by Stefan Alt
Anyone who has ever been to Bornholm knows what I‘m talking about when I say that the almost 600 km² large Danish island south of Sweden, is one of the most beautiful islands in the world – not only if you‘re a sea trout angler. The mostly sunny south with its endless, white sandy beaches, the dunes and an impressive steep coast has a Caribbean feel to it – the north, on the other hand, with its rugged rock walls, its coarse boulders along the shore and the gnarled woods maltreated by the winds, looks like a backdrop for Lord of the Rings.
In the east there are also smaller sandy beaches, but also rocky areas with smooth polished plateaus, where roaring waves sometimes crash. Sea trout migrate around the island all year round and those who don‘t want to fish will also find what they are looking for when collecting amber, mushrooms, fossils or flotsam depending on the season. The cheap and fast crossing from German island Rügen has made it even easier to reach the island since the beginning of the year. I love Bornholm, but whether Bornholm returns my love has yet to be found out again this year …
Bornholm Session 2019
The 14-day trip begins for publisher Hauke and myself with an invitation to #bornholmsession19 from our friend Gordon P. Henriksen – an event we‘ve wanted to attend for a long time. Every year in spring, during the best sea trout season, a bunch of good-humoured Danes meet on the island to fly fish for sea trout. Fun and love for fishing and a relaxed toge
therness take centre stage. People eat well, drink a lot of high percentage beverages and those who manage to get up after a few hours of sleep make their way to the coast to fish.
When we finally found our place to stay for the next 4 days, we can‘t help smiling. We find the cottage abandoned and not locked. With a cautious „Hello?“ we enter the wooden building, in front of which some wading boots, fly rods and line trays give a small hint of who lives here right now. It quickly becomes clear to us that it must have been boozy affair the night before, as there are tying vices and material everywhere, T-shirts on the floor, swimming trunks and various shoes framed by mountains of empty beer cans round off the picture. We’ve been booked into a holiday house like I have never seen before, despite my countless visits to Denmark.
This house leaves nothing to be desired: Huge open kitchen, big indoor pool with chillout area, sauna, billiard table, big screen TV, party room with dance floor and bar, table tennis table, three toilets, various bedrooms – nothing is missing if you want to go on holiday to Bornholm in a big group. We try to find a free bedroom and when we open one of the many doors, a sleepy but familiar face looks at us in surprise. It is none other than the famous sea trout filmmaker Niels Vestergaard, who is obviously catching up on some sleep. We’ll grant him that and move into our room that we found in the end.
A little later the first of the guys come back from fishing and gradually the house fills up. We meet old and new acquaintances, the official language is English and when the right vocabulary is missing, wild gestures are used. Gordon, who is still under
the influence of his recently finished trip to Mexico, serves tacos for dinner and assigns us some minor work helping in the kitchen – which is interrupted again and again because somebody gives us a drink again and again or a newly tied fly has to be examined. The evening is relatively quiet and after the dinner we enjoy Niels Vestergaard‘s new movie „Secrets of Sea Trout 8“, which he transfers directly from his laptop to the TV for the premiere. Although the film is shown without English subtitles (now available), the impressive pictures once again speak for themselves. If you think you‘ve seen everything about sea trout in parts 1 to 7, you‘ll be taught another lesson here, not least thanks to new recording techniques. A few drinks and good conversations later at 3 o‘clock it’s time to think about sleep …
The next morning many of our roommates already made their way to the water. While Hauke slips into his wading gear, I decide to concentrate on my journalistic part, taking photos and not fishing. It‘s already late and Gordon asked all participants of the Bornholm Session 2019 to come for a snack at the parking lot in the harbour of Snogebæk at 1 pm. Hauke fishing, I photograph and collect several baskets of first world waste as part of the #plasticinthebasket initiative. Around 70 participants can report sessions and fish are caught again and again, as we can see from the postings in the specially set up Facebook group or on Instagram. Unfortunately we are in the wrong place and I can‘t take a single shot of a fish caught. The meeting at the harbour becomes a reunion for us, because we got to know some of the participants at other events like the Fjordlandet Open and we’ve maintained a friendly relationship since. Gordon and the sponsors of the event make sure we lack of nothing. There’s a food truck offering every culinary delight the heart desires. There’s a theme running through the incredible selection of canapés – delights made of fish. Bornholm Aquavit and beer produced locally especially for the event by the brewery in Svaneke, make it difficult to pick up fishing or taking pictures again. There is a lot of laughter, even a TV-team is dropping by, but at some point everyone is back in the water again. Niels Lagergaard even catches a nice fish in front of my eyes, but because I‘m standing on the beach without waders, I don‘t get a picture of it either.
