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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


15/05/2017 - Go Target the Sea Trout this Summer

mouse pattern

May sees the start of sea trout fishing, a fish I’ve been chasing since the late 1950’s with many sessions ending in complete failure, such is the nature of sea trout, often it’s my angling ability that’s at fault on the day or night. Both species of trout, brown and sea have the same Latin name of Salmo trutta . The sea trout is similar to the salmon both fish goe to sea for a while, before descending our rivers to spawn, unlike the salmon where some 90% die, the sea trout doesn’t suffer from this problem. A good wild brown trout from our rivers would be a 2lb fish, unless the water is stocked with heavier size fish. The sea trout by comparison grows far bigger often into double figures, a 5lb fish can often be the norm on some rivers. The two Welsh rivers Dovey and Teifi have been prolific sea trout rivers with many double figure fish being caught, Pat O’Reilly and his friends caught their share of fish in the Teifi River in the 1990’s

Night Time is Best

This type of sport is not for those with a nervous disposition or the feint hearted, to get the best, also it’s a solitary pursuit, it’s not shared with m friends we all go our different ways, it’s just you and the wilderness, these fish are the most nervous in the aquatic would, on high alert for predators seals in the ocean, otters in our rivers, nets men waiting inside the estuary, into the river it’s the thieving kind who are out to steal our fish to often pay for their drug drink and betting addiction. In my book there is nothing more exciting to be in the pitch dark on a river with just the sound of an owl or fox calling, the grunt of the badger, your instincts are on high alert, adrenaline is coursing through your body, a twig cracks what’s that you query as you sit or stand immobile at the water’s edge listening for the sound of a fish, suddenly a deer is just feet away, neither of you move for perhaps a minute, then your four legged friend moves quietly away. It’s you on your own so be prepared for the night and it’s sounds to play on your mind, it’s nothing to worry about, there are no wild animals to jump on you as many people seem to think at the thought of being in the wilderness in the dark hours, just go and experience it,

Tackle Choice

For some time I’ve used 10 foot, six and seven weight Thomas and Thomas models matched with a Stratos reel by ATC Enterprises of Oregon, I have 2 of these reels with an extra spool for each, this allows me to have two lines, a weight forward floater, also a medium sinking line. these items of tackle have never let me down. A very useful addition is one of the new floating lines with a clear sink tip. I often use the 6 weight outfit for fishing a Muddler minnow, also expect good brown trout also chub. I match the floating line with a nine foot tapered leader with a 6 or 8lb tippet. The medium sinking line is often fitted with a six/seven foot leader with again an eight pound tippet, when fishing I try to travel light using a fly fishing vest to hold some spools of line, forceps, and fly box. Along with a few new leaders, most important is a decent size landing net that clips on the back of the vest.

The Excitement of Waking or Floating Lures

For fishing these lures you want a pitch black nigh with thick cloud, I don’t arrive on the water until it’s hard to detect the far bank, but never show any form of light, these are the conditions I like, I also customise my eyes ready for darkness by wearing my dark glasses for the last hour of the day then into the darkness. When fishing a waking or surface lure, you will find the takes are often very savage. This type of fishing isn’t a difficult way to fish. I cast the lure across the river slightly downstream then allow it to swing downstream, often you will get a hit before it travel’s far, when it settles in the spot I let it create a wake caused by the water flow.

My Killer Mouse Pattern

One of my favourite lures if one can have such a thing, is my mouse patterns, I often fish this pattern across the stream then strip it back, other times the mouse is cast under the far bank bushes and trees, I then allow it to crate a waking movement, both methods work, another time for a mouse pattern is during the heat of the day, casting it tight to the bank in the shade, in fact if possible cast it to land on the bank then leave it for half minute before flicking it off the bank into the water then strip quite fast. Before you attempt to fish at night walk the beat during the day, get to know every rock, the deeper spots especially pot holes which can prove treacherous in the dark where you that could end up with a broken leg, make a mental note of all snags that could cause you to trip or have a bad fall. It’s not being a wimp but being sensible, even at my age I take these precautions. I will end by saying bring on those warm pitch black nights, just can’t wait for the sea trout to run. An excellent book on the subject is James Waltham’s book The Sea Trout and The Fly Published by Crowood ISBN 1 86126 842 4 it will cost you less than £20-00

Picture IMG 1656 third from left is a waking lure, first lure third line down is the Falkus Secret Weapon, all flies and lures pictured have proved successful for me and many other anglers, final pic is (1671) of a jumbled mass of flies and lures in my box after a night of frustration, enough said.

