Sea Trout Fishing


 

 

 'ON THE RUN'


Late spring melts into the first rays of summer sunshine heralding the annual run of sea trout and salmon into West Highland sea lochs.

It is late May early June and shoals of sea trout are well inshore cruising the right hand shoreline closely following the contours.Foraging for sandeels and other tasty foods.In no obvious haste to reach their destination progress is slow and methodical as they journey along the coastal reaches resting up in sheltered bays or freshwater inlets before moving on.

Low tide is an ideal time to search out holding bays.Sea trout are often seen 'splashing' -feeding on whitebait and other fry at slack water close to shore.Occasionaly found over sand sea trout prefer areas of broken rockand weed to rest in providing cover from predators and as a food source.

As the tide floods shoals of sea trout congregate together swimming downtide to settle into favourable lyes further on.Perhaps only the next bay or the bay beyond.Other fish follow on behind competing for the best lyes constantly pushing those to the front onward.

Their numbers grow daily as other small shoals run in from the open sea.Over the oncoming weeks most inshore lyes play host to resident populations of trout as the main run gathers momentum.By early July the fore-runners of the main shoal reach their chosen estuary and birth river.

Sea pools are the lowest estuarine pools of a river that flood with the oncoming tide and drain with the ebb tide.Moon phases regulate tidal flow which in turn controls movement of fish to and from the pool.

Once a month there are phases of full and new moon which draw the highest tides,known as springers,carrying fish into the system both day and night.Most fish are reluctant to run the pool during neap tides which are the lowest of all.Tidal water running between springers and neaps carry a steady influx of sea trout and salmon into the system too.Though less fish are evident in comparison to that run with a springer.

As the tide turns from slack water to flood a small percentage of sea trout make their way from holding bays nearby in the estuary.Small shoals gather anxious to forge on upstream and into the sea pool.Saltwater backs up the river slowly raising levels to a point where the trout know instinctively that they can with confidence.As the tide gathers momentum other trout too run directly from the open sea into the sea pool.Until the tide has run it's course.

Some fish show as they splash through the run-off many others simply hug the bottom slipping quietly and unnoticed into the main pool.An occasional stray bow wave the only other sign of activity.

Introduced to the brine mix of salt and freshwater the trout perform a 'ritual'.

Leaping high and clear of the water,racing round the main body of the pool their silver flanks reflecting in the sun,most show themselves once again in the run off then settle down into suitable lyes.

A steady influx of fish carried on the tide access the pool.Activity is intense for long periods coming to an abrupt end as slack water peaks.At which point the fish exit the pool on the ebbing tide.Some stay close to the river mouth others find their way into holding bays to await the evening tide.Surprisingly sea trout display a high degree of confidence within the sea pool during daylight hours.For a week or more continous streams of fish migrate from open sea to the sea pool and back again.A gradual transition from salt to freshwater reversing the osmosic process acclimatising the trout to their future dependancy in freshwater.

Trout accustomed to to the taste of freshwater hold in the pool waiting for the opportunity to run upstream when suitable conditions are prevalent.

Sea trout require only minimal water levels in which to run and a few slip into the river system every night.Most however prefer to wait patiently in the sea pool for conditions to improve running under the cover of nightfall,heavy cloud cover or a rising river.Covering two miles per hour travelling between pools.Only when the river levels are suffering severe drought conditions will seas trout decline to run.


SCENARIO


A new moon rises to a 4.0 metre spring tide coinciding with darkness.Water levels are good and the skies overcast.Sea trout carry in on the flooding tide and the sea pool is a hive of activity.

In the darkest hours trout are extremely wary cautious and easily 'spooked' Running the river is tonight's aim a quest that may take several hours before meeting with success.Small shoals congregate in the shallows toward the head of the pool.Occasionaly one or more trout break away hanging mid-stream testing the ground before dropping back to join their companions.A routine repeated over a period of ten to fifteen minutes.

At this point one of two things may occur.

The whole shoal turns away heading back downstream into the main pool or the leading fish go through the run-in.Their backs proud of the water.Tails thrashing hard against loose gravel in a flurry of spray signalling the others to follow on.Moments later another shoal of trout assume their positions at the head of the pool and the same scenario is re-enacted,as it will be many times throughout the night.

Bow wave upon bow wave precede the trout as they swim gently on through slow glides and moderate runs journeying upstream.

A shallow bar of gravel barely covered with a trickle of water obstructs the intrepid travellers.With an extraordinary burst of speed tails thrashing hard to propel them forward the trout mount the loose stones.Progress is slow.Each stage tackled with small bursts some scraping their bellies other flapping on their sides in an effort to reach deeper water.Such is their determination.

Eventually reaching the uppermost tidal reaches where pure freshwater spills into the brine,resting for a while in slack water.Once again one or two trout take the initiative taking the lead and break away from the main shoal.Testing the ground.With a flick of their tails the lead trout push forward through the run-in and into the river.

The point of no return !

Once committed to freshwater they journey on without turning back overcoming whatever obstacles they encounter on the way.


Throughout the night many small shoals instinctively follow in their wake.

At about 1.00am sea trout become less active and tend to be lethargic.The run resuming again an hour or so later.At any given time fresh fish access the main pool,trout running the river and others that simply lye up,and those that drop back downstream sand back to sea.When conditions are poor such as periods of drought the pool will be quiet with little activity.

Spate water draws fish directly into the pool during daylight hours inducing them to run hard and fast.

