Welcome to Behind the photo, a Reel Stories series exploring the tales behind some of the most popular and stunning fly fishing images we come across.
In the modern age of social media we’ve never been more connected as fishers. Information from around the world is just a scroll away and memorable captures are freely available for all to see, sometimes within moments of the catch. It’s revolutionised our fishing world, and brought our global community together in a way that was unimaginable only a short time ago.
But a single picture struggles to tell the story of all the hours of dedication, learning and determination it takes to land a special fish. Sure, some people get lucky, but most of these special fish are caught by dedicated anglers at the top of their game.
So in order to showcase these anglers, gain a little insight and hopefully learn a thing or two, we’re going…Behind the photo.
Our first guest is Sarah Rønholt, who along with her partner Tobias Park (who photographed the image in question) spend the winters chasing prize sea trout along their home coastline in Denmark.
Congratulations on your amazing sea trout Sarah! Can you tell us how big it was and where you caught it?
Thank you so much! It was a 71cm stunning silver sea trout caught on Sjæland in Denmark – and more specifically on Stevns Peninsula. If you haven’t heard of the place I can strongly recommend a visit, this is prime coastal sea trout water. And not only is it good for fishing – Stevns Klint is also on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites, because it is the best place in the world to see traces of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and half of the earth’s flora about 66 million years ago. It is a very special place!
Wow thats amazing! What kind of traces are there?
You can see layers that reveal stages dated back to more than 60 millions years. It’s an incredible place. When you are walking and wading under the cliff it feels like you are entering another world. And in some way you are. It’s rare to be in a place where you have such clear signs from past living. It also shows in all the fossils you find when walking the rugged coast.
Is this trout a personal best for you or have you had bigger?
It is my personal best from the coast in Denmark. I’ve spent years chasing trout on the Rio Gallegos, where I actually learned to cast a fly. There I caught some really big fish, and lifetime PB would push 20 pounds. But, sea trout fishing in a river, an estuary or a fjord cannot be compared to catching them on the open coast, that’s just a completely different game all together.
How do sea trout differ in their behaviour between the sea and the Rio Gallegos? I know from fishing for them at home in Scotland they can occasionally be temperamental. Do you find that?
The sea run brown in Rio Gallegos to me, is very unique. Their behaviour is completely different. When they enter the river they don’t feed, we have to convince them to take a fly. When you find feeding sea trout in the ocean, the way they come for the fly is just a different story. Not that they can’t be picky, because they can! To an extent where it can almost be frustrating. They are trout, and as with any other trout out there they can be super selective! Whether they are focused feeding on scud, sandeel, rag worms or something else, the approach has got to align.
When water temperature is not too cold, sea trout on the coast will often jump when hooked. Especially the medium sized ones. But it is nothing compared to how explosive they are in Rio Gallegos, they are just a different beast! It is not unusual that even a big trout pushing 15 pounds will leap out of the water more than 5 times..
The fact is that it is very hard work to find big sea trout here in Denmark. They don’t live their lives close to the shore, only occasionally they come in close where we can reach them with a fly. So a coastal trout of that caliber is the ultimate prize of perseverance. It is quite difficult for me to compare, because it is literally two different worlds.
What tackle did you use? Is this your normal setup for sea trout fishing in winter?
I used my LOOP 9’6″ #6 weight 7X with an intermediate shooting head and a monofilament shooting line. It took a little white transparent shrimp fly, which is quite classic. We often use floating and hover heads, and also WF lines. It all depends on conditions and the spots we fish.
On this specific day we wanted to be able to make long casts. That’s why I chose to fish a shooting head with mono, for the distance. Beside from that it is a more flexible setup for changing conditions. We fish different shooting heads for different scenarios, on calm days we use super slow intermediate heads from 9-12 meters. On windy days with big waves we change in between 8-9 meter heads with densities ranging from intermediate to sink 3. But then again, there are situations where presentation is key, that’s when we go for the WF lines – sometimes float, sometimes hover. Our all time favourite is the LOOP Opti Flex Long.
You must have to battle some hardcore weather fishing in Scandinavia in the winter. What were conditions like on the day?
Some days it is pretty rough, big waves, cold and windy. Ice in the guards is not unusual when winter fishing. Toes and fingers that hurt to an extent where it becomes a mental game to carry on, is all part of it.
The best days are often warmer ones, after the temperature rises for a few days, and the air is warmer than the water, a light breeze on shore will warm up the shallow water, that’s the recipe right there. On this particular day, we had just that!
What is it about fishing for Sea trout in winter that appeals to you?
I love the challenge. To put myself out there where I’m at the limit of my physical endurance. More often than not I’m soaking wet – because I am so clumsy, wading rocky shores in big waves, sometimes deep water. More often than not I fall in trying to keep up with the boys. But in the end it is just so worth it. To be out there freezing my limbs off. Feeling connected to this amazing universe, the power of nature. Sharing these beautiful moments outdoors. And of course the hunt. For adrenaline. For the beast. There is an endless beauty in that vast ocean, not two days are alike.
Coastal fly fishing is tough, it really is. Endless days of catching nothing is the norm in winter! But, when you finally find one of those elusive chromers in shallow coastal near water, that encounter is hard to beat for me. When I’ve fished places where we catch a lot of fish, I tend to forget the individual ones, unless they are really big, the take, the fight, everything that led up to it. But on the coast I remember every second of every decent fish. The appreciation is that much bigger when you really have to work for it!
Well said! And finally, why do you choose LOOP for your fishing?
Because it’s the best there is. For me, I love everything about LOOP.
The single-hand rods I use on the coast range from 5 to 7 weights, I have never casted any thing that did me that much justice as the 7X.
The tactical wear fits me like no other, I’ve had a hard time finding jackets that actually felt feminine on top of the practical layers, and apart from looking good the Dellik wading jacket keeps me dry in the harshest of conditions. I love the philosophy, the designs, the functionality and durability. Also the service we get on LOOP gear here in Scandinavia beats anything I’ve tried on any other brand.
That’s what we like to hear and once again well done on your incredible fish. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us but before you go, just one last question – What’s next on the list of your fishing adventures?
Right now we are still focused on the sea trout. Salmon season is getting closer though! In the spring we will spend about a month on the Skjern river, and I’ve got Lapland in the calendar as well. We’re working on some big plans for a super exciting year-long adventure too, I won’t reveal that quite yet, but we can get back to that when we get a bit closer!
If you’ve got a great story behind a photo, drop us a message via email@example.com and you could feature next!
Interview by Colin Macleod. Photos by Tobias Park.