With summer here and me having my young posse (my kids), it’s been harder to get out trout fishing. The weird weather has added to my limited encounters with rivers and streams. We started with drought like conditions and then too much rain and also very early heat. I have managed a few nights and these are some tidbits from my evening getaways.
When I have made it out, it is usually after dinner. After everything is cleaned up and sorted away, I suit up in my waders and drive the short distance to the stream. This usually gives me about a couple of hours before darkness starts to move in. I’m always hoping for the evening hatch, but I haven’t been able to hit any this year. Last year I had much more success fishing the evening hatches. This included a spectacular time fishing a brown drake hatch well past dark, but this year my timing or maybe nature’s timing is off.
Night fishing presents its own challenges, but it can also offer a different look at your favorite creek or river. On a recent outing like many others for me, just as the last light faded, the river came alive. Large trout attacked my tiny fly in the low light of the moon. Fireflies danced along both sides of the dark little creek. Even bats were making an attempt to catch my fly. One bat flew into the end of my 12’ Iwana rod, but they were too busy with eating bugs to care about me. Then not long after complete darkness everything stopped except the occasional blink of a firefly.
On another occasion, I was casting to a nice bend with a deep pool. I heard some branches breaking not far off, but I kept fishing. I heard more noises and noticed the tall grass tips moving in a rough path toward my direction. I was about one foot from the shore and right next to a path. From around the tall grass and walking right on to that open path next to me was a skunk. He was about five feet from me and hadn’t seen me. Not wanting to spook the fish in my deep pool, I made a slight sound to give my presence away. The skunk perked up from his happy walk. His tail went up and he did two 360 degree turns in the same spot- not quite knowing how to react to me. I made another slight sound, and he turned and ran back into the deep brush with several crashes and other loud sounds.
Fishing with my long Tenkara rod makes me more nervous in dark. If I had more open water and room to cast, I wouldn’t be as worried about striking the delicate rod tip on a tree or snagging the line around a branch. Also, the simplest of knots can be much harder in very low light conditions. As dark growers near, I try to position myself in good open water and I try to minimize changing flies. I always check my tippet too, and I make sure it’s a good length and has no damage or knots.
I use a head lamp with normal light and a red light. This helps, but on a small stream like I fish, I try not to use it because it’s easy to spook the fish. On one trip, it helped me keep tabs on a very large raccoon that was keeping pace with me while hiking back to my car. His eyes were illuminated by my lamp and gave the position away of the maker of growls and grunts. That coon stayed with me for a good 100 yards where field meets forest.
I have never fished through the whole night like I’ve read about others doing for the hex, but I have fished deep into the dark.
In the dark, there are always fish that will take your fly if you can set the hook at the right moment. Often the largest fish feed more openly at night, and this is the draw of fishing at night. This year I have done more standing in the dark and waiting, then catching large trout. Still, there is another side to the stream that you see in the day. The draw might be the fireflies, or the rabid raccoon, or those giant mayflies, or hopefully that monster trout hammering your fly. Whatever night fishing is, its still beautiful.