One of Those Lucky Days

I can best describe the excitement of sea trout fishing from my diary, I arrived on the banks of the River Ribble to find it fining down after a good spate, the day before it had five feet of water on the gauge, today the reading was two feet with good visibility conditions can only be described as good perhaps very good. Pulling on my waders, I slipped a fly box in the top pocket, picking up my wading staff and rod I headed off upstream. On a big rock in mid river a pair of Dippers was bouncing up and down, a kingfisher flew low and fast downstream, overhead I heard that delightful bubbling call of a Curlew. It was great to be alive. My chosen area to start fishing was a thirty/forty yard long pool.

I split the pool into two sections, starting at the top of the pool where the water is quite deep under the far bank, with a nice crease a third of the way across the river. The fish were either resting close to the far tree lined bank or in the crease. I made a cast straight across the pool, not downstream at forty five degrees as most anglers fish. Then as the fly swings across the water flow, I give a few short pulls then a couple of long slow pulls, as the fly reaches the centre of the river I will often lift the rod high causing the fly to swing up towards the surface. Its then I often get a hit. Only when I have the pool to myself do I make a few casts before moving on, otherwise it’s cast, fish the cast out. then take a step downstream.


Etiquette is Most Important


The correct etiquette for fishing a pool is fish your cast out’ then take a step downstream. Repeating this process until you reach the bottom of the pool. If you want to fish the pool again, you must go to the head of the pool then follow the last angler downstream. When I am on my own I can make several casts fishing the fly at various depths. After fishing the top section of the pool where I would expect the sea trout to be holding, I would then move down to fish the tail of the pool.

First Fish

I suppose I’d made around thirty casts as I down the pool. As the fly reached the centre of the river I lifted the rod tip pulling the fly towards the surface. A good fish hit, there was a boil on the surface, and setting the hook a fish shot skywards then crashed back in a shower of spray with the ripples spreading across the pool. The rod tip arched over as the fish powered downstream, the reel grudgingly released line. I cramped on as much pressure I thought the tackle would stand. As I fought the fish back upstream, I moved downstream trying to get below the fish, it didn’t quite work out as planned. A few minutes later a fish about three pounds was within fifteen feet. Backing in towards the bank I pulled the fish into a quiet bit of water, close enough to reach down and retrieve the hook which was set in the scissors of the fish. I then watched it swim off strongly upstream. I though how lucky I was to be on a sea trout river when conditions were good. It’s been said many times by far better anglers than me “You have to be at the water at the right time to catch sea trout” How true.

Wading out towards the centre of the river, I made a roll, then one false cast dropping the fly close to the far bank, then quickly made an upstream mend, watching the line hawk like as the fly swung across the river. I probably repeated the process a dozen times, moving downstream every third or fourth cast. Preparing to lift off for another cast a fish hit, the rod tip was savagely pulled downwards; the reel gave a long low sounding growl as line was pulled through the guides. Once again the fish headed downstream, but this time in short bursts. By cramping on pressure I could gain line within five minutes, another good size fish about three pounds was unhooked and released. Three or four casts later I headed off downstream to the bottom of the pool.

David’s Snake Fly Does the Trick

Time for a fly change, on the advice of James Waltham author of The Sea Trout and The Fly published by Crowood Press I decided to fish a Snake fly, which Dave Jones of Bury had tied up for me.  First cast the fly travelled just a few feet when I had a hit, as before the fish moved downstream. The well balanced tackle was perfect for subduing the fish. Soon fish number three was at hand, I could see the fly was well inside the mouth of a fish estimated around 4lbs. Using a small pair of forceps I quickly removed the barbless double hook then watched the fish move quickly across the shallow water to sanctuary of the deep water under the trees.