False dawn breaks cloud cover at about 3.00am as the first rays of the coming day shine down.No matter what stage the tide is at fish stop running.Dropping back downstream from the sea pool into the estuary making their way to nearby holding bays.

Fish in the upper tidal reaches make their final bid for freshwater.Struggling on until deeper cover with cover is found in which to lye up in awaiting the next tide.Taking refuge under undercut banks,behind rocks,in shallow depressions.Preferably under the cover of streamy well oxygenated water and csan be found in the most unexpected places !

By 3.30 am dawn encroaches fast and there is little if any movement.A time to rest patiently waiting nightfall.

July and August see many sea trout run through the system.Some rivers are fortunate having a second run of trout in September.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 ' RUNNING THE GAUNTLET '


' Distant valleys echoed to the roar of thunder as forks of ice blue fire probed dark skies,singeing clouds that in despair did rain tears upon the Earth...….And in the dark of day creatures of the light hours retreated into secret lairs.Shelter there to seek from heaven's anger.

The land did gorge upon clouds sorrow until at last-satiated and fulfilled rain did fill Earth's veins till they did swell and burst and Earth's life blood did feed the rivers and streams that brought life to this barren land '

Salmon and sea trout are sensitive creatures their finely tuned bodies picking up on the slightest increase or decrease in barometric pressures.

What does this mean to the angler ?

During periods of low barometric pressure with the prospect of rain salmon and sea trout gather en-masse within their pool.Lying from a point mid stream to the margins -bankside.

Hanging on the edge of the current signs of agitation are visibly evident, as they jostle each other for position,tails slapping back and forth,the whites of their mouths shining like beacons.

Detritus and flotsam carried on the current are the first indications that the water is rising,one or two fish break away from the main shoal forging their way upstream toward shallows at the head of the pool.Where they will rest for a few moments-' testing the ground '.

At this point one of two things occur:

1. The 'lead' fish runs the loose gravel over the shallows into the next pool.Followed closely by the main shoal.

2. The 'lead fish' turns back downstream returning to his lye,until there is a noticeable increase in the strength of the current.

Another attempt is made which either will fail or meet with success.This scenario will be repeated several times.When conditions satisfy the 'lead fish' the whole shoal will run.

Intent on running the river nothing will tempt these fish to take a fly or a bait !

Salmon and sea trout will happily share a pool but do not intigrate nor will they lye together.There is a hierarchy within the pool ...salmon taking the precedence and the best lyes.Sea trout are relegated toward the mid stream tail end of the pool.Both species however will take advantage of the rising water and run during the hours of daylight.Covering 2 kilometres an hour reaching speeds of 30 mph in short bursts.

Sea trout require the least water and 'sneak' on through in the early stages of spate.

Salmon always run the most turbulent and strongest currents,tired and requiring to catch breath they stop for a short while,perhaps only 5minutes to 15 minutes in the very same resting pools that their forefathers used before them.

'A fresh fish in a 'new pool' is a taking fish'..

Rising rapidly,sand and soils carried in suspension cloud the water and a great volume of fish enter the system.

' TIMES OF DROUGHT '

Times of extended low water and drought conditions prove hard on the fish.

There are those desperate to run from the sea into freshwater.

Those that that are desperate to move from pool to pool.

Resident fish that refuse to move on.

Those showing signs of sunburn.

With the sun beating down upon the shallowest pools holding several salmon and smaller shoals of sea trout comes an added and uncomfortable problem-sunburn !White patches of skin appear on the exposed heads and backs of fish lying in the shallowest reaches.

Oxygen levels deplete rapidly creating severe lethargy within the shoals too.

For their benefit and welfare they must be moved on-preferably the two miles upstream into the loch which sustains the river

' ARTIFICIAL '

All feeder streams lochside are constricted with a series of sluice boards holding valuable water reserves back.The loch's outlet where it overspills into the river is contained by several heavy duty sluice boards too.In order to induce a successful 'artificial' spate the sluices must only be opened in conjunction with a dropping barometric pressure.It does not necessarily have to rain.Dropping pressure picked up by the fish tells them to prepare for 'natural spate conditions' unaware that although the skies are overcast,only heavy showers are imminent.The resulting rainfall will not be enough to swell the river.

'TIMING'


The ideal situation is created when the sluices are opened to coincide with a night time tide thus inducing fish to run in natural conditions [nigh time] on a rising water.The lochside sluices must be opened three,maybe fours prior to high tide followed by the outflow sluice.

The result may only be 9 inches of 'spate' water but the combination of :

1. Dropping barometric pressure.

2. Darkness.

3. Rising water.

Is enough to fool both salmon and sea trout to run the whole length of the river from the estuarine waters to the sweet freshwater and safety of the loch.~~Releasing water in circumstances other than those stated with particular reference to barometric pressure will not result in fish running ~~ and simply waste valued reserves.

Successful day time spates are possible to it is the barometric pressure that holds the key.

 

 'LYING LOW'


'Dawn breaks spilling light onto a sleepy landscape as creatures of the night retreat into secret lairs and others awake to face the foraging for food.Mist rises eerily from the water and the air is still.The silence broken only by a wayward trout splashing in the shallows somewhere distant.Morning's chill takes a grip and for a few hours the river sleeps too.Last night's run of salmon and sea trout came to an abrupt halt as night melted into day.

