Articles in the Category Night Fishing

Night Fishing for Trout — Location, Location, Location

It took me seasons of trial and error to understand this truth: On some rivers — especially those with larger trout — much of the water after dark is a dead zone. Nothing happens, no matter what flies or tactics you throw at them. Drift or swing big flies or small ones. Hit the banks with a mouse or swing the flats with Harvey Pushers. It doesn’t matter. On most rivers that I night fish, there are long stretches of water that simply won’t produce.

But in these same waters, there are sweet spots to be found — places where the action is almost predictable (by night-fishing standards), where two, three or four fish may hit in the same spot. And then just twenty yards downstream . . . nothing . . .

Night Fishing for Trout — Fight or Flight

I finally have an honest understanding about what draws me into night fishing. Yes, it’s the fear. And of the serious night anglers I’ve known, it’s the same for all of us. Fear is the crackling spark plug . . .

Tight Line Nymphing — Contact Can Be Felt at the Rod Tip

. . . But Smith had also drawn out of me one thing that I’d never fully put into words before explaining it to him. Namely, that contact is felt as much as it’s seen. While tight line nymphing, I’d told Smith, an advanced angler can feel contact with the nymph on the rod tip. Essentially, you could very well fish with your eyes closed. And because Smith was skeptical, I’d suggested some after-dark tight line nymphing as a way to prove to my friend that he could feel that contact just as well as anyone . . .

Night Fishing for Trout: Know your water, and make a plan

You have no business night fishing an area that you can’t visualize.

Close your eyes. Now imagine the spot you plan to night fish. Think about the first cast. Where are the rocks, tree limbs and logs? How much of the gravel bar is exposed at this water level? How swift does the current break around the undercut bank? If you guessed at any of these things, if you were uncertain at any pass, then you will struggle at night.

Questions and uncertainties are amplified after dark. So I go into my night fishing hours with a plan — much more than any day trip. The program might change if the light, water or feeding conditions suggest a new strategy. But having an outline holds me together on a dark river . . .

Night Fishing for Trout — Bank Water

Night Fishing for Trout — Bank Water

On the luckiest nights, large and medium sized trout move to the shallows, searching for an easy meal. Trout visit thin water because they feel protected by the cover of darkness, and because they find baitfish of all types unguarded and ready to be devoured. But 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 and choose to either work down and swing flies or work upstream against the bank and drift them. Regardless of the method of presentation used, bank water is my first target . . .

Night Fishing for Trout — Drifting and Swinging Flies

Night Fishing for Trout — Drifting and Swinging Flies

Night fishing with a fly rod isn’t for beginners. Rather, it’s for the well-seasoned angler who doesn’t mind feeling like he’s green again. Enough is different about the night game that your whole system seems turned upside down. Trout hold in peculiar places and behave in strange ways. Flies that you’d never consider in the daylight become your new confidence patterns after dark. And your tippet isn’t really tippet anymore — it’s a chunk of thick, stiff monofilament, designed for setting the hook hard and holding on.

Night Fishing for Trout — Backstory: Drifting and Swinging

Night Fishing for Trout — Backstory: Drifting and Swinging

For all the varied methods of casting a line and showing something interesting to a trout, presenting a fly always comes down to this: Are you drifting or swinging?

Daylight or night bite, we’re delivering our flies either with the current or against it — drifting or swinging. And while their are hundreds of variations on each approach, it helps to recognize the root of every tactic that we employ with a fly rod. When I talk shop with my night fishing friends, when I sit down to share a beer and swap a few tales about how last night’s fishing shook out, my first question is usually, “Were you drifting or swinging.”

Night Fishing for Trout — Headlamps, Flashlights and Glow-in-the-Dark Stuff

Night Fishing for Trout — Headlamps, Flashlights and Glow-in-the-Dark Stuff

The moon and stars are either in the sky and lighting your way, or they are not. Heavy clouds may roll in and block out those natural lights, or you may have clear skies all night long. There’s nothing you can do to control any of it. But the modern night fisher can choose from an arsenal of artificial lights — headlamps, flashlights and glowing things — to find his way through the darkness . . .

Night Fishing for Trout — Moonlight, Starlight and City Light

Night Fishing for Trout — Moonlight, Starlight and City Light

Ironically, light is what defines night fishing. In the absence of natural daylight, it’s the moon and stars that provide the angler with sight. Of course, city lights, headlamps, flashlights, and glow-in-the-dark stuff are also factors in the night fishing experience. So in many natural and artificial forms, light draws the lines around night fishing.

Trout respond to changing light conditions in the daytime, and every good fisherman recognizes it. We look for shadows on sunny days. We fish at dusk, and we fish at dawn. All anglers are eager to search for trout on cloudy days. But when the daylight fades trout habits may shift dramatically — and that’s where this mystery begins . . .

Hell-Hot Sun and the Strawberry Moon

Hell-Hot Sun and the Strawberry Moon

I’m not a big fan of summer.

It’s the heat. Thing is, you can’t really get away from it. If you want to be outside in all seasons (and I do) you have to somehow make friends with or tolerate the weather. Against the cold of winter, you can add layers to fend off most discomfort, but in the summer heat, once the shirt is off and the flip flops are on, your done — that’s as cool as you’re gonna get. So there’s no option but to mow the grass, play baseball and have the family picnic in a thick, wet blanket of summer heat. People still tell me that I’ll get used to it. I doubt it.

The same people also tell me how much they love summers. I don’t believe them. I think they like the idea of it, and they like the parties, the parades, the fireworks, the longer daylight hours and the lax work schedules. But the actual season? The weather? Nah. Bitching about the heat (like I’m doing here) seems like another common summer recreation from the list, and I see a clear majority looking for the next air conditioner, cold lake or swimming pool.

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Night Shift — Tracks

Night Shift — Tracks

** Note: This January 2015 post is rewritten and revisited here. So many of our favorite waters are accompanied by railroad tracks, and walking the familiar but odd stride required by the spacing of the wooden ties has become instinctive to me.  The tracks are a...

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Back in Black — The Night Shift

Back in Black — The Night Shift

Night fishing requires some sacrifice. High catch rates are exchanged for a couple fish large enough to fill out the net — a hopeful bargain. Visual excitement is traded for an adrenaline rush, sustained by roaming among the unseen. And sleeping hours are swapped for...

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Of Mice and Fishermen

Of Mice and Fishermen

Night fishing isn’t for everyone. And for that I’m thankful, because the prime attraction for me is solitude. I like the exquisite loneliness of the dark. Mix in the edgy spark of fear every so often, and an unusual feeling hangs on the black curtains limiting your...

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The Shallows Below

The Shallows Below

— This is the companion chapter to The Shallows Above, published a few days ago. ... I’ve done this nighttime thunderstorm thing before. Two summers ago, on a dark night in July, I was surprised by another thunderstorm. And once again, it was one of the most memorable...

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The Shallows Above

The Shallows Above

The thunderstorm came from nowhere. I’m not much for weather reports, and I hadn’t checked. I’d simply walked out of my garage and looked at some clouds in the sky at dusk. No moon, either. So it would be a dark night with only patches of starlight between the clouds:...

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