Creating an equal playing field between the angler and trout isn’t easy. One always seems to have an advantage over the other depending on conditions, equipment used, and accessibility.
Once you fly fish for trout at night, however, you find that anything is possible and you have to constantly be at the ready.
I absolutely love fishing at night for large trout. I’m able to use large flies, rely on my other senses besides vision and I never know what is going to happen next.
Some of the largest fish are going to feed in the pitch dark after sunset. If you’re willing to put aside some fears of the dark, you have a chance at an adrenaline rush that’s hard to find in any other fly fishing experience.
The best thing about trout fishing at night is the possibility of landing a trophy trout.
In this article, I will cover:
Trout Fishing at Night
Night Fly Fishing Clothing and Accessories
How To Fly Fish for Trout at Night
Types of Water to Fish
Casting At Night
Short Casts are the Best
Fish What you See
Mending And Retrieval Techniques At Night
Make your Presence Known
Trout Fishing at Night
Setting up for fly fishing at night doesn’t have to look very much different than your setup for daytime fly fishing. There are a couple of things, however, that you should consider bringing along when you hit the water in the dark.
If you’re fishing in a river or a lake, it’s not a bad idea to use a bit heavier rod than you normally would. For example, if you’re usually fishing with a 4-weight, it’s not a bad idea to move up to a 5 or 6-weight.
Using a heavier rod is useful for two main reasons.
First, you have the potential to land a larger fish than you would find during the day.
Secondly, is that you will be using heavier flies at night. You don’t need to focus on throwing size 18 nymphs with a 6x tippet at night. Your goal is to throw bigger flies for bigger fish. As a result, a heavier rod is going to make the casting process easier! Jump up a weight or two when you go at night.
For your reel, your best bet is to match the weight of the rod you’re using. If you’re using a 6-weight rod, use a 6-weight reel. This is going to ensure a proper balance!
Balance is more important at night. Your senses are going to be a bit off, so the more you can do to make your life more comfortable, the better.
Also, make sure the reel has a large arbor and a solid disc drag system. You may be surprised at the power and speed that trout hit at night. Set your drag accordingly, and be prepared to fight the fish hard! You don’t want them to go 50 yards downstream where you can’t really see what’s happening.
Some anglers choose to use glow-in-the-dark fly lines when they’re fishing at night! It exists, and it actually does make your life a bit easier.
However, if you find yourself to be a purist, a sink tip line or floating line would work, depending on where you’re fishing. Floating line isn’t going to lead to as many snags, which can make a difference when you’re fishing at night!
Match the weight of your line to your fly rod and reel. It makes life easier! However, if you’re like me, I prefer to use a quality fly line that’s one weight heavier. The line that’s a bit heavier is easier to cast, and it gives that feeling of more power! This is a preference I’ve found over numerous years of fishing.
You don’t need to mess around with a 4x 9’ tapered leader at night. Short and strong are the two main categories you need to worry about. Use 1x or 2x leader, around 4 to 6 feet long. It’s easier to control and plenty strong. Fish aren’t going to be able to see the leader as easily at night, so don’t fret about a hidden setup.
For your flies, make sure you have representations of meat. Mice flies, minnows, sculpins, and crayfish patterns should all be in your rotation!
The best streamers to use at night are The Sex Dungeon, large Woolly Buggers, and Clouser Minnows. Choose larger sizes than you would fish during the day.
The Mini Mouse and Morrish Mouse from Umpqua are good options for mice.
Make sure you pick sizes between 0 and 4. Yes, they’re big, but if you’re going out at night, don’t you want to catch a giant?
Night Fly Fishing Clothing And Accessories
You want to ensure you’re wearing waders and wading boots for your clothes. These give you the most versatility in terms of pursuing fish! Make sure you check the weather and dress appropriately for the rest of your attire!
In terms of accessories, bring a quality headlamp! Ensure the headlamp is fully charged, or you have extra batteries. The headlamp should be at least 300 to 400 lumens for the best illumination.
