The rise of a sea trout is generally bold and even fierce. Sometimes it takes the fly with a silent boil, or even without any sign on the surface if the fly is deeply sunk. The typical rise, however, of a sea trout has some sound about it. There is a quick white splash in the dark water, and (if the line is tight) the fish hooks itself. So violent and rapid sometimes is the sea trout's manner of seizing the fly that it is not safe to use very fine drawn gut, for tackle which may be quite strong enough to play and land a three or four pound fish in open water, cannot always be trusted to stand the jerk of the sudden rush with which even a two pound fish seizes the fly. A sea trout is not in the habit of feeding quietly upon flies floating at ease upon the surface. It may do this occasionally, but it is not used to this method of feeding as brown trout are, and it takes a fly moving under water, as if the fly were a thing trying to escape from it. There are days when almost every fish that rises seems to hook itself without needing effort or attention on the angler's part; and there are other days—generally in bright weather when the water is low,—when the fish rise short, because they are shy; they just touch the fly, and on these days I think the angler can do a good deal to improve his sport by striking quickly, by using fine gut, and by fishing delicately with a long line. There are yet other days when sea trout rise boldly and playfully, but fail to touch the fly at all; and indeed "fail" is the wrong word to use, for I think that on these days the fish do not intend to take the fly, and their rises are the results of high spirits and exuberant activity. And so the angler appears to have an excellent chance each time of hooking a fish, when the fish has perhaps never opened its mouth at all. Sometimes a sea trout that has risen and not been touched by the hook will rise again, but they are very uncertain in this respect, and I do not fish over one a second time with the same expectation of another rise, that I feel in the case of a salmon that has risen once and missed the fly. Of course one always feels wronged and aggrieved when a sea trout, which has not been pricked and has no excuse, refuses to give another chance, but there are days when fish after fish rises once, and only once, without touching the hook. On the whole, however, sea trout, when they do rise, may be said to take hold very well.
It was said just now that sea trout fishing was especially dependent upon the state of the water, and it is true that a falling river after a spate is the great opportunity, but the angler need not despair even when the water is at its lowest, if there have previously been floods to bring fish into the river, and if there are fairly deep pools and long stretches of deep still water. The fish collect in these places when the water is low, and if there is a breeze, which blows fairly up or down the stream and so makes a good ripple, a very good basket may be made. Even when there is no breeze and a bright sun, it is possible to have some sport with the small class of sea trout known as " herling " and by various other names. These smaller fish run later than most of the large ones, and are often met with in shoals. They average only between half a pound and three-quarters of a pound, but they fight with extraordinary activity and strength, and they sometimes rise when no other fish thinks of doing so. I was once by a small sea trout river on one very hot bright day in August. The streams were shrunken and weak, the still places were smooth as glass, and the water, as is the case in bare rocky parts of the Western Islands, was very little tinged with peat and exceptionally clear. The fish were in the river, but there was only depth enough for them in quite still water, and to fish in that seemed hopeless, I sat down and opened my box of flies.
Ordinary sea trout flies seemed double their proper size on such a day and by such water. One could not think of trying them, and one shuddered at the thickness of undrawn gut, and yet there was the river, and the day, and the fish, and I was alone and seven miles from the lodge. Something had to be done. So I took out a well-tapered trout cast ending in fine drawn gut, and added about a yard of transparent stout gut to the thick end of it. On the fine end I put a plain black hackle fly of a size suitable for brown trout. A really heavy basket was of course out of the question, and I did not rise any large fish, though there were some to be seen at the bottom of the pools ; but by using a small rod and this very fine tackle, I did succeed in getting about ten pounds' weight of the smaller fish, and though the largest was under one pound, I had many a good fight. The conditions made the fishing interesting, there was enough success to keep me at work, and if the result was not very remarkable, it was at any rate enough to give a feeling of having overcome difficulties, and saved what seemed at first a hopeless situation. It was very pretty fishing too, for one could see the gleam of the silver fish, even when they came short or took a fly under water. In similar conditions, but with a little breeze, I have found fresh run fish up to a pound and a half in weight rise freely. Fresh run sea trout are at all times exceedingly tender mouthed, and with small hooks one must expect to lose many of them even with the most careful handling.
Of all fish the sea trout fights the best in proportion to its size. Its strength when fresh run is greater than that of a brown trout of the same size, and being, as it often is, a stranger to the pool, or at best only a temporary visitor, it does not so often concentrate its efforts upon getting to some known refuge, but rushes wildly from place to place. The fight of a sea trout is thus stronger than that of a brown trout and, if possible, even more active and full of quick turns. There is no fish with which one has to be so much on one's guard against being surprised, either by sudden rushes or by jumps in the air, and as far as the actual playing of a fish is concerned, for sheer enjoyment and rapidity of sensation, I prefer a good fresh run sea trout of three or four pounds in a river on a single-handed rod and fine tackle to anything else.