Hi Frank finally we have one of our favourite photo ninja’s on Spineri … As I remember you have promised to be naked for this interview, are you naked right now?
Hello Robert and Goran. Well, as a matter of fact I will literally drop my pants for you guys here, but the rest of your dear readership might not be so off within “special interest”, so we leave it that virtual way and limit stripping just for the cause of fly fishing this time (and remember Goran and you still owe me 50 bucks for the used underwear you ordered last week).
So man, you like to dive in your frozen rivers and make great images, what drives you to cover these rivers and to go again and again under the surface?
As a photographer you have to keep on moving and in motion. Somehow I am slightly fed up with all sorts of images being confronted with when entering my favourite fishing websites or the classic time killers Facebook and Instagram. Everything has been shot already and spoiled too. So I took the chance to go someplace not everyone might be able to and also have the great opportunity to meet the fish I normally prey on from the shore in their natural habitat.
Not hooked, or dragged, not being held by a posing fisherman, not grasping for air in a landing net or rolling it’s eyes skywards. And once you swam in between hundreds of migrating sneep, schools of roaches, stare into the eyes of a large pike, you won’t forget this experience and want more. Winter time is great for river diving as many fish gather in special places to seek shelter from the cold and predators, so you can find many different species cuddled together. The cold is the last you sense in this case, I forget about it as soon as I enter the sublevel of our fishing department.
For people who want to start underwater photography, word of advice… Are cheap underwater housings OK, or should they go pro?
As for any recommendation concerning the acquisition of accessory I say: Buying cheap will make you buy twice! So save your money and go for the real thing. At least when intend to participate into professional photography. Nowadays compact cameras and even smartphones are waterproof and the classic GoPro is being used to caption underwater footage. But in the end of the day nothing beats the quality of a high end DSLR into a fitting housing!
Do you prefer to fly fish?
Today I do, tomorrow I won’t. It totally depends on my mood and the way I want to experience my fishing trip! Nothing beats the run of a large barbel on a 3 weight fly rod. Rising brown trout on a march brown are a delight. I enjoy pike fishing with a huge streamer and the direct contact on the fly rod when playing a 45 incher in the rapids of my river. But there is a time when I just feel like casting lures and swimbaits that way like 300 grams. Brutal and clean jerkbait fishing. Ultralight equipment for perch fishing is great too. So it really depends on the mood I am in. At the moment we speak, fly fishing becomes popular more and more. Many ex-spinfishers become puristic fly fishermen and –women and condemn their once lived spinfishing attitude. Flyfishing is being sold as sustainable, clean, pure and sexy. Well, that might be true somehow, but we must take care that spinfishing doesn’t get the raw deal in the end! Done properly and with barbless trebles or single hooks e.g., it is still a very delightful way to catch good fish too! It´s not barbaric or clumsy! I swing both ways and I love it! I really don’t feel comfy with those “fly only elites”, still we all wade in fishes piss ;-)
You know I always thought that fly fishing connects you more with nature than lure fishing… And that fly fishing attracts people who have deeper connection with stuff around them and aesthetics… I think that this is why fly fishing has more good photographers than spinning fisherman. What do you think about that?
This is a very good question; I think a scientific review might be worth being written about this theme! You may want to include social scientists, psychiatrists, statisticians and more folks that might end up defining the profile of both types: Lure- and fly fishermen/women. As for the moment I lack of a great fishing related -pro- photographer that does lure fishing only, indeed a delicate matter! The personal perception of nature has in my opinion nothing to do with the way you choose your fishing style. But maybe endurance, patience and humbleness is something that costs you time, time you need for matching a fly pattern, time for choosing the right cast style and in the end the cast itself: It takes time until your fly or nymph reaches its destination.