Trapped by the dawning fish are well distributed throughout the river patiently lying up awaiting the cover of darkness before moving on.Those that ran early on the flood tide have already slipped into the loch'.Having made the transition from brine to freshwater there is no turning back and both salmon and sea trout run on regardless of the dangers and obstacles that lye ahead.

False dawn breaks between 3.00am and 3.30am as the first rays of summer's sun christens a new day.

Stragglers from last night's run scraping their way over gravel shallows desperate to escape daylight and attention from predators,otters,mink,black back gulls and other such birds.Must seek refuge and relative safety in deeper water offering cover in which to lye up throughout the long daylight hours.Undercut banks,deep holes,behind boulders,in gravel depressions and below overhanging vegetation are favoured lyes.Anywhere that offers shade,cover and oxygenated water is favourable,often so shallow that the fish are barely covered.Sea trout can be found in the most unlikely places at first light !

Most West Highland rivers are relatively short in length,some are free flowing with few obstructions.Others are treacherous cascading torrents,waterfalls,fast run shallows and heavy rapids.Steep falls present the most dangerous and ardous challenge throwing countless fish back downstream back into the river below.Their determination is such that all but the weakest will conquer bouts of wild water overcoming the dangers of migration to their spawning grounds.

A loch or chain of lochs feed the river system which in turn is fed by many much smaller feeder streams.It is in these shallow runs and headwaters that sea trout and salmon will spawn of redds of smooth pea gravel.Their story is one of epic proportions,courage and sheer determination with an extraordinary will to survive as a species.

Commited to freshwater there is no turning back and many small shoals forge onward throughout the night.Resting occassionaly in small pools of relatively slack water where they can lye up withouit expending too much energy for betwen five and twenty minutes.There will be several such pools visited by salmon and sea trout at strategic locations along the river's length.On a good night with favourable conditions progress is swift covering two kilometres an hour between resting pools.

Early season fish tend to run the system without resting up for long periods but as the season progresses the river is host to resident salmon and sea trout too.Those passing through and those awaiting spate conditions before moving on.

Within the animal kingdom a hierarchy exists,fish are no exeption having their own 'pecking order' and dominant 'elders' within the pool.

The best deep water lyes mid stream that offer shade or cover are normally taken by these obstinate residents.Moving out and away from their bolt holes only to escape heavy spate waters.Returning to their original lyes once the flooding begins to recede.These 'stale' fish are dark coloured and stand out from their silver fresh run counterparts.

Resting fish share these lyes too,sometimes only for minutes during the darkness or between tides shouldthey be unfortunate,caught out by the dawning.During the dark hours resting fish normally hang on the edge of the current where water flows out of the pool.Moving into deeper lyes as dawn breaks.

Nervous and easily spooked many of these trout explore the pool before settling into a vacant lye or moving on.

Fresh fish such as these are noticeable displaying spontaneous bouts of intense activity leaping clear of the water,scraping sea lice from their flanks by rubbing up against rough gravel or simply racing around the pool without any apparent motive.

As dusk aproaches the shoal quickly exit the pool anxious to make time and as much headway as possible before daylight.

For some obscure reason known only to Mother Nature West Highland fish run through the summer months when water conditions are at a natural low.One of nature's mysterious and inexplicable contradictions !

Travelling fish intent on reaching their goal pass through the system at speed only resting for short periods as and when their energy levels are depleted.

Bigger fish dominate the pool as a whole residing in the best lyes from the head of the pool across deeper mid stream depressions.Smaller trout are relegated to shallow tail-end lyes.

At the height of the season there is a steady movement of fish through the pol.Fresh run fish accessing the pool for the first time do not normally intigrate with those fish already present.Due to the nature of spate rivers space is a premium and some fish simply move on through rather than challenge resident stocks for suitable lyes.

Holding water within the river system can be seperated into two distinct types of pool.

Holding pools

Holding pools offer oxygen,cover,shade,depth and features such as boulders.To the human eye they can appear to be 'empty and lifeless'.Close examination with a pair of polaroid sunglasses unearths the pool's secrets !

The advent of dawn denotes where many fish will lye not outy of choice but necessity.When the best lyes are taken other fish spread throughout the water searching for any features that can accomodate them.In those places no matter how obscure,that cvan provide oxygen,a gentle flow in which to hang lazily without the need to call upon their energy reserves.Building stamina for the night ahead.

These are typical of pools that hold fish indefinately.

Resting pools

Resting pools are temporary stop overs whether it be for a few minutes or several hours .

As morning's sun rises high flooding the river with harsh light both salmon and sea trout  are forced to re-locate into areas of  bankside shade,below overhanging vegetation,undercut banks and in extreme cases drop downstream into the pool below.Few creatures can happily tolerate summer's sun boring into their eyes .As late afternoon approaches and the cooling sun moves towards the horizon throwing dark shadows across the river..fish return to their original lyes.

All fish are sensitive to light temperature and barometric pressure sensing rain long before the skies cloud over and empty ! 

On occassion salmon and sea trout gather in holding pools that were 'empty' only hours before.Grouped together in organised if not regimental fashion,tight into the bankside in deep water.A sure sign that barometric pressure is falling and rain is imminent.Running hard and fast the moment dusk falls.

During prolonged bouts of dry weather both salmon and sea trout struggle to access freshwater.

Some river systems have sluices built across the mouths of feeder streams and the outlets of lochs where they spill into the river systems,holding precious water in reserve.

Artificial spates arte induced by releasing several or all of the sluice boards.

