Sea trout saving the day
We chat to Ian Davis, the elected commissioner of the River Teviot at Roxburgh, about the allure of sea trout fishing and the recent resurgence in stocks.
How long have you been fishing for sea trout?
I first started fishing for sea trout and salmon when I was nine years old. At that time we took family holidays staying near Grantown-on-Spey, where I learned to fish on the association water there. That was over 50 years ago and I confidently went after sea trout with my trusty two-piece 8'6" split cane rod!
What, for you, is the allure of sea trout fishing?
Sea trout fishing can take many forms; therefore, it has many different attractions. Sometimes, it is going out at dusk on a summer's evening and sitting quietly beside a pool waiting for the sea trout to start jumping. It is amazing what you see in the stillness of the evening - maybe an otter family fishing their way through the pool you want to fish!
Other times it is the surprising bonus of catching a sea trout when you don't expect it. On many occasions, I have been fishing for salmon when I get a very lively fish splashing on the surface, only to find I have caught a nice sea trout.
Why do you think we have seen a resurgence in sea trout numbers?
I think that there are a number of factors that have contributed. It could be as simple as having a big flood when the sea trout come in, so the nets are off due to the high water, which means more fish come upstream. I know that in the headwaters of the Teviot, last year, most of the fish cutting redds were large sea trout, so that is indicative that in that specific area we are likely to produce more juvenile sea trout parr.
One other question, of course, is what makes a sea trout? DNA analysis is currently being carried out; then we hope to learn more about the differences between a sea trout and a brown trout. What makes a trout want to migrate down to the sea, like salmon smolts, and find feeding grounds in the saltwater? Is it a trigger such as water volumes?
We know the Tweed catchment has plenty of food in the rivers, so there must be a trigger that, so far, we have not identified.
If you have low water, salmon are reluctant to run upriver, however, sea trout will run through considerably lower water. There is no doubt that more fishermen spend more days on the river than ever before, regardless of river heights, so if you have a spell of prolonged low water, it is usually the sea trout that save the day!
When the waters eventually rise, often salmon will run straight through, desperate to spawn.
Your favourite spots for sea trout?
There are many fine rivers with good runs of sea trout. Nowadays, these are predominantly on the East Coast because the West Coast rivers have suffered badly with the effects of estuary fish farms. I was a member of the Sea Trout Group for several years and it was heart-breaking to hear how once famous sea trout rivers had been reduced to virtually no fish at all.
The Teviot is obviously a favourite. I have just finished fishing a week on my syndicate water and I was lucky enough to hook a big sea trout. Eventually it was played out, so I drew it over some sedges at the river's edge onto what I thought was the bank. I took a step onto the sedges and went up to my thigh in cold water! It was still worth it to catch a good fish.
Your most trusted patterns?
Picking your favourite sea trout flies requires some qualification. If I am out during the day, then I use a Teal, Blue and Silver, then an Alexander followed by a Butcher. If I am out at dusk, I use a Silver Stoat's Tail or a standard Stoat's Tail.
Sea trout are survivors. How do they achieve that? By watching what is happening around them. So, for me, I think the best tactic, day or night, is to be as stealthy as possible. This means moving slowly in the water, making as little disturbance as possible, and not having more than two or three casts at a fish. If necessary, come back half an hour later. Avoid becoming a silhouette on a skyline, keep low and use the river banks to give you cover.
I find it best to arrive at a pool, then sit quietly on the bank where I expect to start fishing from, and wait patiently until the sea trout start to show. Watch them for another quarter of an hour and see if there is a persistent riser, then target that fish and have a cast. Then wait for the fireworks!
Photography: Tweed Media