Scotland has some of Europe's best and most varied sea trout fishing.
Sea trout run most Scottish rivers, although significant waterfalls block their passage, as they do not have the same remarkable leaping ability as salmon. On the mainland the most prolific sea trout rivers tend to be those with a comparatively gentle gradient. On the east coast these include the South Esk, Ythan, Deveron, Spey and Nairn; all of these have a tradition of angling specifically for sea trout (especially at night) notwithstanding the fact that they are important salmon rivers. The other great bastion of river angling at night for sea trout is the far south west, notably the Nith (with fish of over 10 lb possible) and the Annan; between them these two rivers have an impressive average annual catch of 4,000. Generally across Scotland the main runs are from June although some rivers have earlier fish.
Tragically one of Scotland's greatest angling assets, the sea trout angling in the west Highlands, is a shadow of its former self; the decline has coincided with the explosion of fish farming in the last 20 years. The affected area includes two of the three truly great mainland sea trout lochs, Loch Maree and Loch Stack; recently both have seen some tentative signs of recovery.
Fortunately the third great sea trout loch, Loch Hope near the north coast, remains in excellent shape with an average catch of some 800 a season.
Another stronghold for sea trout is the Outer Hebrides, especially east Lewis, Harris and the Uists. The latter have always been primarily sea trout fisheries. South Uist, with its shallow machair lochs bordering the Atlantic, produces two or three double figure fish each year; the average weight is an impressive 2lb 12oz. North Uist, as well as loch fishing, offers some remarkable fishing in its sea pools, which tend to have the characteristics of a river as the tide ebbs and flows.
When to fish
The best river sea trout fishing is from June/July onwards with the prime months being July and August, during which nocturnal fishing is the favoured option. Loch fishing is generally done in daylight; sea trout are in the lochs from late June and they remain there for the rest of the season with more of the bigger fish appearing as the season progresses.
How to fish
In rivers sea trout tend to be shy and they take flies or lures much more readily at night. When night fishing it pays to reconnoitre the water during daylight. However it is important to leave the chosen pools well alone during the evening. Do not begin fishing until well into the dusk. Cast and retrieve your flies (the local tackle shop will be able to advise the best patterns) slowly but steadily.
At first try a floating line, fishing the flies just below the surface. If this is not successful, try a sinking line to achieve greater depth. A fly or lure fished on the surface, creating a wake, is another possibility. The essence of night fishing is stealth; disturb the water as little as possible and never shine a torch anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the river.
Loch sea trout are usually tackled from a boat drifting sideways with the wind. If there is a good wave (and plenty of wind is generally an advantage and indeed a prerequisite for dapping), a gillie or companion on the oars is invaluable to hold the boat on the desired drift. The angler fishes either wet fly or the dap downwind of the boat. With wet fly a team of either two or three flies is cast out and retrieved; the speed of line recovery should be fast. If possible the dropper fly should be allowed to skim along on the surface, creating a wake and bouncing enticingly from wave to wave. Dapping, which involves no casting, requires a long rod (between 12 ft and 18 ft). To the end of the fly line is attached a section of light silk-floss line. The wind keeps the floss airborne downwind of the boat, enabling a large bushy fly (tied on an extended shank hook) to dance up and down invitingly on the water's surface.
The law treats salmon and sea trout as one and the same and accordingly the right to fish for salmon includes the right to fish for sea trout and vice versa.
To research fishing opportunities, you therefore need to move to the salmon section and look up the river area of your choice. Each fishery that has worthwhile sea trout fishing will show them alongside their salmon catch. Once you have made your choice, book it as a salmon day and you get the right to fish for sea trout.