Timing this operation is crucial.Preferably sluices should be released to increase water levels to coincide with the hours of darkness on a high tide during a fall of barometric pressure.Rain may not be forecast but as long as the pressure is falling and the river rising ..fish will run.Releasing valuable reserves of water during periods of high pressure has little if any effect at all.A gentle rise in water level is all that can be expected not a full blown spate ! The advantages are two fold,rising water floods the sea pool inducing fish to run the system and those within the system to forge upstream with relative ease and safety.

Salmon and sea trout rarely run during the daylight hours unles the river is in full spate.Low water levels 'trap' fish in the sea pools for long periods denying access into freshwater.Without any obvious motivation it has been known for fresh fishto run en-masse off the morning and afternoon tides in the lowest conditions.

The loch

Quietly one after another sea trout and salmon slip over the overflow where the loch spills into the river and rest for a while before taking full advantage of the darkness.Shoals seperate exploring the loch margins for safe lyes.

Early season fish are to be found lying in residence at the head of the loch.Salmon in the shallows in depths ranging from three feet down to twelve feet.Sea trout favour depths down to twenty five feet.

As the weeks pass and more fish run into the loch the best available lyes are taken as shoals of newly run fish back up resident fish residing at the head of the loch and the freshest fish are obliged to take lyes toward the lower regions.A percentage of fresh fish are always to be found with the residents.The pecking order remains strong and adherted to even in the confines of the loch.Salmon and sea trout do not integrate and the bigger fish continue to occupy the best lyes .

Sea trout prefer sheltered bays,rocky reefs and weedbeds of varying depth in which to rest.

Salmon are to be found in these places too but tend to congregate over shallow reefs,behind sheltered points and headlands,in the mouth of feeder streams and marginal water.

Only heavy rains and spate water tumbling into the loch entice fish to move out of their lyes and are found 'hanging' on the edges of feeder streamsand main inflowing rivers where they empty into the loch.No fish other than a few small sea trout are tempted to explore and run.

In general sea trout run the headwaters during November and salmon a month later in December.There are local variations governed by many factors dependant upon location water catchment and the general nature of the system.Early run fish can lye up for six months in the loch before spawning conserving energy and stamina necessary to survive the final push upstream onto the redds.Many die with exhaustion and only two percent of salmon that originally ran the system will survive to return another year.Sea trout suffer less mortalities but also suffer many deaths.

Every living thing has it's place and role to play in the chain of life.Salmon and sea trout spawn to procreate the species and their demise is not without purpose.Decomposing fish carcasses break down distributing life giving nutrients back into the river.Which in turn is not only beneficial to the river but their offspring too.


 

  SEA TROUT FEEDING PATTERNS

LATE SPRING

Unlike salmon sea trout feed throughout their annual migratory cycle,staple dietry items that they find hard to resist include sprats,sandeels,shrimp and whitebait.Slack water or times of low tide often finds sea trout close to shore chasing fry.

Late spring from the end of April onwards often heralds the fore runners of the main run into inshore waters.This has two advantages for the sea trout population.Late April / May-elvers also described as glass eels run from the open sea into freshwater systems.Closely followed by hungry sea trout that cannot resist feasting on these tasty creatures.Elvers run on the 'lightest' nights during the full moon and nights of little or no cloud cover for no more than six weeks.Food is abundant-thousands upon thousands of elvers follow the coastal contours tight into shore.So close in fact that they are directly underfoot !An incredible sight to witness as this endless band of immature eels up to three feet wide wind their way uptide.

During the daylight hours the trout will search out individual and small pockets of elvers taking refuge in banks of weed or in broken ground.

Strange as it may seem,once the elvers hit freshwater they always take the hardest route into the river slithering over rocks and 'climbing' weed covered rock at falls.

During the hour of slack water and at low tide sea trout are evident feeding in the shallows.

Where to look ? A little detective work is required !

Sea trout will always be found congregated around the mouth of any freshwater streams or brooks that spill into the open sea.

Combined weed banks and broken ground offering cover hold trout.

Look for fish ' Head and Tailing '

Look for signs of fins creasing the surface.

Look for fish jumping regularly within the same area.

Look for the water 'boiling' as the trout slam into a ball of whitebait,but not showing themselves.

A stroll along the tidal reaches at low tide will reveal the weed banks and broken ground that sea trout favour.

NOTE: ' More often than not ' fish showing some distance off shore on the flood tide are 'travelling'-running uptide...Most 'runners' are reluctant to take a bait but can be coaxed into striking at a fly or spoon as they near shore.Settling into the river mouth or immediate estuarine waters.

METHOD

The best most productive methods for catching sea trout in the open sea are Fly and Spinning lures.

FLY

Fly choice would be a pattern 'stolen' from the salmon anglers box and aptly named 'The Elver' this fly is simplicity itself ! Dressed on plastic,aluminium and brass tubes..choice dependant on depth to be fished.The original was tied with a wisp of hair taken from a collie dog's tail ! Laid flat along one side of the tube and secured at the head end then whip finished with black tying thread.The length of hair / wing can vary from an inch or so up to four inches..Extremely mobile on the retrieve or in a current the movement of the hair alone imparts a life like action into the fly and not unlike that of it's natural counterpart.