And maybe this is a personal issue, a question of “your nature”, when you’re in for the rush and baitcast like there is no tomorrow, you don’t find the time to inhale the breath that is necessary when following a hatching mayfly. So you got an ADHD diagnosis you might want to go for high frequent bait casting to find peace. And as flyfishing once was a economic-privileged hobby, maybe the acquisition of high end camera equipment was too. Times change, photography became mainstream so cheap fly fishing gear is amongst us, we will see, what changes may come.
So… What is your favourite species of fish that you like to target?
Honestly I can’t say. It´s depending on my mood again. As my roots are based in Germany and all my patriotic energy maybe focussed on river fishing her, of course I love pike fishing. Pike strike with brute force, you can sight fish for them and nothing beats the run of a big pike in a fast running stream over here. Of course the brown trout and its exquisite possibilities to stalk upon are something I won’t miss over here when spring finally arrived. I love the Danube Salmon and its hidden way of life. I don´t like the safari for this species that goes on in several streams of beautiful Slovenia. Put and take like character the fishing has become. The fish is a trophy and stocked into rivers that normally won’t inhabit those large fish. So the chance to catch a real residential and wild “Hucho” is an effort I love. Of course there is tropic saltwater fishing: Hot blooded fierce fighters like GT or Tuna – so many species left to target at and catch. I can’t tell where to start. But as I mentioned: My heart belongs to the pike.
Do you have days when you just want to catch bigger ones?
Yes, of course. The hunt for your personal best may become very obsessive and one has to take care not to fall for it! Especially the social media response towards trophy fish makes us fight harder to catch a big one just for the likes. So the most intense experience of fishing might be the trip without camera gear or smartphone!
In the end I think it is good to set yourself a goal but it should be because of you and not the public eye. But speaking about camera gear and smartphone how often do you really go fishing without those?
Honest answer or a made up one? Ok, truly I try never to use my smartphone when going fishing. I like to have a shot the way I create an image in my mind before I pull the trigger. The range and variety of lenses I carry lets me adapt to this imaginary image. With a smartphone I rarely can do that, nor can I reach the quality of a full frame image. Snapshots ok, but then I prefer to keep an image of the scenery in mind and do not try to capture it with a phone to have it stored away in an utterly cacophony of cloud images. My DSLR I carry when I know the light situation might be worth it or when I expect to catch a nice fish. I don´t go out any more promising myself “I am going to take pictures”. This ends up in compulsive shooting of … nothing worth it! So when I really want to focus on fishing and try to adapt to nature in an independent way I carry one rod, maximum 3 lures or streamers/flys and no camera. Happens 5 out of ten times I must admit.
You have beautiful trout waters near you… What is the size of the biggest brown trout you saw there or catch?
The largest brown trout I ever saw was when diving in winter. It must have been way over 80 cm (31 inches) and was gigantic, It hid between plenty of white fish and was surely a pulse quickener. I caught one with nearly that size once, but it was an exceptional fish. A residential brown trout, not a stocked specimen.
Good photo or good fish… Do you prefer one over the other?
There can be only one discipline worked out correct: Whether you fish or you take pictures! Doing both at the same time often ends in chaos: You fight a fish and already start to think about the shutter speed and the light situation. You lose concentration of course and might lose the fish too. When I’m on my own and expect a big fish to be landed, I setup all my gear before I fish. This means tripod, remote trigger, external flash etc. So I can guarantee the time until the fish can be released is very short! But in the end it is more relaxing if I go out and document a buddy while he is fishing, I have all the time and focus I need for a perfect shot. No preference – there is time to fish and time to shoot.
I saw that on some of the photos you share you like to talk about preservation… Is that one of biggest reasons why you push yourself in photography?
I studied Geography, Botanics and Zoology with a focus on fish-ecology and freshwater biology. So conservation is an obsession of mine that comes from my love towards fish. Plain simple, I adore fish! Any kind from Guppy to whale shark. As a matter of fact I started underwater photography in freshwater, to charge off a bit of the money invested in my camera gear, but as a photographer yourself, you know the deal with selling pictures. But in the end it is more of an outcome to sell a rare fish that is in its natural habitat, not hooked, on a picture to a governmental conservation institution, than the hooked big pike to a print magazine. So I do conservation without my camera, when working on my local rivers and I feel happy when I can document it with my camera, make other happy and even sell a photo from time to time.
