What makes a good sea trout river?
by John Gray
may be taken in two ways. Does it relate to a river's
suitability as a sea trout producing river or as a sea trout
fishing river? Naturally, to be a good sea trout river, in any
sense, a river must have the capacity to produce a good stock of
sea trout but not all sea trout producing rivers make good sea
trout fishing rivers.
Looking first at the characteristics likely to produce sea
trout, I would think that the best sea trout rivers would meet
the following criteria:
1. They would be free of any major obstacles to allow the easy
passage of returning sea trout. This would include barriers,
nets, estuary pollution, predators, anglers etc.
2. They would have an abundance of accessible spawning and
nursery streams with suitable spawning gravel and clean water.
Although likely to be acidic and lacking in trout food, they
would have a steady supply of clean, unpolluted water but not
prone to excessive winter flooding. It would be preferable if
the spawning conditions were less suited to salmon so that the
trout/sea trout would face less competition for space on the
spawning and nursery streams.
3. They would be relatively free from predators e.g. sawbill
ducks, mink, eels etc.
4. They would likely be fairly acidic, barren waters, but with
an extensive system of nursery streams, able to sustain a large
number of juvenile trout but unable to support a similarly large
stock of good sized brown trout, thus providing an incentive for
the majority of young fish, particularly the females, to run to
sea in order to find food.
5. The sea trout smolts would have a free, unhindered passage on
their seaward migration, with a minimum of predation, pollution
and obstruction. There should be no salmon farms within a
hundred miles of the river mouth.
6. There should be rich marine feeding in the vacinity of the
river mouth with a minimum of exploitation of the sea trout's
prey species, in particular there should be no netting of
sandeels. Sea temperature, which may now be rising, may also
play a part.
As to what makes a river a good sea trout fishing river, that is
perhaps more difficult to define. In addition to the above
qualities, I like a river with the following characteristics:
1. It should be generally accessible to all and reasonably
2. It should be well managed, maintained and policed, preferably
by well qualified keepers.
2. It should have a good number of deep holding pools,
throughout its length, with plenty of tree cover, not so much
for fishing but to provide sanctuary for the sea trout,
particularly during daylight hours.
3. Even at summer low levels, it would have some streamy water
suitable for fly fishing - not rough water but with enough flow
to fish a fly without the need for handlining. This streamy
water may be quite shallow, even a foot of water can hold fish
at night. This streamy water would ideally lie near some deeper
4. The river would flow through a series of "pools" over a
varied bed, with a mix of large stones, shingle and gravel. The
pools should have good tree cover.
5. The river would not be subject to flash floods, all too
common nowadays with the afforestation of the upper catchments
of many rivers. It would clear reasonably quickly after summer
spates and would have a minimum of weed growth of the kind now
common in rivers where an excess of agricultural fertiliser
leaches into the river.
6. Ideally, the river should have an entirely natural flow, with
no man-made obstructions, no hydro-electric schemes and no water
abstraction of any kind.