Also, some anglers will even wear safety glasses to prevent a hook from flying at their face and lodging in their eye. If you set a hook and miss or have to pull out a snag, glasses are going to protect you!
How to Fly Fish for Trout at Night
Let’s go through all the best tips and techniques on how to catch trout at night.
So Do Trout Bite At Night?
If anything, fly fishing for trout at night requires less finesse than fly fishing for trout during the day. It’s more of a power game at night! All your gear should step up one size for the best chances of catching a large trout during the night.
Types of Water to Fish
At night, fish feed a bit differently than they do during the day. They’re a bit bolder at night under the cover of darkness.
First, I would not recommend going to an unfamiliar body of water to fly fish at night. Go somewhere where you’re familiar with the flow rates, depth, and access. Water at night isn’t something to mess around with, so be familiar with the area before you visit.
You don’t need to fish in extremely fast or deep water at night. Fish slower water. These slow portions of water can be shallow portions, pools, or cut banks.
A portion of water that goes from deep to shallow is where you should spend most of your time. Fish will still feed from below at night, so you can fish a bit higher in the water column if you want!
Big trout are more than willing to feed in slow and shallow water. Casting your big streamer in a shallow area is a great option. You’ll be shocked at how quickly a big fish is going to pounce. They’re hungry and willing to go after food in all areas of the water.
Banks, Banks, Banks
Fish are going to sit along the banks at night because that’s where quite a bit of food can be found. Whether it’s a crayfish sitting shallow or a mouse that accidentally fell in, large fish aren’t going to have to work too hard to find food at night. If you cast along the bank, you’ll find fish.
Casting At Night
When you’re ready to cast, your headlamp comes in handy. Obviously, you don’t want to throw in blind and hope something happens. Take your time to pick your spot and make each cast count!
Pick a tree trunk or a landmark on the other bank; this will help to ensure you cast in the right place all the time. If there is some moonlight, then night fishing becomes a little easier to establish landmarks or areas in the water to cast.
Make Short Casts
You don’t have to make a 40-foot cast across the entire river when you’re fishing at night. First, you don’t know what’s all behind you, and you don’t have to go that far for fish. Focus on specific structures, seams, or transitions. Rock piles, pool transitions, and eddies are going to give you chances at fish. The less line you have out, the less that’s going to go wrong for you!
Fish What You See
With your headlamp, go ahead and survey the water. Fish will still feed on the surface at night, so cast at them if you hear splashes or see rises. Those show there’s a feeding fish in the area.
Cast your large mouse fly or Clouser Minnow in that direction; chances are you will get hooked up with a large trout.
The work isn’t done once you throw your fly in the water! Large fish want to be sure that what they’re eating is safe. As a result, you have to make your fly look extra enticing at night.
Slow Retrieve is Great At Night
If you’re fishing slower water, a slow retrieve with your streamer or mouse pattern is great. That doesn’t mean stripping 2 inches at a time in a continuous pattern. Make your fly look as if it’s in distress. Complete three strips in a row, and then let it sit before recasting again. Fish are going to hit as soon as they see your fly stop moving.
When Night Fishing With Flies Make Noise
Night fishing is one of the few times you’re encouraged to make noise in fly fishing. Go ahead and let your fly slap the water. It’s going to draw attention! The noise doesn’t have to stop when it hits the water! You can tie a rattle or blades to your fly to give it extra commotion.
Swing Your Flies At Night
If you fish with streamers, you’re familiar with swinging flies! You can still do this at night. Cast up and across the river, let your fly drift down, and wait for it to start swinging across towards you. As it’s swinging, be prepared for it to hit. You can strip hard towards yourself back upstream as soon as it’s almost directly below you.
Fly fishing at night can be great fun and result in some big trout taking your fly. Always go heavier than your daytime fishing setup.
I hope you enjoyed this article and the tips help you gain the extra advantage of getting those bigger trout at night.
Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It's a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels.