Night Shift – Skunked

by | Dec 17, 2014 | 4 comments

I’ve read a lot of fishing blogs, and I can’t recall any accounts of a complete shut out.  I’ve seen lots of hero poses with gorgeous slabs of wild trout spilling over wet, dripping hands with the flash of a fly rod reflecting in the sun. My RSS feed is filled with accounts of banner days, perfect trips and fish with the feed bag on.  How about this …..

I’ve night fished a hell of a lot this year and I plan to keep doing it all through the winter.  Why? Because nobody else is, and because I’m curious.  I was talking with my buddy Matt Grobe after my last night trip, and he suggested that I should travel  more often and put myself over bigger fish for bigger payoff.  In truth, I’ve fished my home stream on about 75% of my night outings through the years. In large part,that’s because of the simple convenience — I can be on the stream in less than five minutes — but also because I know that water inside and out. It’s far and away the most consistent creek I’ve ever fished, and if I strike out I know that it certainly isn’t because there were no fish around.

Night fishing is like learning to fish all over again, and my plan has been to fish my home stream often, developing the night skills in the same places where I learned just about everything else about fishing. As the weather has turned colder, I’ve questioned whether I will still be able to find active fish feeding in the dark, and my plan for winter night fishing was to keep fishing my home stream more often than anywhere else, just to try to keep that one friendly element in my favor. However, last night I traveled to a location that we know for a fact holds Whiskey Drinkers and wild brown trout looking for a name.

Three hours. Never had a bump. I had a plan to fish about five sections that I knew well, and I worked all of that water hard; swinging wets and streamers mostly, and then mixing in some dead drifts. The highlight of the night was the monster that I spooked out of some thin water while walking through to the bank.  He waited until I was about to step on him before he bolted, leaving a large wake in my red beam and a fantastic “BLUNK” sound.  Yes, I had just fished that shallow pretty hard.

Ready for the excuses? How about these: it was foggy, the water was cold, the bait-chuckers raped and pillaged that water over the weekend, the sky was too bright, barometric pressure was  low, and “them fishes just wasn’t bitin’.”

Fish count – zero.  Redemption awaits.


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. Trying to get through all of these articles. I love them. Thanks Dom!

    Bashline’s book has given me some ideas. I really like they way he wrote about using tags to alter the speed of presentation on a swing. I hadn’t considered that angle of it before, but a tag 30” up from the point would move more slowly then the point fly when swinging. It also left a little to be desired. I will read through it a few more times as I am sure I missed a bunch of stuff.

    I had an early morning expedition today that was pretty frustrating. Fish were exploding out of the water all around me for a solid 2 hours from 3:30-5:30 am. I am pretty sure at least one of the rises belonged to a 24” trout. It sounded like someone threw a 20lb rock from the 15’
    high bank. There was enough light for me to see the splash and it was impressive to say the least.

    I fished that area hard for about 2 hours with wets and my attempt at your pendragon. Nothing… if I ever catch that fish his name will be Priapus. He is a giant dick head.

    I Gave up on him and moved down stream to where a handful of smaller fish had been consistently rising all morning. They didn’t fall for my shit either.

    Other than stoneflies there are no large aquatic insects in that river system, a #16 bwo is the largest thing I have ever seen on the tail water. I have never seen a mouse on the banks. I am sure they exist but I can’t imagine that many were slaughtered this morning. It’s also still a bit cold for frogs. That would pretty much just leave small bait fish.

    Do trout come out of the water like that when they eat bait fish at night? I haven’t witnessed that type of behavior during the day but I can imagine something like that happening in the shallows. These explosions took place in 4-6’ deep water. About 15 yards from the bank.

    Would I have been better off using something closer to your rogue pattern? It seems like those big wet flys are more of baitfish imitations than insect.

    • Great stuff. Regarding your question, I agree that those big wets are more likely taken for baitfish than insects.

      Trout will do whatever they wanna do after dark. Fewer inhibitions, for sure. And yes, if they don’t take wets, I would surely give them something larger. I’ll also point out, a surface explosion doesn’t mean a trout took something off the surface. He may have chased a baitfish, it swam up and a trout grabbed it.

      All of this is just more of the stuff that makes night fishing such a wonderful mystery.


    • Matt, could there have been a beaver where you were fishing? I run into them all the time and am fooled sometimes by a timely splash, but I have also mistaken a feeding fish as a beaver only to be proved wrong lol.

  2. I appreciate you taking the time to help me out. I tied up a couple of patterns late last night that resemble the rogue, as well as some wets on a #2 b10s. I am going to try to get back up there tomorrow morning and catch a fish. I was thinking I could leave a wet on the tag and rotate between my rogue-ish patterns and the mouse emerger.


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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