As a person who studied fish-ecology and freshwater biology and as a passionate pike angler, I have one question for you, really it is THE myth I would like to clear. Here in CRO it is a very popular myth that pike loses its teeth during spawning period. To me this doesn’t make any sense… But, people believe in this and off course they have their own fishing experience which in science world is lowest evidence possible What is your opinion on this, do you know any study that confirms this… Is this true of false?
Well I lack of scientific proof concerning that rumour! In fact female pike tend to grow larger than males and during spawning season they will develop a certain feeding-constraint which will keep the smaller males from being fed on. Truly pike can lose their maxilla and mandible teeth (you might want to call them fang), they can regrow them and often many teeth are being hidden beneath a skin septum that covers the mandible. So it may appear that especially large pike might look like they are toothless, which is not the case. The hackle teeth that cover the throat and pharynx are not replaceable and they cannot loose them. So after the spawning period you often catch pike with serious injuries and bite-marks. This happens when male pike having their territorial fights or tend to fight for females. This may prove the fact that they don’t lose their teeth.
Do you think that global changes of temperatures will affect trout and cold water species in a bad way?
Of course it will and it already happens! There are serious papers afloat that deal with climate change and the decline of fish populations! It’s not only the warming of the water that will be bad for especially salmonid populations worldwide but it is also the increase of flooding that has an impact on spawning grounds for these fish.
So during summer we will have higher temperatures leading to drought and lacking of water. The consequences will be a decrease in oxygen concentration, boosted growth of submerse vegetation, increase of aggradations, sewage discharges won’t be diluted enough this together with the drying up of wetlands might end up with an extreme nitrogen-mobilization. During winter we will experience an increase of flooding. These will end up with the rivers eroding deeper and oxbows and ewes will be separated from the original river.
And as mentioned above the drift of mud and other particles might lead to further colmation of the interstitial. So some species like carp, roach and other ubiquity fishes – even invasive species – might be the winners of this process. On the other hand we might lose certain populations of especially salmonids like brown trout, grayling and also the salmon.
Do you have problem with overpopulation with carp and grass carp in German lakes?
During the 80´s it was very common to put grasscarp in lakes and ponds with lush submerse vegetation. Anglers tried to get rid of plants to have better fishing conditions. Depending on the type of waterbody this was a big mistake. Plants will manifest all nutritions in their metabolism, so the nitrogen for example is fixed in the submersed vegetation. Algea blooming is reduced that way and some species like tench and rudd but also carp and pike rely on plants for spawning aid. In fact I wrote my diploma thesis about these photophilic species. So what happened is the grass carp fed on the plants and released a load of half-digested plants and a huge amount of nutrition into the water.
Nothing gained. Lake becomes eutrophic, you get algae bloom and loose the underwater vegetation witch normally bonds nutriotions and keeps them “locked”. It’s same with normal carp when there are too many. This is why putting in any carp in waterbody is a risk. This is a classic example of mankind and its interpretation of “natural correlation”. Luckily our winters were too cold for the thermophile members of the grasscarp, amur carp and silver carp. They would not spawn. Nowadays we still have them in stocked lakes but we rarely find them in rivers or streams. As for the standard carp: Carp fishing is very popular in Germany and like fishing for predators, it is a serious economic business for the fishing industry. Carp are being stocked big time and the boilie-fraction keeps a jealous watch over the strict catch and release practicability. Overpopulation we don´t have with carp, the management of stocking often works in a very balanced way and again the long and cold winter period in Germany limits the growth of fish and its populations too.
You know we would really like to visit you and your place, I really hope there will be time to do this in near future. We like you’re pike waters very much! If we were to come where would you take us?
