Steffan Jones

About Steffan Jones

Steffan Jones has fished for sea trout all over the world, but the Teifi and Towy Rivers in West-Wales are his home waters and where he honed his skills. These rivers became his laboratories on which to test theories and fine-tune fly patterns. Steffan is an authority on sea trout fishing and his work graces the pages of Angling Worldwide, Fulling Mill, Fieldsports, and He has guided people onto sea trout for over twenty years and has also now released his first book, dedicated to sea trout fishing: ‘Sea Trout Tips, Tricks & Tribulations’. Contact to find out more.

The Sunray Shadow; versatility and simplicity personified

The sunray shadow is an immensely useful and versatile fly, often provoking a reaction when nothing else will. It can work throughout the season and under almost all river levels and conditions.

They work well for salmon, of course, but also work extremely well for sea trout, becoming a ‘must-have’ pattern on the likes of the Rio Grande in Argentina but also on rivers closer to home. Brown trout will often attack them too, provoking a cannibalistic reaction from fish of all sizes.

The Sunray Shadow fly

The Sunray Shadow fly – useful and versatile!

They are, as a rule, easy to dress. Indeed, in the most simplistic form they can literally be a stack of black fur over white fur! However, as a rule we are content with something a little more aesthetically pleasing, which is often when and why patterns evolve from their original state.

A myriad of different dressings exist for the pattern and no doubt it has ‘evolved’ over the years to suit certain situations, different imaginations or even access to materials. The following is my interpretation and has served me well when dressing smaller sizes and, in particular, when dressing onto hooks rather than tubes.

For salmon, sea trout and even brown trout the Sunray Shadow is an effective fly

For salmon, sea trout and even brown trout the Sunray Shadow is an effective fly


Hook: Partridge Patriot up eye double – sizes 6-14

Body: Silver holographic flat braid tinsel. Place some superglue on the thread base before wrapping over the braid. This will help protect the body from unravelling.

False Hackle: White arctic runner – loose/fine underfur removed

Wing 1: White arctic runner – loose/fine underfur removed. To stop the wing wrapping around the hook, you may also support this finer fur with a few white bucktail fibres if you wish.

Wing 2: Silver holographic lite brite

Wing 3: Black arctic fox – loose/fine underfur removed. Or, my personal favourite, especially for smaller sunrays, is American opossum. Draw out some tips before tying in, which will help taper the wing.

Wing 4: 3-4 peacock herl tips

Cheeks: Jungle cock – optional

Do dress them in different lengths, and vary the one being fished according to colour and water temperature. Don’t be afraid to fish them from 1 inch long through to 8-10 inches on tube versions. Do also make some with a gold body and gold lite brite underwing, then replace the white arctic runner with yellow or chartreuse, this can be a great pattern, especially in coloured/peat-stained water.

A sea trout that fell for the charms of the Sunray Shadow

A sea trout that fell for the charms of the Sunray Shadow

Steffan Jones has fished for sea trout all over the world, but the Teifi and Towy Rivers in West-Wales are his home waters and where he honed his skills. These rivers became his laboratories on which to test theories and fine-tune fly patterns. He has guided people onto sea trout for over twenty years and recently released a book on sea trout fishing – for more information please contact

Sea Trout Surface Lures; Striking the Perfect Balance

When it comes to sea trout flies the ones I tend to adapt and experiment with the most are undoubtedly surface lures. The reason why is simple; they are the hardest ones to get right, but, more importantly, the ones that need to be right in order to maximise their effectiveness and hooking efficiency.

The ultimate sea trout surface lure?

The ultimate sea trout surface lure?

Surface lures are deadly. If you enjoy night-time fishing for sea trout then chances are you already have a handful within your arsenal. If you do not, then that is something you really need to rectify as soon as possible as they can often get a reaction or save a blank night when nothing else provokes a reaction. They can work throughout the year and are worth trying no matter what the conditions. However, as a rule, they do work better when the water has warmed up and also tend to work better later in the season.

Without getting too technical, the most important attribute of a surface lure beyond creating a wake is to fish ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ the surface. This may sound simple, but it is actually difficult to achieve this critical balance. However, achieving it can mean the difference between a reaction to the fly and a secure hook-up. For those looking to cover the science of the surface lure more in-depth then please do refer to the surface lure chapter within my book, which was released in February 2018 (Sea Trout Tips, Tricks & Tribulations).

Material choice is paramount. Different properties will achieve different results. Too buoyant and the sea trout will push the surface lure away when attempting to intercept, too heavy and the fly will sink, negating its purpose and application. For me, to achieve this perfect balance you need to use a combination of materials, some being more buoyant than others, securing the equilibrium.

Hook placement is also worthy of careful consideration. Ideally the hook/s ride under the water’s surface, which helps anchor the overall fly in the surface film whilst also making them easy for the sea trout to intercept. Also on the hook front; have confidence in single hooks. I firmly believe they give the best hook-hold of all, but also make for easier release of the fish with minimal damage – they are too precious to be caught just once, especially given their multi-spawning nature.

After much trial and error I believe the following pattern is as close to perfect as I will achieve. It rides well in the surface, the hooks are placed strategically from a hooking perspective and the overall dressing still has a nice thick, fussy profile but remains relatively aerodynamic as there is minimal bulk. The use of shrink tubing for the mount ensures the best chance of landing the fish once hooked, as it moves with the fish rather than hinging, yet is not too malleable that it doubles back on itself.

