Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page

Freshwater Fishing

For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

I'm still in the dark with seatrout!

As the year moves on the days get shorter, so my evening sessions tend to bracket the period of last light - and to me this means seatrout. Hugh Falkus, the supposed guru of night-time seatrout fishing, suggested that dawn and particularly dusk were the prime times for these fish. On page forty-one of his book on seatrout, he also mentions that only five fish out of a sample of three hundred caught and gutted contained any food at all; in other words he thought that they were not really feeding when they were in fresh water. This contrasts with the fact that in a single evening on my local Dorset river, one large fish was observed to take a dozen smolts in succession. Of course the latter proves nothing. It is possible (but unlikely) that the fish simply grabbed the little fish and spat them out again, or maybe the behavour of the predators could differ between rivers.

Anyway, for a few years now I have been spinning for these fish at last light. As I say my approach is based on the supposition that at dusk seatrout do feed on smolts (and other small fish). I essentially use two types of lure - a Mepps type spinner for casting upstream and bringing back just faster than the flow, and a small (minnow-smolt sized), buoyant, shallow-diving plug which I fish down and across and slowly retrieve against the current. Even where the river is shallow and fast flowing, the jointed Rapala which I favour tends to fish over the top of most snags. In many places the river is quite narrow and deep with steep banks so wading isn't really an option; this means that snagging the far bank is a constant risk, particularly as the light fails. For obvious reasons related to scaring fish I don't use a light, and although I wear a headlamp it is only switched on for landing large, difficult fish or for unhooking, changing lures, tying knots etc.. As night falls my casts tend to be directed more towards mid-stream which usually avoids any problems with bankside vegetation.

I'll often pop out for an hour's fishing in the evening. Now it's twenty minutes drive to the coast and only five minutes to get to the river so the latter is the favourite. My preferred option is spinning because I don't even have to fiddle about with bait, and it gives me a variety of possible catches. My small seatrout lures are not ideal for catching the other fish present but before darkness sets in, perch and pike will sometimes take them so I always use a wire trace. A couple of days ago was my most recent attempt. On the previous session I'd only landed a perch and a pike and there had been no rain since so I wasn't too optimistic. However, the weather was cooling down so I felt that there was a possibility that the seatrout might be less lethargic.

My first few casts in the light produced a plump perch, not too exciting but at least I knew that something was biting. Twenty minutes later, and some way downstream, the plug was taken by a seatrout which went through the typical scenario of jumping and wriggling in its attempts to escape. I was able to slide it ashore without using the net and take a picture before returning it to the river. So, now I knew that at least one seatrout had been 'awake'. Encouraged I pressed on and in the next ten minutes I had a couple more 'knocks' neither of which resulted in a hook-up; both were almost certainly small seatrout. I'd arranged my session so that the last spot I tried would be a fast run under the near bank which I knew had been holding both salmon and seatrout this season. It was pretty dark as I made my first cast into the top of the run. I allowed the lure to swing across into the main flow before starting my retrieve. Suddenly I felt a sharp, heavy knock which was not hooked. I cursed the fact that I had missed what was probably my last chance. Two more casts across the same spot failed to induce any more response - typical! I made the next cast a bit longer but again nothing. I was resigned to having my last cast. I made it a long one towards the downstream end of the run. I could feel the little lure wiggling rapidly as it crossed the flow then it was taken with a great crash and a splash. The clutch zuzzed as a hefty fish dragged line off. Probably not a pike in that fast flow but possibly a salmon I thought - I'd caught one in roughly the same place earlier this year. The next five minutes consisted of a series of powerful runs interspersed with bouts of surface twisting and thrashing but I'd still no way of knowing what was on the end of the line.

I slowly regained line and worked the fish back towards me against the current. It was beginning to tire and so I risked switching on my headlamp to try and catch a glimpse of it. The first thing I noticed was the head with a kype on the lower jaw. I was still uncertain whether the fish was an out-of-season salmon. Now it was closer to the bank and as it turned I saw the deep, spotty flank and thick tail wrist of a seatrout - fantastic!

I continued to play the fish until it looked suitably calm before picking up my new (replacement) net. The fish must have been reading my mind because it now resorted to another session of runs and twists. Another couple of minutes and it was back again. I dipped the net in and allowed the current to slide the fish in before lifting it 'ashore' to have its picture taken. I measured it at just under 70cm (? 8lb+) before returning it to the river. As you would expect at this time of the year the fish was developing its spawning colours, but a cracking specimen all the same.

My first fish, a chubby perch.


The second one a lively seatrout.


At last, a good fish taken and played out in the dark - typically for late September, a bit red but wonderful!


If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -