On the luckiest nights, large and medium sized trout move to the shallows, searching for an easy meal. Trout visit thin water when they feel protected by the cover of darkness, and because they find baitfish of all types unguarded and ready to be devoured. This is also when trout are most vulnerable to the skilled night fisher.
I have a bank-first approach on most nights, hoping I may hit it right and find actively feeding fish near the edges. On some rivers I wade to the middle and fish back to the boundary. And where the water is too deep to wade the center, I may stay tight to the bank, working downstream by swinging my flies or working upstream against the bank and drifting them. Regardless of the presentation used, bank water is my first target.
It’s not all the same, of course. There are deep undercuts around the outside bends, and shallow gravel bars on the insides. And while all of it’s worth a shot, I have my favorite — give me the shallow stuff.
The rooted undercut banks with deep holding water are hard to pass up. And I’ll cast to them, but not first. I like shallow bank water best — from eight inches to two feet of depth and close to the bank. Trout here seem most willing to feed at night, and if I catch one I expect to hook a few more in the same type of water. Trout like to do what their friends are doing.
Perhaps the banks are most productive because they provide the best target. Even on darker nights, an angler gains a good sense about where the edge of the river is located. There may be similar water nearby (and it may hold baitfish), but it can be harder to find and fish effectively than the edge of a river.
So I spend a good half of my nights fishing the perimeters. And good bank water is found with varying speeds. I have confidence in sections that flow at a healthy jogging pace, and I like lazy backwater that’s barely moving. Everything in between those two speeds is a good target. Seasonally, if the river is warming and approaching the high sixties (Fahrenheit), I find fewer fish in the backwater and more in the riffles. However, that preference might flip in the colder months.
Look around. Prime bank water at night may very well be the kind of place you’d walk through during the day. It’s right where you might stand to cast into the deeper stuff. At night, try reversing your impulse — stand in the deep water and fish to the shallows. And if that doesn’t work, then by all means, cast to the other bank too.
Search for areas like deep buckets and troughs, places where you might nymph up the largest trout during a day trip. Then find the water next to it that tapers out to a level just ankle deep. Start there. On many nights, the trout start there too.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N