To fish the 'elver'-cast at 45 degrees to the flooding tide [ downstream as it were ] and fish the fly round as if fishing a river.A gentle retrieve-straight constant pulls of the fly line will suffice in aiding the fly to 'work' the water adding movement to the hair wing.Sea trout are infamous for 'coming short' nipping at the flies tail without taking properly ! So expect a few false takes !

Takes can be explosive and hard even the smallest trout will give you a fight to be proud of.

This is one instance where it is not particularly necessary to cast and take a step down shore to cover the water.As the fish come to you ...having at some point to swim past your location ! Both on the flood and ebb tides.

Other flies to try would consist of a small selection of fry like patterns this time taken from the rainbow trout fisherman's box …Roach fry,Polystickle,Jerseyherd,Floating fry,Baby dolls,Boobies and Shrimp

SPINNING BAITS

Number one choice ..bar spoons..Silver Krill [original],Silver toby,Blue / silver toby and Green / silver toby.

There are many Krill and Krill look alike baits,all are as effective as the next one and come in the same colour ranges as tobies.Representative of small sprats and krill which make up part of the trout's staple diet these baits are deadly when fished amongst sea trout feeding on whitebait.Rather than cast and retrieve work the spoon...

Tobies tend to 'flutter' enticingly on the retrieve and fish well 'sink and draw' enticing hard takes.Whereas the small but heavy Krill has a definate 'wobbling' action which also lends itself to being 'jigged' in deep water.As well as standard retrieve.

It may be worth mentioning at this point that sea trout are sub surface fish and will be found in water just deep enough to cover their backs down to a maximum depth of 25 feet even in the open sea..it is a safe bet that fish showing beyond that depth are travelling.

Both trout and salmon have extremely soft mouths whilst in saltwater and hard strikes often equate to lost fish the hook easily pulling free.Lift the rod smartly to the shoulder and as the trout turns down the hook will pull nicely into the scissors or the side of the mouth.

SUMMER

During the months of June,July and August there is a steady build up of stocks at sea and a steady influx of fish into the river systems..Estuarine waters are still a hive of activity and low summer levels hold numbers of fish at sea waiting for flood water to run the river.

The elver run has faded and only a few stragglers remain in the estuary-as one food source depletes another materialises.Vast shoals of whitebait and localised shoals of sprats venture into estuarine waters to be preyed upon by the sea trout.Again,Krill-Tobies and Bar Spoons will catch too.There are also some excellent imitation jointed sand eel lures on the market.Eddystone eels as fished by deep sea anglers are a must ! These rubber eels are as close to the real thing as you get !

Sand eels and launce are sadly on the decline for it was this food source that formed the bulk of the trout's diet.Most if not all the sandeel fisheries have been commercially fished out.Eddystone rubber eels in colour ranges from blue / silver to black / white and standard solid colours black-white all red are probably top of the list over all for success.The secret to these beauties is in the tail which is flexible,mobile and is fluted into a rudder shape.Thus allowing the 'flexi' tail to writhe enticingly in the slightest of currents or slackest flow.It enables the lure to fish both on 'the drop' and on the retrieve.

To fish the Eddystone on a 'flowing trace' mount the desired hook through the recess in the eels body.Clip on a small link swivel and tie nylon direct.Attach the loose end to a barrel swivel.Run a drilled bullet or barrel lead onto the main lineTie mainline to swivel..

Fish standard cast and retrieve or 'sink and draw' takes on the Eddystone tend to be confident and hard.If you feel the fish nipping at the tail -simply continue to retrieve as the fish will follow right up to your feet and often snaps at the lure as it turns back to sea..

FLIES..

All of the fish fry patterns mentioned earlier will produce results all season.Other flies worth trying are traditional sea trout patterns.

Teal / Blue / Silver,Silver Butcher,Bloody Butcher,Silver Invicta,Doobrie,Kate MacLaren,Stoats tail and Silver stoat tail.


 

 DANCES WITH SEATROUT.

'Rising ghost like from dark shadows a hungry sea trout homes in on a crane fly dancing on the breeze.Unable to hold it's own against the wind the unfortunate creature is blown onto the water's surface.With a powerful tail thrust the trout begins his final run coming at the fly hard and fast from below.The gleaming whiteness of his gaping mouth shining like a beacon.Moments later his dark snout breaks surface and in an instant the trout rolls onto and engulfs the fly in a flurry of spray.Diving deep and fast to the security of his lye far below pulling the hook deep and true'.

The fight is on !

Welcome to the exiting world of dapping.


Dapping originated on the great Irish loughs over a century ago and successfully adapted by Scottish loch style anglers in pursuit of quality of sea trout and 'big brownies'.

In the early days dapping was correctly described as blowline fishing.An ingenious method of presenting flies and other natural insect life in their natural state.

Heavy bamboo and greenheart rods up to twenty feet long were in common use combined with simple centrepin reels loaded with silk lines.

Dispensing with the need to cast dapping is simplicity itself.With the rod held

             high line pulled from the reel carries easily on the wind billowing out over the


Natural 'Daddy Longlegs' Crane Fly



water some distance from the boat.Allowing the fly to settle naturally on the surface.The fly lifts with each gust of wind and flutters back down onto the surface as each gust dies away.

Fooled by the fly's realistic mannerisms most trout cannot resist the temptation of such an easy meal,rising with confidence and hitting hard !

Many Irish anglers still prefer to fish 'live'.When in season mayflies and daddy longlegs are hunted and harvested from lochside vegetation.To be secured on special lightweight hooks that allow natural insects and flies to fished on the 'dapp' until spent.

