Many anglers have a love-hate relationship when targeting Spotted Seatrout with a fly rod. The early mornings, ice-cold water, and sometimes treacherous conditions are enough to make most stay in bed. I, for one, am always amped to get some time off work and plan a speckled trout mission.
Guide Tip: Spotted seatrout and Speckled trout are the same fish. I might even call it a sea trout. We could get into the technical name: Cynoscion nebulosus but that seems silly. Different regions use one or the other. Link
While most associate trout with freshwater rivers, spotted seatrout being anadromous, are trout that have made their way out into the open ocean. At a certain time of year, most of them make their way back up the river to spawn.
Some of the trout stay out at sea, and these are so prized to hook and hopefully land on the fly. These fish turn a beautiful silver color, and when you eventually get one to the net, you realize it is so worth the effort. All the hours spent braving the elements, the late nights behind the vice, and detailed planning has all paid off.
Weekend planned conditions look great, well for seatrout at least. When looking at the weather, I like to see steady cool conditions across all the days, I’m not too fussed about the temperature, but it needs to stay constant throughout because any fluctuations cause the fish to change.
As long as the water temperature remains cool and doesn’t change much either, we will be in with a chance. I like to say that if you are rewarded an opportunity to present a fly to a cruising seatrout, it will generally eat, and you will be in with a shot.
Finding the Speckled Seatrout can be tricky, though if fishing from a boat, search for the bubble or scum lines and use the birds to guide you to where the trout could be feeding. Walking the coastline can be heavy going but very rewarding if fishing from land.
Often the trout cruise very close to the rocky outcrops. I am a massive fan of this method, searching for cruising trout in the gullies. They are usually angry and eat with intent. You must be ready for the fight, though, and this is where a heavier fly rod 8wt is preferred to muscle the fish off the rocks and out of the kelp.
Guide Tip: Transitions, I can’t stress this enough. Fish whether in salt or sweet water seek out transitions. Structure, temperature change and scum lines are transitions.
A slightly lighter rod and approach can be used when targeting these fish in freshwater, nymphs, streamer, and a few surface patterns are in order.
When all other elements align, it’s up to the fly, and how you fish it, you must make sure you have the right fly at the end of the line to entice the eat. I like to carry a variety of flies that can cover all conditions and scenarios. They will be fished differently and hopefully account for a lovely silver spotted seatrout.
Below I will go through my favorite seatrout flies, why I like them and how I fish them.
1. 2-Salt Tube
The 2-Salt Tube fly pattern in size 04 is a great fly to have in the box. I like to have two different colors. Red/black and blue/black combos. The tube fly was first developed in the early ’50s in the England area. Brought to the states in the early ’70s, it’s a great way to get the fly down to deeper fish without the use of lead or a sinking line.
The pattern is a great opening pattern for those deeper channels or gullies. While the size may hinder a few casters, if put in front of a trout, it will eat it!
2. Alaska Flash Fly
The Alaskan flash fly, size 02 in sliver and red, is a must in the fly box. It’s a salmon fly by origin but works wonders for speckled trout. Ideally fished in the first third of the water column, the fish will come up to feed on it. If fishing with a sinking line, give it some time to sink, and then long, steady retrieves are the way to go.
3. The Bunny Leech
The Bunny Leech is an excellent all-around spotted seatrout fly to have on you. This black bushy brush pattern covers various food eaten by speckled trout. Tied in 04/06 sizes are the most popular sizing.
The bunny leech is best fished as a search pattern in the late fall and early spring. Best used when chasing seatrout in freshwater or quiet bays. The leech is a constant food source throughout the year, so having a few of these patterns tied and ready to go is recommended.
4. Woolly Bugger (Steelhead Bugger)
The Woolly Bugger is one of the most popular flies ever tied. It covers all types of food sources and just has a knack for catching anything and everything. For spotted seatrout, I like to tie them in a few different sizes, 08,06 and the larger 04’s. I keep the colors dark brown and black with varied flash in the tail. Fished out at sea, inland, and in the larger lakes once the trout are in. The pattern is so versatile.
5. DC Prawn Fly
The DC Prawn fly is a classic salmon fly by origin. This is what I love about fly fishing, how we can use one pattern slightly adapted to target a different species. The DC Prawn is an excellent example of this. My first choice is best tied on a #04 hook and 3” in length.
Orange/ black or red/black are my go-to colors, and I also like to add some rubber legs to the midsection of the fly for extra movement.
6. Mercers’ Lemming
Mercers Lemming was first tied by Mike Lemming. This surface pattern in tan, greens and natural colors is a must-have in your fly box. For me, there is nothing more exciting than stripping a surface pattern and seeing that water film break when the fly gets smashed!
I prefer to fish the Mercers lemming in size 6 on a floating line and 9’ leader. The takes are voracious and hard, so make sure you are ready and that your excess fly line is clear of any snags.
7. Mr. Hankey
Mr. Hankey is a must have for the surface fly box. This pattern suggests a mouse of sorts but could represent any aquatic animal. Mr. Hankey is a trigger pattern, and if a big seatrout is lurking in the area, the chances are good you will get an eat.
This gurgler-style fly has all the right triggers needed to attract big fish. I like to fish it larger rather than smaller, provided I have a heavy enough rod to turn it over well. The trailing hook, a classic salmon style, accounts for many a hookup and is often the hook to get the job done.
