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Fly fishing the Baltic Sea: Chasing Silver along the Shores of Bornholm

Why travel all the way to Bornholm to fly fish for seatrout, when there are numerous other coastal areas all across Northern Europe that are within closer range? Well, Bornholm has a certain je ne sais quoi – and not just when it comes to the fishing, which – by the way – ranks among the best in the world.

BY: RASMUS OVESEN

WITH ITS SMALL, IDYLLIC SEAPORTS, captivating panorama views, and exquisite food culture, Bornholm is an irrevocably ambient and pleasant place to vacate. Everything is within immediate range: the rocky shorelines and white sandy beaches; Svaneke Brewery and the many local smoke houses; the ancient round churches, fortresses and castle ruins; and the numerous vantage points that are found along Bornholm’s 158-kilometer-long coastline. Bornholm is the perfect place for an active holiday, and its coastal realms offer the perfect playground for the seatrout fisherman – a place where the dream of catching a silvery Baltic Sea trophy is within reach.

MY OBSESSION WITH SEATROUT has lured me across the Baltic Sea, to the craggy shorelines of Bornholm, on several occasions. And revisiting Bornholm’s amazing and varied coastal realm always makes me tingle expectantly within. I have that exact feeling inside on this day in March, where I’ve flown from Oslo to Copenhagen, then driven from Copenhagen to Ystad in Sweden to catch the high-speed ferry from Ystad to Rønne, Bornholm. Not even escalating south-westerly winds, which are forecast to reach gale forces around 24m/s within the next 24 hours, is enough to dampen my spirit.

Less than half an hour after my good friend, Gordon, and I have gotten off the ferry, we’re on the shore of a beautiful coastal stretch with our fly rods in firm grips, ready to battle the elements and look for trout. We fish one promising stretch and then another – but without seeing any fish. It doesn’t deter us, however, because Bornholm’s seatrout have a tendency to school up in certain areas, and once we find them, we know that we’re in for a good time. Arriving at the third fishing spot, which goes by the local name, Klympen, we’re still fully motivated and stoked to be fishing. And we now start to work our way down the shoreline, methodically and with great focus.

I SEND ANOTHER EXPECTANT CAST towards the edge of a dark patch that stretches out into the ocean below the gloomy, lead-grey horizon, while desperately probing for traction across the slick, rounded rocks that are so carelessly strewn here – rocks that are greedily licked by unyielding and turbulent waves. The water is turbid, and the hoarse southwestern winds tear at the frothing wave crests flinging shower-like myriads of glistening water drops in to the air and towards the beach.

It’s not the most comfortable weather for fishing. It’s more like an inferno of water, wind and whirling foam, but it doesn’t really matter. I don’t mind being thrown around in the waves on this chilly spring day, hectically waving my fly rod in the howling winds, as long as I believe in the dream of catching a solid piece of Bornholm silver. I firmly do, and every cast is laden with the greatest of expectations and the warmth-igniting assurance that Bornholm is capable of delivering fish in regular trophy sizes.

I RETRIEVE THE FLY, which is a small but eye-catching pink shrimp pattern, with long, slow strips without ever losing contact with it in the big swells. At the end of the retrieve, I lift the line partially off the water, roll cast, and execute an overhead cast with maximum power and acceleration making the line cut surgically through the wind and stretching the leader over the colliding, foamy waves.

Three strips later, a slight tug propagates through the line. I lift the rod resolutely but am not met with any weight. Hmmm! Did the fly just bump one of the big boulders out there? Was it temporarily snagged on drifting sea weeds – or was it a cautious take?

I quickly retrieve the fly and check it for seaweeds. Nothing! I then cast again and immediately start stripping in the fly. This time, there’s no doubt! Another vague tug propagates through the fly line, and as I lift the fly rod, I’m met with the weight of a big fish that starts thrashing around on the surface. The fly, however, quickly loses its hold, the connection is lost, and I’m left there in the waves, lightly-trembling and with a nagging uncertainty.

Was it one of the many post-spawners so frequently encountered during early spring? Or was it one of Bornholm’s sought-after chromers – one of those prime creatures with shimmering loose scales, a muscular body build and bright silvery flanks? The fish was way too far out, and everything happened too quickly for me to ascertain for sure. Damn!

HALF AN HOUR LATER, after having lost another three fish, all my doubts have slowly evaporated. There are obviously a lot of post-spawners in the area, and I’m therefore mentally inclined to look for a new fishing spot. But then, suddenly, I feel another tug on the line. This time, it’s more abrupt and resolute, and once I’ve established full contact, and I put a good bend into the fly rod’s limber carbon fibers, a silvery, torpedo-shaped creature thrusts itself meter-high from the water. As it collides with the waves in a splashy belly flop, it immediately rushes off and soon after, the hoarse screams of my fly reel start to intermingle cacophonically with the howling winds.

There is both power and punch in my agile adversary, but I slowly but surely gain the upper hand – and a few minutes later I land and unhook the beautiful fish. It is robustly built, steel-gray along the whole length of its back, and with powerful, semi-transparent fins protruding from its trembling silvery flanks, which display big, ink stain-like spots under a glistening veneer.

The fish is probably around 1,5 kilos, and while it isn’t exactly the trophy fish that lured me all the way to Bornholm in the first place, it’s well worth the trip. It poignantly sums up, what the fishing is like over here. It rewards the laborious – those who are willing to take some serious beatings in the waves – and it goes to prove that the redeeming tug from one of the island’s much-coveted chromers might propagate through the fly line at any given time, most likely when you expect it the least. And when it does, all you can do is hold on and hope for the best…

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