In the evening there is a party in our house to which all anglers are invited. Bjarke Borup, the hottest sea trout guide on the island, has already fired up his homemade barbecue in the courtyard of the house while inside, the bar is still getting busyly decorated and drinks are put on ice. Those who followed the dress code put on as colourful a shirt as possible, wear a flower necklace and after a short while we feel as if we are taking part in a bachelor party on Mallorca‘s party mile. Little by little the guests arrive and the mood rises as the table tennis tournament begins, which Hauke will win against Rasmus Ovesen some time later in the final. The top hits of the 80s, 90s and 2000s make the thin walls of the house vibrate and the atmosphere is fantastic. One of the highlights of the evening is the tying competition, which
takes place in three disciplines, among others with blindfolded eyes to great jubilation. It is a successful night all around and again we are happy when we finally fall into our beds drunk as a skunk at 5 o‘clock. The wobbling basses seem to take the walls of the house apart and the door will also get opened a few more times because someone still has a question or is looking for some Rizlas, but at some point we fall asleep. The next day brings the full extent of the nightly escapade to light. I‘m the first to wake up and when I get up all I can hear is the quiet whirring of the disco ball‘s motor. Some beer cans float in the pool, someone sleeps almost naked between pizza boxes covered with a Patagonia Primaloft jacket on the sofa and the fridge door is wide open. On the way to the coffee machine I stumble across a longboard and as I enter the courtyard I wonder where the box of broken eggs comes from.
Sometime during the day the even last party guest found his way to the water and the strong east wind and the stormy sea didn‘t make it easy to catch fish today. Again and again there are reports of sporadic catches, but the trout are either still coloured from spawning or are simply starved and therefore far too thin. The day concludes with a warm buffet at Svaneke Bryghus, where many of the participants will meet again. Small prizes are awarded to the biggest and smallest fish or the most beautiful dressed fly, and even I myself win something with a photo in a category I have never seen before. All in all, Bornholm Session 2019 leaves a more than lasting impression and I‘m already looking forward to 2020. The event is open to anyone who enjoys fly fishing and social evenings and I can only recommend taking part next year.
The two reasons why I didn‘t fish for four days have now arrived on the island and are called Mathias Kensa and Lüder Isenberg. While Hauke has to return to Hamburg, I have another 10 days of Bornholm in the company of my two friends ahead of me. We booked the house in advance that had been our home on the island many times in the past and after Hauke and I said goodbye to our Danish friends, we move accommodation and for the first time I start to take care of my equipment.
The fish are all coloured and I put them back, but the curse that haunted me for a long time has finally gone. The next days remain difficult and we cover endless kilometres on the island to find the right water. Most of the time we spend in the north of the island, where we fish mostly in offshore winds. Not ideal conditions, because the water on the shady side of the island is cold and much too clear. Nevertheless we catch some fish during the days and I am particularly happy about a 68er cock fish, which I can land in terrible conditions.
As always, the days pass much too quickly and by searching for perfect water we lose precious fishing time. However, we are quite relaxed and take the whole thing gentlemenly, because that‘s Bornholm. On the island you can experience some great sea trout sport, but you can also fall flat on your face. Everything depends on the weather in spring and I can remember snow-covered dunes and storms in May and naked swimmers and a sunburn in March when I think back to the past years. Because we have all been fishing for sea trout for a long time, the pressure is not so great anymore and we can enjoy the island without fishing. When circumstances make the trip to the water seem pointless, we harvest wild garlic, meet the friendly Schroeter family, who have lived on the island for years, or search the beaches for amber and driftwood, which the roaring sea could have washed up at night.
We spent a lot of time in our house, cooking, drinking, chatting and keeping an eye on the weather forecast. As soon as it fits, we hurried to our gear. It‘s a relaxing trip and that‘s not to be underestimated. At the end of the trip I caught nine fish and I am happy that Bornholm finally returned my love with its fish. We caught sea trout of all sizes, many coloured, some silvery and some cod found their way into our kitchen. But this time we didn‘t get the big bang one can expect from the island. Nobody can really predict how the fishing will turn out on the island, but if you look for a real chance for above average silver sea trout, then on Bornholm. I‘m already looking forward to spring 2020 like a little child one day before Christmas …
Who on the often difficult to fish island wants to minimize the risk of not catching any fish should contact Bjarke Borup. The nice Dane grew up on Bornholm and is considered to be the best guide on the island and does his best for the both fly- and spinfishermen to catch sea trout. His website is available in Danish, German and English.