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Sea Trout Fishing Tactics

The approach to river night fishing for sea trout


On warm nights, sea trout will generally be more active and may be taken on flies fished near the surface. Most of my night fishing, even when fishing late into the night, is done using a floating line but I am normally fishing relatively shallow water. I like to fish in places where the current speeds up. This may be towards the shallowing pool tail but often simply where the river narrows or shallows, increasing the flow. This quickening of the current helps in fishing our flies and the sea trout seem to like faster, shallower streams on mild nights. I like to concentrate particularly on the smoother streams, not the rough, turbulent water you might find at the heads of the pools. Once it is truly dark, I will seek out those smoother glides, sometimes little more than a foot deep, yet with sufficient strength of current to swing a fly round without the need for much, if any, hand-lining. When temperatures remain low, or drop later in the night, sea trout become less active, and may retreat to the deeper parts of the pools, where it may be necessary to switch to sinking lines and possibly larger flies. We say then that the sea trout have "gone down" for the night, a term which describes the settling of sea trout in deeper water following an active period early in the night.

How to Catch a Sea Trout


River Spey

Sea Trout Needle Flies

A nice pool tail on the Spey

Sea Trout Needle Flies

On a typical summer night, if there is such a thing in sea trout fishing, the sea trout will be at their most active, and most likely to take a fly, during the first hour or two of darkness. Fish may be seen and heard moving around the pools, perhaps jumping clear of the water or making bow waves as they swim in the shallow water of the pool tails. They seem suddenly to have woken from their daytime slumbers, to revel in the safety and security of the dark. When at sea, this would have been a peak feeding time, searching out shrimps or sand eels with the ebb and flow of the tides. Now back in the river, although they have no need of food, the habit persists. Their guard down, this is when the sea trout are most likely to take a well fished fly. This period of gay abandon can last an hour or, if we are very lucky, it may continue well into the night. Much depends on air temperature. If there is good cloud cover and the night remains warm, the period of activity will generally last longer. I am always happy to hear the weather man forecast night temperatures to drop no lower than 11 degrees. At some point, though, things will usually go quiet. Suddenly, the sea trout will seem to have gone, the river lifeless. They have not gone, though, they have simply "gone down", settled comfortably in the deeper parts of the pools, where they are less vulnerable, harder to reach. They might still be caught but we will have to work a bit harder to tempt them than we did earlier. We may now have to fish our flies more deeply, perhaps more slowly, in the deeper pools. Such places are not so easily fished as the faster, shallower streams but might, on occasion, produce the best fish of the night.


Border Esk Sea Trout

Mill Stream, Border Esk

A nice brace from the Border Esk

Mill Stream, Border Esk

The secret, then, if there is one, in sea trout fishing, is in being in the right place at the right time. It is more than half the equation. Now, leaving aside the obvious .... that, more often than not, the essential requirement in putting you in the right place at the right time is a healthy bank balance or a well placed acquaintance ... a nocturnal encounter with a willing sea trout is not simply a matter of chance. Nor is such an encounter likely to occur in any old pool on your chosen river. Reliable taking places are sometimes few and far between and not always easily identified. Without the benefit of local advice, it may take many happy seasons of nocturnal exploration to find the best spots, and even then they may vary with the height of the river, time of night or time of the season. Indeed, I would suggest that the greatest skill a sea trout fisher can hope to acquire is the ability to recognise potential taking places on a stretch of river, especially an unfamiliar one. By comparison, tackle selection is a trivial matter. Even the choice of fly is relatively unimportant. Such a skill, of course, is not an easy one to acquire. Even with a rich memory bank of past experience, many are the mistakes we are destined to make along the way in choosing a likely night cast for a sea trout.


Spey Sea Trout

Sea Trout water on the Towy

A brace of Spey Sea Trout

To give an example of my own ineptitude in this department, in my first season on the Crieff Angling Club water on the River Earn, I concentrated my efforts on a relatively short stretch of what I considered an eminently fishy looking bit of water. One long tree lined pool, in particular, just below Templemill, attracted my attention, and I fished it hard for a month or two. I don't think I even saw a fish in that pool, let alone hook one, all season..... single minded determination?.... or just thrawn stupidity? More recently, on the Spey, on exploring a new section of river, I came upon the most perfect looking piece of sea trout water, near the upper limit of the Grantown Association water. I wondered why I had not discovered it before but resolved to rectify my omission that very night. I arrived early, in great anticipation, and was amazed to have a whole quarter mile of perfect sea trout water to myself, the jewel of which was a pool of maybe a hundred yards in length, with fast water at the head running at a depth of about five or six feet down the far bank, an easy cast of twenty yards with the line swinging round in a straight line at perfect pace all the way to the tail of the pool, with the bonus of easy wading over shallow gravel down the left bank..... not something you expect on association water. I fished carefully down the whole length and saw only one small sea trout jump in the tail of the pool.... the pool seemed empty. In conversation with an experienced visitor to the river, I later found that this pool rarely produces sea trout. Yet, just a few hundred yards above, on the Abernethy Association water, lie some of the most productive sea trout pools on the river (see recent favourite pool article "The Nethy Pool" in Trout & Salmon magazine). I have learned, usually the hard way, that not all pools are as productive as they might look. Location is just about everything in sea trout fishing. Give me any old fly..... a bit of black hair tied roughly to a hook ..... and the ability to read a sea trout river...... and I'll be a happy man!


British Angling Associations


Angling Associations






Sea Trout Medicine Flies

Medicine Chest


River Annan

The River Annan at Hoddom Castle


Grays Needle Tube Fly

Sea Trout Needle Tube Fly






sea trout fishing