Deer hair is used partly for its buoyancy, but more for its messy profile and silhouette. It is cut flat on the top and bottom, retaining the length on both sides – the part that will cast the silhouette. Clipping the deer hair closely on the bottom helps the fly ride low in the surface but also allows clear access to the hook point for the fish. The main buoyancy comes from black plastazote foam. However, this buoyancy is stacked high on the fly, keeping the hooks and main dressing low; either in or below the surface film. This is perfect, as you get the main wake from the deer hair, but the major buoyancy from the foam – best of both worlds. Also, the positioning of the foam accentuates the fishing angle, forcing the body and tail of the fly to break the surface film. This, again, helps create a perfect presentation; easily intercepted and engulfed by the sea trout.

Dress them in different lengths. Some nights a smaller surface lure will be required and will be taken far more confidently than a larger one, which may only be splashed at. If the water is cooler or if there is a lot of mist on the water where very little seems to be provoking a reaction then much larger surface lures need to be deployed for a reaction – an overall dressing of three inches would certainly not be excessive.

Sea trout surface lures - tied to catch more fish!

Sea trout surface lures – tied to catch more fish!


Front hook: Wide gape, mid shank – Partridge Attitude Extra is a good option; size

Trailing hook: Partridge Nordic Tube Single; size 6-8

30lb+ braid with 2.4mm black shrink tubing over – make sure not to damage the braid when heating the shrink tubing.

Holographic silver flat braid

Wing 1: Black bucktail

Wing 2: Pearl crystal hair

Head 1: Black deer hair

Head 2: 4-6mm black plastazote foam sheet

As an optional extra; you may place a dab of superglue on top of the black foam then dip this part into glow-in-the-dark powder, which is charged by torchlight. Place this on the back section rather than the front lip. You will be able to see the surface lure track across the pool, which is very exciting. You see the glow, but the fish just see the silhouette.

Steffan Jones has fished for sea trout all over the world, but the Teifi and Towy Rivers in West-Wales are his home waters and where he honed his skills. These rivers became his laboratories on which to test theories and fine-tune fly patterns. He has guided people onto sea trout for over twenty years and recently released a book on sea trout fishing – for more information please contact

Ten Pike Fly Fishing Tips

  1. Pike love drop-offs and ambush points; study contours and structure carefully.
  2. Although pike have an awesome turn of speed and acceleration don’t automatically think that you have to retrieve at a supersonic rate to tempt them. Quite often long and slow draws are the way to go.pike (1
  3. Pike will often follow you right back to the boat or bank. Always watch closely at such times, rather than just lifting quickly and recasting.
  4. It’s hard not to, but avoid too much lift-striking when a hit is felt. Pike will often just nudge or mouth a fly without taking it properly where a lift-strike would pull it away from them. Strip striking is often better, or just keep pulling until you feel the weight.
  5. Avoid too much natural material in your pike flies as these tend to absorb a lot of water making recasting difficult – especially in the longer patterns that are, at times, essential.pike (1 (2)
  6. Incorporating some extra weight around the head of your flies gives them a deadly jigging action in the water that pike find irresistible – you can even just roll some tungsten putty around the head, rather than tying specific patterns for the job.
  7. Do fish your flies on a loop knot such as a rapala knot or use some clips as this allows the fly to work better with a nicer and exaggerated action.
  8. If a pike is missed and won’t return try drastically altering the size and colour of the fly, this can often provoke and instant reaction.pike (1 (3)
  9. Do carry long-nosed pliers (essential) and a s/steel glove should you not be confident in handling pike. Please do also treat the big-girls with care and respect, as they do more good than damage to the waters keeping the smaller jacks at bay.
  10. Normal tapered trout lines may hinge quite badly with the larger pike flies, making casting frustrating. Pike tapered lines or lines with a short but thick belly are superb as they cope with the larger flies a lot easier. I tend to use the Airflo 40+ Extreme fly lines and they cope admirably.

Steffan runs Angling-Worldwide, a company that specialises in sea-trout fishing packages, courses, and guiding in Wales, with a history of doing so stemming back for over a decade. For further information contact:

Phone: 07879 898 344
Mail: Angling-Worldwide, Crosslane, Dolgran, Pencader, Carmarthenshire, SA39 9BY

Teifi Pools

From source to sea, very few prettier courses cut by a river can exist than that of the Teifi. Revered for its sea-trout, bestowed as the Queen of Welsh-rivers, making it a difficult context to set or etch objectively whilst doing it justice in written form – especially through biased eyes.

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Much has been written on the sea-trout fishing opportunities to be explored on the Teifi, yet, as with so many other rivers, the success of one species is often viewed to the detriment of another. Somewhat overshadowing, or repressing opportunities that would otherwise be highly sought. Such is the predicament of the trout of the upper Teifi, which will now be given their just deserves.

Viewed on a map or from a satellite image it becomes evident that Romans had no part to play in the design of the Teifi! The river that distinguishes the divide between two of Wales’ prime game fishing counties; Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire is as straight as the ‘Blue Oyster Bar’. Carving its path ever seaward towards its destination, Cardigan Bay. On the other end of the spectrum are the lakes where the Teifi forms its roots, and this is where this journey will take us.