Grasshoppers and other like insects are regularly dapped with great success during those times when mayflies and 'daddies' are unobtainable.

             Scottish loch style anglers fish a variety of artificials such as Loch Ordie,

             black pennell,claret and black,blue and silver and 'the rat faced MacDougall'.

Heavily dressed with long hackles for a bushy effect popular sizes lean toward longshank 2's smaller 6's and 8's have their place too dependant on conditions.Others are dressed on plastic tubes or lightweight waddington shanks loaded with small treble hooks.

With the exception of daddy longlegs dapping flies are not tied to represent natural life but as big bushy attractors that offer a good silhouette against the sky as seen from below.


The 'Rat Faced MacDougall'

The fly must sit on and not in the surface film or it will take in water lying static and unnatractive.Too heavy to lift on the breeze.Regular dressing with a quality floatant ensures good performance and presentation.

Today's dapping tackle consists of glass or carbon fibre rods with a minimum length of fourteen feet.A wide arbour reel loaded with monofilament backing onto which is tied a twenty foot length of nylon floss.Which in turn is tied to a three foot mono leader.A selection of flies compliments the outfit.

Dapping is most successful afloat,broadside drifts are ideal.One angler fishing from the bows,the other over the stern.

It is best to allow the floss to billow out in a great convex arc away from the boat for better control of both line and fly.

Seat rout lye in depths rarely deeper than twenty five feet and are often slow to rise.Dapping flies as seen by trout as distinct silhouettes against dark skies offer a good target to home in on.With natural bounce and fly like actions many trout are drawn to the fly out of curiosity.

Seat rout take dapped flies with great confidence in one of several ways depending on their mood and conditions on any given day.

'THE SPLASH'

Occurs when trout prefer to take flies sub surface.A powerful tail slap on the drowns the fly forcing it just under the surface.The trout turns to face the fly and takes it 'wet'.Don't be fooled into assuming that the trout has missed the fly altogether.Give it time to turn onto the fly before striking.

'THE SWIRL'

Taken from below and simply sucked below the surface.Once again allow time for the trout to turn down with the fly before striking.

'SMASH TAKES'

Taken hard and fast from below the trout launches itself at the fly pulling the hook into the scissors as it does so.

'HEAD AND TAIL'

Head and tail takes are exiting and common .There is no finer sight than watching a quality trout mouth agape porpoise at the fly roll over and take it firmly in it's mouth.Once the fly has been taken the trout must be given time to turn back down into the depths before striking or the fly will simply pull free from the fish's grasp.

On each occasion allow the fish to take line from the reel and time the strike by slowly counting to five before lifting the rod into your shoulder or better still strike only when the nylon floss is drawn underwater.A degree of self restraint is required !

In a moderate wind an anchor fly may be required to hold the dapping fly down.Simply thread a small free running treble hook onto the leader prior to tying your chosen fly on.

As an alternative run a dropper off the top of the leader tied to a small teal blue and silver,black pennell or silver butcher.Any standard seatrout pattern or small salmon single will do.

Fishing a dropper greatly increases the odds of hooking a bonus salmon or two !

Very often trout rise hard and fast at the fly missing the target altogether ! or a gust of wind blows the fly away at the crucial moment.Feeling bewildered the trout remains static for a few moments.Offering a wet fly immediately can often induce a take.

Sea trout are notorious for 'coming short' at the best of times just nipping the fly's tail or plucking at the hackles.Drop down a size for a confident take or fish specially adapted flies armed with a small flying treble.

Sea trout tend to lye up in small shoals and do not appear to intigrate with salmon or brown trout.There are traditional lyes which produce quality fish consistently and these should be fished out with care.Drifting between holding lyes often produces a good fish or two as dapping entices travelling trout to the fly.In general terms dapping brings the best of the shoalto the surface over the water the fly covers.Salmon parr and finnock love a big bushy fly and persist in their attack ! Consistent rises from small immature fish generally signifies that better quality fish are not present.Time to move on and fish another drift.

Controlling the fly is not easy and difficult to place over rising fish.Let the wind do the work for you and the fish will find the fly.Using stiff leaders can help too,select mono with a dull finish if at all possible to reduce of 'line flash'.Bearing in mind that only the fly should be on the water.

Some flies are easier to control than others fishing with eye catching actions.

Tube flies roll over the waves rocking back and forth when the wind catches their hackles.Others skate across the surface as true wake flies.Whilst the 'rat faced MacDougal' sits high and proud skating across the wind.Lifting the rod high pulls the rat's head up catching the breeze.Dipping the rod tip lowers the rat,s head in a curious nodding motion.

There are no hard and fast rules as such.Experiment !As with all disciplines of angling presentation is the key to success.

Modern telescopic rods can be carried as a second rod or as an alternative to traditional loch style methods.Fishing on the calmest of days when other more conventional methods are doomed to fail.

Dapping is surely the most natural form of presenting artificial flies and will take quality brown,rainbow and sea trout throughout the season with the added bonus of an occasional salmon.


 

 'PRESENTATION THE KEY TO SUCCESS'

 As with all disciplines of fishing ''presentation is the key to success'' whether or not artificial or natural baits are being fished.

Artificial baits...

Modern flies and lures are not necessarily tied to represent detailed imitations of natural aquatic or terrestrial fly life.

They are however tied with 'life' enhancing qualities,after all what is an artificial bait other than an illusion of reality to the fish ?

