These fish start life as humble brown trout but a migratory gene makes its presence felt after a couple of years and, turning blue-silver, some of these small fish head out feed in the estuaries and littoral areas of our coastline on sandeels, small fish and prawns.
They return in late spring and throughout the summer and unlike salmon, they’ll return year-on-year – getting bigger with each passing season – most salmon only get the one opportunity to breed and nearly all die in the process.
Like salmon, sea trout rarely feed once back in fresh water – which makes fishing for them seem a somewhat daft exercise. And they are the shyest of creatures, hiding their often substantial frames in innocent looking pools and in the smallest of rivers. Probably at one of the extreme ends of fly-fishing your sea trout fisherman is likely to be found waiting for dark before casting a line for them with a high sense of anticipation and equal measures of hope.
My river of choice is a small, unassuming and often overlooked gem that twists and gently meanders through a broad, lush valley in Devon. Recent rain had pestered the region for the past fortnight and the river had just dropped and cleared enough to warrant a trip to try and catch an early season “silver tourist”.
I arrived early, far too early to be honest, but I got the chance to wander downstream, cross a rickety bridge and settle myself on the bank overlooking a length that I know will have some fish moving at dusk. It’s a magical time, balanced between the nervous anticipation and just drinking in the surroundings – observing otters, herons, roe deer, mallard and egrets as they go about their business. I’ll set up my rods – one on a slow sinking line with two large fishy-looking flies and another on a floating line with a bushy surface lure to pull across the river in the dark.
It’s gone 10pm and I can’t wait any longer. Picking up my rod I headed upstream, let out some line and start casting to the nooks and crannies between the reeds and bushes on the far bank. Each cast brings a heightened sense of expectation, anticipating the sudden and savage pull of a fish renowned to be the hardest fighting in British waters. I slowly move down the stretch, casting, gently retrieving the line and trying to be as accurate as I can as it gets evermore dark.