Angling Denmark: Catching Sea Trout

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Seatrout are avid hunters. At the same time they are true soldiers of fortune – always on the lookout for an easy meal. Thus they can be found almost everywhere – and caught in many different ways.

Some days seatrout will eagerly strike anything you throw at them. At other times they may have their stomachs full and thus show no interest whatsoever in flies or lures. They just follow the bait to the rod tip – with no ill intent!

Still there are methods and baits that produce fish on a more regular basis than others:

Fly Fishing

More and more fishermen realize that flies fished traditionally on fly rod and fly line can be a very efficient way of catching seatrout. Very often you do not need long casts to connect with seatrout.

In fact seatrout spend a substantial part of their lives chasing bait in the shallows where they are easily reached by fly casting. And very often, seatrout target small food items when they really haunt the shallows.

When this is the case, fly fishermen stand a much better chance of succes than their spinfishing colleagues, simply because they are able to offer perfect imitations in a realistic way.

Tackle

A 9-10 foot 7 or 8-weight fly rod is what you need for most conditions. Lines should be weight forward (WF) to handle the windy conditions often encountered and the long casts sometimes needed.

In shallow water bay areas you may use a floating line to advantage. But if you are fishing open coastlines where wind and waves are the norm, an intermediate line is to be preferred. It slices through the wind better than a floating line and it sinks just below the surface. Thus it is not affected but wind or waves. Instead it keeps a straight line all the way out to the fly, making it easier to detect subtle takes.

A line tray is immensely practical if you fish where rolling waves, rushing currents and floating seaweed will otherwise grab your line and interfere with your casting. Once you get used to it, you will never want to be without it.

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Leaders should be 9-12 foot if you are fishing with a floating line – 9 foot if you have an intermediate line on your reel. Tippets in the 0.20-0.25 mm class are adequate – with 0.20 being a good choice on calm and sunny days with clear water. – Don’t go any lighter than 6 lbs. test!

A saltwater resistant reel finishes off the equipment needed. You can get by with a click check but disk drags are much preferred if you encounter big fish. For that very reason you should never go fishing in Jutland, Denmark without at least 100 yds. of 20 lbs. backing to support your fly line.

Flies

Seatrout flies for fishing in the salt usually are divided into two categories: Imitative flies that aim to represent specific food items on the trout’s menu. And provocative flies whose only goal is to excite the fish into striking.

Gaudy fantasy flies – fluorescent or not – generally work best during wintertime where water is cold and food scarce. During summer when food is abundant, flies that imitate of represent specific food items – bait fish, crustaceans or worms – are needed.

If you plan to go night time fishing, big, black and bushy flies are preferred. Muddlers and Zonkers can be fished in or just below the surface where they draw waves and push water, making it easier for the seatrout to spot and catch them. Often, you will hear the strike before actually feeling it!

Thus, the well-prepared fly fisherman carries several types of flies in his box. He will have small, shrimp-like flies size 8-12 ready for those days where only small flies fished deep and slow will produce. And he will be watching for the sligtest indication of a subtle take that requires an immediate strike.

He also carries big and gaudy size 2-6 streamers for those memorable days when trout are feeding like mad, slamming into longshank flies fished fast just below the surface. This is often the case on windy and rainy days where small flies will usually be left untouched.

The right retrieve

Generally, small flies should be taken home slowly in short strips. Large flies should be retrieved in long and fast strips. And as always it is important to vary the speed of retrieve according to the water temperature. Fish being cold-blooded respond instantly to changes in their environment.

So be sure to fish your flies slowly when the water is cold and fish are sluggish. And faster when the water is warm and fish feed actively.

If you carry the following flies in your box, you will be able to handle most situations you will encounter along the coastline of Jutland, Denmark. They catch fish all year round:

“Mysis” # 8, 10
“Magnus” # 6, 8
“Mickey Finn” # 4, 6, 8
“Black Zonker” # 2, 4, 6
“Juletræet” (“Christmas Tree”) # 2, 4, 6

It always pays to pay the local tackle shops a visit. They know what fly or flies are the most productive right then and there.

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Spin Fishing

Spinning is the most commonly practised method of catching seatrout from the shoreline. It’s a method where long casts are possible and much water can be covered in a dayís fishing.

Spinning is used by the majority of fishermen, and spinning therefore produces the majority of fish caught. Generally, larger fish are caught by spining than by fly fishing – simply because most big fish tend to stay in deeper water, outside the reach of fly casting.

An 8-9 foot long spinning rod capable of casting 10-20 g lures will handle most conditions. A medium sized fixed spool reel filled with 200 metres of 0.20-0.25 mm monofilament line completes the outfit. Add an assortment of pirks, spoons and wobblers but don’t forget a handfull of flies for those days where seatrout time and again follow your lure to the rod tip without taking.

Good producers are spoons like Toby, Smelt, Sølvpilen and Jensen Tobis. Shoreline wobblers like Gladsax, Hingsten and Kutlingen should be in every fisherman’s tackle box. These lures can be fished very slowly without hitting the bottom. Thus they are ideally suited for wintertime fishing in cold water where fish are sluggish.

During spring and autumn where the water temperature is ideal and fish fed actively, you normally get the best results using a fairly fast – and varied – retrieve.

Baitcasting with wobblers

When seatrout have reached a certain size, food found in shallow water no longer seems able to fill their stomachs. They need larger prey and the easiest way of achieving this goal is to seek deep water where schools of herring, sprat and sand eels abound.

Long casts with heavy tackle and large shoreline wobblers fit the bill if you want to catch these big fish. And you are advised to seek open coastlines offering deep water close to shore. Secluded brackish-water bays only rarely yield large herring feeders.

If you want to make the most of this specialized kind of seatrout fishing, you need a powerful 9-10 foot spinning rod plus a medium-to-large sized spinning reel or better yet, a multiplying reel capable of handling 200 metres of 0.25-0.30 mm monofilament line. Or equivalent unelastic PE-line of even smaller diameter.

Add to this an assortment of 20-30 g shoreline wobblers in natural colour combinations – silver with black, blue or green backs. In the wintertime provocative colours like hot fluorescent pink and orange are often a better choice.

Choose between Danish classics like Gladsax, Sandgrævlingen and Kongetobisen – all plastic moulded. In fact it was Denmark who came up with the first ever specialized shoreline wobblers for long distance casting – heavy wooden plugs that took up water and left the paint peeling… But they cast the required distance and they caught fish!

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Ultralight spinning

At the opposite end of the spectrum we find the light line enthusiasts – the UL or ultralight fanatics. They swear by long and limber 9-10 foot spinning rods capable of casting tiny spoons and spinners weighing no more than 2-12 g. Reels are small fixed spool spinning reels filled with 0.15-0.20 mm monofilament line.

This is yet another way of fishing that originated in Denmark – a method which has proved very productive when seatrout are in the shallows searching for sticklebacks and other small baitfish. Add to this the excitement of fighting even a two pounder on tackle this light!

Mepps and Vibrax spinners size 1-3 are good producers when long casts are not required. If more distance or a faster retrieve is needed, focus on small spoons like for instance the classic Toby.

When it comes to local favourites amongst flies and lures, do pay the local tackle shop a visit. They know what works in their waters and they also know where the best fishing can be found at any particular time.

The right retrieve

When casting lures from the coastline, you should always opt for a varied retrieve. A lure speeding up and slowing down has much more appeal to hunting fish than a monotonous retrieve of the same lure.

Very often the fish will strike when you speed up the retrieve. Fish often follow the lure for long distances without striking. But when they sense that their potential food is trying to get away, the strike comes almost automatically.

Still you will often encounter the so-called “followers” – fish that have a hard time deciding whether to strike or not. Fish that not even a varied retrieve can lure into striking.

If this happens to you, try letting your spoon or plug drop towards the botton – with no retrieve at all. Often seatrout will pick up the lure immediately – as if afraid it would escape. As if it was some sand eel trying to bury itself in the bottom. At other times the fish will not strike until you start the retrieve again.

Floats and flies

If necessary, the spin fisherman has yet another ace up his sleeve. By using a so-called “bubble float” which can be filled more or less with water, he may in fact fish very small flies on very long casts.

The water inside the float gives you the weight necessary for long casts. And the small flies makes it possible to imitate even the tiniest creature that seatrout may have keyed in on!

The classic Bubble is round and transparent. It is filed via two holes that can be closed. It has two line eyes – one for the main line and one for the leader.

Modern Bubbles look different. They are elongated and often made of hot coloured plastic that can be seen from a long distance. Just like its classic predecessor it is filled with water to add weight. Filled completely it sinks slowly. Otherwise it floats. In this way you may adjust both the weight and density of the float.

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In modern Bubbles the line is threaded through the float and fastened to a splitring or swivel. To this the 2-4 m long leader is then attached – and at the end of that the chosen fly of the day.

The idea behind this construction is that you are always directly in touch with the fly through the float. This makes it easier to detect subtle takes that would go unnoticed with the classic Bubble. At the same time wary fish will feel no or very little resistance from the float when they take the fly.

The retrieve when fishing flies on Bubble floats should be very, very slow. In fact so slow that many spin fishermen do not have the patience needed for this most effective way of fishing. You cast out the whole thing and then brake the float with your finger just before it touches water. This is to stretch the long leader so that you will be fishing from the time of impact!

