One of the finest takes of sea trout I have ever seen, leaving out of consideration the monster fish which are found in Norway, was caught on the smallest possible blue Doctor at the end of a very fine cast. The fish were lying in a couple of feet of water, or less, close to the edge of a sloping sandbank, in the tidal portions of a Scotch river. The angler was standing on the other side, and caught these trout by sheer dint of careful casting, fine tackle, and exceedingly small fly. I had been salmon fishing, higher up the river, and when I joined him the sport was just over. Other men who had been fishing with flies which I should certainly not call large, but were larger than the one which caught the fish, had no sport whatever.
I referred just now to Norwegian sea trout. In a few rivers these grow to an enormous size, and many are caught out in the fjords some distance from fresh water. The Norskers harl with a bunch of worms, but many good fish may be taken by harling the salmon fly, particularly at dusk or very early morning. As in Scotland, the sea trout lie close to the rocky shore, and should be particularly looked for off projecting points and in small sandy bays. Casting from the shore is not practised, so far as I am aware ; but I have not the least doubt that if it were systematically persisted in, some very good results would be obtained.
I heard of one case in which two English anglers, who were not in a position to hire a salmon river, went to Norway, and actually had better sport with the sea trout in the fjord than had a lessee of a very fine salmon and sea-trout river hard by. That was, of course, in a very dry season, when the fish were in large numbers, waiting in the sea until a spate came which would enable them to run up the river. I understand that the ' fly' was a blue and silver Phantom.
In the fjords sea trout will take medium-sized Jock Scotts, Butchers, and, in fact, all the brightly coloured salmon flies.
Both in Scotland and Norway I found the ' Thunder and Lightning ' particularly killing.
The chief points, it seems to me, to be borne in mind in connection with sea-trout fishing in the sea, is that the fish are not less shy than in fresh water, and, like brown trout in rivers, lie close to the shore ; as we approach the river, we find them on the edge of the stream.
There is a fish which is a sort of missing link between sea trout and our good friend Fario. It has been named Salmo estuarius, and in the estuary of the Shannon is known as the slob trout. ' Slob,' a novel word which recently puzzled and amused the House of Commons, is the local name for the vast banks of mud that are disclosed at low water in the estuary, many thousand acres of which have been lately reclaimed. There is not much doubt that the slob trout is the ordinary brown trout which, on account of the scarcity of food in his own larder, pays visits to his marine friends. When there comes a spate he will be found rushing up his native stream to feed on whatever the flood may bring down. I once caught a slob trout of a pound which, when knocked on the head, pro ceeded to evolve a half-digested shrew mouse.
This variety of fish is to all intents and purposes a brown trout, with a silver sheen over his speckled sides, brought about by residence in brackish or salt water. He takes the fly readily enough in the estuary, but, having a knowledge of natural winged and other insects, shows a preference for ordinary brown trout flies rather than blue Doctors and other gaudy lures favoured by the real original sea trout.
Bass, which in the spring and summer are found in the sea, but push up into estuaries in the autumn, take the fly best when feeding on the herring fry. Here the tiro may naturally say, ' Yes, it is all very well to tell me that; but when are they feeding on the herring fry ? How am I to find that out ? '
Imagine a large rocky island standing a furlong and a half from the "mainland. In the little channel intervening, runs at times a tremendous tidal current. The tide has turned an hour or two past, but has not yet begun to make with any speed ; running quietly, perhaps a couple of knots or so. On the cliffs are hundreds of sea gulls, apparently asleep. By degrees the tide runs faster and faster, there are swirls and eddies on the surface, and presently we find ourselves in a miniature maelstrom. The birds begin to wake up, and feathered scouts take short flights over the sea, returning to the cliff. Presently all the gulls set up harsh cries, launch themselves into the air, and, hovering over the most troublous of the water, dip and dip and dip again in their endeavours to pick something off the surface. Just beneath them there is a splash, and then another, and another. A few seconds later the surface is broken in a fresh place by the hungry fish, and away hurry the gulls to share in the banquet.