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Surfin’ Scotia Way

Sea trouting on the coast is one alternative to river fishing in hot, dry weather, and it holds some great prizes... but don't forget the safety basics


Fun in the sun by the sea.
Fun in the sun by the sea.
Watching the wildlife.
Watching the wildlife.
Beautiful sunsets.
Beautiful sunsets.

With the mercury reaching new heights in the wild north (or at least it has been on the Scottish north-east side) I’ve moved away from chasing the river trout thanks to the very low water and danger that the fish might be damaged as a result of hooking them in such conditions. As my last blog outlined, we have hit record lows on all our north-east rivers (the Spey looks like the Findhorn, and the Findhorn looks like a burn) meaning our resident fish are in danger, due to low oxygen levels.

Everything is in the deeper pools or white water, but even here the water is warm enough to bathe in, so it’s a case of waiting until some fresh water arrives and look towards the lochs (the deeper ones) and explore the salt.

Sea trout are showing along our coast in good numbers, which indicates healthy stocks, or at least you might think it does. Good sized shoals have gathered, sandeel populations seem good with lots around, birds and fish feeding hard on them at times and the sport available can be fast and furious.
But whilst chasing our sea going trout in the surf, I can’t help wondering if all is not well and this is simply masking the numbers? 

In other words, due the long drought and little rain to offer any incentive for these fish to run, what if the fish we are watching in the surf make up pretty much our full stocks?  In the past the sight of splashing silver trout was common and even with rain and spates the next batch of fish would come along, and the numbers built up once again (in the salt water marks), but this year, despite good numbers and fish showing regularly, it struck me that what’s on show will probably be about all we’ll get.
Scary and sad when you consider rivers such as the Spey would or could produce well into four figures of fish recorded, the majority of these coming through July and early August with beats such as Grantown or Aberlour a Mecca for nocturnal loving fly anglers in search of fresh-run silver. Even with the current conditions holding most of our sea-going trout in the estuaries, I would still have expected to see many more, or am I just being over-dramatic, maybe even purely wrong in assuming all we see is all we seem to have?

Maybe I’m just looking for excuses when I’m not catching, or better to say “not hooking” as follows and bumps have been pretty regular on almost every one of my little sea bound ventures. I’ve even dug out the old bulletproof waders which are still the ones to wear when splashing around in the salt.
I’ve also reacquainted myself with a saltwater refresher learning curve, not all the fish will chase a big, long mobile Sandeel imitation, and not all the fish will be lying far out so you don’t have to cast the width of the Moray Firth. And, yes, it is best to leave your phone in the car as mobiles and water don’t really mix very well.

Yup, I have had to buy a new phone following a little incident, which was funny at the time but on reflection also highlighted something else, fishing the sea needs care and attention. Wading is OK, but you really need to be aware of, and constantly watch those tides not to mention the waves. I didn’t , and a larger than normal wave rolled in, knocked my feet from under me, and down I went kicking to get my feet back under me. Luckily I was up almost immediately and retired crestfallen, with a bruised ego, and KO’d mobile, but what if that had been an outgoing tide?

Please be very careful if you fish the surf, folks, even the most benign seas hold dangers and are in a constant state of ‘flux’. Get to know your areas and your own limitations, and never take anything for granted.

All that said, I’m loving the sunsets, big slam takes from the fish, watching the wildlife and treating each foray as a mini-adventure, a break from the norm; after all, a change is as good as a rest, I’m told. I won’t miss having to wash all my gear thoroughly when I get home once I get back on the freshwater again, though.

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