THE APPEAL - The capture of a sea trout straight from the salt has got to be one of the biggest thrills in angling. Forget stockies or naturally reproducing brown trout, saltwater sea trout are a race apart. In my neck of the woods these sleek silver specimens, muscled up with the rich feeding of the ocean, are often called "greyhounds of the sea". This sums them up beautifully. The smash and grab antics of sea trout as they snatch your fly and tear away into the bladderwrack is a heart stopping experience most trout anglers would give their eye teeth for. Dedicated saltwater sea trout aficionados know nothing beats the dull boom of wind and wave, the sharp clarity of air and water and the scream and wheel of gulls on the wing. This is fishing stripped back to its barest essentials. Don't expect cosseted green fields complete with huts and convenient cafes. Instead think vast horizons and wild spaces interspersed with fish activity to make your eyes water.

CURRENT STATE OF PLAY - Much has been written, quite rightly, about the destruction of Scotland's wild sea trout by eco damaging fish farming practices. However it is a mistake to assume that all our sea trout stocks have disappeared. There are still pockets of prime saltwater trout fishing left, it is just that they are becoming fewer in number under the relentless march of fish cages. These areas still retain most of the old magic especially with finnock sized trout. - Conservation is obviously a keynote and I know that you will treat these fish with the greatest of respect. Follow local rules regarding the returning of fish. Put back most of what you catch is as good a maxim as any.

SCOTLANDS BEST SALT WATER SEA TROUT AREAS - At one time most of the Scottish coastline held copious stocks of migratory trout, now you must concentrate your efforts on areas where freshwater meets the sea without the intrusion of aquaculture interests. Prime angling areas include the bays and estuarine waters of Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles (avoid areas with cages in); NW Sutherland particularly Tongue and Durness; Eastern highlands including Moray and Cromarty Firth and the east coast down toward Aberdeen and Montrose. Sea trout can still be caught off the west coast, however they are generally less prolific in number until you arrive in Border country where rivers like the Annan and the Nith still produce good sea trout catches.

FIRST APPROACHES - Having found an area which is likely to hold saltwater sea trout there are certain ground rules which should be followed. Normal times to fish are two hours before high tide and two hours after, however estuary fishing is a bit of a law unto itself as some areas can flood dramatically and therefore need to be fished on the low tide. Choose a dull 'dirty' day with good cloud cover or fish late into the dusk when the light fades. Make sure you are casting where saltwater meets the fresh of a burn, stream or river. Shoals of sea trout will nose in to these areas on the tide and you must be there to meet them. Migratory fish like plenty of cover and are normally found secreted behind underwater weeds and boulders. At low tide such hidey holes are usually visible and it's a good idea to have a recce before when the estuary begins to fill again. Similarly at low water, the line of flow of freshwater streams will often appear. These are essential fishing spots and should never be ignored, make a mental note of the positions for later fishing. - WORDS OF WARNING - Do watch the tide times if out on exposed estuary flats or you might end up having to swim for it!

TACKLE & FLIES - The first law of saltwater sea trout angling is to use tackle which is neither your most prized possession or a family heirloom. Salt is mighty destructive and you need to rinse everything (even flies) in freshwater every time you finish. Ideally you want a rod of 10ft or so, matching reel, WF7 line to cope with gales and nylon 6lb to 8lb. Don't go too light in this kind of work, you could end up losing a really good fish. Other tackle essentials are warm waterproof clothing, anti glare glasses and thigh waders with studs, as it's desperately slippery! Regarding flies, the sea trout you are hunting is a highly efficient ocean predator used to chasing sand eel, smaller fish fry and crustacea. It follows that you must broadly imitate their natural diet and flies to use include the traditional Teal Blue & Silver (the best sea trout fly of all time as it imitates sandeels and small fish beautifully), Blue Zulu, Silver Invicta, Dunkeld, Black Zulu, Camasunary Killer and those of that ilk. Also effective are the modern streamer tyings rather akin to the 'Appetizer' rainbow trout lure but finer dressed. These are easily made at home. Think streamlined silver with an olive green additive and maybe a hint of orange and you will not go far wrong.

TACTICS - Sea trout angling has a habit of happening in intense dramatic bursts interspersed with periods of inactivity. This is because shoals of fish are passing your vicinity on the tide. Sometimes there will be several shoals following on from one another and on other occasions the fish will be altogether scarce. It is a big gamble, but to lessen the odds, position yourself where the fish meet a 'bottle neck'. The river mouth is an obvious example but do not neglect smaller burns running out into the estuaries for sea trout have often spawned in these rather than the main river.
Look for pointers that the shoals are there. For example if the seals are active close in to the shore, so are the sea trout. Equally if gulls are hunting over the water apparently swooping down to feed, it means fish of some sort are likely to be there. If fishing the traditional two hours before high tide and two after, keep alert even if things seem dead. With any luck, things will suddenly be set alight when that first trout grabs your fly. - Remember where there is one there are more, so fish intensively while you can.- Use no more than two patterns(anything more gets messy) and use, say a TBS on the point and a Blue Zulu on the bob. Keep the retrieve brisk to simulate fast moving prey. Sea trout like to chase down their food and a quick retrieve is almost always more effective than trying to fish flies as a dead drift.

Admittedly sea trout in the sea is something of a risky business but the stakes are high and once you achieve success, I guarantee complete conversion!


To fish for top quality wild trout with guide Lesley Crawford:click here