At the headwaters of the Teifi set steeply within the Cambrian Mountains a series of lakes exist, some of which are natural with others being intensified by dam walls. Bleak, remote, windy, with changeable weather almost to the hour would best describe their setting. However, I think that this is its charm; angler vs. the elements, and nature in its rawest form. A day can be spent exploring the many inlets and bays in complete serenity, where the red kites soar freely once more. Oh yes, and did mention that the trout fishing isn’t bad too?

The controlling body for these lakes is Tregaron Angling Association, where for £10 a roving ticket exists that not only allows you access to four lakes but also prime trout, with salmon and sea-trout towards the latter months of the season, fishing on 22 miles of the upper Teifi. A rare bargain, as I’m sure you’ll agree. This allows the visiting angler to get a taste of both Worlds, perhaps a likely combination being; fishing the lakes by day before returning to an evening rise on the river.

The wind on Teifi lakes shows little empathy to the angler striving and wielding their line. However, take the wind out of the equation and the angler’s catch soon diminishes too. Food supply in these peat laden hill lakes are described as sparse from the most generous of optimists. As such, the fish become opportunists gorging at every available opportunity on terrestrials or other morsels that suffer the ill-fortune of taking an impromptu dip. With this being the case the trout rarely stray far from the bank, good news for the angler, especially in a stiff, uncompromising wind.


Certain banks indubitably fish better than others, and the windward shore often provides the best sport. However, this can, at times, become a misnomer. Especially since the terrestrials become airborne from the opposite side of the lake –be that by choice, or otherwise – either way they have little say in their journey direction or end.

The trout of Teifi Lakes indefinitely become territorial, highlighting the need to travel light and cover the water. Territorial fish usually lay the foundation for picky feeders and tough to fool, educated fish. Not to belittle the trout, but this doesn’t seem to be case on Teifi lakes where the sparse feeding has led to the abandonment of this trait. With this in mind, if an insect gets blown onto the water on a collision course with the windward shore then it is the trout nearest the leeward bank that will get the first and richest pickings. Why then is it that the best bags usually come from the windward shore? That I would account with the rougher and usually more discoloured water that is synonymous with windward shores, which disguise the angler’s presence and their cast, more than the carriage of food in this instance.

Fortunately, rarely would one be confronted with a windless day on such open waters. Whereas five weight rods would give the best sport on the trout that you are likely to catch – which range from a few ounces to fish of near a pound expected on most days – seven weights are more practical to help combat the wind.

Sport begins in earnest around the middle of March on these remote hill lakes. The hibernation period is prolonged due to its openness, exacerbated by cold, fleeting winds that benefit neither the brave nor the slumbering trout. However, ravenous from this lethargic state they awake ever obligingly. Such great fishing can be expected through to late September, weather permitting.

Fly patterns, as always, should rarely deviate from what is found naturally and therefore fed on naturally. A few minutes spent at the water’s edge and walking through the surrounding grass will be time well spent, and should pay dividends. Dependent on the time of year, the banquet bill would include; midges, beetles, spiders, daddies, with the great red sedge making sporadic appearances on warm summer evenings – which are a large food item for the trout and, as such, seem to lose all inhibitions when chasing these skittering morsels.

However, as noted, the trout are opportunists and general ‘loch-style’ patterns can and should be adopted – especially since a day may pass without seeing or finding and edible food source. Silhouette, size, and colour should hold precedence over exact imitations. Variables that I find to be directly applicable to most fishing situations, especially when fishing the wet-fly.


Gold serves well as a colour in nearly all peat based waters, be they flowing or still. As such, patterns like the dunkeld or golden olive bumble are two not to be overlooked. In addition, much of the food on offer to the trout is of a solemn hue. With this in mind, and since it gives the greatest silhouette, black should indefinitely be incorporated onto the cast. Classical patterns such as the black pennel, zulu, bibio or a black dabbler would be foolish to omit.

As with all un-stocked waters, the fish are a natural resource, sustainable only by prudence and a careful hand. Fish may be taken from the waters; however, I would implore the use of a respectful mind – as nowadays a mental or digital image should suffice as a trophy. Either way, take sparingly.

A place to seek refuge from the nagging ‘other-half’? Respite from a hard week at work? Or, just fancy a change from hauling out sea-trout from the river? Teifi Lakes, In my opinion, has it all.

Steffan runs Angling-Worldwide, a company that specialises in sea-trout fishing packages, courses, and guiding in Wales, with a history of doing so stemming back for over a decade. For further information contact:

Phone: 07879 898 344
Mail: Angling-Worldwide, Crosslane, Dolgran, Pencader, Carmarthenshire, SA39 9BY

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Fishing the River Monnow

The Monnow had flirted with me months before I got to fish on her hallowed waters. On a journey from South Wales up to the Welsh Dee one cold, frosty February day the train clattered and meandered its way through border country, traversing many a fine river as it did so. Just south of Hereford the trainline teased its way enticingly past a fairytale stream – unbeknown to me at that time this was the Monnow, a river that I was to fall in love with.

Twice the train drew a parallel course with the Monnow and on both occasions I spotted rising fish, which amazed me due to the fleeting glimpses I was bestowed of the river and for the fact that it was February. Such an occurrence left me in awe of this seemingly magical river, and, as any red-blooded angler would, I vowed to return to see if the river could produce in correlation to my now exuberant expectations.


