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Where to Fish

Sea Trout Fishing in the British Isles


So where should we start? The first thing to note is that not all rivers in the British Isles are good sea trout rivers. We might begin by asking, then, "What makes a good sea trout river?"

This question may be taken in two ways. Does it relate to a river's suitability as a sea trout producing river or as a sea trout fishing river? Naturally, to be a good sea trout river, in any sense, a river must have the capacity to produce a good stock of sea trout but not all sea trout producing rivers make good sea trout fishing rivers.

Looking first at the characteristics likely to produce sea trout, I would think that the best sea trout rivers would meet the following criteria:

  • They would be free of any major obstacles to allow the easy passage of returning sea trout. This would include barriers, nets, estuary pollution, predators, anglers etc.
  • They would have an abundance of accessible spawning and nursery streams with suitable spawning gravel and clean water. Although likely to be acidic and lacking in trout food, they would have a steady supply of clean, unpolluted water but not prone to excessive winter flooding. It would be preferable if the spawning conditions were less suited to salmon so that the trout/sea trout would face less competition for space on the spawning and nursery streams.
  • They would be relatively free from predators e.g. sawbill ducks, mink, eels etc.
  • They would likely be fairly acidic, barren waters, but with an extensive system of nursery streams, able to sustain a large number of juvenile trout but unable to support a similarly large stock of good sized brown trout, thus providing an incentive for the majority of young fish, particularly the females, to run to sea in order to find food.
  •  The sea trout smolts would have a free, unhindered passage on their seaward migration, with a minimum of predation, pollution and obstruction. There should be no salmon farms within a hundred miles of the river mouth.
  • There should be rich marine feeding in the vicinity of the river mouth with a minimum of exploitation of the sea trout's prey species, in particular there should be no netting of sandeels.

For a light-hearted take on what makes a sea trout, see Should I Stay?

River Earn

River Cothi

The River Earn at Templemill, Crieff A pool on the River Cothi, Wales

As to what makes a river a good sea trout fishing river, that is perhaps more difficult to define. In addition to the above qualities, I like a river with the following characteristics:

  • It should be generally accessible to all and reasonably priced.
  • It should be well managed, maintained and policed, preferably by well qualified keepers.
  •  It should have a good number of deep holding pools, throughout its length, with plenty of tree cover, not so much for fishing but to provide sanctuary for the sea trout, particularly during daylight hours.
  •  Even at summer low levels, it would have some streamy water suitable for fly fishing - not rough water but with enough flow to fish a fly without the need for hand-lining. This streamy water may be quite shallow, even a foot of water can hold fish at night. This streamy water would ideally lie near some deeper holding water.
  • The river would flow through a series of "pools" over a varied bed, with a mix of large stones, shingle and gravel. The pools should have good tree cover.
  • The river would not be subject to flash floods, all too common nowadays with the afforestation of the upper catchments of many rivers. It would clear reasonably quickly after summer spates and would have a minimum of weed growth of the kind now common in rivers where an excess of agricultural fertiliser leaches into the river.
  • Ideally, the river should have an entirely natural flow, with no man-made obstructions, no hydro-electric schemes and no water abstraction of any kind.

Few, if any, rivers are likely to meet all of the above criteria but there are many rivers throughout the British Isles which meet enough of them to qualify as good sea trout fishing rivers. So where are they?

Sea Trout Fishing in England

In England, there are many excellent sea trout rivers. The South West, in particular, has its share, the most productive being the Teign, Fowey, Taw, Camel, Dart, Tamar, Tavy, Avon (Devon), Axe and Lynher. In the North West, the Lune, Ribble, Hodder, Kent, Cumbrian Esk and Ehen are worthy of mention and, historically the most productive of all, the Border Esk, although most of its sea trout fishing lies in Scotland. The North East can boast of several excellent, and, against the general run of things, improving sea trout rivers, for example the Tyne and Wear, with the Coquet and Yorkshire Esk having smaller, but worthwhile, runs.

Sea Trout Fishing in Wales

Next we come to Wales, where sea trout, or sewin, fishing vies with rugby as the national sport. There are numerous sea trout rivers in all parts of Wales, the most productive being the Towy (Tywi), Teifi, Dovey (Dyfi), Clwyd, Conway (Conwy), Nevern, East and West Cleddau, Rheidol, Mawddach, Glaslyn, Taf and Ogmore.

Sea Trout Fishing in Ireland

In Ireland, sea trout are taken in the Currane/Waterville system, Kerry; the Cashla and Ballynahinch, Connemara; the Feale, Limerick; the Owenduff and Owenmore, Bangor; the Slaney, Wexford; the Bundorragha, Erriff and Dawros, Ballinakill; the Munster Blackwater, Lismore; the Boyne, Drogheda; the Bandon, Cork, to name only a few of the main rivers. In Northern Ireland, we have the Bush, Bann, Faughan, Roe, Derg, Finn and Foyle, all with runs of sea trout.

Sea Trout Fishing in Scotland

Last but not least, there are the Scottish rivers. Many of the rivers to the north and west of the Great Glen were once noted sea trout fisheries - the Beauly, Conon, Helmsdale, Brora, Naver, Dionard, Laxford, Gruinard, Ewe, Torridon, Shiel, Ailort and Lochy, to name but a few. Sadly, the runs, particularly in our north western rivers, have declined with the growth of the salmon farms. Further south and east, we have the Findhorn, Nairn, Deveron and, perhaps best of all, the Spey; in the East, there are the Ugie, Ythan, Don, Dee, South Esk and Earn; in mid Scotland there are the Rivers Teith and Allan and, further west, the Loch Lomond system, including the Rivers Leven and Endrick, and the River Eachaig, flowing from Loch Eck; in the south, we have the rivers running into the Solway Firth - the Border Esk, the Nith, Annan and Cree. There is also good sea trout fishing to be had on the Islands, particularly in Lewis, Harris, the Uists, Orkney and Shetland.

For information on sea trout fishing on some of the best British Angling Associations see:

Angling Associations


For more maps and information on sea trout rivers see: 

British Sea Trout Rivers

Sea Trout Fishing in Scotland


British Angling Associations

Angling Associations






How to Catch a Sea Trout


The River Towy

The River Towy, Wales


The River Earn

The River Earn, Perthshire


The South Tyne, Northumberland

The South Tyne, Northumberland






sea trout fishing