So things were getting pretty desperate and looking decidedly grim. New Zealand wasn't providing the goods and there had been a distinct lack of saltwater fish in the Discovery. It was felt that a fish was needed. Any fish was needed. If there was gudgeon in the sea we would have settled for one of those.
I was becoming cynical. And sceptical. A thread of doubt had entered the saltwater section. Who were these six guys? Is it possible that saltwater flyfishing is impossible and that they were playing some insane joke with me? I was beginning to wonder. And naturally my newsletters reflected these opinions.
However it was Carl who said, "Paul, come to Denmark with me, bring a friend and meet Lars. Lars is a saltwater flyfishing expert with Viking blood. If he can't help you to put The Panel's expertise into practice then no one can."
Actually Carl didn't say that; I just made it up. Carl wrote this instead and so the high-speed flyfishing expedition "Denmark or Bust!" was born. It seemed like a long shot, but any path will do when you don't know which is the right one.
So there were four of us: Carl "Berlin" Hutchinson from Corporate Flyrods, Christopher Rownes (FFF instructor), Lars "Viking" Bentson (soon to be certified FFF instructor) and myself. The mission: to catch a seatrout (or anything sporting fins) from the salt.
The Drive North
Due to geography we had to drive from Berlin to Denmark and due to the way the hire companies operate Carl was driving. In retrospect I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand it is nice to be able to sit back and just let things happen. On the other (and I don't mean this in any negative way), Carl is a bad driver. Carl has spent much of his time in countries where bad driving techniques are accepted (if not encouraged) and he has learned every trick in the book. I travelled mainly with my eyes shut, although I failed to find very much comfort in this either :-)
We arrived under the cover of darkness and promptly got lost (Chris was navigating). I offered friendly advice from the backseat but it was unheeded and consequently we did actually arrive where we were supposed to (albeit four hours late) and not in the wrong country, as we would have done had I been map-reading (done that before).
As well as being talented in other areas of flyfishing, one of Lars' talents is without doubt flytying. Which was good since we all needed some flies. Lars welcomed us with wine and shrimp flies. We got drunk on his hospitality and good humour. Yes, Lars obviously knew what he was talking about (even if we didn't). However when he suggested that we get up very early the next morning I knew that it would be a physical impossibility for everyone involved (myself excluded of course).
Day 1: The Sea around Denmark
My first glimpse of the sea filled me with a feeling of, if not confidence exactly, at least not of despair. My saltwater experiences of the past have often been accompanied by enormous waves, which of course make things exciting and dramatic, but also rather complicated. Often simply staying on my feet and not getting flattened or dragged out to sea has been the main concern; to the extent where it has overwhelmed all other thoughts, even those involving the flyline and the washing machine effect.
A flat ocean is of a considerable advantage. One can safely think thoughts such as "what is my fly doing?" and "where are the fish?" and not the continual "what the hell am I doing here?" and "will I make it?". Those thoughts come later.
Lars had explained the techniques involved. We were to cast out the shrimp patters he had kindly given us and slowly strip them back, methodically fishing the water, paying particular attention to weed beds, with complete and total concentration at all times. Apparently this last bit was important.
I was beginning to wonder if I was up to this saltwater fishing after all.
A good analogy is to image that you are fishing a damsel nymph on the move in a (very) large stillwater. That is exactly how I thought of it and that it didn't work at all on that first day, that no one caught fish, that Carl believes that he missed one take, that no one else believed him, that we fished all day and tried many different locations, that all the Danish women are blonde, that beer is ten times the price of anywhere else in the world and that I have never been so cold in my life; I do not hold against Lars.
Lars may have been responsible for some, if not all of the above, but Lars is also a Viking and as such you have to be careful with what you say.