A few months had now passed yet the vivid image of those rising fish could still be conjured on a whim. It was time to lay the demons to rest and have a day on the Monnow. Prior research had helped me unclothe the Monnow, with most roads leading to the Monnow Project and its team of enthusiastic, knowledgeable operators.

Up until recently the Monnow had been rather a ‘closed shop’, with day-ticket water and access for the venturing angler being minimal. In addition, although it was once renowned throughout the UK for its Trout and Grayling, the river had been largely neglected in recent decades – allowed to fend for itself in light of increased farming pressures, especially in the upper catchment areas and its associated tributaries. The Monnow Project proposed to change this predicament, and change it they have. In fact, the Monnow Project has been heralded as exemplary for future projects, being; the largest river habitat restoration project motivated by improving the stocks of Brown-Trout and Grayling of its kind, achieving record funding by DEFRA for the project and, most recently, winning the Wild Trout Trust’ Classic Malt professional category conservation award.


Being in its evolving stage this seemed like a good time to pay the Monnow a visit and see what had been undertaken. Hearing that the river had a fantastic Mayfly hatch this seemed an apt a time as any to visit. I was to meet up with 2 gentlemen who had kindly offered to ‘show me the ropes’ on the river, both of which would give me a great insight not only into the fishing but also into what had been occurring and achieved on the river, since, one was an initiator of the Project, Robert Denny, with the other, David Smith, being an angler who has benefited from the Project, gaining access to the prime fishing.

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Warm, sunny skies greeted us at our meeting point perched above the Monnow – ideal conditions for a hatch. Formalities over we ventured forth towards a rickety old bridge that perilously looms over the river near the village of Kentchurch – a quaint rural hamlet if there ever were one. Early morning fishing usually dictates sub-surface fishing before the sun starts to hit the water and initiate a late morning flurry. As such, a team of nymphs were set up with pocket water and tight runs targeted for the opportunist trout. Sport was almost instantaneous with the grayling making their presence known with an infectious regularity. The thing that instantly struck me was their size, with two of the first five grayling being over 40cm, a fine a fish as I had come across throughout the winter months. The trout really turned on a spectacle as the day progressed, chomping at the clumsy mayfly on their aerobatic strive.

I’m not sure what it is about grayling but for me they are a truly magical fish, one that commands respect whilst being ever obliging. What shone through on my first taste of the Monnow were the leviathan grayling, feeding avidly even in this seemingly unproductive time of the year.

Monnow (14)

As the trout season drew to a close in September my attention returned to the Grayling, and, in particular, the large grayling of the Monnow. A phone call later and the date was set – now the grayling were going to be targeted in earnest. Robert Denny kindly agreed to join me once more. We decided to try the spots where the fish had been taken earlier that year and see whether we could entice the leviathans from their lairs. Robert opted for a New-Zealand setup with a klinkhammer on the top and a beaded hare’s ear suspended off the bend 3ft underneath. With the classical runs and pocket water you are confronted with on the Monnow I opted for a short-line-nymph setup, with 3 nymphs on an 8ft leader using Stream Tec XT fly rods. Robert put the first score on the board backed by “that’s 3 for me, and none for you, isn’t it?” and an accompanying wry smile, taking fish on both the dry and the nymph whilst I contently plumbed the depths. The pools on the Monnow change in character quickly, with a mixture of cascading pools, classical ‘head-body-tail’ pools, and long meandering glides. The two previous nights had seen the first of the winter’s frost, as such, I didn’t think that the grayling would be too tightly packed yet. Sure enough persistence paid off, and it wasn’t long before I started to find the grayling.

For the river the size of the Monnow – which I would describe as ideal water to introduce someone to river fishing on yet possessing enough character and intrigue to keep even the most weathered angler happy – I have never seen such high and concentrated shoals of grayling, especially with their accompanying size. One after another grayling of over 30cm drew up from the glassy depths, stimulating a healthy bend in my 5 weight rod, which was succumbing to the plunges and strive of the fighting-fit grayling. Robert continued to plunder the stocks, with an increased interest to his dry as the morning progressed. The day’s sport could be described as manic, enthralling, and captivating. A healthy number of grayling in the 15cm bracket were brought to hand, too, which was both encouraging for future years and highlighted the ‘health’ of the river, health that could be directly attributable to the work of the Monnow Project.

A good number of grayling in the 30-38cm were landed, yet the magical 40cm bracket, although coming perilously close to being broken, seemed a bridge too far. Large grayling are often nomadic creatures, and with so much grayling throughout the pools the wise old fish may have taken shelter, fully aware of our seemingly Neanderthal techniques. We had lost count of the grayling numbers we had brought to hand – such number counting becomes rather irrelevant when fishing for sport, or was that just my way of coping with a humble defeat by my fishing partner?

