Night Fishing the
|Click for full size image:.
Photo 1: Eddie
with a lovely brown taken after dark
Photo 2: Peter
with yet another great brown which took
Photo 3: David
just before he lost his torch. Notice the
mentioning night fishing to a group of fly fishers can
start off the most fearsome of debates. Usually the
argument consists of two factions. One group that think
fishing at night requires no skill and little moral/ethical
Evolution of FishingMAN) and another who see the
former as snobbish, purists who don't catch all that
many fish. I can say that at different times I have
been a borderline member of both groups. Over the years
as my skill level improved and I moved to Thornton allowing
me to fish whenever I wanted, I found night fishing
to be of little interest. However in the past few months
I have had a re kindling of the fires and now enjoy
getting out most evenings for a bit of a flick.
after dark does not require any real stealth. Leaders
are usually shorter and tippets much thicker. Fish are
not line shy in the dark. Using 6-8lb tippets as a minimum
is required as you are never sure what you may hook
and not being able to see the snags and other hazards
means stopping them ASAP is crucial. This is also not
the place for small flies. While we have success fishing
small nymphs on certain nights the majority of situations
will call for something big and black. This also reaffirms
the need for short leaders and heavier rods with anything
under a 5 weight considered under gunned. Casts are
rarely long with about 15 metres considered a huge cast.
Most fish are caught within 5 metres of the rod tip.
your water is not too difficult for those who understand
the game. First off you don't want anything too shallow
or too fast. Anything less than two feet deep is largely
a waste of time as is water faster than walking pace.
At times of high flow this means backwaters and the
margins are the best choice while the colder months
see the slow glides and pools producing more fish. Before
fishing be sure to scout out possible locations during
the hours of daylight. While you may be able to see
quite well on those brighter nights most of the time
having a good picture of the area in your mind is important.
Knowing which sections to fish and which are more marginal
will save you a lot of time and also a lot of flies.
Snags in the river and trees stretching out from the
far bank are important obstacles the angler should be
aware of as well. As with most things a little research
pays off in the long run.
these pools is pretty simple. The angler generally picks
a point from which to start, usually at the top end
(upstream end) of the pool or glide. Casting slightly
upstream and across allowing the fly to sink a little
and then starting a retrieve, as the fly swings downstream.
Retrieves should vary depending on the fly being used
and the depth and speed of the water. Usually a slow,
jerky, stop-start retrieve will take fish. If in a pool
or backwater devoid of current a very flow figure of
eight will often work well. The style of retrieve is
one of the most contentious points to arise from fishing
after dark but what it comes down to is this. Experiment.
Try different retrieves at different depths. The fly
is more often than not the least important part of the
equation at night. Be prepared to move on after searching
an area for a good 15-20 minutes. Eventually you will
develop your own 'sixth sense' for what should work
and more often than not be rewarded for it. This 'sixth
sense' is nothing more than accumulated wisdom or in
layman's terms, experience. Being out there, thinking
about what you are doing and getting positive reinforcement
builds this self-confidence.
critical part of night fishing is the way the angler
holds the rod while retrieving. Many fish are missed
at night even when doing everything else right. If you
don't have the rod at the correct angle to the line
you will be lucky to hook any fish. So what is the correct
way? Keep the rod tip low to the water. If you are wading
deep even better as the rod can remain parallel as well
as low to the water. Keeping the rod tip low allows
you to keep a tight line between fly and fisher as we
are not going to the see the take but rather feel it.
If there is anything that interferes with this basic
principal many fish will be missed. Also try and keep
the rod tip and fly line at a slight angle. In doing
this you allow the rod to do its job by absorbing the
take when the fish hits. Keeping the rod pointed at
the fish will mean many missed fish as the trout hits
it on a tight line with no give and pulls the fly from
its mouth. So don't forget. Keep the tip low, line tight
and rod and line at a slight angle to each other.
are not the most important factor when night fishing
the Goulburn. While during daylight hours hatches that
trigger selective rises are reasonably common fishing
after dark is not often so challenging. Big and black
is a good rule of thumb. While there will be some out
there who swear otherwise we have been doing this long
enough to know it is not that complicated. Matukas,
Woolly Buggers, Craig's Nighttimes all work well. Any
pattern that has bulk or movement or a combination of
the two will be effective. Also many of the better night
patterns are black. The reason for this black being
so good is obvious as it gives a great profile against
most backgrounds even when viewed from below the water
against the night sky. If I had to choose one after
dark pattern it would without doubt be black in colour.
lines are not necessary at night although fishing the
depths of the pools during the day with one can be rewarding.
