TACKLING UP FOR SEA TROUT; A SEA TROUT VIRGIN'S GUIDE
I love the challenges you can set yourself in the fishing world. You can stick to one species and even engrain yourself with one style on one, e.g. dry fly only for brown trout. HOWEVER, you miss out on a whole world of fun with such a myopic outlook. Over the years, I have understood how broadening your horizon and adapting to conditions and seasons can equate to better success and understanding of the sport. As a result, I now tend to bounce between species a lot more but also set myself intermittent challenges, whether with new species or a new style.
I would implore you to do the same, even if you have zero understanding of a species or have historically viewed a particular species with disdain. Try it, if you don’t like it, then don’t do it again. However, try it before being disparaging; at least then you will be disparaging with a personal experience and understanding. Here’s one for you to try for this season, especially if you have been fishing for a few years and want to spice things up a little; nighttime sea trout fishing.
This is probably as exhilarating and obscure as it gets. Fly fishing at night for a fish that (largely) doesn’t feed … However, the tug is most certainly the drug in this instance, and the tug of a sea trout in the depths of the night is a drug-like no other. It will leave you craving more, and you will soon develop a vampire-esque complexion and sleeping habits.
Where to start?
A myriad of rivers scattered across the UK hold a significant run of sea trout. Notably, rivers such as the Spey, Annan, Till, Wear, Lune, Teifi, Towy, Dovey and Fowey — to name but a few. As the sea trout are migratory, the run times can vary between rivers, so you should seek local knowledge. However, as a rule, July and August are the two prime months – especially if you’re a beginner, as that’s when the bigger shoals of smaller sea trout appear. These, as a rule, are plentiful and more obliging than their larger brethren.
Let’s talk about tackle.
Night fishing can be complicated enough. As such, don’t overcomplicate your tackle and approach. Keeping things simple is imperative. I have guided on my home rivers for around 27 years now, so I can state with some authority that the main issue I have to sort when anglers turn up is that they have poorly balanced outfits.
Rod length and line weight can vary between rivers. However, as a rule, a 10ft #7 rod will cover the vast majority. The added bonus is that you may already have such a rod for Stillwater fishing. However, be wary of the action. You absolutely do not want a stiff fast-action fly rod. The last thing you want at night is tight loops, and the stiff blank is more likely to rip the hook hold on fresh run fish. Fast action rods are also not great for waterborne spey casts, which are often called for on the river, especially in tight casting conditions.
A medium / medium-fast action rod is perfect—for example, something like the Sage Sonic, which ticks all these boxes.
On the reel front, look at this more for line storage than something needing a bus-stopping drag system. The drag needs to be smooth, and that is imperative. I like the new Sage Arbor Xl reel for my sea trout fishing, as it allows me to quickly get the line back on the spool if a fish takes close to the rod tip in the dark.
Your line choice is critical. This is where the balance comes into play. You need a short head, fast-loading line. Your standard lake/reservoir line with a long belly etc. will make your life difficult when the light is switched off, especially when you start using larger flies. You either want to overload by a line weight on a traditional tapered line or, preferably, opt for a line designed for casting larger flies and loading quickly under shorter distances. Stick with a floating line to start with, which will cover most eventualities. Lines such as Rio’s Rio Grand or Single Hand Spey are worth looking at. Best of all, and as always, try before you buy whenever you can.
You then need some tips to enable different depths to be explored. Look at lengths of 10ft max, and make sure they’re of a salmon breaking strain rather than trout, which may have insufficient core strength. The Rio Spey VersiLeaders in 6ft are a good starting point. Carry an intermediate and Type-5. These will cover most eventualities.
This covers your main kit, without getting into details about flies, leaders, and essentials such as a good headtorch, etc. which will be the focus of the next article.
I hope the above whets the appetite and presents a new challenge to set yourself for the season ahead. For those looking for a complete and detailed overview, please check out my book ‘Sea Trout Tips, Tricks & Tribulations’.