooting heads will usually not deliver a fly delicately, but oftentimes splash quite a bit, making them more suitable for choppy and unclear water.
When I fish in calm nights or fish really calm and clear water during daytime, I sometimes switch to a floating WF-line, which will make much more delicate casts, but require more backcasts and a lot more work for the same distance.
There are hybrid lines that combine a shooting head like front part with a thin running line, but made as a normal fly line, and I like these lines very much, but unfortunately haven't found one that hasn't started cracking and being worn after just one season.
If you aren't comfortable with the thought of using a shooting head, or don't want to make or buy one, simply use a good floating or neutral WF line. Intermediate lines will typically sink too fast, so go for a floater rather than an intermediate line. You will be fishing over a few feet of water, and if the line sinks, you will inevitably snag. Color isn't critical. Some might argue for a neutral color or even say that grey, light blue or transparent will spook fewer fish, but I have fished bright orange and yellow lines as well as dull ones, and have never felt the difference.
I personally use a 9-12 foot monofilament leader, either tapered or knotted, and add one meter 0.23mm or 0.26mm tippet. I attach the leader to the fly line with a nail knot, and add tippet as it gets worn with a surgeon's knot.
I know others who use polyleaders and mount them on the fly line with loops. The polyleaders add to the line weight, which you have to take into consideration when adapting shooting heads.
I also meet people who prefer heavier rods, but it's actually quite rare to see anything heavier than a 7 weight on the Danish coast, although some anglers might go as heavy as 8 or 9 weights.
I personally find that way too much work when the assignment is to cast and cast as it is in Danish coastal fishing.
You can argue that the heavy rods cast better in hard winds, but I usually fish places where the wind helps me rather than places where I have to cast against it or fight it.
But of course: if you want to fish huge and heavy flies in strong onshore winds as it's favored by a few (mostly foreign) anglers, you will need heavy gear. This type of fishing is hard work anyway, fighting waves, wind and weed in the water. Adding a bit of weight to the rod hardly does much difference in that situation.
For the sheer enjoyment of the fishing and in order not to tire yourself, I can warmly recommend that you start fooling around with light gear.
You won't strain yourself nearly as much as you will when fishing heavier gear, and you will most likely be more than prepared for the average fish you may bump into. As a final remark, I can tell you that the largest fish in our statistics - all 5 kilos or 10 lbs. plus fish - were all caught on 6-weight rods or lighter.
The rods I use most on the coast
|Loomis GL3||9'||5 wt||4 pcs||I bought this rod many years ago for next to nothing, and even though it was nowhere near the top of the line, it's a rod after my heart, and I still enjoy fishing it.|
|Loomis GL4||9'||6 wt||4 pcs||This was acquired as a supplement to the GL3. It's slightly heavier and a bit faster, but still a nice rod, which I like fishing.|
|Loomis IMX||9'||7 wt||4 pcs||The IMX was my first "real" rod, and is still a joy to use. It's heavier than today's rods even though it was considered ultralight when it first came out, and it's a rod class or two more than I prefer to fish, so this is one of my "heavy" rods.|
|Scierra MPA||9'||5 wt||5 pcs||This is the rod I use when I can, and I fish it about 80% of my fishing time. The rod has a fantastic action, casts like a dream and is a lot of fun to catch fish on. It's rigged for freshwater, and is well worn by my saltwater usage.|
|Scierra MPA||9'6'||6-7 wt||3 pcs||I was given this rod years ago to take catalog pictures for Scierra, but had to return it because it rusted. It was never replaced. Less than a year ago I found it brand new at a fly show, and bought it at a very good price. It's a casting machine, and can carry almost any line and fly I offer it.|
|Scierra HMS||9'||6 wt||3 pcs||The HMS series was developed for Scandinavian saltwater, and is a fairly fast and sturdy rod that does its job well, but lacks a bit of character in my eyes.|
|Elkhorn||9'||7 wt||3 pcs||This was a 50th birthday gift that I have enjoyed fishing. It's a faster rod than my beloved MPA, but slightly shorter and a nice hard weather rod being just a class heavier than I prefer for almost any type of coastal fishing.|
As you will notice most of my favorite rods are pretty old, and none of them are Sage, Loop, Scott or some of the other very popular and widespread brands. These manufacturers make excellent rods, but I just never found one of them that I really like, Many old school Loomis rods suit my temper (and the prices on sale suited my wallet!), and a very good friend of mine used to work for Scierra, so I had a good connection there... and I really like some of their rods. That's why Loomis and Sceirra dominates my rod collection.