The fascination of fishing

Angling in the Black Forest with Michael Wickert

Fish expert Michael Wickert is a person who appreciates the Black Forest as much as we do. We met him in St. Märgen in the Black Forest highlands and went angling with him, just a stone's throw from the idyllic Hotel Hirschen. What follows is an interview in inspiring surroundings about the fascination of fishing and the joys of smoking and grilling.


We wanted to find out what makes fishing so appealing. For that reason, we met up with Michael Wickert, who knows a great deal about fish. As a fisheries scientist and master smoker, he runs the Glut & Späne smokehouse in Freiamt in the Black Forest. What does he do on a normal day? “Smoke fish, pickle fish, salt fish as well as go out and catch fish at the lake for fun,” laughs Michael as we walk together to the water. We are curious to see how he catches his fish. What’s important to take along: Michael's fishing rods, various baits and lures, landing net and, of course, his knives. "As an angler, you always need several knives with you, so that you are able to cut everything – from trimming lines to gutting the fish." It is important for Michael to have tools that fit well in his hand: "For angling, I like to have fishing rods with a cork handle, but for knives I prefer a wooden handle."



One particular knife is especially close to Michael's heart: his fishing knife. It has accompanied him for almost 30 years wherever he went fishing, and of course today as well. "This knife is dear to me. It's a real friend," Michael says with a smile as he shows us his filleting knife. It is razor-sharp, because a sharp edge is a must for Michael. “Sharpness is really important to me, at work of course, but also in my leisure time. If my knife isn’t sharp, it gives me a bad mood!” It therefore comes as no surprise that sharpening is routine for Michael. "As I work with knives all the time, I sharpen them almost every day," explains Michael. It is well-known among his friends and family that he always has sharp knives. "I just love the sharpening process and with a , there’s a certain rhythm to it. It’s like meditation, it allows me to focus and puts me at ease. I reckon anyone who has once worked with a HORL sharpener will do it again and again."


When we get to the lake, Michael looks for a perfect spot to fish. We walk along the shore together. It is a cold morning and the water is still largely shaded by the trees of the neighbouring Black Forest. The fish expert explains that in cold weather, trout like to stay where the sun warms the water a little. And sure enough: "There's one jumping!" exclaims Michael pointing to the middle of the lake, where we can just see something flashing.

He decides to use a small rubber lure, which he casts out to the spot in the middle of the lake. In the water, the lure appears to be a small fish, which trout also feed on as well as insects. And indeed, after only a short time he lands a rainbow trout. Michael detaches the hook with a pair of fishing pliers before stunning the fish with two quick blows to the head and killing it with a well-aimed stab to the heart.

In addition to spin fishing with a rubber fish or what’s known as a spoon as bait, float fishing is also suitable for catching trout, Michael explains to us. To demonstrate this, he chooses a sunny section, not far from the outlet of the lake. "The trout actually like to idle around the inlet, but it's in the reeds and it is muddy there, which the trout don't like," explains Michael, who has managed trout farms for several years. "Or they hang about the outlet, because that's where food drifts towards them." This time he uses an earthworm as bait. Worms often end up in water bodies and they also serve as food for trout. Michael gets into the pond with his waders and casts with his fishing rod. It doesn't take long before he lands another trout.


By noon Michael has caught six trout and we decide to return to the Hotel Hirschen. In the hotel garden, Michael digs a small hole and devotes himself to his second great passion besides fishing: smoking. "You have heat, you have smoke, it makes the fish look good and taste great with a super consistency," Michael enthuses as he gets the fire started with some twigs in the pit. He places a grill over the smoke with two of the gutted and briefly salted trout. "Freshly caught fish with herbs, smoked over silver fir and spruce chips from the Black Forest – that's a great combination.”


We make our way to the barbecue place with the remaining trout. Here we meet grill master Peter Amann and Johannes Fuchs, hunter and cook at the romantic Hotel Spielweg. The two are preparing tomahawk steaks and wild boar fillets by the fire, while Michael fillets two of the fish with precise cuts. Seasoned with salt and herbs, the fillets then end up on the grill plate, while the remaining two trout are smoked. You have to be patient, Michael advises: "You should take your time when grilling fish, don't be in too much of a hurry. But then the fish should be eaten immediately while hot. We listen to his advice and are thrilled with the result: it tastes wonderful!


Michael obviously feels good by the fire. "I think barbecuing is great," he explains. "I like smoking, but on my own, whereas grilling is a community thing. Everyone does a little bit and then we sit down and eat together, that's the best part." And what is the best thing about fishing? "The peace and quiet, getting away from it all, switching off," Michael smiles. "Everyone does that their own way, of course, but for me it’s when I have a rod in my hand."



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