Sea trout fishing (article
and photos by Ally Gowans)
|Sea trout fishing
Sea trout are the same species as resident
brown trout, (Salmo trutta). In rivers that have good spawning and juvenile
habitat, trout have learned that migrating to sea to feed on a rich diet
makes them grow large and strong. In freshwater during daylight
sea trout tend to be shy, spooky fish unless the river is high. Always
approach holding water with caution because once frightened it is very
unlikely that they will take a fly. The angler should attempt to blend
into the background by wearing inconspicuous clothes and using the cover
of the bank-side vegetation to the best advantage. Avoid being silhouetted
against the sky for that will ruin your chances.
Like salmon, sea trout prefer to enter rivers when the water is a suitable
height for them to run upstream and reach holding pools. There the trout
will gather in shoals, lying low during daylight and becoming active around
dusk and dawn. Often they continue their upstream migration during the
cover of darkness. If you want to catch them, the best times are when
the fish are active. Daytime sport is finest when the river is at a good
height for them running. Rising water is not good, the dirt seems to put
both salmon and sea trout off the take. Once the river level starts to
fall and the colour starts to clear, fly fishing conditions improve.
Let's examine fly tactics from when a spate begins to recede and continue
through the series of conditions that might occur and relevant tactics.
Imagine that rain has made the river high, fast and coloured. Sea trout
will be sheltering in quiet water. Look for them in the margins or in
seams of gentle current where they can rest. Perhaps behind a boulder,
or on the slack on the inside of a corner, or maybe in the slower water
of a pool tail. It is unlikely that trout will be lying in deep water
in these conditions, they have no need to hide in dark holes because predators
cannot see them.
The secret is to find where the trout are, select a fly that they will
see and present it to them at the correct depth and speed. Control the
depth and speed by choosing a suitable line sink rate. My choice is usually
a type 2 sinking line or a sink tip line. If the river is shallow a slow
sink or intermediate line is ideal. I don't use heavy flies for sea trout
fishing, preferring instead to use the line density to gain depth. I prefer
lightly dressed flies that will move freely in a lifelike manner.
It is possible to fish with a team of two or even three wet flies provided
that you are willing to accept the risk of tangles or getting hooked up
on a snag whilst playing a lively sea trout. The advantage of using more
than one fly is that you can give the fish a choice of size and pattern
and if conditions are changing, hedging your bets is a smart idea. I limit
myself to two flies on a three metre long leader in conjunction with a
rod of 9ft 6ins or 10ft. Single, double or treble hooked flies are can
be used. Sometimes I use a treble as a point fly with a double on the
dropper. I never use a tube fly or a treble on the dropper because they
tangle around the leader. Long shank single hooks are ideal for Muddler
Minnows or small lures.
It is essential that fish see the fly so in coloured water so it pays
to use showy patterns. In muddy water, I like silver-bodied flies. Especially
those with jungle cock cheeks. Alexandria, Teal Blue & Silver, Teal
& Silver, Executioner and Silver Stoats Tail are good choices. Sizes
can be larger than normal, up to #6 hook or a slim bodied tube fly up
35mm long armed with a small treble. In spate conditions the flies can
be fished slowly, in fact it is sometimes difficult to slow them down
enough due to the fast current so the cast can be made at a fairly acute
downstream angle and be allowed to settle into the slower water beneath
When the water starts to clear, the size of flies can be reduced to #10
or #12 and they need not be so flashy, particularly during daylight. If
the water is peaty flies with orange and gold in their dressing are best.
My favourites are Dunkeld, Hairwing Wickhams Fancy and a slim orange &
black hairwing tube fly (tied in quarters) with a gold body.
Any of the above flies in smaller sizes are suitable for fishing in low,
clear water. However if the trout have been in the river for a time they
can become quite picky and subtle imitations may be required to entice
them. Patterns such as Greenwells Glory, Invicta, Silver Invicta, Dark
Mackerel, Grey Monkey and Mallard & Claret are good choices.
|Fresh run sea trout
Tiny tube flies with minute trebles can be deadly but you
have to accept that with hooks #18 or the like, the trout will often shake
itself free. Coloured trout, having been in fresh water for a time have
tougher mouths and less fighting energy so there is more chance of landing
them. Tubes can be tied on small diameter polythene tube so short that
there is no room for a body. The fly consists merely of a little hair
around the tube. Again the black & orange colour combination is good
as is black & blue and all black. If the fly is long enough to have
a body, black floss with a silver rib is as good as any. If I had to choose
only one clear water tube pattern for the rivers I fish (which are peaty
in nature) it would have black and orange wings with a body of black floss
(front two thirds) and yellow floss (rear one third) and a silver rib.
For many anglers the quintessence of sea trout is night fishing. Some
planning is essential however. Safety depends on seeing the pools in daylight,
figuring out where the trout will be concentrated and where it is safe
to wade. Look around for overhanging bushes that will reach out and grab
your flies in the dark and trees that will devour your back cast. Choose
pools that suffer little disturbance during daylight. Sea trout that have
are settled are much more willing to rise to the fly than those that have
been harried during the day.
At night keep your casting simple and reasonably short, throw open loops
that prevent tangles especially if you have two flies on the leader. Roll
casting and Spey casting are great methods because they eliminate the
need for high back casts that risk loosing flies up trees. Always arrive
an hour before sundown and sit quietly by the river observing. Mark the
locations of fish that are rising and decide what flies and techniques
you are going to use. Put up your rod complete with leader and fly or
flies attached. Then if you have not already prepared spare leaders and
flies, do it now. I use leader sink compound to ensure that the leader
and flies sink immediately I start fishing. This avoids surface disturbance
on glassy tail outs, which is likely to spook the trout.
Shining a torch onto the water will frighten every fish within sight.
Shield its glare from the river and always go ashore quietly if you need
to use the torch. Test your torch. I like to take a spare one just in
case a bulb fails. My torch is attached to my jacket by a piece of old
fly line to prevent it getting lost. My scissors and hook hone are similarly
attached to me.
In many cases there is no need to wade deeply at night. Confident with
the cover of darkness the trout will often swim into water only inches
deep where they can be taken with a softly presented fly. Move carefully
and slowly making as little disturbance and noise as possible on the gravel
and beware of tripping over stones, slipping or loosing balance. Cast
quietly and work your flies through the glides, sooner or later that heart
stopping solid thump of a lively sea trout will come and you'll be glad
that you prepared well.