Ten minutes later I had another hit; three seconds later it was gone. The same happened on my next cast, checking the hook point, I found it was needle sharp. Ten minutes later I had a firm hook up, this fish probably spent as much time in the air, as in the water. Once subdued I quickly had the fish on the shallows where I quickly lifted the barbless hook from the top lip a fish around 4lbs. This was turning out to be one of my better days of sea trout fishing. As I watched the fish swim off strongly, I was asked for my syndicate ticket and rod licence. Thankfully all was in order. Unlike a friend of mine who offered the previous year’s rod licence when asked to produce his documents. Thankfully he did have a current rod licence. Two hours later without another fish, I decided it was time to move on. As I was retrieving the fly a brown trout grabbed hold just as Malcolm turned up to fish the pool. After a chat I said “It’s all yours Malcolm have fun” I would have loved to have stopped on the river but I was expected to be presentation to receive an award by the Chief Constable.

Back in the cabin pulling off my waders, I thought I could collect my award any time, I can’t catch sea trout every day, then decided to stay on the river, making a welcome mug of coffee with some buttered toast, I sat reading the Anglers Mail enjoying my break, two other members turned up. John said “Any good Martin” I said “Yes four nice sea trout” I then explained how I fished and the fly patterns used. Fifteen minutes later both anglers are heading off upstream.

After my lunch break I headed off downstream to fish another pool. By now conditions had changed, the water had dropped a few inches, the colour had gone from dark tea to a weak tea. The clarity of the water was such I could see the bottom in about three feet of water. The air temperature had risen by a few degrees, with a light wind conditions were excellent for brown trout fishing. Swifts, swallows and sand martins along with many ducklings were feasting on the many flies hatching off. Fish could be seen rising in every pool.

A Fish to Remember

Arriving at the downstream pool which in the past has proved successful for sea trout, the river above the head of the pool flows quite fast and shallow over rocks down quite a steep incline into the head of the pool. In times of high water temperature it’s a well oxygenated bit of water loved by the brown trout and grayling. It’s a pool where one has to take care when wading; so a wading stick is a must. With the clearing water I decided to fish a tube fly on a short leader, fishing it close as I dare to the bottom. The tube was one tied up by Jim Waltham had three brass cones on the body with a size 6 double hook. I made two passes through the pool, without a sign of a fish. Back at the top of the pool I made a roll cast dropping the fly on the crease, I then lifted the rod tip allowing the fly to swing and lift. I had made about three casts. For a few seconds it seemed as if I had caught on some weedy rock. Then it was like an underwater explosion as a fish boiled on the surface before leaping clear and crashing back.


Line went through the guides in a blur. My first thought was ‘salmon’ then it leapt clear of the water a second time shaking its head as it did so. “Sea trout” I said aloud to know one. It then went off down the pool with me stumbling behind, at the same time keeping the rod fairly high and exerting as much pressure as possible on the fish. Once again the fish went skywards then rolled back in the water. It continued to fight its way downstream, as if trying to get back to the ocean from where it had come. Ten minutes or more I was just a witnessed in this epic struggle. My mouth was dry adrenaline was pumping, at the same time I had this horrid feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of losing what could well be my best ever sea trout. The fish looked huge very time it leapt clear of the water, it seemed to grow bigger.

Fifteen minutes later I could feel the fish was getting tired. I cramped on all the pressure I dare, slowly I fought the fish upstream, at the same time making my way downstream in the hope of getting below the fish. Suddenly it shot up the pool, I began to sense victory. Unless I made a mistake the fish would be mine. Inch by inch, foot by foot I gained line. A minute or two later I could touch the leader the fish was mine I heaved a big sigh of relief. It measured out between twenty seven and twenty eight inches. For a few seconds admired this magnificent creature that had started life in the river then gone to sea and was now back to its birthplace. No way could I kill something that had given me so much excitement. If I had wanted a table fish a three pounder would have been bigger enough. I was on the river well into the night then back again at dawn fishing until about nine o’clock then it was time for breakfast. I didn’t get another fish. Its days like that which keep me chasing this wonderful wild fish fresh in from the ocean

mouse pattern

mouse pattern

third from left is a waking lure, first lure third line down is the Falkus Secret Weapon,

Snake flies

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Martin James Fishing
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