Updated 2000-12-26
Swedish version

The Duffer in the Dark
Sea Trout for the beginner

By Bill Drew


I have had a few close encounters with sea trout. Each occasion has been memorable but they have been too infrequent. I aim to change this in the coming seasons.

I first tangled with a full blown sea trout in the Rora pool on the Ugie in Aberdeenshire when I was a mere slip of a lad. Dusk was drawing to darkness. It had been an eventful night ending nearly in tears when I stepped on my Dad’s trusty split cane rod. The crunch stays with me yet. After feigning uncharacteristic calm my father set me up with spinning tackle and retreated to the other bank to growl, smoke a fag and generally "chill" as they say nowadays from the loss of a rod which he had cherished for 40 years.

As I retrieved the lure I noticed a disturbance in the water as the Toby reached the bank. In slow motion I watched a "Jaws" - like mouth gulp on the lure. All hell broke loose. A leaping cross between a bucking bronco and a circus acrobat careered across the pool. My plaintive howl of "Dad … Heeeelp" brought my gasping parent to my side. Two minutes more and it was all over. The leviathan had broken me and returned to the deep. 35 years on I can still remember the renewed silence and the empty feeling. My first sea trout.

The following year with a worm I caught a gorgeous one and a half-pound finnock, as a young sea trout is known in the Northeast.

The fight was long and actually my Dad hooked it but I was as proud as a peacock. Pre catch and release that fish made a superb meal.

My second sea trout.

Thirty years later I returned to fishing and my next encounter

A near miss came on the upper Tweed down stream of Yair. The sun was baking and a lunchtime rise had me floating a size 14 March Brown to try and winkle out some early season brownies. A sudden take and a small slim bar of shimmering silver danced on its tail, bowed in departure and was off and away before I had the chance to cuss. I did later. My third sea trout.

Now you may be beginning to detect a pattern here. Played three, won one, does not win the league, particularly when two of the contested had been heavy defeats. Predictably the next take north of Langholm on the Border Esk was another on and off affair. The Duffer duffed up again.

Last Thursday I returned to the Border Esk courtesy of Tony King esquire. Now Tony is a sea trout guru. He is one of that brave band who have chucked the daily commercial grind and chosen to make their living from a passion for fishing. A full time guide South America one-week and bonefishing the next Tony makes most things look easy. Even his e-mail "kingfisher" has a touch of class. Frankly I don’t want to know the financial realities of earning a probably precarious crust from fishing but like most of you out there I love the idea of it as a dream.

I was tooled up for a pukka evening sea trouting. There are only three things wrong with this version of our favourite sport. Firstly it is dark, secondly it is scary and lastly when you tangle snag or generally foul up you are in serious trouble. The dark I got used to fairly quickly. The slow seeping stillness which settles on a country landscape as darkness moves over the land makes me go all ……well poetical really. The water has a new look and smell to it and it is good for the soul. The fishing becomes more concentrated and instinctive. I was using a size 10 Mackerel double fished across and down but soon I was flicking it up in order to pass under the overhanging branches as they touched the water on the opposite bank. One small touch and then nothing I moved down from the beat’s best holding pool.

The scary factor is all about the bumps and movements of the night, which give the shudders to the Duffer’s over fertile imagination. I am sure you are all made of sterner stuff, but alone in the darkness in the water the sudden crash of a rabbit through the undergrowth or the cough of a cow and I am all a judder. A run of rapids and a holding spot took my attention as I switched to a silver fly. The water height was perfect and slowly dropping but apart from the noise of sneezing and spluttering ghouls or members of the animal kingdom nothing broke the spell.

It was on the run beneath a creaking pedestrian bridge that disaster struck. A snag and a tug and horror, my line snapped. Tippet and braided leader had parted company from the line and the connection was frankly knackered. Lack of spare kit and preparedness drove me back up to the car and home to Selkirk an hour earlier than I had intended.

So the Duffer’s advice to the sea trout beginner is as follows. First before night outings fish the beat in daytime and only wade where you are confident. Second relax into a rhythm and fish within your abilities, as the flashy or untried technique will probably land you in trouble. Next be doubly prepared, the inevitable will happen. Lastly fish with a mate. For safety’s sake certainly company is important but above all, things that go bump in the night can be laughed at in a manly fashion and if you hook a fish at least you can shout " Heeelp".

© Bill Drew 2000




This article has also been published in the Magazine "FISH AND FLY": www.fishandfly.co.uk


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