8. Silveynator Silvey
Silveynator Silvey is a traditional tube-style fly. The hot spot head could also suggest an egg-eating leech as well, which is a popular attractor pattern. Using a tube fly is easy, simply slide the tube fly up the leader and attach the hook, slide the tube back down over the hook.
This is a great pattern to fish all year round, focusing on inlets and the edges of channels, etc. Black is the preferred color, with a hot spot in orange or neon pink.
9. Hot Bead Prince/Girdle Bug
Hot Bead Prince/ Girdle Bug, while these two patterns are deadly on their own, combined with the classic prince style body and girdle bug legs, this fly pattern can’t be left alone! It’s great to have in all trout fly boxes. I prefer slightly larger sizes #10 in darker colors with the hot spot bead. They are best fished in the freshwater systems as the trout move upstream. Imitating a stonefly and any other aquatic nymphs.
10. Copper John
The Copper John is a classic all-around trout fly. It has been used for decades catching freshwater trout and speckled trout all over the world. Its bulletproof construction makes it a very durable pattern and one that has a fast sink rate to get on to the fish in faster, deeper waters.
I like to tie mine traditionally, but I may alter the bead from tungsten to brass if I want the fly to hang in the column for longer. The classic copper color is the only color I use; I tie it in different weights. Fish the fly as a single nymph or on a drop rig.
11. Bear’s Saddleback Hex
Bear’s Saddleback Hex is a classic dragonfly/ damsel nymph pattern. My preferred colors for seatrout are mustardy green variations and the classic black version.
Not tied too big, my first choice is a size 06, and I could change one up depending on the situation. These patterns are best fished when targeting spotted seatrout in the bay and moving upstream. Fished on a floating line slowly over weed beds or muddy inlets.
An Easy Spotted SeaTrout Fly to Tie
Setting up a Fly Rod for Speckled Trout
When fishing for speckled trout, you are not always going to be drifting a small Copper John over a freestone riverbed. When targeting these fish in the larger lake inlets and out at sea, we tend to use large flies. Large flies mean heavier fly rods to turn over some bigger patterns, especially when out at sea. You will generally face heavy winds and harsh conditions, which will also demand a heavier rod and shorter leader so as not to get too many wind knots and to roll those attractor patterns over.
My ideal all-around fly setup would be an 8wt medium to fast action fly rod, something that has a little backbone. Match this with your reel of choice, an intermediate fly line in the saltwater, and a floating line to start with a freshwater system.
Recommended Gear List for Spotted SeaTrout
We all have our gear lists and essentials that we like to take along on a fishing trip. Below I will list the basics you may need while out on the water. Add what you may need or like while out there.
Fly rod, reel, and lines, Yes this may sound silly but trust me, there is nothing worse than when you arrive at the fishing spot only to realize you have left your reel behind. I always pack these items first and triple-check I have them before heading out.
Guide Tip: I’ve learned to use a checklist for my fly fishing trips. Check out this article for a download. -> Fly Fishing Checklist
Waders and boots are necessary for those cold, rainy winter mornings when you need to be in the water swinging those streamers. Having waders and boots ensures you won’t get wet and cold. There is nothing worse than when you are cold at the start of a fishing trip.
Fly vests and packs are a personal choice, and you should wear what you are comfy with. I carry a backpack with all that is needed in it. With seatrout fishing, you don’t change flies like you would if euro nymphing, so all the gear isn’t needed to be close at hand.
I like to have a good pair of nippers; a few flies close by on a shoulder strap patch or in a patch cap, and one spool of tippet. These are the basics needed for the day and the rest I can carry in the backpack.
When fishing for speckled trout, I prefer not to wear too much bulk as I like to have freedom of movement when making those long-line casts.
Speckled Trout Fishing Questions and Answers
What size fly rod do you use to catch spotted seatrout?
We recommend an 8wt fly rod when targeting spotted seatrout. This weight rod will be great for an overall approach. You can work the smaller nymphs and turnover those larger flies when needed.
Are speckled trout found in the ocean or river?
Speckled trout or browns (sea-run browns) are anadromous, meaning they spend some of their lives in salt water. They both start in fresh water and move into the ocean over time, only to return to the rivers to spawn. Some of the trout stay out at sea and become a beautiful silver color, and it is these fish that are so special to target and catch.
What’s the best fly to catch spotted seatrout?
The best fly to use for speckled trout would depend on where you are fishing. The larger, more baitfish-style patterns are the best choice for targeting them in saltwater. If you target these trout in the river, I would start with a largish prince nymph for the shallow runs and scale up to a Woolly Bugger for the deeper pools.
One More Cast for Spotted seaTrout
Whether you are starting or a seasoned veteran, seatrout are an amazing species to target. Very little is more rewarding than seeing a silver slab swim away after a few pics and a pounding heart.
Perseverance is crucial and time on the water pays off! Happy fishing and tight lines!
Tarpon, Redfish and Snook
True trophy fish can mean being in the right place, with the right flies, setup for success. Below are some articles to guide you to a TROPHY
- Snook, Reds and Tarpon can be found all over Florida. Read where to go in this article > Where to Fly Fish in Florida
- How big do Tarpon, Redfish and Snook get? Read about the BIGGEST Caught > TARPON , REDFISH and SNOOK
- Casting a Fly to Snook is amazing. Read about How to Fly Fish for Snook and the Best Flies for Snook
- Both Tarpon and Redfish can haunt the same waters. It’s just a matter of selecting the right flies. Check out The Best Flies for Redfish
Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.