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In the many years it has been in publication, The Angling Report has never covered sea trout fishing in Wales. Just why that is so is not clear, but we are pleased to weigh in this month with a report on the subject by Welsh guide Steffan Jones. Yes, that means he has a vested interest in the subject he is writing about, but we trust him completely to be candid and accurate. If you fish with him as a result of what you read here, you will see why we trust the man and recommend his services to you. Before turning to his report, it is perhaps important to note that the fish we are talking about here are naturally occurring searun brown trout. They look exactly like the sea trout that are caught in the Rio Grande River in Argentina (which are of British origin as well), just smaller and probably less fat. They reach double-digit figures in Wales, and fish that large are caught every season. The United Kingdom record fish weighed 27 pounds. Sea-run brown trout go to sea in the spring, typically in March, heading down their river system until they find the saltwater. Once there, they do not travel far. They tend to stay around the coastline, with some pushing further out into the Irish Sea. Some sea-run trout return within three to four months of being in the salt, while others stay out for 14 to 16 months. These fish occur naturally all over Europe, including Spain, France, Poland, and throughout Scandinavia. Historically, the largest sea trout in the world—even bigger than those now caught in Tierra del Fuego—occurred in Poland. Unfortunately, stock levels there are minimal nowadays. With all of that said, here is Steffan Jones’s report.
“Wales doesn’t appear on the radar screen of a lot of international anglers, at least in part because the area has not been widely documented in the foreign press. However, there are a number of good angling opportunities here, the most important of which is its sea-run brown trout fishing. Several rivers in Wales are among the best in Europe for this fishing. The big three are the Teifi, the Towy, and the Dovey. The Dovey is not easily accessed by visiting anglers because of limitations enforced by a local club. However, the Teifi and Towy are extremely visitor friendly with access to some of the best water and cost as little as £15 for a 24-hour permit, a week’s ticket being £60. The costs are the same for local and visiting anglers. The Teifi and Towy will each produce a rod catch of around 2,000 to 3,000 sea trout per season, with the majority of these being taken on the fly at night. Yes, at night. There is, in fact, a huge and long-held tradition of fishing for sea trout at night in Wales, as this is the period when the fish are most active.
“Night fishing for sea trout usually commences around two hours before total darkness, which is around 10 p.m. in July, for example. Typically, one begins to fish by targeting the runs with small, traditional wet flies. The main holding pools are left until total darkness so as not to spook the sea trout, which tend to be less spooky in turbulent water than in still or slower moving water. Then, as the light diminishes, larger flies in tube and longshank forms are called for, along with surface patterns and stinger mounts; these are fairly specialized with some patterns forged over generations of trial and error.
“Sea trout can be caught in the daylight, especially if the rivers are falling after a spate (which is usually a bad period for night fishing, as the sediment prohibits or limits light penetration, which, in turn, limits the silhouette that can be created, which is a key element when night fishing for sea trout). However, the fish are usually quite shy by day, only lowering guard as evening approaches.
“The sea trout rivers in Wales are of a manageable size. Only a singlehanded rod is called for. A 10-foot rod rigged with a #7 or #8 line is perfect. You should carry lines in floating, slow intermediate, and fast intermediate. Rarely do you need to fish any deeper than that. When you do, heavier flies usually do the trick. Eight-pound fluorocarbon should be used before dark, then 12-pound maxima ultragreen after dark. The fish are not leader-shy when night falls.
“The peak months for this fishing are June, July, and August. However, sea trout will start entering the river in March and are worth targeting in earnest from May through late September. The larger fish (three pounds and up) enter the river first. Each season sees fish around the 18-pound mark taken, especially on Towy, which is renowned for larger sea trout, with one of 22
pounds taken just a couple of years ago. The school, or shoal, fish enter in the thousands in late June, with these being around the 12- to 18-inch mark. These will continue to enter almost until the season ends on October 17.
“This fishing is not easy at times and flailing around in the darkness can take a bit of getting used to. That’s why you should start fishing before darkness falls. A good guide for at least the first night is essential and can really hold you in good stead for the rest of your journey. Sea trout fishing is a peculiar business, but a guide will give you a lot of insight in just one evening. Night fishing is all about the take. When you get your first one, I assure you it will be like a drug. There really is nothing in fishing that comes close to it. For one thing, the darkness heightens your senses. Then there is the excitement surrounding the fact that the fish on the end of your line could be a 10 or 11 pounder. On top of that, you have the fun of an acrobatic silver sea trout to deal with. Once hooked, they sometimes spend more time in the air than in the water.
“Accommodation near the Teifi and Towy rivers is in good supply, ranging from basic bed and breakfasts costing as little as £20 a night to great quality local hotels, which come in at around £80 a night. Guiding is also available and costs from £90 per person, per night, to £140 for two anglers. Beyond that, you will need an Environment Agency fishing license, which can be purchased in advance online or when in the United Kingdom (all post offices sell them; just make sure you purchase a migratory fish version).
“The area is fairly easy to access from London, making a sea-run trout outing a viable and interesting stopover option. From London (Paddington station), the train will get you to West Wales in around four-and-a-half hours. From there, it is just a 20- to 30-minute car ride. Alternatively, you could drive from London, which would take around four hours on a good run. The nearest airport would be in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, which is some 90 minutes away from the rivers. Enjoy!”—Steffan Jones
Postscript: Steffan Jones has guided on these rivers since he was 15 years old and now heads a team of guides. He can be contacted at www .anglingworldwide.com, where more information can be found about his guiding services and tailored packages. More generally, additional information about fishing in Wales can be found at www.fishing.visitwales.com and www.wildfishingwales.com. Interestingly, Jones has just joined the British fishing agency Aardvark McLeod (www.aardvarkmcleod.com). Assuredly, if you fish with him in Wales, he will be eager to bend your ear about some other places in the world to fish.