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I must tie floating lures for sea trout

My floating lures for sea trout
My floating lures for sea trout

I write this on Boxing Day, this year a very mild day (there was a hedgehog in the lane this morning!). We are now four days after the shortest and through the next 10 weeks the days will lengthen to March 15, the start of the trout season here in northwest England. That, for me, is New Year’s Day! In the meantime I have lots to do, including having the odd day with the dry fly rod and grayling in February, if the weather is mild then and spring olives hatch. But tying flies for the New Year is paramount. And flies that I have to tie, because I have few left, are my floating lures for sea trout (see photograph).

Floating lures are not new, and despite Hugh Falkus claiming to have invented them (after, he said, he found a toadlet in a sea trout’s stomach … see the photo in his book!), the first was devised by a pal of Arthur Ransome. You must have read Swallows and Amazons when you were young … and Mainly About Fishing and Rod and Line? If you haven’t, get straight to Coch-y-Bonddu Books and order them. For they are angling classics which give pleasure again and again. Anyway, this chap was night-fishing the Duddon, then a great sea trout river adjacent to Falkus’s Esk. He accidentally cast too far and hooked a hawthorn bush on the far bank. He pulled and a bit of dead twig plus his fly came away and, as he pulled it back, the twig + fly created a wake on the water. A sea trout grabbed hold. The next night, the story goes, Ransome and this chap fished some floating lures and caught sea trout on them. And then Falkus gave us his versions of their lure.

You need a tandem mount, with a big hook (I use sizes 2-4 single salmon irons) in front of a treble (rules permitting, see below), with an overall length of three inches. I use thick mono, with four strands between the two hooks, made from a doubled length of mono taken through the eyes of both hooks, doubled between them. I’m sure you will find that easier than my telling you how I do it. Others use lengths of thick backing, or of (sinking) fly line. Whatever … it should be very flexible, and strong, with no chance of slipping.

Falkus used a piece of cork, lashed to the top of the front hook. He then painted the cork with nail varnish (one that he gave me is red, from his wife Kathy’s nail varnish). Sometimes he used to decorate the cork by tying bits of feather to it (see photo), but there is no need to do that. A pre-Falkus Hardy’s catalogue shows such an ornate dressing; I suppose it helped the sale’s figures.

I used cork and then turned to balsa, for the cork is very heavy to cast any distance on a #6-7 rod. Then I had the idea of using spun deer hair. So now I spin deerhair the length of the shank of the front hook. To help it spin on top of the whippings used to bind in the mount, make the turns of thread touching, and then give them at least three coats of thicking clear tying varnish. This makes the thing smooth so that the deer hair spins nicely. I also like adding a few strands of Crystal Hair/flash at the rear, but that is mere whim and not necessary for catching sea trout. I then trim to a sort of scruffy bullet shape. This I called the Night Muddler (it is like a Muddler Minnow head and is fished at night). About the same time, someone else came up with the idea and called it the [Floating] Mouse. Recently, the idea has been re-invented in Wales.

Only an idiot would go fishing through a summer’s night for sea trout without having some floating lures in the box and giving them a good go. Try at dusk in pool tails, when sea trout are running and pulling in for a rest in the tails having had to work hard through shallows downstream. Try in the dead of night when the pools seem devoid of sea trout. Sometimes the fish splash at the lure instead of taking properly. In which case, having roused them, try more standard wet flies.

Finally, if the rules have been made by people who don’t want you to catch because they cannot, and tandem mounts are prohibited, try a standard Mudder Minnow dressed on a big single hook (#1-4) but tied ‘short’ over the front two-thirds of the shank. That is a good fly for sea trout, greased up and fished on a floating fly line.

On Christmas Eve my wife and I ate, as is our tradition, a sea trout (2lb 2oz) from the River Hodder, with a great Chablis to go with it (plus garden peas and new potatoes gathered from the garden and put into the freezer in summer). It was delicious. I recall that night well, for I had two other, bigger sea trout that I returned to the river. By all means, next summer, tap one or two sea trout on the head and enjoy one of them at Christmas. The stocks can sustain that level of cropping. But don’t be greedy, as we once were. It is a privilege to eat a wild sea trout, and two is enough for any one to keep in a summer. After all, a top dry white wine (you cannot drink anything less with sea trout) is expensive; and if you are as poor as me, a couple of bottles is all we can afford!

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