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We had taken grayling in almost every imaginable pot, nook, and cranny throughout the stretch at our disposal. Yet, one area had produced better than all other pools we had fished through, and, ironically, it was the first pool we had fished through. Making the best of what light was left in the sky as the winter days draw sport to a conclusion long before the angler would appreciate, we made our way back to the pool to see if we could induce a last minute conversion. Large grayling are often caught on dries, especially in slower glides where they get more of a chance to rise to an offering, however, I would advocate deeply fished nymphs as producing with greater regularity – especially in the colder winter months. My Airflo 6lbs G3 nylon was laced with 3 flies, all of which had varying levels of weight in order to fish them in a stringer fashion. A tungsten bead and leaded nymph took the point position, a smaller beaded nymph took the midfield, whilst a lighter fly took the top dropper, allowed to flutter enticingly as the bottom two dredged the depths.

Grayling settle very quickly and a rested pool can be re-fished with amazing regularity. The sport continued at the pace upon which it had commenced, with all three patterns scoring well. Large grayling can give the lightest of takes; almost a lethargic stopping of the line akin to that of a salmon and the old proverbial “hooking a rock”.

Steffan runs Angling-Worldwide, a company that specialises in sea-trout fishing packages, courses, and guiding in Wales, with a history of doing so stemming back for over a decade. For further information contact:

Phone: 07879 898 344
Mail: Angling-Worldwide, Crosslane, Dolgran, Pencader, Carmarthenshire, SA39 9BY

Sea-trout Fishing in Wales (Why, When, Where)

With sea-trout averaging 5 ½lbs in May on many rivers and still carrying an average weight of 4lbs by the middle of July, along with fish of over 20lbs recorded last year alone, you would be forgiven for thinking that we were talking about some far flung destination where ‘Cerveza’ and ‘Empanadas’ would reflect the local lingo! Not so! Welcome to one of Wales’ best kept secrets; the mystical and ever captivating sea-trout.

These silver tourists grace every corner of Wales; chances are where a large freshwater deposit meets saltwater sea-trout will be found. From the mighty Welsh Dee in North Wales right round to the Usk in South Wales, sea-trout make their presence and annual ascent. As they ascend, we, the anglers, embark on annual pilgrimages and traditions pursuing these illusive silver ghosts.

sea-trout wales

But what makes sea-trout so special? No other species captivates and drives an angler, sometimes to despair, like sea-trout. Sea-trout fishing becomes a lot more than just about the catch – it becomes an addiction, sometimes to unhealthy levels proportions! As the shadows loom and all colour is lost under the night-sky, the period of quiet contemplation and solitude soon transforms to expectation and anticipation as the once devoid pool comes alive with sea-trout marking their presence with their acrobatic display that is without equal.

The sea-trout are primarily targeted in the night due to their shy and retiring nature in the daytime during summer low-flows and clear waters. However, given a spate and daytime action can be nothing short of exhilarating, be that with a fly, spinner or worm. For the fly angler it is the night-time sport on a humid summer evening that holds the true attraction and tradition of sea-trout fishing. At first the mere thought of flailing a length of carbon around in the dark sounds nothing short of idiotic. As the flies find their way to the trees behind then the trees in front idiotic soon turns to demoralisation and a feeling of attempting an insurmountable goal. However, when one pull from a sea-trout is achieved these trepidations will soon be forgotten, the addiction will take hold, and the drug will drive you on for as long as you have a drive to fish. This really is the pinnacle of the fly anglers’ quarry in the UK.

Why Wales? Very little light pollution, rivers that produce the largest fish and largest catches in the UK, easy to get to, good accessibility on all rivers, relatively cheap, an abundance of wildlife, beautiful and unspoilt countryside and if this wasn’t enough; Wales is the country that holds the longest tradition of fishing for sea-trout, especially so at night. So why travel thousands of miles, spending thousands of pounds getting to a destination like Tierra-Del-Fuego, where the wind will drag the hair from your scalp and the countryside is a monotonous plane?

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What about the usual ‘Where, When and How’? The ‘Where’ and ‘When’ are correlated, as the when you go where is of particular importance to a anadromous species such as the sea-trout, because they enter different river systems at different times, and different run sizes and fish sizes enter at different stages throughout the year. As a general rule; nothing can beat local knowledge when it comes to dictating an individual river’s run, as this is something that is monitored and cultivated not only yearly but through many generations, which has made timescales largely predictable. As such, the first step is to decide where you would like to target sea-trout, and then a little further research can pay dividends.

Rivers that have historically produced good runs and numbers of sea-trout include (from North to South); Mawddach, Dovey, Rheidol, Ystwyth, Teifi, Towy, Neath. This list is by no means exclusive or extensive, and as was previously mentioned; chances are where a large freshwater system meets saltwater sea-trout will be found to varying degrees. Indeed, many of the listed rivers have tributaries that are worthy of a mention in their own right, and many of these tributaries make for excellent starting points for newcomers to the sport, being less intimidating than the main systems.

With your river system now chosen we progress on our Welsh sea-trout journey through to the ‘how’. Firstly, and rather pertaining to the previous point regarding acquiring local knowledge, whenever possible do try and source a local guide to help you through the inevitable trepidations a newcomer faces. The benefits and guidance of a local and well rehearsed guide has never been as pertinent as when night-time sea-trout fishing is in question. Not only will the guide be there to assist you in overcoming well known obstacles that run in conjunction with night-time fishing, to which there will usually be well known antidotes, but they will also mature you into the art and get you accustomed to ‘things that go bump in the night’.

