Thoughts on Night-time Trout Fishing

by  Ben Hope


Night-time is a good time to chase bigger trout. Many creatures of the riverside are nocturnal, even the aquatic caddis flies. Then there’s mice and we’ve all heard about the beech masting years, increases in mice numbers and how big trout love to gorge on them at night.

Why not, in terms of protein, a fat mouse is equivalent to hundreds perhaps thousands, of caddis flies.

There are a few things to realise about night fishing especially around safety. One vital aspect is to know the water you’re fishing relative to flow, deep parts and particularly drop-offs. 

So do a thorough reconnoitre in daylight, prior to going night fishing. Take note of features in daytime and also snags. I fish at night with a floating line. From your daytime surveillance, put a stick on the bank opposite where a snag is.

Take note of water depth, relative to where you might wade.

Wet Fly Lure

A favourite way is to use a wet fly lure such as a Mrs Simpson, Black Fuzzy Fuzzy or Hairy Dog and fish it casting across and letting it swing in the current across to your bank.

Fish “across, down and around” in this manner, retrieving slowly. If you’re right handed, trap the line with the fingers of your right hand and with the left hand retrieve. Make the cast, retrieve and then move a metre or so downstream to make the second cast and so on.

The easiest method of night fishing is downstream fishing just described. Cast across the river and while gently retrieving, let the fly swing down and around until it is below you, then retrieve the line back ready for the next cast.

Wee Wet Flies

While a fly lure is commonly employed, you can use little wet flies such as soft hackled “spider” patterns. Today you can rarely buy the little wet flies in tackle shops. It’s strange because the little wet flies are still very effective. 

The fly fishers among the early British settlers coming to New Zealand brought their wet flies and spider versions. Captain G D Hamilton in “Trout and Other Sport in Maoriland” published in 1904 suggested just five flies.  One of his favourites was a spider, comprising a brown partridge hackle, hares ear body put together with yellow silk. Very simple, very effective.

The caddis (sedge) flies – several sub-species – hatch at night and a little wet fly can imitate these.

Trout particularly brown trout take very gently at night, almost imperceptible. So concentrate and “feel” the line between your fingers for a very quiet “take.”

Dry Fly

You can use dry fly if you can see the rise form of a feeding trout. It’s surprising how much you can see when you eyes adjust to night-time.

There’s another “fly” I’ve used and that is a “popper”. Mouse patterns work most of the time especially on big brown trout in those beech tree mast years. A mouse pattern can be fished across and down on gently moving water. The wake of the mouse fly seems to attract big trout.

Apart from the usual fishing paraphernalia hanging off your body there are a few ‘must haves’.

Naturally you need a torch but avoid shining it on the water.

If you need to turn the torch such as to change a fly or inspect the fly, turn away towards the river bank so to avoid shining it on the water.

It’s a good idea to carry two torches in case one gives up the ghost.
I find brightly lit moonlight nights to be poor for trout fishing. The trout seem spooky and reluctant to take a fly.

Give night fly fishing a try, but be patient and be safe.


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3 Responses to Thoughts on Night-time Trout Fishing

  1. Predator Pete says:

    The late R M McDowell was well aware that native fish and crustaceans are nocturnal and recommended study of these species using a torch at night.
    Black, (and red which looks black at night), are probably sillouted by dim light at the surface when viewed by trout from below.

  2. Ben Hope says:

    My experience of trout being “spooky” or not taking the fly on moonlit nights, is in contrast to sea fishing, where my two best snapper, both 17.5 lbs, were taken on bright moonlit nights. Such are the mysteries of fishing.
    With trout I’ve found that on moonlit nights, in the “moon-shade” of an overhanging willow tree trout will take the fly. It seems – for me anyhow – if the half to full moon light is directly on the water, it’s very hard going.

  3. Pat says:

    Deer hair sedge patterns are good for night-time fishing. Often there is a “mad rise” to these soon after dark. Ben is right that moonlit nights aren’t so good and this holds true for sedges as well. The really big fish usually come out later at night – after everyone’s gone to bed. Some of my best sedge fishing has been after 1am!

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