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Colton’s Tips On Night-Time Sea Trout Fishing


Despite fly fishing all over the world for a variety of species, Welsh fly fishing guide Colton Kelly says nothing beats the excitement of what we have right here on our doorstep in the UK, and below gives an introduction to night-time sea trout fishing.

With the 2023 migratory season underway here on The Towy in Southwest Wales, I can now start focusing more on the fly fishing and less on the property that I am currently renovating, which is a stone’s throw from the river here in Golden Grove, a little village just on the outskirts of Llandeilo. The village is renowned for some of the best sea trout fishing in the United Kingdom, especially if you are looking to catch a double figure fish. 

River Towy Sea Trout Season

Sea trout & salmon season on the River Towy is April 1st - October 17th, which is nowhere as near as long a season as most of the Scottish and northern rivers. This does not make such a difference anymore as our seasons begin later and later each year, which can of course be quite frustrating if you do not know where the fish will be.

Colton KellyColton Kelly
Author Colton Kelly

Life is made easier when you have a local guide to point you in the right direction and give you countless years of knowledge. That’s what you pay for right? 

The larger sea trout typically run in the early season (April – May), and the shoals of shorelines run from June onwards. I caught my first sea trout in early May last year and it was just over 11lbs, fresh from a large spring tide that day. Many people try numerous different tactics when sea trout fishing early doors, however I think it is best not to overcomplicate it.

Given the current situation with many British rivers declining in fish stocks, sea trout are running now in smaller numbers. On the bright side, there is still hope for us anglers. In July last year, I witnessed around 200-300 sea trout in one pool after a spate. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in a local pub, thinking about how the river was many years ago, when it was filled with fish. Some of the older fishermen tell stories that would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I hope we can eventually get these rivers back to the condition that they once were.

Sea trout badgesSea trout badges
The badges say it all
The River Towy at night-timeThe River Towy at night-time
The Towy at night-time

Night Time Sea Trout Fishing Advice

The majority (around 99%) of our sea trout fly fishing is done under the cover of night. Night fly fishing is not for the faint hearted, and it can be quite daunting for an angler who hasn't dipped his toe yet. When you’re chest deep in the middle of the river in the pitch black, with otters wrestling each other upstream and bats crashing against the surface film picking up insects, it can be quite full on. However, to become a successful sea trout angler you must blend in and become part of the night. After a couple of hours, you’ll find that you merge in with the environment and quickly understand that it’s mostly all touch and feel.  

The darker the night the better. A lot of cloud cover and little moonlight is the perfect night for sea trout fishing. It seems that these nights tend to come around on a Sunday when you are looking forward to an early night. You might be thinking that the darkness makes the fly fishing more difficult. However, once you know the pools and trees on the opposite bank and so on, you really adapt and that is when the fun starts. I have fished all over the world chasing various salt and freshwater fish, and I can honestly say that there is nothing that beats what we have here right on our doorstep. 

There is nothing like getting the line ripped from your fingers and an almighty splash thirty feet down river. The only way I can really describe this sound is like a cow falling into the river. 

We’re so fortunate on the Towy that big fish still run this river. There are certain lies that you’re almost positive a sea trout will be behind, but these will change every season from the big winter floods. The more active you are scouting out the newly carved lies early season when the fishing is quieter, the more knowledgeable you are for when the fish are in the system to positively increase your catch rate.

A cracking Towy sea troutA cracking Towy sea trout
A cracking Towy sea trout

Typically, we use 7 or 8 weight 10ft fast action fly rods here in West Wales, and if you hook into one of these fat fresh double figure fish at night you need something with a bit of power. I would also recommend thinking about combining the rod with a meaty drag system reel, to try and slow down and tire out these bigger fish before they dart into an obstruction and snap you off. Unfortunately, this happens more than you might think.

Personally, my set up is the Hardy Demon 8 weight 10 ft combined with the Hardy Sea Trout Cascapedia – an extension of my right arm. Fly lines are pretty straight forward so don't worry yourself prior to a trip. As long as you have a standard floating line, intermediate line and potentially some midge tips depending on water levels, you’ll be able to cover most pools.

My tried & trusted Hardy outfitMy tried & trusted Hardy outfit
My tried & trusted Hardy outfit

Flies can be a tricky choice for most anglers starting night fishing and but they shouldn't be - when starting off do not overthink it, just fish what you personally feel most confident fishing. Depending on dates within the season or water levels and conditions throughout the season my boxes change. Tube flies are highly effective when fished correctly and so are doubles and singles. You can't go wrong with variants such as the Alexander, Stoats Tail, Bloody Butcher, Peter Ross, The Editor, and colours in the flies such as reds, teals, silver and my favorite black with some flash and a pair of big jungle cock eyes.

Surface lures are a must if you are thinking about heading down to the Towy, and one of the most effective is the Jambo. If for some reason the fish are turning their nose up at a wet fly, try a quick figure of eight retrieve with a surface lure across the river surface and you might get a take so vicious you will be coming back again more times than you initially thought.

Saturday night feverSaturday night fever
Saturday night fever
Essential sea trout fliesEssential sea trout flies
Essential sea trout flies

Sea trout are an amazing fish and we need to protect them for future generations. Take care to handle fish correctly, keeping them as wet as possible and a quick and correct release of these magnificent specimens is important. I know that anglers are not the cause of the significant decline in sea trout numbers, but we can still all do our utmost to preserve what we can.

Tips for night time sea trout fishing

  • Listen to the advice of local guides 
  • Fish with the flies you’re most confident fishing
  • Minimise false casts 
  • Keep your torch off river at all times 
  • Change fishing style to find out what’s working
  • Always use barbless hooks 
  • Keep fish wet - sea trout are amazing, we need to protect them
Tips for night time sea trout fishingTips for night time sea trout fishing

Gear for night time sea trout fishing

Recommended sea trout gearRecommended sea trout gear

If you fancy fishing the River Towy with Colton as your guide, do get in contact with him on Instagram: @coltonbrettkelly

Alternatively, contact Jamie Harries the Head Keeper at Golden Grove via email on: Jamie@golden-grove.org.uk

If you have any top tips of your own or have any questions, please use the comments area below!

The Latest Sea Trout Gear

2023-06-16 14:17:00
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