Here is a story about salt water fishing for sea trout on the Bruton Stream, in Scotland. It also features some thoughts on why fly fishing in salt water, rather than freshwater can be so alluring.
The lure of fly fishing in salt water
I’ve had the pleasure of catching a few in salt water and all were incredibly hard won. Each catch left me shaking like a leaf and smiling from ear to ear for a number of days afterwards. The Bruton Stream is one of the few places anywhere you have a genuine chance of hooking a salmon in the salt, not just an unexpected surprise, but genuine taking fish in the sea.
About the Bruton Stream
The Bruton stream is a part of the Fhorsa system and lies on the very edge of Uig sands on the west coast of Lewis.
It’s a scene unique to the Hebrides; water that could rival the Caribbean for colour and clarity (more than a few degrees colder, though). It’s set against a distinctly Scottish backdrop, highlighted by ever changing light and steeped in legend and folklore. It’s no wonder these beaches are now regularly voted some of the most beautiful in the world.
Reaching the Bruton Stream
The stream itself is nestled in the middle of the small village of Crawlista. The river winds alongside the road down past the lodge, through the village of Timsgarry and out across the sands, until it reaches a short stretch of cobblestone shoreline at the very edge of the beach. It’s this short stretch of shoreline that is known as the Bruton stream. The outgoing tide reveals the shape of the river and why the fish congregate here. The golden sand gently slopes into a deceptively deep boulder shore. With the free flowing rafts of bladderwrack, it provides a perfect lie for the Salmon as they pass through. Not to mention, it’s a great ambush point for sea trout.
Types of fish that can be found in salt water
This being a sea pool there’s always the chance of a surprise. Around these coasts, pollock, coalfish and mackerel frequently make an appearance, alongside the less common visitor the sea bass. The main focus here, however, is the rare chance to hook a salmon in the salt. The opportunity comes either side of the tide as the salmon don’t lie as they would in fresh water. This means you’re at the mercy of the push and pull of the moon as it brings the shoals in and out twice a day. The bigger the tides, the faster they move, so time can often be of the essence.
Even in the clear waters, salmon and sea trout are difficult to see, often only betrayed by their shadows against the sunlight. Once you get your eye in, you start to see them. Often a little glint of the white in the mouth or a flash of silver as one in the shoal turns in the water.
Well, that’s salmon anyway, sea trout are like ghosts. You’ll only see them when they want you to see them, usually when they appear back out of the water chasing down your fly.
Preparing for evening of salt water fishing for sea trout on the Bruton Stream
Archie instructed us on flies and tactics then left for dinner and bid us good luck. I set up my camera as Peter set up a rod, and we instantly started seeing fish. At first it was out in the bay beyond the stream. Fish that had arrived but not yet taken the final step into the shallow water out of the safety of the sea. These were clearly salmon but there was something else a little closer to us. The unmistakable leap of a sea trout, a high boost straight up in the air with tail rattling. It’s the yin to the salmon’s lazy flop yang.
They seemed to be feeding and were pretty active. Another fish, closer this time and coming from the sea – a really decent sea trout, getting up to three pounds which is a hefty fish for the west coast of Lewis. Then another, and another. Pete had tied up a cast of two flys, stoats tail and a little cascade as instructed and we were to fish square and work the flies as they swung around in the current, unless a shoal was in reach then we were to cast straight at the fish and vary retrieve until something worked.
Tips for fishing for salmon and sea trout in salt water
Aside from the fact that we were fishing in salt water instead of fresh water, nothing else was really that much different from our regular Hebridean salmon fishing outfits. Here are a few tips I picked up on our trip:
- I used a 7/8 weight single hander with a floating line and twelve foot leader of 12lbs maxima
- There’s no need to be too delicate, and fluorocarbon is generally not a good idea when fishing amongst barnacled rocks
- Make sure you have plenty of backing and a good drag. These fish are strong and seem to have an extra gear when in the salt, so it pays to be overly cautious on that front.
A perfect end to a day salt water fishing for sea trout on the Bruton Stream
The conditions were pretty perfect with a soft breeze blowing down the stream just enough to ruffle the surface and high clouds overhead masking our presence just enough. The fish were comfortable going about the stream and coming closer and closer to us with each pass. It had that unmistakable feel that something was going to happen. After a while with fishing you just seem to know – it’s a wonderful feeling.
A few casts later I heard a shout and turned to see Pete lifting into a solid weight. Almost instantly a trophy size Hebridean sea trout took to the air. I dropped my rod and grabbed the camera just in time to see the fish perform a series of textbook leaps with my pal at the other end of it with a rod bent double. It crashed and bashed its way about the pool, right into shot with the Uig hills framing him.
A classic Hebridean fishing moment. It was perfect.
He fought a good fight then came to hand in noisy fashion, battering about the place and refusing to give in even when he was landed. We stood there for a second in the soft gloaming and shadows, with the mountains all around us, admiring a solid 4lbs of sea trout and wondering how we’d got so lucky to catch a fish in a place like this. A rare moment in a rare place, and one I’ll not soon forget.
I hope you enjoyed reading my story about salt water fishing for sea trout on the Bruton Stream. To learn more about fly fishing in Scotland click here.