Darkness - A Spring Guide to Fly Fishing at Night

2 years ago


I'll be the first to admit, night fishing isn't for everyone. I shyed away from it for years after having a chance encounter with a homeless fellow near Reno, Nevada on my first night mission. The entire sensory experience shifts when the sun sets and your favorite fishing holes, the ones you know inside out, transform into foreign spaces.

Nature's night shift is completely different than the day shift. New sounds from nocturnal species and the occasional set of eyes glowing in the dark require some time to acknowledge with any level of comfort. After you settle the imagination and calm your fears, fishing in the dark is really a fun way to chase down trout. You read water with your ears, stumble around in the dark and cast blindly to sounds that may or may not be a fish.


Scout First

Before you throw on a pair of waders and wander into the darkness, take a daytime scouting trip. Look for obstacles and hazards that may be dangerous in the dark. Swift currents and private property are good things to avoid. Also seek out structure that can house a big fish safely during the day. Log jams, bridge pylons, undercut banks and boulders make good homes for nocturnal fish. Develop a gameplan to fish a specific stretch of water where you can enter and exit the river safely.


Dusk to Dark vs Late Night

The dedicated night fisherman out there typically get out well after dark. I like the time period as dusk turns to dark. The first hour of darkness has been very productive for me, especially in the spring months. I've thoroughly covered a run with a streamer at last light to no avail and followed with a second run during the first bit of darkness that produced. I also enjoy fishing this time slot when you can't afford a late night. During the short winter and spring days, fishing the first few hours of darkness will still have you home in time for dinner. 

When you do have all night to get busy, wait until 10 or 11 and cover the water thoroughly until 2 am. You could go later if desired but I typically cut things off when the bars close. It's a natural reaction of sorts.



Skating Mice

Skating mice in the dark has a few advantages over streamers. The floating flies are less likely to snag obstacles and the grab has an audible trigger. The trick is not to set your hook immediately. Wait until you feel the tug, then set. I've had far more success in the streamer game but I also spend more time fishing streamers. Tie your mice with a wide body to create a nice wake. Lift and wiggle the rod tip to create action as well. I tie my mice in standard deer hair with black foam. Deer hair died blue combined with black foam is also a favorite.


Swinging Streamers

Swinging streamers in the dark is my favorite approach to night fishing. You don't have to get deep quickly, moderate depths are just fine. Using streamers that push water is far more important. I like flies with deer hair heads and heavy hackle. A bow river bugger on a sinkink leader is one of my favorites. Dark colors are typically the most productive with black being the frontrunner and my personal favorite. I know it's not fancy, but works. Cast straight acros the river, make a mend up river and let the fly sink a bit. Simply stay tight and add the occasional twitch as the fly swings. When you reach the end of the swing, wait and let the fly dangle for a few seconds. Every so often a fish will track the fly and strike at the end of your swing.

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