We receive a fair amount of inquiries and it seems that over the last little bit many of those inquiries have been in reference to night fishing tips. Not that I – or we – are pros by any means, but I’ve been wanting to add a “tips and tricks” section for a long time so that we can address some of the common questions we get and hopefully contribute some helpful info to those that visit our site.  I figured night fishing tips would be a great topic to kick things off for those that wanted more of a look at what we do and how we do it.

I legitimately have a hard time reading due to a longtime battle with ADD so although I’ve done some reading on the subject, I’ll write mainly based on our own experience fishing in the dark. I’d also like to open this (and all future posts) up for discussion as far as what other people have experienced. We definitely don’t profess to be know-it-alls and would love to get more input from others.  So what I’m trying to say is if you have some helpful info to share please leave a comment for future readers!

Night fishing. What a fun time to fish – it’s definitely a completely new fishing experience altogether. It’s hard to explain but I’d definitely recommend it if you haven’t tried it.

Why do people fish at night?

So to begin with, there are a few reasons why fishing at night can be productive. One of the main factors in determining where fish spend their time during the day (and night) is security. Fish need the sense of protection from prey. Among other things, light, structure, water depth and clarity all play a role in this. This is a big reason why bigger fish feed largely early and late – they’re more secure straying from their lies in search of food! Big fish didn’t get big by being dumb. So in a nutshell why do people wander out in the dark and fish at night? Cause that’s when the big fish come out to play! These night fishing tips can mostly be applied to both stillwater and moving water. Here’s a few things to consider/remember when thinking about fishing at night:

Big fish behave differently than smaller fish.

While it’s common for smaller fish (lets say somewhere around 21″ and under) to feed actively at various given times throughout the day, the larger fish are typically laying low during the day and coming out early and late to feed…browns especially. Browns more than any other trout are nocturnal.

Don’t  focus on the “money” water you would during the day.

When we look at a given piece of water that we just know holds a fish we usually reach that conclusion based on a few different factors: an area where food is easily accessible, a calm area where they mustn’t expend too much energy to hold their place, a level of security due to water depth and structure, flow of oxygen, etc.  Are there better places that food is easy pickings that you never seem to see fish in during the day? Of course. Why aren’t  fish always in the optimal spots for feeding/hunting? Again, it comes back to security. Everything changes in the dark. One night this summer we spooked a 26″+ fish that was chillin’ in a 12″ riffle. They’ll move from their lies and are known to travel even long distances each night only to return to their holding spots by morning. In stillwater, water temperature also plays a factor. Food may be more plentiful in the shallower/more exposed areas of the lake or pond but in addition to being too sketchy for them to venture into those parts during the day, it may also just be too warm.

Keep moving and cover a lot of water.

Again, bigger fish are on the move at night. You may need to stick to stretches of water that you’re quite familiar with or go out on night when the moon is big. Both on rivers and lakes I would suggest working a spot and moving on.

Fish black!

It may seem counter-intuitive but dark colors are always a good idea and black is especially important on nights with little/no moon. The silhouette of your fly is important during the day but because there is even less to go on visually when hunting at night, silhouette becomes especially important. Darker colors have a more defined silhouette.

Don’t just focus on nights with a big moon.

While there are all sorts of lunar fishing calendars and fishing when the moon is big can be effective, don’t ignore those nights when it’s black out. It makes it tough to fish, but there’s nothing like getting a heart-stopping take when it’s too dark to see anything!

Push water.

Fish flies that will displace and push water. In addition to fishing flies that have a good shape and cast a good silhouette it’s also a great idea to fish flies that the fish will FEEL.  It rings the dinner bell. This is why a lot of people like to fish mice at night too. That’s a whole other topic but if you haven’t tried that either – do that too!

Don’t be afraid to fish SLOW!

Some of these rules may seem (be) contradictory – but there’s a time and place for everything! I’m not gonna lie and say I have any idea why fishing a black bug…slowly…at night would be productive other than it works! This fish was caught on a slow strip on a black bug on a dark night. He’s not the only reason either.

I hope that these tips are helpful for some and maybe provide enough clarity to get any of you that have been wanting to get out and try fishing at night. Anyone have any other feedback or success stories? While without a doubt my favorite time to fish at night is in the summer, there’s still time in the season to get out and give it a try. Who knows? Maybe you’ll hook into the beast of your dreams!

night-fishing-tips-2

About The Author

Chinese Boy
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The ringleader at OSF, Nathan likes well-proportioned fish, moonlit walks by the river, and stripping streamers through dark lies on the dreariest of days. View full bio.

30 Responses

  1. Chris

    I think that profile is extremely important because of how the fish hunt at night. Just like you said, they are swimming around looking for the silhouette of baitfish. I think that is why the takes are so explosive, because they are ambushing the minnow from underneath. It seems that it is also important to fish close to or on the surface for this same reason. Light and bulky flies can help. Also when when fishing a river, swinging the fly can keep it on the surface and help you cover a lot of water.

    Great write up and it all seems to be the same approach we have here in SE Idaho.

    Reply
  2. Cort

    I like the write up a lot. You did forget to mention to wear your lucky undies, because a lot of time can go by before you have any action. That seems to be what happens to me in the river and the bedroom:)

    Thanks, I learned a lot.

    Reply
    • Nathan

      You bring up a very valid point – I can’t believe i forgot the importance of lucky undies. Never leave home without them. Glad you enjoyed, sir!

      Reply
  3. Spencer Cook

    Great write up. The water temperature aspect comes into play very heavily in the summer. The water temps are lower right before sun up, because the water has had all night to cool off. Browns love the colder water. They are from Scotland where it is nice and cold. On the darkest nights, I like to wear my headlamp set on the red light setting and I always make sure I turn my back to the river when it is on.

    The biggest brown I caught on a streamer at night was on a little black wooly bugger working a classic undercut bank. There truly isn’t any experience like hooking up with a pig in the pitch black., AMAZING TIMES!

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Good call on being careful on the light! Couldn’t agree more. Seriously, getting a hard take at night can flat out make you pee your pants!

      Reply
  4. Jared

    Great Post. Its a whole different experience fishing at night. Can be a bit scary at times. Once on the Green in WY I had a beaver stocking me. It keep slapping the water with its tale and then disappear under the surface. I would move down stream and It would come and find me again. Super sketchy when you cant see a thing on the water. You ever get a little worried at night? Any close calls with wildlife?

    Reply
    • Nathan

      That would be scary and a bit nerve-wracking! Fishing at night can definitely be spooky. I think I’m becoming more of a Nancy cause I was fishing solo out in the basin a number of years ago and fished until like midnight. Now as I think back, I’m not sure how I gave little/no thought to wildlife and cedar rats! I did about hud my pants when a LOUD keerrrrplunk startled me out of nowhere. My heart was racing like no other. I can only assume it was a beaver….although it didn’t sound like it!

      Reply
    • Nate

      Yes, wildlife is even scarier at night! Always be aware, and have your headlamp ready to go at a moment’s notice. I’ve been night fishing for roughly 30 years now or a couple reasons: 1) The biggest browns are less wary at night, 2) Rarely are there crowds and 3) It’s really fun and can be quite adrenaline-intensive since you never know what’s lurking in the bushes just waiting to leap out and KILL YOU! Ha ha.
      Some of the wildlife I’ve encountered night fishing in Northern Utah: Deer wading across the river, 2 bull moose standing about 10 feet away (cops came to check licenses and scared them away). Bummer deal as they weren’t bothering anyone. A huge boar Badger waddled up and practically licked my waders (scariest of all of my animal encounters…badgers can be truly vicious as everyone knows, and waders are little in the way of ‘protection’). Bats hitting me in the face, or getting tangled in my line and having to release them. A female mountain lion staring at me from across the river. Beavers, Muskrats, Big Horned Sheep (above Little Hole on the Green before they all died), Herons, Raccoons, Ducks floating on through, and nobody’s favorite; Skunks (both Striped and Spotted [yes, we have spotted skunks in Utah, rare, but here]).
      Yep, night fishing is bomb. Even when the bite if off, you can’t beat looking up and watching a meteor shower while listening to the sounds of the river. Go out, try it, but #1 most important thing is SCOUT YOUR FISHING SPOTS DURING THE DAY. Nighttime is ‘no’ time to find out that the bank you’re standing on plunges into 6 feet of water 2 inches beyond your toes. Our ineptitude in the dark is by far the most hazardous thing you’ll encounter while playing the night game, so be safe, scout ahead, enjoy jumping at every rustle of the bushes and tight lines to you. 🙂

      Reply
      • Nathan Leavitt

        Those are some great tips, Nate! Thanks for sharing. Hope all those late nights have paid off! Sounds like you’ve had some adventures in the dark.

  5. Kevin Empey

    Great post, I love fishing at night, but I don’t do it as much as I’d like. I had a great night fishing a stillwater this past summer in southern Utah for big brook trout. Along with your tips, I’d just add that fishing deep worked for us. But the fish were caught on a black woolly bugger using a slow retrieve on a night with lots of cloud cover . . . so your advice is right on in my experience!

    Reply
  6. Justin

    Some great tips Nate! Just got back from a trip where we did some stillwater night fishing for Brookies and Tigers. We got up there later than we expected and none of us could wait til the morning to fish. We tried streamers at first but had nothing so we tied on an egg pattern 18″ behind the streamer and put the smack down on some nice fish! Nothing better than sitting under a moonless sky at 10,000 ft slowly retrieving and then all of a sudden IT’S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!

    Reply
    • Nathan

      It’s a bug designed by Derek specifically for night ops. Doesn’t have an official name yet but the nicknames are colorful! Pretty dope! Shoot us an email if you want to know more!

      Reply
      • Ben

        Hey Nathan curious what info you might have on the pattern you are using in the top picture.

  7. Halle Hadley

    My hobby is fishing every weekend, and I love visiting your blog.The tips are amazing and more useful.

    Reply
  8. ANDY

    Hey found your awesome blog thru Fly Tying Forum.com. I’m 20 min from the top of the Grand Mesa in western CO. The old timers fished the lakes in the summer nights from 10-3am and caught monster fish. Some old timers have taught me a few tricks that work. The smart big fish get stupid at night and cruise the edges. I use an unweighted woolly worm (brown w/ orange marabou tail) or a black woolly bugger in sizr 10 2XL. I only fish the inlets cuz the fish are stacked up there.The retrieve is slower than molasses. The edges I fish are 6 inches to 6 feet. So with an unweighted fly I can count off the sink time and find the feeding zone. The takes with the fish on the Grand Mesa are more subtle than an acquaintance tellin ya that you have bad breath. During the day we use indicators to watch for the strikes. Which brings me to a question. Where can i find a strong glow in the dark indicator. The thing a ma bobbers just aren’t strong. Wana catch some 20 inch cuts? Come on down!

    Reply
    • Nathan Leavitt

      Sorry I never responded earlier! Thanks for sharing your experience, that sounds like a blast. I haven’t found any really bright indicators either. Lemme know if you ever find any! That would be REALLY helpful at night.

      Reply
      • Pete

        Night time is the right time! I have found that reflective tape/duct ventilation tape apoxied in strips to my thingamabobbers works well. I do use a red lamp and have found great success this way. Hope it helps someone.

  9. ANDY

    The go to now are hot spots on flies. My go to at dusk and beyond is a mouse. In tying I extend the foam head up & out over the eye to create a popper effect. When I’m on the river walking back in the dark (cuz of one too many “one more casts”) I put on Mr. Mouse cast quarter down stream and pop it back to shore then back towards me along the edge. Oh yeh smack down!

    Reply
  10. Dave

    I love fishing still water at night. We usually just throw to the banks and retrieve slowly and then WHAM! Also, we use dark flys at night as mentioned in your article. Nicely done. Thanks

    Reply
  11. Ben

    I have had some pretty good times up in Minn. with top water style poppers and weedless frog replica patterns with pike and occasionally during the day I’ll even get a monster pike to come up to the surface in some weedy areas. Night fishing is a blast. Anyone readin these from Colorado? Lookin for a fishin tag-along during the weeks when i’m not working.

    Reply
  12. Alex

    You mentioned reading about fishing at night. Could you provide some links/names of books you have read?

    Thanks

    Alex

    Reply
  13. Jesse

    Great tips, tried them and proven them. Now still on the hunt for an ellusive hog. Biggest this year was 24″ brownie on the mid Weber. Hope to catch something on your level sometime. Keep the stories and write UPS coming.

    Reply
    • Nathan Leavitt

      Can’t tell you how stoked I am to hear that! That’s a great fish! We have some more stuff on the way! Thanks for coming back.

      Reply
  14. Chad

    I enjoyed reading this tip. This summer I had a top 5 most memorable fishing experience when I discovered fly fishing at night. I had no idea that this was even done and thought that I had discovered one of the mysteries of the world until I heard about this blog. I had caught a few fish out of one of my favorite spots on the Notellum River here in Idaho and it started to get dark. I knew that something that would be easy to see (big and black) would be my best chance to hit a few more fish before I went home. Not to my surprise I did land a couple more fish but yes to my surprise I started doing better as it got darker. Too dark to see my indicator I took it off and did my best to keep enough tension to on the line to feel a hit but not so much to create an unnatural drift on my fly. I began to consistently catch 20” + fish. I went home at about midnight with a tired arm and a new passion.

    Reply
    • Nathan Leavitt

      Dude! That is so awesome! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m glad you discovered the magic of fishing at night AND that you found our blog. Hope you stick around and enjoy!

      Reply

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