Roddy Rae - Reffis/Stanic
The Editor has requested that I do an article on Sea Trout fishing in Devon hence the title. It would be easy for me just to write a few paragraphs on my own experiences of fishing the Teign, Taw, Torridge, Mole or Dart and leave the reader with the feeling of ‘oh what a lucky bugger he is doing this for a living’, but you will be pleased, I hope, to read that’s not what this article is about.
The wealth of Sea Trout fishing available to the visiting angler in the Westcountry is matched, I believe, only by Wales. Rivers such as those that I have already mentioned plus many more, all of which can weave their magic spell on you and send you home in the early hours wondering to yourself how can I crack the code?
A lot of the fishing and tactics on Devon rivers are quite different from what would be common on most of the big Scottish rivers or indeed the Welsh rivers. That is to say one would be casting a fly out at roughly a 45-degree angle and allowing the current to generally fish the fly for you while you wait in anticipation.
Down here in Devon our rivers tend to be smaller, more wooded and with less water flow, making fishing the traditional methods of across and down less effective. Now I am not saying that this is true of all our rivers but it certainly is of most of them.
Take my local river the Teign for instance, 90% of all sea trout catches are made from the many still pools that this spate river possesses. Pools such as Upperton, Fingle, Drogo, Doggermarsh and Chagford. Therefore the tackle and tactics one tends to use should take these points into consideration if you hope to be successful in catching the enigmatic Sea Trout of the Westcountry.Rods should be of a length of not more than 9ft, with a tip to middle action rated for lines no heavier than 7#, preferably 6# and in some circumstances a 5# weighted line for those conditions of very low clear water, which in the westcountry we only too often experience in late July and August.
Lines generally should be double tapered to give better presentation though there are maybe occasions when a weight forward line may be the better choice. You will find that the floating line will be used more extensively than the sinking line, as in most cases the pools that you will be fishing will not be that deep. In any case the relatively new braided leaders that are on the market will get your fly down to most depths that you are liable to come across.
Leaders should certainly be no longer than 9ft in length which includes the braided leader. I myself often fish with a leader no longer than 6ft. Tippet material should be of the best quality. I use copolymer in breaking strains of 4,5,6 and 7lb.
Reels are often referred to as the piece of equipment that only holds the line and are generally dismissed by a lot of fishing writers. I have had situations where the need for a good braking system combined with a smooth running drum has saved the day or in this case the night. You do not need to spend a lot of money to get a quality reel nowadays the market is flooded with quality reels from all over the world.
What flies do I use or recommend is probably one of the most asked questions I come across during the course of a fishing season. My answers haven’t changed in over 10 years of fishing in Devon, in fact I have been using the same or similar patterns for over 30 years. These are as follows:
Stoats Tail, Badger and Orange, Silver Stoat, Yellow Mallard, Teal Blue and Silver, Dunkeld, Alexander, Peter Ross, Mallard and Yellow, White Muddler, Connemara Black.Most of the flies I use are tied on slipstream aluminium tubes ranging from 1½ to 3 inches with my favourite Partridge outpoint trebles at the business end. Although my fly box contains many more patterns these are the ones I use with confidence and that is the most important word in the anglers dictionary. If you feel happy with your equipment and the flies you are using then, believe it or not, you are half way to being a successful angler.
Earlier in the article I mentioned some of the rivers I have had the pleasure of fishing over the past few seasons. Now most, if not all, of these rivers are available to the visiting angler on a day ticket basis and believe it or not they are never over crowded. You will find information in this publication relating to the associations and hotels, which offer the angler the chance to fish some of the finest beats for Sea Trout that the westcountry has to offer.
Finally let's look at when one should consider going Sea Trout fishing. Fish start running our rivers from about early April when the average size of fish will be larger than in late July/August. On the Teign for instance the average size of fish during the early months tends to be around the 3lb mark, with a few fish up to the 7lb bracket being caught. This past (1998) season all the fish I caught during the months of late April, May and June averaged just over the 3lb. Although the numbers of fish in the system during these months are not what they used to be, or indeed what one would expect to see in August at the height of the season. The quality of the fish at this time makes it well worth the effort.
As late June early July approaches we then start to see the main runs of sea trout entering our river systems and these fish can weigh anything between 12oz to 5-6lb, with August seeing most beats well stocked with fish.
For those anglers who have not experienced the excitement of fishing for sea trout at night, or those who may be a bit wary of their first foray into night fishing, go with a fellow angler, or better still search out an experienced guide who will teach you all there is to know about this wonderful branch of our sport. Don’t forget if you intend wading any stretch of water that is new to you, look at the beat during the day and make notes of any hazards that could ruin your night's sport, or indeed your health!