While trout have great vision even on the blackest of
nights, getting the fly to the bottom seems to only
increase the number of flies lost and not the number
of fish caught. It would seem that the fish take better
when seeing the fly from below (i.e. looking up) and
because of this moderately weighted flies fished on
a floating line seem to work best. Despite this great
ability to hunt in the dark they often miss the fly
and the angler will be left with nothing but a jolt
of the rod and racing pulse to show for the encounter.
When this occurs while fishing moving water, the best
thing to do is to continue retrieving for about another
metre and then pick up and cast to the exact location
again. If in a back water a slow retrieve or momentary
pausing will sometimes allow the fish a second chance.
Luckily for us fish are not as easily spooked at night
and continued fishing to a located fish will often bring
important factor in regards to night fishing is the
amount of moonlight. This is very important and the
general rule is the brighter the night the slower the
fishing. The darker nights are usually better with up
to a half moon quite productive. Sometimes a brighter
night with either cloud or fog can be excellent. This
is something very pronounced when fishing at night.
On many occasions we have been out there catching fish
when all of a sudden the moon has broken out and the
fish have gone off. Within minutes of the cloud settling
back in the fish have started up again. At other times
the fish will come on and off for no discernible reason.
Some time ago I read somewhere of the observations of
an angler that the fishing was linked with the cattle
feeding in the paddocks along the riverbank. The author
noted that when the cattle were feeding the fish were
active too. When the cattle were in the shade resting,
the fish became difficult to interest. This 'unknown'
factor is very real and something we notice with our
smaller ponds. You can bet that if the fish in our ponds
are active that the fish in the river are also on the
job. This is something we cannot accurately explain
but it is real. Whether one day we will be able to interpret
this event phenomenon, who can say? But it is part of
the mystery of fly-fishing for trout and at least partly
the reason we keep coming back again and again.
so often fish will give themselves away at night with
noises. Rising, chasing things in the shallows or just
jumping clear into the air. The night-time angler quickly
becomes attuned to these sounds and can soon judge the
distance to the target and get an accurate cast out
to it. It is amazing how many times these noises will
result in a hook up, usually within seconds of the fly
hitting the water. The standard wet flies will work
most of the time in these situations but sometimes,
especially in summer a high floating muddler pattern
cast out and let sit will take fish. A slow, jerky retrieve
may be needed but generally the fly landing on the surface
will be enough to interest the fish. This is perhaps
the ultimate in night fishing.
situation I would like to mention is in relation to
fishing on the brighter nights. These can be excellent
in that if there is a fall of insects the fish can see
them easily and so can the angler. Fishing to rising
fish after sundown can be rewarding with flies slightly
larger than the naturals allowed and recommended. Some
movement can also induce a take especially at that moment
when you judge the fly to passing over the fish. Aside
from rising fish there is a phenomenon called the invertebrate
drift that occurs every evening. This is an instinctual
trait of aquatic insects that see some of them leave
their homes under rocks and in the weeds to drift down
the current and recolonise a new area. It usually happens
in the first couple of hours after dark and our own
tests in the river behind our property support this.
It would seem that there is a great number of mayfly
and caddis activity in the Goulburn in these hours and
the fish know about it. When the moon is up early you
can fish this migratory 'hatch' with a couple of well-chosen
(size, shape and colour) nymphs suspended below an indicator.
You must choose appropriate water to fish with knee
to thigh deep, slow flowing glides the ideal. Low flows
are also needed to allow good access to such water and
to make sure the fish are concentrated enough to fish
small nymphs in the dark dead drift. High summer flows
are not worth fishing in this manner as there is just
too much water.
you have it. Another perspective on fishing in this
wonderful river. Although not likely to appeal to everyone
it is nevertheless as much a part of fly fishing as
fishing the evening rise. So next time your up put some
warm gear on and head to your favourite pool with a
torch and box of wet flies. I think that you will enjoy
it as much as I do.