James Murray, Great Outdoors. (File photo)

Column: Good fishing to be done at night

Great Outdoors by James Murray

It had been an hour or so earlier, when the sun had first begun its descent in the summer sky.

I had not really been paying attention. I’d been too busy casting to one last fish.

When night descends there is a certain apprehension that comes with looking out into the blackness. After all, we are creatures of the light. In the wild, however, there is a lot feeding activity that occurs under the cover of the darkness. Fish, to name but one, are both daylight and nocturnal feeders. They are still in their element even when we are out of ours.

Having said that, there is some mighty good fishing to be done at night.

The thing about fishing at night is that it’s pretty much the same as fishing during the day, except that it’s harder to see what you’re doing.

One thing to always remember when fishing in the evening or at night, is that the eye of a hook becomes proportionately smaller with a decrease in light. As the light fails, so does one’s ability to thread a line through a small opening. A flashlight or head lamp helps, but a better idea is to know what insects will most likely be coming off, and, have a number of flies tied up beforehand on two or three foot lengths of tippet material. A double surgeon’s knot is a lot easier to tie than a clinch knot, even under good light conditions.

Another thing to remember, especially when selecting a fly pattern, is that fish are seeing the potential food source while looking up from the shadowy depths of the water. Fish see the fly as a shadow or silhouette against the moonlit sky. Specific details that are important during the day, become far less important when night fishing. Patterns should generally be big, black and bushy. Dry fly patterns need only to sit high and well on the surface of the water. Subsurface patterns should impart some sort of lifelike, if not overt, movement that will attract fish even in the deep dark depths.

Fish that feed during daylight hours in the deeper waters along the drop-off, move into the shallows to feed at night. They tend to feel more secure under the cover of darkness, and will often be aggressive and opportunistic feeders.

When casting in fading light and under moonlit conditions, whether on a lake or stream, work an area by casting out in a fan pattern. Listen for the sound of fish rising to feed on the surface. Cast towards the sound. Set the hook when you feel a tug, or when you hear the gurgle of a fish close to where your fly might be. You will end up with a lot of false sets. But you will also be amazed at how many times you discover a fish on when you did not feel even the slightest bump.

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A good indication that there is an insect hatch coming off at night, is when the adults keep flying past your ears or into your face. Get use to it. If there are insects flying around in the air, the fish will most certainly be feeding on the emergers.

Having an insect flutter by close to your head in the dark may be somewhat distracting, but it is no where near as disconcerting as having your own fly zip past your ear when you are casting. Wear a wide brimmed hat. It will not only keep your head warm, it will also protect you from getting impaled on the sharp point of your own hook.

A good flashlight on your boat is not only required by current boating regulations, it is also common sense. Not only does a flashlight allow you to see what you are doing on board, it also makes things a whole lot easier when you are searching the shoreline for your boat launch site.

Sometimes I don’t even bother venturing out onto a lake until later in the evening and do the better part of my fishing by the light of the moon. I also keep a sweater or jacket on board just in case it turns cold.

Night time fishing is dependent on many of the same factors as daylight fishing. Water temperature, the life cycles of insects, availability of protective cover and even phases of the moon all have an effect on where the fish will be and what, if anything, they will be feeding on. The only real difference is that the whole process gets carried out in the dark.

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