The tackle you bring will generally be dictated by the system you have chosen. For example, it would be a foolish angler that journeys to a river like the Nevern or the Cothi with a 13ft double hander, where a 9ft rod would be the order of the day. Again, a little research and obtaining some local knowledge would go a long way. However, as a general rule, and for the majority of the larger or well known Welsh sea-trout rivers a rod between 9-11ft rated for a #7-9 is ideal, with a 10ft #8 being a perfect ally – no need to splash out on a ‘sea-trout’ branded rod, any reservoir/lake rod will suffice, and crossover admirably. I would personally advise a middle or middle-tip action blank as fast rods and tight loops can spell disaster at night both from the fishing and the catching perspective, but the brand is totally your prerogative.

The technology and time invested in fly line development over recent years is significant, where we get to reap the rewards. However, the cost of these lines has not increased in correlation with this investment; indeed, lines are cheaper nowadays than they ever have been. As such, this is one aspect where I would say; be prepared! And don’t let a £30 investment be the shortfall of your success and failure of the trip. A floating line is paramount, and an essential addition to your fly fishing tackle. However, chances are you will need to search out those deeper lying fish at some stage, where even the heaviest of flies on your floating line will not suffice. As a rule I would advise you to carry at least three lines; a floater, intermediate and a medium/fast sinker. These should also be accompanied with a set of salmon/steelhead polyleaders in various densities, to allow you to explore other tangents and depths. The key here is to be prepared; better to have it with you and not use it, rather than found wanting.

The same advice is reiterated when flies are in question too. Bring everything and the kitchen sink! As you never know what will charm the bar of silver from the deeps – over the seasons I have heard of several sea-trout in excess of 10lbs falling to patterns such as; zulu, sparklers, and even a dry daddy long-legs skated as a surface lure in the dead of night! Most shops now hold an array of sea-trout patterns, many of which target the anglers equally as well as the sea-trout. However, in general these can provide inspiration as well as supplementary stocks to your armoury. There are several books as well as online articles on the Fishing-Wales website regarding tried and tested patterns for sea-trout, which would hold you in good stead when compiling an arsenal of fly fishing tackle.

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With your fly fishing rods, lines and flies in order the other items on the checklist are straightforward yet paramount and essential. Firstly, personal safety should be covered at this juncture; no fish is worth your life. Always carry a life-vest, accidents can happen in the most unsuspecting of locations. Further to that, some safety glasses are a wise investment at around £5 a pair, and a wading staff can be of use when fishing unknown waters, as can a rescue whistle and a mobile phone in a waterproof bag. Secondly, always carry more torches than you need, with 2 being a minimum. A good headtorch with changeable settings that includes a red-light or red-filter is advisable, as the red light preserves your night vision. Further to that, some heavy nylon – we rarely revert to nylon strengths below 12lbs when night fishing, with good reason – a priest, disgorger, and some late night sustenance compiles the makings of a sea-trout tackle-bag. Always carry enough fishing clothing, as temperatures and weather fluctuates considerably during the night. It is, of course, advisable to carry a coat even though we all know it never rains in Wales…

Steffan’s Nightime setup and fly fishing bag contents:

  • Rods; I usually carry 2 rods set-up with different tactics; one usually holding a floater, the other a sinking line of some description. I currently use the Airflo Airlite 10ft for #7/8 rods.
  • Reels; don’t skimp on quality – quality doesn’t always equate to expensive! Make sure the drag is smooth, and that it can hold a decent amount of backing to cover all eventualities.
  • Lines; I use a lot of the Airflo 40+ Extreme fly lines in densities from floating through to di-5. These are great lines for medium and large river systems. The Sewincaster range of lines are also a firm favourite, and are specifically designed for this aspect of the sport.
  • Waders; waders of some description are usually essential, even though wading above your knees is rarely required.  I would advise felt and studded (combination) soles.
  • Nylon; Terry Eustace pro gold in 12lbs and 15lbs. Alternatively, Maxima Ultragreen. Also, a spool of 15-20lbs fluorocarbon for surface lure work, and a spool of 8lbs fluorocarbon for dusk and daylight fishing – I have faith in Airflo G3.

Steffan runs Angling-Worldwide, a company that specialises in sea-trout fishing packages, courses, and guiding in Wales, with a history of doing so stemming back for over a decade. For further information contact:

Phone: 07879 898 344
Mail: Angling-Worldwide, Crosslane, Dolgran, Pencader, Carmarthenshire, SA39 9BY

Surface Lures: a Science to Success

Chapters in books old and new along with countless articles have been written and dedicated bestowing the virtues of surface lures for sea-trout. Yet, even with this endorsement, surface-lures would rarely make it into the majority of sea-trout anglers’ night-time armoury – remaining as something that looks pretty in the box, being unleashed only as something of a last resort; akin to a booby on a Stillwater.

However, I would sell you the fact that on its night the surface-lure will outfish any other method and fly in your armoury, and should be deployed as a first line of attack not as a contingency plan. In addition, surface lures offer the most exhilarating and intimate form of catching sea-trout due to their added visual aspect – as contradicting as this may sound, being deployed at night – along with the accompanying sound effects.

Surface Lures

Anything that floats can be used as a surface-lure, and, on its night, will produce fish – I once spoke to an angler who’d caught a double-figure sea-trout on the river Towy in West-Wales using a daddy long-legs pattern! However, introduce a bit of science and thought into the equation and an increased amount of takes and landed fish will soon follow.

