Night Shift – Breaking the Ice

by | Jan 22, 2015 | 2 comments

I’ve been fishing in the dark two other times since my last Night Shift report, and on each of those trips I experienced limited zero success. I knew that winter night fishing was going to beat me up and test my resolve, however, it’s been even slower than I expected; but then last night I was rewarded with a little action.

No surprises here, but I believe water temps to be the main problem for the huge slow down that has happened in the winter. I’ve night fished waters with temps of 34-36 degrees in the last few weeks, and each time I’ve had no action at all. Last night, I returned to a confidence stretch for me — a piece of water that I know very, very well and where I’ve had good success at night before — and I hooked a few fish. I went there because I knew the water temp should be 40 or above, and I was right. It was 41 degrees around 11:00 pm.


One of the primary reasons that I love living in this area is that I’m surrounded by limestone waters. Many of the streams in this region are heavily influenced by limestone springs, and in addition to the favorable PH and fertility that the limestone provides, the springs also distribute the water into the creeks at a fairly constant temperature, keeping them cool in the summertime, and relatively ice free in even the most biting winter conditions — usually. The issue this winter has been very low water combined with temperatures that bottom out in the single digits and rarely break the freezing point in the afternoon. Those frigid air temps cool the water as it flows downstream, and without the influx of enough warm spring water coming out of the ground, I’ve seen shelf ice in places where I never have encountered it before.

I’ve mentioned that my primary method for night fishing has become swinging large wet flies and sometimes streamers. I’ve dabbled with upstream presentations, but I found it difficult to maintain the necessary contact to get a good drift and detect a strike because I simply couldn’t see the line. Well, Sloop John B gave me a Rio Lumalux line and it is a game changer! I’ve experimented for a couple years now with glowing things attached to the leader, just to lend a reference point of what is going on with my line out there, and some of those ideas have worked really well. I had previously settled on a very small piece of glowing  macrame yarn attached in a method that we at Troutbitten simple call The Dorsey (very similar to THIS), but once I got the Lumalux, I realized what an enormous difference it makes in a night presentation.

The only real problem with the Lumalux is that it is a fly line. I know that sounds odd, but while a fly line is great for the downstream swinging of wets and streamers that I use so often in the dark, it’s not the best tool for upstream presentations. I’m a nymph fisherman at heart, and ninety percent of the time I fish nymphs upstream with a long leader and no fly line out of my guides. There are numerous reasons why this is advantageous, but it’s too much to get into right here. Most of you are probably familiar with euro-nymphing or tight-lining styles anyway, and that’s my rig for daytime fishing. Especially now that the temps have bottomed out on my favorite waters to night fish, I feel like I need to get my flies down through the water column more, and perhaps slow down the pace. I want to give the flies more time on the bottom; I feel an upstream approach could open some doors for me at night, and I’ve come up with something to help with that — a night-sighter.

Last night was the second time I used the night-sighter, and after a couple of other tries at developing a sighter for night fishing in the last two years, I’m positive that I’m on to something good here. I’ll probably detail the night-sighter in a later post, but basically I hacked off twenty inches of the running line back end of the Lumalux and made a glowing sighter out of it. This allows me to fish my normal long-leader nymphing rig at night, upstream, with contact, visibility and control.


I hooked a few fish last night; all on the night-sighter rig, but in three different ways. I found one fish while nymphing the bottom with a stonefly pattern, one while slowly and rhythmically hopping a big Bugger on the bottom, and one while extending the drift, then letting the flies swing up off the bottom and downstream of me (that fish hit a Governor wet fly on a tag). Common theme = bottom.

I’ve accepted that it’s usually going to be slow on winter nights, but it’s a whole new ballgame with the night-sighter rig and an upstream approach. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

No matter what, it’s just magnificent out there — an immense, eerie beauty radiating from the local globe of known space, existing and traveling forever into the night.

As always, if you’d like to talk night fishing sometime, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line, and we’ll share ideas.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky

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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. I like the night fishing reports ! It is something I am interested in and you do a good job explaing different methods. Have you tried to use glow in the dark flashabou. You could potentially make a siter out of it or even put it on top of a large dry fly and fish dry dropper.

    • Thanks Bill! I never tried the glow-in-the-dark flashabou, but I may look in to it. I’ve used glow tubing, glow Thingamambobbers, and my favorite, glow macrame yarn. I’ve put the yarn on top of a mouse pattern before. It was fun to fish.


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