Discover five crucial strategies that give experienced sea-trout fishers the edge at night.

Sea trout fishing


Finding the right depth at which to fish your fly is critical, therefore you should carry a selection of lines. Many anglers don’t switch lines because it is a hassle to do in the dark, but if what you are doing is not working, you need to ring the changes by making quick, bold and instinctive decisions. A night’s sea trout fishing can go by very quickly and if you carry on fishing your “friendly” floater with no results, you could run out of time to experiment and miss the most productive method. Line choice should be dictated by the depth at which a line will fish and also by the speed at which it will swing.

A full fast-sinking line will get the fly deeper and keep it there. The heavier the density, the slower the line will swing and the more you may need to retrieve it to impart the required pace to the fly. Full sinkers are good for sea-trout lying doggo in deeper pools who are not interested in moving for a fly. You need to get down to them and put the fly across their noses. A long sink-tip line will also get a fly deep and its floating belly will catch the current, increasing the fly’s rate of swing, which just may be how the sea-trout want it. Sink-tips will stop the fly skating in faster flows and the tails of pools, and the floating section can also be mended to slow or quicken the swing.

Choosing the right line for sea trout

A change of fly-line means a change in the depth and speed of your fly.

To save time it is a good idea to set up two rods. One with a 6 ft-plus sinktip and smaller flies for the first few hours after darkness, and another with a fast sinker (eg Di3 or Di5) and bigger flies for the dead of night. The latter can be replaced by a floating line for surface-lure fishing in the early hours, while the sink-tip and small flies will again be needed for fishing nearer to dawn, if you persevere that long.


Surface lures are a popular choice for night-fishers because they can induce explosive takes and attract bigger fish. Made from spun deer hair or foam, their buoyancy creates a wake as they swing round in the current – a disturbance that can tempt otherwise dormant fish. Tried when conventional flies have failed, usually around or after midnight, they can prevent a blank. However, they are often too buoyant, which can result in fewer fish being hooked. Sea-trout, much like brown trout rising to a dry-fly, find it easier to take a fly in the surface rather than on it. The easier the fly is to take, the more fish you will hook. To increase your chances, tie your flies so that they bulge through the water’s surface rather than skate on top. Use less deer hair or less foam.

Sea trout surface fishing

Aim for a sub-surface bulge; don’t skate the fly.

The same thinking applies to size. If a big surface lure is attracting but not hooking fish, try a smaller one – as you would with a dry-fly for brown trout. Consider the smallness of plastic hitch tubes that tempt salmon to the surface. These also work for sea-trout in the day and at night, so keep a few to hand. Also try fishing a surface lure on a dropper to attract fish to a wet-fly fished on the point. Keep it simple, with one dropper fly and the point fly trailing 2½ ft-3 ft behind. Fish that are first tempted by the surface lure may refuse it and take the wet-fly.

Lastly, the speed of the swing should be consistent. If you have a trial run in daylight you’ll see how currents vary the speed of a surface lure and size of wake. As it swings across, it will inevitably slow down as it leaves the main flow. Fish will follow a surface lure into the margins so retrieve the fly so that it maintains the same speed until the very last second before you lift off to re-cast.


Be methodical when covering a pool. It’s likely you will fish only one or two pools each night, so make sure that you cover them as thoroughly as possible. You can fix the length of line that you need to cover a pool by casting far enough to catch the opposite bank or overhanging boughs, and then retrieving a yard or two of line on to the reel to prevent it happening again. When you have your fixed length of line you can concentrate entirely on searching the pool.

Try casting from different angles

To cover the pool thoroughly, present your flies to the fish from different angles.

With each step try a number of casting angles. First, a classic 45-degree cast with a slow retrieve (if needed). Then another 45-degree cast with a long, but slow strip. Then repeat the same retrieves with two casts directly across the pool and two slightly upstream before taking your step downstream and starting again. Doing this will cover the water thoroughly, swinging the fly at different depths, speeds and angles with each step down the pool. It is not only a thorough way to find fish, but it will reveal at what depth and speed they want the fly.

Hold the fly-line in your non-casting hand and try to feel every bit of the fly’s swing. What you feel will paint a picture of the riverbed and allow you to retrieve accordingly, concentrating on possible lies. Try to visualise the fly and how it is fishing. The slightest snag or draw may reveal a ledge or a boulder, and you will feel more tension in the line when it passes across the main channel/current.


If you are not expecting a fish every cast and are just going through the motions, you need to change what you are doing or where you are fishing. Again, make snap decisions – they often work. Moving pools or switching methods will give you renewed optimism and encourage you to fish the fly with more “life”, which in turn will improve your chances of catching.

Keep alert. Listen for moving fish and note where they are. Notice a lull in the wind or a rise in temperature or humidity – even the smallest atmospheric change can prompt seatrout to take. These are not the times to be sipping tea or having 40 winks. The anglers who catch the most fish put in the time; they think, change what they are doing, and fish with belief.

Finally, and importantly, check your flies regularly. It is very annoying to fish through a pool for an hour only to find your fly has become tangled. If tangles occur regularly, fish with one fly rather than a team. It is better to fish one fly well, than two badly.


Sea-trout are very sensitive to disturbance. Unless you have to wade, don’t. If you must, wade slowly by feeling the riverbed with your feet rather than using big steps. Sea-trout will be spooked if you charge in, sending a bow-wave across a pool. The same applies when you get out of a pool.

Careful wading is sensible for your safety at night, too. If you’ve been through a pool without success, but know there are fish in there, it is better to rest the water before you fish it again using another method. Leave the pool and wait for 20 minutes, using the time to change your set-up.

The less you use a torch, the better. When your night vision is established, you may be able to check that your fly is intact and clear of tangles by holding it up to a dim sky. If torchlight is needed, to untangle the leader or change flies, do so on the bank and turn your back to the river, keeping the beam off the water. You have made the effort to fish at night and the last thing you want is to blow your cover.

using a stealth approach while sea trout fishing

There are few greater rewards in game fishing than a sea-trout caught at night.

When you hook a sea-trout and it takes off down or up the river, head for the bank and follow the fish. Playing the fish away from where you hooked it will avoid disturbing other fish that may be in the same lie.

Keep false casting to a minimum to reduce disturbance and the possibility of catching the water on the forward cast. False casts can be reduced or eliminated by choosing your kit carefully. You’ll be able to feel a mid-action rod load best in the dark and it will make lifting sinking lines from the water easier. Match the rod to a short-bellied, forward-tapered line, which will need less false casting than a long-bellied line. A short-bellied line will also cast big flies easily. If you struggle to cast big flies – surface lures tubes, Waddingtons – use a heavier-rated rod (for eight-weight lines rather than seven-weights).

If you require any further information regarding sea trout fishing, please feel free to contact the Angling Active team. We are happy to help.

This article was brought to you in association with Trout & Salmon.