Search Nomads

29 Apr 2010

A look at saltwater sea-trout flies: Ragworm (1)

I thought it might be useful if I detailed some of the saltwater sea-trout patterns I tie and use myself in Ireland and Denmark, or which others tie and use themselves. What follows (April 2010) is a very quick tour of some useful artificials, particularly those representing what are the stars of the piece at this time of year - ragworms, sandeels, shrimps, and various kinds of small fish. (Actually, those food items, perhaps with the exception of the ragworm, are the stars of the piece between March and August each year.)

The shot shows one of my own ragworm patterns tied on a size 8 longshank hook. It's weighted with 10 wraps of lead wire, and the tail is made from a Spey hackle. I tie in a small loop of nylon at the rear of the fly to prevent the hackle fibres wrapping round the bend of the hook. I suppose that really the fly is a sort of posh Nobbler....

I'd be delighted to hear from other sea-trout fishers who'd like to share some of their own favourite saltwater patterns. Perhaps putting together a data-base of such patterns might be something we could do together?

Ragworm (2) and sandeel

Here's a sandeel pattern (above) tied by Lindsey Clarke. What I really like about it is its slim suggestiveness together with the tough epoxy head, which last will help the fly to sink head-down. A small pull on the retrieve, and the fly will rock upwards again....

The generic fish-suggesting pattern (below in the shot) was tied by Rudy van der Meer. I promised him back in March that I'd give the fly an extended trial, but so far this season have wickedly failed to live up to my promise. But I shall.

Pink shrimps

Like everybody else, I've been completely convinced over the past few years by the effectiveness of various kinds of Pink Shrimp for saltwater sea-trout in Denmark. I have no reason to suppose they won't work in Ireland, though I've never, for some reason, given them an extended trial there. The Pattegrisen is tied on sizes 8-12 hooks (I use Partridge saltwater hooks, and for the bigger sizes, Owner carp hooks, which last have a lovely bend). The shrimps I find off the Danish coasts are pink/buff/cream in colour, so I tend to white, grey-pink variants, and reach for fluo. pink patterns on days where the water seems full of sunlight, or by contrast on dull, overcast days where lateral vision through the water might be limited.

White and grey shrimps

These sometimes work spectacularly well in Denmark, and I've also caught fish on them in Donegal estuaries during the summer. I like fishing white patterns in the salt: how often it happens that you spot a green-grey ghost-shape following that speck of white towards the end of the retrieve. The grey/brown/pink/buff pattern, which Danes know as the Gra Frede, is lightly weighted with turns of lead wire and thus sinks readily. It's a nailer of a pattern, perhaps because of the mobility and therefore the attractiveness of the marabou fibres.

Both on size 8-12 hooks. I tend to use Partridge Sea Prince saltwater irons for these patterns.

Gadgets and Storm Fry

The Gadget, tied on a size 6 or 8 hook, with a silver body and a back and tail of mallard fibres, was the creation of the great Michael Rogan, who in turn was adapting the pattern of a great friend of his, who (I'm very reliably told) made the prototype from silver cigarette paper. The dressings shown were tied by Lindsey Clarke - a wonderful fly-tier.

The Storm Fry, with a silver and/or silver/back or green/black body wrapped in plastic strip, was the creation of that great Northern Irish fly-dresser, Robert McHaffie. I love the simplicity and sparseness of both patterns, and often fish either or both when small fry - known as sprit, sparling or brit - are around in the spring and summer.

28 Apr 2010

Into the light

Casting at a cold, pale sun on the coasts of Funen in Denmark. Image: James Sadler.

Thin nomads in Denmark

To Denmark (Funen) for three days. The sea temperatures were still very low (7-8C) and although the handful of smaller sea-trout we caught were in good nick, the largest (a fish of around 55cm) was painfully thin. Although it had a silvery coat and was clean-scaled, it had clearly run back out to sea around a month ago and since then had found little to eat. There was little life apparent in the coastal shallows - no sandeels, few shrimps, and the eel-grass beds had only just started to grow. Still, better times will lie ahead for that returned sea-trout.

The shot shows a small sea-trout - the sort of trout the Danes call a 'Greenlander' - being safely returned. We encountered a few of these splendid little fish, and enjoyed one hectic spell one evening as a shoal of them moved in to the waters near the beach, where they were feeding on small, buff-coloured shrimps.

9 Apr 2010

Names of the sea-trout

At present I'm working on a chapter for Nomads which will be called 'The names of the sea-trout'. I collected the following list from various sources. For each term I'm planning to use the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to track the first written attestation of the term, and then give recent attestations. That in itself is quite a job, but then I opened the pages of Nall (The Life of the Sea Trout, 1930) and found that the great man had recorded another 50 or so local names, including the intriguing terms chor, hepper, laspring, moorced, morgate and (my favourite) moudie-trout.... It's therefore going to be quite a philological task.

Here's what is merely an initial list:


Sometimes the compound ‘black-neb’ is truncated to ‘neb’: ‘After numerous takes, three sea trout to 2 1/2 lbs and half a dozen nebs were netted.’ Accessed July 8th, 2009

Recording of name. Accessed April 9th 2010

grey trout
herring peal
may peal

Recording of name. Accessed April 9th 2010.

pugg peal
skegger (trout)? (The term comes from Walton.)

Any reader who can help is more than welcome to contact me with their knowledge of local terms for sea-trout in their dialect or dialect area.

I've often wondered why the sea-trout could be called a yellow-fin . The photo shows why - a lovely little fish I caught (and released) in Donegal last summer.

8 Apr 2010

Filming on the estuary in early spring

This is the sort of thing we get up to on our Nomads travels. Lenses: James Sadler. Angler: Michael Patton. Fish: a soon-to-be released sea-trout of over 2lb. which had taken the natural sandeel.

The weather last week in Ireland was dreadful - northerly gales, snow, ice and frost at night. Water temperature was 6C. Despite the weather we had a grand week and learned a great deal about the behaviour of sea-trout in westerly estuaries during the early part of the spring.

For more on fishing, on sea-trout - and indeed on sandeels, socks and other stuff - please check out the 'Fishing Diary' on

Nomads of the Tides: The Blog

This is the first entry in the Nomads blog. Irish Sea-trout: Nomads of the Tides will appear from The Medlar Press (UK) in 2013. Its authors are Chris McCully and Ken Whelan, with photography by James Sadler. We hope you will follow this blog, which has the character of a 'making of....' diary.

The photo shows Lindsey Clarke (NRFB) in the boat on the Erne estuary last week. Filthy weather. Lovely smile.