In general artificials can be broken down into 6 group,,Lures,Flies,Nymphs,Buzzers,Wet     Fly and Dry Fly.

Each individual group of flies with it's own 'Pattern of Life' dictating the method and manner in which that particular group will be fished and presented.

How does a fly 'breathe life' ?

Let's break it down into it's component parts..

  • Varnished head..Black standard finish represents the large bulbous eyes found on many terrestrial insects.

  • Varnished head...Red acts as a 'target spot' for the fish to home in on'.

  • Throat hackle..Wet fly - tied with hen feather - soft with lots of movement'.

  • Long flowing wings – of bucktail or fox hair.[too many other wing substitutes to list]

  • Thorax and bodies built up with 'dubbed' seals fur.

  • Tinsels ribs wrapped around the main body of the fly.

  • A bunch of individual feather fibres tied in to represent a tail.

 How does it work ?

             Enticing natural movements fool the fish into inducing a strike at the fly.

  • On the retrieve the mobile wings flutter enticingly against the current … creating an illusion that resembles a small bait fish or fry swimming.

  • As the line is drawn in-slight hesitation before the next pull ensures that the throat hackles open and close pulsating as gill plates on a fry in it's natural state.

  • Uneven fibres picked out from the thorax and body hold tiny air bubbles – and a translucent sheen envelops the fly.

  • Gold or silver ribbing of tinsels or wire reflect available light in the same manner as a fry turning against natural sunlight.

  • The tail adding stability.

To complete the deception the fly or lure must be fished in the manner of it's design..

 ' DEPTH'

Another important factor worth considering is depth...this is crucial to determine at what depth the fish are actually feeding and combining that knowledge with the appropriate fly for instance

lures are successfully fished from scraping the bottom layers-to sub surface.

Fry and bait fish lures,representative of natural bait in natural surroundings...exactly where hungry trout would expect to hunt them..!

Obviously dry flies fished on the surface..Buzzers ' hanging ' in the surface film..nymphs more often than not fished sub surface..

You catch the '

                                                                             ' TEMPERATURE VERSUS RETRIEVE AND DEPTH '

As a general rule cold water demands a slow deep figure of eight retrieve,simply because most fish are lethargic in cold water and reluctant to chase a bait.

Well presented flies/ lures fished at depth will entice a strike at the lure.

Bigger 'irons' fished at depth mimicking a 'good mouthfull' of tasty fry often induces a predatory response to the lure.

On the other hand warm water responses are quick..Trout give chase..Fly life is actively pro-creating producing a constant supply of nourishment,terrestrial insect life is abundant too.Feeding both fry and mature trout alike.

Fly choice can be difficult ! Not sure ? Look to the margins and the downwind shore-watch and try to collect a few hatched / hatching specimens and compare them with your selection of flies..

simply matching the nearest pattern you have in your box to that of the naturals..

This is a generalisation but a huge step in the right direction to success.

 

 

 'BUSHING'

Coarse anglers developed their own style of dapping natural and artificial baits and flies.

'Bushing' as it is known can be very rewarding for the angler who enjoys a challenge.

Chub like to lye up beneath overhanging vegetation,tree branches,root tangles and flood debris often tight into the bankside.Lyes that are inacessible to regular fishing methods.

Bluebottle flies,crane flies,caterpillars,slugs and beetles fished live are quality baits .Large dark coloured dapping flies worked on the current are second to none.

No specialised equipment is required.Standard coarse rods with fixed spool or centrpin reels loaded with sturdy lines will do.Split shot will be needed to to nip onto the line about eighteen inches from the fly to help place it with accuracy.

'Bushing' requires a stealthy approach and steady hand.

Having spotted a quality fish the trick is to gently push the rod tip through the undergrowth without spooking the shoal.Then lower the fly gently onto the fish's snout !

Live flies and insects are usualy taken within seconds.

Dapping flies worked on the current can be made to skate across the fish's

view or lifted on and off the water to portray their natural behaviour.

With little room to wield a rod and play a fish strong line is necessary to bully the fish into submission as it dives for the nearest cover,only fet away !

Be confident at all times playing and landing the catch before attempting 'bushing'.

Fish welfare and ones's own safety fishing in such places is paramount.


 

 ' OPEN ALL HOURS '

Shallow/Low Water Pools

Sea trout are the most elusive of fish,mainly fished for during the dark hours when running the gauntlet from pool to pool at a time when they feel most secure from their many predators.Many anglers miss out on quality fishing by casting a line for sea trout only during the night believing that sea trout in the daytime are non taking fish...This is what the books tell us and night time amongst fishermen has the preference over daytime.I really enjoy the excitement of night fishing but the challenge of hooking a few quality trout in the heat of the day is irresistable !Working that little harder to secure a fish or two adds to the success of the day under  difficult circumstances.

There is no doubt that sea trout feed during their migration and will take an artificial or natural bait when well presented.A good knowledge of each individual pool identifies those which are 'Resting' and those which are 'Holding ' pools.

It is holding pools that we are going to turn our attention to.

'Resting pools' as the name suggests are exactly as described,only holding tired fish for a short periods of time as they journey upstream.Best fished at night time there is little point concentrating on these pools during daylight as they will be void of fish.

Whereas sea trout lye up in 'Holding pools ' perhaps only until the next evening tide or dependant on conditions – for several days.