So, my home water the river Lahn holds some pleasant surprises when it comes to fierce river pike. Strong fighters. Not that fat like the pike that feed on whitefish in the big lakes we have. But more of an agile type and when you hook a fish like 1,10m plus and it runs into the rapids here, you are going to have a fun time! There is also a large water reservoir lake in my hood “Edersee” it is called. And I dare to say it is one of the best lakes for big perch in my country. Loads of 50 plus fish in there. Not easy to find, but possible to catch. For you ultra-light fishing fanatics it might be paradise!
This place sounds very interesting… Is ultra light fishing popular in Germany?
Yes it is! Since the global market of fishing tackle is opened 24/7 and the acquisition of high-end tackle from Japan or the US has influenced our fishing style so much, the wind of change has arrived. Mepps and Co became uncool and out of fashion as the soft plastics begun to boom. Cheap lures by the dozen, funky names, colours and the option to carry a wide range of light lures led to boxes filled with ultra-light tackle. Wacky, Neko-rig, Rockfishing – you name it. Also the ultra-light trout fishing is quite hip and fishing with Japanese hardbaits or spoons might be a delight as you know for yourself.
Also streetfishing is quite popular, this event often comes with ul-gear. I do it from time to time, but when I end up catching perch around 8 cm and start to remember how much fun it was to get these with a float and three maggots when I was a kid, I wonder if all the Japanese high end gear is justified for a discipline like that. And catching trophy fish on ul-gear is a matter of your own ethics: Fighting a large fish until it is totally exhausted can´t be your goal.
So well it might be a flavour of the month thing, at the moment many young anglers here discover the light fy fishing and do catch too, so a shifting of interest might be happening again.
We also hope that you will come to Croatia again, and if you come, is there something that you would like to catch here in CRO?
Maybe one of your beautiful Croatian ladies? I have to talk about this subject with my girlfriend, but at least I might dream of it right? The saltwater fishing is something I would like to do with the fly rod! Bluefin or Amberjack if possible would be a nice and exciting fishing.
That bass you caught last time was a surprise for guys from Karlovac and Goran too. They have told me that you threw some super noisy lure that they would never cast :)… Was that your last try or knowledge? :D
It was so hot that day! We all were like melting. And it was by far the most stupid thing to start fishing in noon, at the highest temperatures…So we were sweating like hell, were exhausted and didn’t catch anything until dawn. I tried topwater lures, frogs, soft plastics and even the fly rod: No bass! So just when thinking about quitting the fishing, I saw those two big bass lounging around close to the surface. Then I said to myself: Now it’s time for the most ugly lure that earned no chance until today and didn’t earn any trust so far: It was a Deps Buzzjet jr. in some strange Japanese tree frog pattern….I never fished it before. So one cast and the bass gulped it down right away. Not a second of time wasted. It was hooked properly and then the shit hit the fan: I mean your dear readers know about the waste problem concerning the waters we fished in? Stupid people dumped all sorts of trash in it and just when I tried to land the bass I hooked into a pair of used pantyhose! These were soaked with water of course and together with the furious bass too much for my rod…. The tights got stuck in a branch and the bass shook loose the hook. Luckily it was exhausted and lay flat in the shallows so I jumped in and could grab it. Well the pantyhose still was attached to the buzzjet… Nasty stuff! But today I wear these with pride!
And just one last question…
Smoking salmon of smoking weed?
I mean I am 44 by now, I had my days of fun and reckless lifestyle. With the family there comes responsibility. But from time to time a good smoke before a good meal might come in handy.
Frank, we hope that you will visit us on our page more and in CRO… Really happy and honoured that you made some time to be here with us ;)
I am looking forward too, I love you’re country and I got some deep connection with Croatia as many of my childhood friends here in Germany were Croats and I always love the culture that was being lived in their places and homes! So the honour is on my side that you guys took some time to host me! And I sure will be back at least to show Goran that there are bigger bass in that swamp hole!