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Sea Trout     

Beautiful, highland Lochan with a stream that runs westward to the sea. Other than some white water no other barrier hampers her homeward journey. This is game fishing country  par excellence. All three dwell here, but it is "The Child of The Tide"™ of which we speak. The Sea Trout (Salmo Trutta). From her rich sea feeding grounds to the high moorland streams of her birth, where her redd awaits Somewhere in between, lying in wait is the Fly Fisherman.    





Flies & tactics are legendary but due to the limited space I will keep it brief with just an insight into this magnificent fish, the flies tactics & locations. Given rain the small spate (freestone) river flowing from the scenic highland lochan, ( 5 minutes after this photo was taken a large Sea Trout or more likely a Grilse, crashed out the water just off the uppermost far away line of rocks on your left) will encourage fish to enter from the river estuary where they have been confined, since the last rain brought fresh water tumbling down to waken their interest. Whether it be a quickly retrieved daytime flashy fly, a sedge (caddis) or moth imitation in the gloaming. Or indeed the drifting  loch boat with Wets or the bushy Dap. Nothing can compare with the first rush & jump of a well hooked fish in wonderful surroundings. The little Hardy reel playing its melodic song as the fly line disappears of the spool & the fisherman prays his backing knot is sound.

Teal Blue & Silver Dressing

Hook:- 12-8. std. wet fly  Thread:- black.  Tail:-  G.P. fibres. Body:-  med silver tinsel, ribbed with fine silver wire.  Hackle:-  Kingfisher blue ,tied full.  Wing:-  Teal breast feather, folded.

Soldier Palmer


Hook:- 12-8s std. wet fly.  Thread:- black.  Tail:- red floss or wool.   Body:- as tail.   Hackle:- med red game, palmered, & ribbed with fine gold wire, front hackle slightly longer  than first.

This is probably the best river fly for Sea Trout fresh off the tide. Fished as a tail fly it has been taking fish since records began. It is generally accepted to imitate a small herring fry or other such sea prey & in its various variants it accounts for many fish each season. 

For picky fish I sometime use a fly with a small "flying treble". Where allowed & during darkness, a couple of maggots can be added to the single hook, to increase attraction.


        Secret Weapon ?       As Falkus called them  Nothing secret here, this type of fly has been in use for many a year.

This simple palmer probably "kills more Brown Trout & Sea Trout than any other. It is a particular favourite of mine & has saved many a blank day. Fished on "The Bob" & tripped through the waves as part of a 3 fly cast it's primary colours of red & brown in harmony, with our somewhat peaty coloured Highland Lochs. It is no slouch on rivers & on my local River Leven it is good for small early run fish.

A typical cast would be the Teal Blue & Silver on the tail & the Soldier as dropper. Fished square & across, allowed to swing round, be ever watch full for the "snatch" of a fresh run fish. On some days it pays to "work" the flies & by that I mean to flick the rod point up & down, so imparting some  movement. Takes here can be sometime violent so a softer action rod is somewhat desirable. Keep the rod high & let the fish take "Off the Reel". I use a Daiwa Osprey 10ft 6"coupled with a System 2 reel & Air Cel. floater. The Daiwa, though carbon fibre does not have too stiff an action & good for these somewhat soft  mouthed fish fresh in of the tide. The stiff fast actioned rods of lowland reservoir Bow 0fishers are useless for Sea Trout


Sea Trout unlike Atlantic Salmon will sometimes feed in fresh water and with this in mind we can sometimes treat them as river Brown Trout. Standard wet trout flies will do in all the usual sizes. Tradition plays a great part & flies reflect this. The Butchers, Wickhams & Grouse series still have an important part to play but more fly fishermen are trying out "new" patterns. Hugh Falkus who wrote what is to many the definitive book on the subject "Sea Trout Fishing" brought this to the fore & his sunk lures, Medicine & Secret Weapon (My, pattern, above left), are benchmarks to which others strive. In Wales the Sea Trout is known as the Sewin & a variety of flies are used. From large singles as in The Medicine to tubes & Waddinton™ shanks. Here in Scotland we tend to be a bit more traditional in our outlook & the catch's are certainly  not diminished in any way by using the tried & tested patterns. In the 2 samples below I have shown a typical Scottish river fly & a Waddington™ shank.

Camasunary Killer

Waddington Shank

This North of Scotland pattern from the vice of Stephen Johnson author of Fishing from Afar, does great service on my home water the River Endrick.   Was originally known as The Blue Fly & fished as a tail fly on a 2 fly cast, it accounts for many fish each year. The body in two parts is made up from D.F.M  (Daylight Fluorescent Material) & with the addition of a black hair wing it is no slouch for Salmon too.

Waddington, shanks are more generally used for Atlantic Salmon patterns. Some, myself included much prefer them to tubes as I feel they "swim" more on an even keel than tubes do & if you lose the hook, you wont lose the fly as you would with the tube. Having said that a light tube say 1/2" is handy for low water conditions & with the aid of a Riffling Hitch can be made to skate along the top layers. Many use a brass bodied tube for Autumn Salmon but it is the Waddington I prefer. 

For Sea Trout, the above example is tied on a smaller shank with a size 12/14 Partridge treble. No particular name but with its red & blue hair, black, silver ribbed body it has taken fish in high, clear water.