A stealthy approach is necessary,crunching through the gravel or casting long shadows across the water will only make the trout uneasy and even more  wary.Pushing fish into the head of the pool which has already been covered with  previous casts.Small flies in the size range 12 and below work best,silver stoats tail is a classic salmon pattern that out fishes all the rest using this method for sea trout.Don't shy away from fishing ' micro tube flies ' in the lowest of waters.

Starting well upstream above the head of the water to be fished,cast a long line into the streamy water feeding the pool below.In harsh sunlight sea trout will be found in those areas of water that are dappled with shadows or behind mid stream features such as boulders or submerged trees. Anywhere in fact that offers relief from the sun burning into their eyes.There is always the chance of a bonus salmon in the shadows too.

Water levels at this time of year tend to be on the low to lowest levels so fish with a floating or intermediate line and long leader.

In order to induce a take,cast downstream in the normal manner.There will be very little flow to pull the fly around so gently sweep the rod from right to left.Gently encouraging  the fly line to swing in an  arc.The fly travelling some distance behind speeds up slightly as the fly line straightens out directly downstream' On the Dangle '.Imparting life and movement into the otherwise static fly.This extra burst of speed triggers the trout which has followed through to strike at the fly taking it hard and fast.Generally speaking fish taken on ' The Dangle ' are poorly hooked and one shake of their heads results in lost fish.Flies tied on small outpoint trebles have better hooking qualities under these circumstances than standard trebles.Taking one step downstream between every series of casts,cover the pool slowly and  methodically.

Bright sunshine or overcast skies trout will oblige even in the lowest of water situations.

DEEP WATER POOLS / SLOW GLIDES

Deep water pools demand a different approach in fact one extreme to the next ! From the small flies of low water to streamer fly patterns up to 2'' inches long and those sporting flying trebles.A bolder style of fishing now comes into play,but it is still necessary to approach the pool as quietly as possible and should the nature of the bank allow,stand back a little ways from the water's edge.

Fly choice-big bold streamers which are mobile with lots of in built wing action and very much fry like when fished sub surface or down through the depths into the bottom layers.The Marchog style of flies complete with flying treble are a very popular choice too.

Takes on both are hard and fast often resulting in self hooking as the fish takes,turns and heads back down into the depths pulling the hook securely into the side of the mouth or scissors.

Fan casting searches all the water and gives the trout the opportunity to chase the fly.Once the cast has settled strip the line back on the retrieve as fast as you possibly can 'Ripping' the fly just under the surface layers.Creasing the surface creating a wake.Surface disturbance such as this grabs the trout's attention drawing them up from a depth of 10 feet and more.

Simple but effective – as with all disciplines in the fishing world presentation is the key to success.


 

' SPATE WATER SEA TROUT '
Spate water encourages salmon and sea trout to run through the daylight hours and others such as trout to feed on a multitude of natural bugs/insects and worms washed in from the banks.

Agreed the best time overall is on a falling water which is clearing.However good sport can be had during the initial rise..Salmon in particular when intent on running rarely take a bait preferring to make as much headway as they can.There is always the exception to the rule-many fish will stop for a rest to regain energy levels [salmon run upstream through the hardest stretches of water] To a salmon a river consists of Holding and Resting Pools ..Which as their name suggests act as such.

Fish lye up in holding pools for a few hours maybe even a few weeks before moving upstream..Resting pools are those in which fish which are running stop to catch their breath and regain energy levels.Once identified concentrate on the resting pools bearing in mind that salmon and sea trout change their lyes accordingly !

The extreme tail of the pool is always a good bet - bear in mind that at the apex of any bend the current will be strongest and at first glance can be deceiving.So fish the water opposite even if it is under your feet ! the main pool - fish lye alongside and just off the main current in those places where the fish has to make little effort to lye static,conserving energy.During heavy spate time spent here catching their breath varies from a few minutes to an hour or more.

A fresh run fish settling into a new pool is a taking fish.

'Fish that are seen to 'head and tail' [porpoisng-their backs and dorsal fins just creasing the surface] are taking fish [ not jumping - jumpers are normally 'travellers' passing through ].But you must get a bait or fly or bait directly in front of them as they porpoise.They will normally surface several times in this fashion before 'going down'.

Any sub surface rocks/boulders will hold fish in the 'flat V' of water behind the rock there is always a slight depression scooped out by previous spates behind these rocks where the fish can settle into comfortably.Likewise sunk rocks hidden below the main torrent act as the same type of refuge.Slack water in the extreme head of the pool holds fish too often in water so shallow that it barely covers their backs.Should there be any small streams spilling into the main river - here you will find a multitude of fish congregating at the confluence of the two streams.Likewise at any point where two streams meet there is a slight drop off and depression scooped out of the river bed that will shelter fish.

Sea trout will feed at any point ..so too will the browns.

Sport slows down to a virtual standstill at the height of the spate..As the water recedes and begins to clear the fish start to show interest again and good sport is to be had..Fishing fly is hard work - heavy quick sinking line and heavy flies ie:brass tubes to get down there and fished deep and slow.Free-line natural baits with only enough weight to touch bottom.

It probably seems reading this that fish are to be found anywhere in the pool !.Not so - a degree of accuracy will account for success..

Target the areas described there are many dead spots within the pool where you will not find fish.Using lures -again deep and slow big spoons or bar spoons..tobies flying c's etc but in the bigger sizes.


A GHILLIES TALE JOHN LINDSAY  (c) 2010 J LINDSAY

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