This photo was taken in late October of this year during a short trip to Bavaria/Germany to take some shots for catalogs and possible cover stories. My son Leo is ten years now and got his first own fishing rod at the age of four. Since then he accompanies me on fishing trips, but also on my ichthyological fieldwork, so that he has meanwhile gained a good insight into fishing, but also into the ecological correlations at our waters.
Unfortunately, the weather showed its most unfavorable side while we tried to catch an impressive char from a crystal clear mountain lake (Förchensee). The Förchensee is a beautiful alpine lake from which the famous salmonid river Deutsche Traun originates and has a steady flow. Now, late in the season, it is incomparably difficult to outwit one of the shy fish in the lake. Throughout the year the char and trout have already seen all the patterns of flies and nymphs and react immediately by fleeing when they spot an angler from afar.
The bad weather, with heavy rain and gusts of wind, was on our side: due to the unsettled water surface, the fish had a hard time to spot us and we were able to stalk quite close to the fish, even though the conditions were difficult. We could not spot a char, however. After many hours of unsuccessful casting, Leo spotted an unusually large shadow of a fish not far from the shore of the lake. He stalked it carefully and presented a pretty large, flashy sedge as well as the strong wind would allow. The impressive fish, which we hadn’t yet classified as a brown trout at that time, rose in slow motion after the fly and actually took it on the first try. Afterward, everything went very fast: Leo was forced to get into the 34-degree cold water as the fish pulled the line from the reel in seconds and put up a fierce fight on the 3wt rod.
I supported him as best I could with the underwater housing, in which my DSLR was, in my hand. When we could finally land the fish, the joy was great about the fantastic male brown trout.
To my great surprise, the sky cleared up a little bit at the same time, so that I got at least some light for photography. Nevertheless, I was dependent on Iso 1250. This just for the photo geeks among you flyfisher women and men. I used a small amount of flash too, so I could emphasize the outlines of Leo to create a bit more sharpness – or at least the illusion of it.
Leo was brave, froze and shivered all over his body, ice-cold water had run into his waders and he could no longer move his hands. One advantage of the split shot is that it is probably the gentlest version of a fish photograph – as far as the fish is concerned – for the angler the cold can be damn exhausting. After the release of the exceptional fish, I packed Leo into the car as “God created him”, turned the ventilation to the warmest setting and the seat heating to “BBQ” so that he was able to enjoy his catch again after half an hour. Many folks did ask about the length of the fish, well I must say I rarely ever measure a fish when I caught it for personal pleasure. So we didn´t measure this one too. It was our intention to release it as quickly as possible without any bigger trouble for the fish.
Article and photo from Frank Steinmann, a freshwater ecologist, and photographer based in Germany, follow along with him at @franksteinmann.