Firstly, as with all sea-trout patterns, size and profile are paramount – getting these variables right, along with the right depth, are the key overriding factors beyond all else. Secondly, and this is the main variable that you must strive to achieve when creating a surface lure because if you get it right then the amount of takes and landed fish will increase dramatically; your surface-lure needs to be critically balanced. Now I’m not talking to the extremities of intricacies deployed by the boilie brigade, however, the logic remains largely the same. And here’s the key phrase; a surface lure fished ‘in’ the surface film will outfish one that’s fished ‘on’ the surface film every night of the season.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, and most importantly, a fish can intercept and eat an object that is stuck within the surface film easier than it can one that is bobbing around on the surface film. Take an adult olive, for example, trying to pick one off the surface to study as it glides past you is nigh on impossible, largely due to water displacement. The same applies from below, hence why trout prefer to target semi-hatched, crippled, or flies stuck within the film than those on the film that could escape when the trout attempts to intercept them, which would equate to expending fruitless energy. As the trout rises the water displaces around it with anything on the film being carried on a flex away from the trout. An object stuck within the film, however, won’t suffer this movement to the same extent, thus making them easier or guaranteed food items.

The same principle applies to our flies. Hence the reason why patterns such as klinkhammers produce so well; being ‘safe’ food objects due to their immobile state. This also explains why trout will often ignore a natural and take an imitation.

Secondly, with this point being of particular relevance to surface lures; a fly riding in the surface is able to push more water or create more of a wake than one that is riding on the surface. Given a surface lure with a round profile, for example, it would have a greater surface area in contact with the water when fished in the film compared to when it is fished on the film, therefore pushing a greater area of water, creating more of a commotion and a greater wake – essential characteristics of a competent surface lure.

Achieving this critical balance or buoyancy however, can be somewhat of a tedious affair, especially if some simple considerations are not applied and adhered to.

Variables such as hook weight do have an effect on buoyancy; however, material choice is the key variable and the one that requires the greatest consideration in order to achieve this critical buoyancy or balance.

Personally I loathe surface lure patterns that incorporate foam of any description – especially high-density foam that tends to float very high and doesn’t become saturated to help counteract this flaw. Cork tends to suffer the same demise, too. The first reliable permutation is that utilised in the majority of mouse patterns; deer-hair body with the front third constructed of foam. These can work well, and the extra buoyancy of the foam meant that the fly ‘cocked’ and rode in the surface with the hooks trailing sub-surface. However, a far better permutation, and on that fits the aforementioned criteria, is a surface lure that is constructed entirely of deer hair.

Materials should be viewed in their dry and in their wet (fishing) state, with deer hair being no exception. Characteristics and even colour can change dramatically once immersed. A deer hair surface-lure can, at first, be too buoyant riding on the surface film. However, due to its natural properties it will become somewhat waterlogged after a few casts, thus beginning to fish in the surface film, perfect.

Another great characteristic of utilising natural materials such as deer hair is that they can be manipulated and moulded very easily into creating a perfect profile. What should we look for in the profile? Again, there are a couple of variables that if adhered to will hold you in good stead.

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Firstly; the scruffier the tying the better! Luckily for me. You want that scruffy, straggly profile, which mimics appendages etc. of a naturally skittering or stunned morsel.

Secondly, a bulbous head is a must for a surface lure in order for it to maximise its water pushing potential. Start with a bulbous head that tapers towards the tail, avoiding even profiles. Tapering towards the tail is equally as important because this means that there is less material at the hook-end, which may otherwise inhibit a good hook-up. This area of less buoyancy also equates to the hook drawing in and under the water’ surface, again maximizing its effectiveness and hook penetration.

Thirdly, avoid round profiles. Clip the under section on the surface-lure closely to form either a flat or slightly concaved appearance, leaving the sides clipped straggly  and the greatest buoyancy in the top section. Achieving this enables the fly to sit in the film with the hooks riding under the film, thus lodging the fly firmly in position with little chance of displacement. This profile will also maximise the surface area in contact with the water’ surface, as the mid, bulky section will be the part drawn through the surface, thus creating maximum wake and commotion.

This is, of course, my hypothesis and I don’t wish it to seem dogmatic to those who get on perfectly well with their cork or foam surface lures, and, I’m sure, catch their fair chare of sea-trout. It is, however, what I have deduced from years of experimentation and deliberation. As such, if nothing more, I would ask that you take the points into consideration the next time you fish or tie a surface lure.

With the intricacies of the tying covered, there are a few helpful hints that will hold you in good stead when fishing surface lures too, and, if taken into consideration whilst or prior to commencing fishing, would maximise the surface lure’s potential.

Firstly, stiff and heavy nylon is a virtue. Too fine a nylon selection would make the fly hinge when casting, which adds to the casting complexity and usually equates to interminable tangling. Rarely would I use nylon under 15lbs when fishing surface lures, and I would normally opt for a stiff fluorocarbon. Why such a strong leader and why fluorocarbon? The strong leader is utilised first and foremost for the reasons noted previously i.e. the ease of turning over the large, bulky flies – some of which may be over 3 inches long, with a diameter of over an inch in the head section. Take the Jambo, for example, being one of if not the finest surface lure around.. However, as a rule, I would never go bellow 12lbs for any of my night-time fishing, quite simply because the fish are not leader shy at night and utilising such nylon weights maximises my chances of landing a big fish, it gives me a modicum of control if stopping or turning a fish is required, and when the inevitable over-casting is done you are less likely to decorate the trees! Fluorocarbon sinks quicker than standard nylon – especially in the thicker diameters. I doubt this has little effect on the fish or the fishing pattern of the surface lures, but it’s a little factor that gives me confidence, so I persevere with it. My wet, sunk fly fishing is always with standard nylon at night-time – there’s very little point in spending money needlessly on expensive monofilament for the aforementioned approaches.