Leave the fly some seconds to sink before you start the retrieve. Think of it as “crawling” the fly back to you. Take half a turn of the handle and then pause before the next half turn. If you want to make the most of it, it takes several minutes to fish out each cast.

The flies needed for this particular kind of fishing are the same as mentioned above under fly fishing.

Fishing the Water

Naturally, it pays to be able to make long casts if you are to encounter seatrout on a regular basis. Long casts let you reach distant fish and cover more water.

Still a surprisingly large percentage of all fish are caught with 10-20 metres from the shoreline – a fact which proves the productivity of the shallows when it comes to fish food. It is also a reminder that you should never wade into the water without having fished the shallows first.

Often you will find what we call a “bath tub” – a deepening between the shoreline itself and the first sand bank – very close to shore. If this is the case then fish it thoroughly before wading out. Water in such a bath tub is relatively stagnant and therefore warms quickly in early spring. Seatrout know just that!

More often than in the bath tub itself seatrout are to be found on the outside of the first sand bank. Here they have easy and direct access to the protection of deeper water. This makes them feel safer and, consequently, easier to catch.

Fish carefully

Except for early in the year where warmth from the sun is important for both fish and fish food, the shallow water is always most productive during dark. Thus you will find fish in close early in the morning and late in the evening – plus all night long during the heat of summer.

When you are fishing a piece of coastline, you cover the water by spreading your casts in a fan in front of you as you walk or wade along. If you are fishing from a protruding point or are standing on a large rock, you also cover the water in front of you by casting in a fan. This way you search every inch of water thoroughly so that any seatrout – if present – will see your offering.

If wading is necessary, do so carefully. Partly not to frighten any fish in shallow water – partly to protect yourself agains unwanted dunkings… Where the bottom is covered by round and slippery rocks, you have to move slowly and feel your way forward. A wading staff will prove a great help in such places.

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Clothing

A large part of the seatrout fishing takes places in the colder months of the year where water temperature does not suggest a swim. But modern hi-tech products have taken the sting out of cold. If you are wearing the right clothing, you will be warm all day long – all year long.

Full length waders are required for most seatrout fishing in Denmark. During summer you can easily get by with a pair of thin nylon or PVC waders. If you can afford it, breathable Gore-Tex is a sure winner. Then you will avoid much of the sweating associated with long walks in hot weather and waders.

Spring and autumn where water temperature typically ranges between 5 and 15 degrees Celsius, warmer clothing is required. As a minimum you need one layer of insulating fleece between your body and your waders. A pair of 3-4 mm neoprene waders is an investment you will never regret. With equipment like that, cold has ceased to be a problem.

Come winter it is time to jump into thicker 4-5 mm neoprene waders. Add a pair of woollen gloves or better yet – fleece which does not take up water and can be easily wrung dry. Then winter can even be enjoyed!

The fly fisherman who has to handle a wet flyline all day long, would be better off wearing thin neoprene finger gloves – preferably with polypropylene inner liners to wick away the inevitable condensation.

© Steen Ulnits     phone: int. +45 2332 8988     mail: steen@ulnits.dk


If you want to experience Denmark and Danish fishing at its very best, take a look at these domestic destinations:

Haraldskær
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Located on the banks of the beautiful River Vejle, this intimate hotel is located very close to Billund International Airport and has its own private stretch of private river angling for brown trout and sea trout. Browns on dries during the day. Sea trout at night.

Read more and see pictures here:

https://www.bptravel.dk/tours/danmark-haraldskaer


Sixtus

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Located right on the beach at Lillebælt, the narrowest and deepest Danish strait. This location guarantees profitable summertime sea trout angling as the water here will never get too warm for fishing. The current is too strong for that to happen.

Read more and see pictures here:

https://www.bptravel.dk/tours/danmark-sixtus-fiskeferie


Skarrildhus

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Located right on the banks of Denmark’s most prestigious salmon River Skjern where the all-time Danish salmon record was caught back in 1954: 26,5 kg heavy and 136 cm long. This remote hotel has its own private stretch of the famous river.

Read more and see pictures here:

https://www.bptravel.dk/tours/danmark-skarrildhus


Gl. Avernæs

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This impressive hotel is surrounded by waters offering Denmark’s most productive saltwater fishing for sea run brown trout. More than 25 years of dedicated fisheries management of local rivers has resulted in more sea trout here than anywhere else.

Read more and see pictures here:

https://www.bptravel.dk/tours/danmark-gl-avernaes

Send me an e-mail at steen@ulnits.dk or call me on +45 2332 8988 for more information. The above hotels are all booked through B&P Travel in Copenhagen.


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