DAPPING FLIES   Shown left are 4 examples of typical Scottish dapping flies. These are used on our "big waters", for Salmon & Sea Trout. Rods are long, over 16ft. in many cases, This coupled with a centre pin reel &  floss line or blow line as it is sometime known. There is no casting as such, a drifting boat is employed broadside to the wind & positioned to drift along likely holding spots. Sea Trout generally like a bit of water above & below them,10 to 15ft, is a good average depth whereas Salmon will lie closer in. The rod is held upright & the wind  billows out the light floss. The fly being attached to a short tippet, of around 4ft & heavily "greased up", is allowed to bounce about the water surface or dapped, hence the term used for this peculiar fly craft, enticing any cruising fish to investigate. It is by far the most exciting way to "take" a fish. They can roll onto the fly or come at it with a slash much like the rise to an adult sedge or moth at night. & to resist the temptation to "strike" to soon is hard for some to master. One must wait till the fish has taken a proper hold & then "lift" into it.

Tip: It pays to pre-treat you flies the day before using Permaflote. Not the "new" stuff as it is worse than useless but the older stuff from Chubbs of Edgeware. Watershed an American product is good to. Doing this saves time if you get slimed by a fish & a change of flies is by far quicker than trying to dry one out. That can be done during lunch break.

The small fly top right was the one I had a "near miss" with a few seasons back. One July on Lomond. I was drifting the windward shore off  Darroch. Other than a few small Sea Trout that had splashed at a larger Blue Zulu earlier on nothing came my way. I had just billowed out this somewhat smaller than usual "dap". More an overdressed Badger Spider than anything else. A large Salmon which had been lying close in to the shore came to the fly. I can still hear the click of its jaws as it "missed". My heart skipped a few beats that time my friends. I have caught bigger on conventional flies but this one still stands out from the rest. I have never used the fly again & it retains it's rightful place in my box. 

That folks is dapping.

The Wet Daddy (Crane Fly)

This unusual wet version of the better known "dry"  imitates the Crane Fly, or as it is better known The Daddy Longlegs or just Daddy for short. Here in Scotland it also goes by the name "Jenny Long Legs." The natural, more common in late summer is easily picked up from long grass & kept in a glass jar with a perforated lid. One or two can be "impaled" on a size 10 hook & dapped "Au Naturale" When  blown onto our northern waters trout  whilst initially reluctant to feed on these ungainly fliers, once having done so will attack them with gay abandon & an imitation can do very well at this time. 

What I do is fish a dry on a top dropper with the wet version shown below beneath the surface. In a good wind the wet acts as an" anchor" & does not allow the dry to "blow" about too much. Trout will often slash at the dry Daddy but not take, come back around & take the wet version. This method can be employed in another fashion when drift fishing a loch. One trick on the loch I have learned is to have one on the Dap & another the Wet Fly. A trout or salmon having a go at the bushy dap, misses & the Dap is lifted up & out the way. The Wet Fly man, casts onto the ever disappearing whorl. The fish comes back for a second look & takes the Wet. Easy?, not really, but it does sometimes work. This is where having a "good" boat partner makes all the difference, probably more so than a "good women" to my mind. Well maybe not but certainly up there.

Fly Fishing's like that I guess

The Heckham Peckham, an unusually named fly, from the vice of Aberdeen fly tier William Murdoch. Originally designed for Sea Trout it is open to various variants & in its smaller sizes can be useful for Brown Trout. Try it with either a green or claret seal's fur body & I have even seen a gold bodied version which does great service. The wing in all cases remains the same the blue winged feather from the Mallard drake with the white tip showing. Among Murdoch's other patterns are the Mallard & Claret whereby the much used Grouse wing is replaced by the longer Bronze Mallard, as the Grouse is a bit short in the  web for the larger hook sizes.


Blue Zulu   This fly, sometimes known as The Blue Devil is one of the better flies & indeed on a par with the T. B. & Silver, as one of best patterns to put before fresh run Sea Trout in tidal waters. Fished as a dropper with a T.B.S. they account for many fish each season.  It is no slouch as a loch fly & in its dapping guise raises many fish each year.

Shown here, in a size 8, heavily hackled version. The blue can be replaced by a black hen hackle & becomes The Zulu, a very popular Brown Trout fly. So popular it was years ago that is was in fact banned from competition fishing.


Hook:- 12-8s Thread:-black Tail:- three strands of red floss, teased out & cut short & flush. Body:- black seals fur, ribbed, with fine silver oval. Hackle:- black palmered cock, with longer Kingfisher Blue hen in front.


The Black Zulu shown below is tied on an old Limerick Bend hook. Why this style of hook bend has  fell out of favour is beyond me. The unique shape is inherently strong & lends itself well especially  to the larger wet fly patterns. This popular fly was once so deadly that is was in fact banned from competitive fly fishing. Not so today & as it should be. A very successful pattern & a welcome addition to any fly box. I prefer the thickly hackled palmer version shown below to the more normal shop bought spider types. A good Bob Fly


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Selected Bibliography

              Hugh Falkus    Sea Trout Fishing  1981

              James Waltham     Sea Trout Flies  1988

              Charles C. Mac Laren  The Art of Sea Trout Fishing  1963

              Hamish Stuart  The Book of the Sea Trout  1917