Leader length is also important. Forget long leaders! They’re not needed. The longer the leader the more trouble you are likely to get into. 5-6ft is ample – you can taper it down if you wish with a heavier butt section, but I tend to keep it simple and run the same diameter straight through.

Another tip worth noting is how the surface lure should be attached to the leader. I tend to fish surface lures on a loop, such as that achieved through a rapala-knot, which allows the surface lure to move more freely, and, hopefully, achieve a better fishing pattern as opposed to one that was confined to a strangulation point with the eye, as would be the case with a conventional e.g. blood knot. Again, a fine detail, but one that I do draw confidence from.

How you fish the surface lures is answerable by the components and variables you are faced with. For example; if there’s a strong current then little or no retrieve may be required. If, however, there’s very little or no flow – usually good holding water, and good surface lure water – then a retrieve of some description is required. Many people advocate stripping, however, I’ve never had much luck with such retrieves, and would always utilise and advocate constant retrieves beyond stripping, retrieves such as figure of eight and roly-poly – with this rule being generic to my subsurface fishing too. Even in very fast currents, which isn’t usually prime surface lure water, I would advocate a very slow figure of eight – more to keep one’s attention than to add some attraction to the surface lure. As a general rule the faster the water the slower the retrieve, and the slower the water the faster the retrieve. In addition, the faster the water the lower down the presentation of the surface lure should be made; e.g. 45 degrees in fast water, and square or upstream in the slower water. This is largely determined and justified by the amount of time the fish needs to intercept the fly i.e. if a cast was done square across the current in a fast run then the fly would be dragged across very quickly, whereas by opening up the angle the fly is allowed to fish a lot slower, thus allowing more time for the fish to intercept the pattern, time that they do not require to the same extent in the slower pools or sections.

The tail of a pool can be a great place to swing a surface lure, but I would tend to target the slower areas of the pool where the main bulk and concentration of the fish are likely to be holding – especially the main bulk of the larger fish. In such water I may vary the casting angle from square to directly upstream, and the retrieve from a conservative figure of eight through to a turbo-propelled roly-poly. The secret is to experiment, soon enough something will show a liking – if it fails to connect, or doesn’t take any further interest, then mark the spot where the fish was turned and cover it later with wet-fly tactics – Surface lures are a great fish-finding method and can form a great partnership with more conventional methods.

Another tactic worth trying if you find the fish are refusing or not connecting with the surface lure is to fish a trailer some 1-3ft behind the surface lure. The surface lure acts as an attractor, with the trailer providing a sub-surface offering that the fish may take with more confidence. It’s a tactic that works very well and is well worth trying, the surface lure may also be exchanged for a muddler pattern in such circumstances, in which case the trailer can be fished ‘New-Zealand’ style.

Surface lures will take fish from the beginning of the season, especially if the river temperature has risen from its winter slumber. As a rule, however, surface lures do tend to be a mid and late season tactic – working particularly well on the classical humid nights of late July and August when the fish are very active. Surface lures will draw fish to the surface even if there has been no activity all night, make no mistake. As such, don’t think you have to wait to see fish on the surface before you can catch them on/in the surface.

Certain nights indefinitely suit and produce more fish to surface lures than others. Light nights are certainly not favourable, yet, fish can still be taken when the surface lures are fished in shaded spots, or under trees. However, fish tend to splash a lot on such nights, with very few connecting firmly. Given a dark-night, however, and the results are transformed, where very few fish miss or come astray.

Takes can vary from the very explosive to very fine sips that the first you will know about is an almighty tug from the receiving end – these fine takes, as with wet-flies, can, and inevitably do, turn out to be the larger fish. In contrast, some takes can be so aggressive and visual on the surface that they scare you – I cherish these moments, they keep me lucid throughout the winter months.

No matter what has been pre-written regarding perfect fishing conditions, as ambiguous and tangible the logic behind these notions often are, a surface lure is worth a speculative cast no matter what you are faced with. For example, I remember an evening several seasons ago now where a lightning storm was looming, yet the fish were going ‘potty’ for surface lures. Very few casts reached their extremity without being molested in some form, be it a take, swirl, or a positive hook-up. That night, a night where most anglers wouldn’t have bothered to fish let alone fish a surface lures, eleven sea-trout came to the net before the storm came too close for comfort, whereas wet-fly tactics had passed them by without interest.

Give them a swim; open your mind, unleash your senses, and see what you’ve been missing out on.

Steffan runs Angling-Worldwide, a company that specialises in sea-trout fishing packages, courses, and guiding in Wales, with a history of doing so stemming back for over a decade. For further information contact:

Phone: 07879 898 344
Mail: Angling-Worldwide, Crosslane, Dolgran, Pencader, Carmarthenshire, SA39 9BY

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