We’re not just going to send you out in the dark night fishing for trout though, so here are some handy tips to make it a little easier for you.
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Do some recon, Know where you’re fishing
Fly fishing in the day has its challenges, now imagine fly fishing at night on a river you’ve never been to. Doesn’t sound good, does it? It’s best to fish at night on a river you know already. This makes fishing in the dark a lot easier as you’ll already know the lay of the land.
If you’re going to a new river, arrive while the sun is still out, or check it out the day before. Think about how you’ll access the river, will you be wading or on the bank, remember features like deep pools, waterfalls, rapids, and look for places without much vegetation where you can cast with ease in the dark.
You should also think about the water volume when night fishing. Is the river going to rise? Is there a dam upstream that’s going to increase the flow while you’re wading?
All of these points will make your night fishing trips more successful but they are also about safety too.
Take a headlamp with white and red light, and use it cautiously
No matter what kind of night fishing you’re doing, you’re going to need a light so you can see what you’re doing, and a headlamp is best. With a headlamp, your hands a free so you can do little tasks like change flies or untangle them from a nearby tree. They’re also super helpful when landing a monster brown trout, especially when fishing alone.
The reason it needs two lights, a red and white light, is so you maintain your night vision. When using a red light, it is not so bright doesn’t blind you and you can still see in the darkness after you switch it off. They are also far more subtle than white lights and will ensure the lights don’t scare off the fish.
Whatever you do, do not shine any bright light on the river, as this will immediately spook the pool and you might have to wait an hour or two until the fish settle again.
Wear glasses, not sunglasses
Seeing your lines at night is impossible, so ducking for lures that are coming for your eye is tough too. Make sure you wear some safety glasses so that your eyes are protected from being hooked.
Fish in the right areas, like…
At night time, brown trout don’t move fast or much at all. They will either ambush their prey by cruising slowly in the shallows or they will sit in a deep pocket and wait for the bait to swim over them and attack from below.
When looking for your spots in the sun before night fishing, search for deep pools, a good seem, long stretches of slack water, and areas of the river that go from deep to shallow quickly, where large brown trout love to hide.
The bank is your friend
Browns love to fee near the bank at night. It offers cover and safety for them as there is usually a deep ledge or an overhang for them to hide behind and feed from, particularly in tail waters. Plan your wading carefully and make sure to send your casts and streamers to the bank and work it slow and methodically out into the middle.
Make sure you’re fishing the right depth
As the water column changes, so should the depth of your fly, and unless you’re fishing surface patterns like a mouse fly, your fly should be a few feet under the water. To catch trout at night, you’ll want to use a sink tip, weighted flies, or split shot to get your fly into the depths where you’ll find trout at night.
It might even be an idea to have two rods rigged when night fishing for trout, one with a sinking rig and the other with a shallow/surface rig.
Fish with a heavier weight fly rod
Not only are you chasing big trout when fly fishing at night, but you’re also using huge patterns in the nighttime and that would make your little 5 weight rod nervous. Don’t use anything smaller than a 7wt rod and if you’re using a huge fly pattern, even an 8wt isn’t a bad idea.
These heavier rods make casting huge flies across the water at night a lot easier, plus you’ll have all the power you need to land the biggie.
Make your leader short and heavy
Trout can still see in the dark, but their vision, like ours, is much worse in the night time. This allows you to use a shorter leader, about 4-6 feet is ideal, and it will help make turning over those big streamers a lot easier.
You can also go up to a 1x/2x leader since the trout are less leader shy plus when you hook a giant you’ll be glad there isn’t any 6x on the end of your line.
Use big flies like articulated streamers
Gigantic brown trout eat under the cover of darkness and these giant browns are not after buzzer patterns, they want some serious prey like a mouse or baitfish so you should pick a fly pattern to match.
Put two hooks in your fly
It might not be fly fishing etiquette to have two hooks in your fly but night fishing is tough enough. Adding a back hook to your large streamer is a way of catching more fish. Trout can see at night but not so well, so they night just whack the back of the streamer instead of inhaling it, so adding a hook to the tail is a way to ensure more of your nighttime takes result in landing a fish.
Add a glow in the dark indicator or line
You can opt to go full night fishing mode but using a fly line that glows or you can steer clear of the glowing fly line and use a glow in the dark indicator instead.
Both the lines and indicators make a world of difference. You can see where your line is at, know where a fish is running in a fight, work a pool methodically, and cast more accurately.
Make shorts casts and a lot of them
Casting in the dark is hard and you don’t want to be spending the whole night pulling you fly out of a tree or hooking the opposite bank. Keep your casting short and accurate, about 30 foot is plenty.
Finding fish at night is another challenge. The only way you might spot them is when they feed on other fish at night or make a bow wake. This means covering ground and you should always methodically and never stop casting so every inch of the water is covered.
Think about the lateral line
Trout use their lateral lines to detect their prey swimming around in the water and you should use this to your advantage. Get your streamers to make some noise on the retrieve and if you’re a non-purist, add some blades to your flies or even a rattle. It’ll make your nights far more interesting and you’re likely to catch more.
Land with a splash
No matter whether you’re fly fishing streamers or a mouse pattern, delicate presentations are out the window when you fish at night. You want the fly to land with a bang as if it was a mouse that just hit the water or a fish that gave away its position in the water. These are all signs trout look for a night before they smash their prey.
Fish slowly and with a jerk
We now know that trout like noise, and can’t see so well at night either so should fish your flies slow with sudden movements to make a bit of commotion. This gets the fish interested but also gives them a chance to eat the fly when it slows down and sinks.
Swing your flies to cover more ground
When the fish aren’t showing and you need to search for them, use the current. Shoot across the river and let the fly swing, take a step downstream, and go again slowly covering every patch of water possible.
When you see or hear a fish cast at it
If you see a fish hit the surface or hear it, don’t cast where you think the fish is going, cast straight at the disturbance. Fish will often miss in the night and have to come back for another go, so it’s best of your fly is there waiting for them.
Which flies are best to use?
Hex fly limitations are great flies to use in July if you’re in the midwest. They hatch at night and the fish go wild for them non the surface as dry flies. It is tough to get a spot during these times though as the banks are usually booked up.
Mouse flies are great from May through July to the end of August. There is nothing quite like a fish eating aggressively on the top and in the dark too. I have spent many night fishing trips only using these flies just for that reason.
Streamers should be dark colors. A dark fly creates a silhouette against the moon in the water making it much easier for a fish to see a dark fly than a light one. You should also pick a dick fly with a lot of wiggle for great action. Articulated streamers have their body segmented to make a lot of noise in the water and you should have a lot of these in your fly box.
The Moon Is Your Friend
Moon light makes it easier for trout to see and thus they eat more on moon-lit nights than on dark nights. But, the extra light can make your life more difficult as you may have to lengthen your leader, make it lighter, and watch out for shadows on the bank.
Make It A Trout Night
Thanks for reading my tips on catching trout at night, I hope you enjoyed them and they come in handy. If you love peace and quiet and big trout are often in your dreams, then spend your free nights on the rivers trying to subdue these giant fish. Over the course of a few nights, you’re going to at least have a bite but be warned it does get addictive.