Fly Fishing at Night – The Essential Guide & 11 Great Tips for Success


Want to do something super cool? Fly fishing at night is about as good as it gets!

You are about to enter the world of fishing special forces!

Creeping around in the dark, like a real hunter? It’s amazing.

Today I’ll talk you through what fly fishing at night for trout is all about and give you a bucketload of top tips to take with you in your tackle bag!

Let’s get out on our adventure…

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Can You Fly Fish at Night?

Of course, you can! Fish become much less wary at night.

And the best bit?

Bigger fish that have been hiding throughout the day start to emerge to take advantage of the cover of darkness. If that isn’t a big incentive, I don’t know what is!

As you’d expect, it is just a little different than during the day. If you are worried that it is harder to catch, don’t be…

Predatory fish, such as trout and bass, actively feed at night!

There are a few key techniques and differences that you will need to know if you have a foray into the world of fly fishing in darkness.

The basic technique is similar to how you regularly fly fish. There are one or two tweaks that you might have to make to be successful.

fly fisherman on the river at the night

Why Go Fly Fishing After Dark?

Oh, man! Where to begin?

There are plenty of good reasons to go at night. Here are some of the reasons I do it:

You’ve Got the World to Yourself!

Ever woke up in the morning for a perfect day’s fishing… Only to find your usual venue is swamped with anglers who had exactly the same idea as you?

Here’s the thing…

That doesn’t happen at night.

You’ll have the potential to have your own private fishery waiting for you. You’ve just got to time it right!

You Can Catch Bigger Fish

Huge trout and bass tend to get bigger because they are cautious. This means that during the day, they stay hidden away from predators (and fishermen).

Once night draws in, they emerge from their hideouts in search of a big meal. If you are willing to put the effort in, you can be there waiting for them in the shallows!

It’s Cooler in Summer

Hot days are nice… Up to a point. By the time you’ve slapped your sunscreen on and ‘de-layered,’ it can all seem a little bothersome.

Fishing at night is great (especially in summer) as the temperature drops. In fact, it can be quite pleasant.

It Isn’t as Windy!

I hate it when the conditions are just perfect, but I can’t cast to where I need to because it is blowing a gale.

But guess what…

At night time, the wind speed tends to be much less. This means that you won’t be fighting to cast to those prime spots that would have been unreachable during the day.

It Can be Easier!

Fish aren’t fools, and they will often tend to congregate in hard-to-reach areas.

Want an example?

How many times have you seen fish rising under bushes and overhangs? They are a real nuisance to cast towards. The fish will abandon their refuges during the night and swim to areas where you can cast to… Making it so much easier!

You Lose Less Fish

You can afford to use heavier leaders at night as the need to disguise your line isn’t so great.

If you’ve been plagued by crack-offs during the day, night fishing might be the welcome break that you need!

starry night over the mountains and lake

How Do You Fly Fish for Trout at Night? 11 Top Tips!

Alright, we are doing it! It’s time to get packed and ready!

Here are 11 top tips for fly fishing at night:

Fly Fishing After Dark (Gear List)

Hopefully, if you’ve read my ultimate fly fishing gear list, you’ll already be pretty well kitted out!

However…

You will need one or two little extras to have an enjoyable night’s fishing.

Here are the things I make sure I pack:

Headlamp

A standard flashlight isn’t going to cut it.

You’ll need both hands free. A good quality headlamp can make all the difference. You’ll often find certain models come with different filters to protect your night vision too!

If you haven’t got one, I’ve got some great info on headlamps for fishing here.

Glow in the Dark Line?

It’s not a luxury… It’s a necessity. Glow in the dark fishing line is becoming more and more popular. It’s easily ‘charged’ with a torch and makes avoiding snags and tangles so much easier!

Safety Glasses

During the day, you might be able to see a wayward backcast, but at night you lose that luxury.

Trust me!

Hitting yourself in the eye with a gold-headed fly is a mistake you’ll only make once. You only get one pair of eyes.

Make sure that you protect them!

Fully Charged Phone

This one is a biggie!

Please pay attention

During the day, you’ll probably encounter other anglers and people around and about. At night this can’t be guaranteed.

That’s a good thing, right?

Nope, not quite. If you get in trouble or injured, you are going to need help. If you haven’t got a buddy to go with you, then the next best thing is a fully charged mobile phone. It might seem like overkill, but those rocks seem to get even more slippery at night!

Be sensible and ensure you have the means to get help if you need to!

Know the Area

Remember at the start I said you were entering the realm of fishing special forces?

I meant it!

Do your reconnaissance! The time to work out a swim is not when you arrive in the pitch black.

The answer?

It’s far better to pay the area you intend to fish a visit during the day. It’s even better if you’ve had a chance to fish it in normal conditions beforehand. That way, you’ll be aware of all of the nuances, fish-holding areas, and pools that might catch you a monster!

As an additional plus, it also makes navigating to and from your venue that much easier.

Beef Up Your Gear!

Look, it’s like this.

There is a higher chance that you are going to catch bigger fish at night. The last thing you need is to be battling your all-time personal best on gear designed to haul in half-pound brown trout.

This is the solution.

Go bigger on your tackle. If you’ve got the option, use a heavier leader, rod, and line. Aside from catching bigger fish, there’s a greater possibility that at some point, you’ll hook a tree or a snag. A heftier rod makes it easier to clear.

man fishing in river with fly rod from kayak

Cast Shorter

“I was much more accurate with my distance casting at night…”

Said nobody, ever.

My advice for night fishing is this…

Keep it simple. You don’t need to be setting casting world records to catch decent-sized fish. In fact, you’ll find night fishing drastically different.

The fish move closer to the shallows, so there’s no need to go to herculean effort to cast down to the backing.

Besides which…

There’ll be no one there to show off to anyway.

Choosing Flies

While trout can see at night, their eyesight isn’t quite as good as during the day.

So here’s what I want you to do:

Make it easier for the fish to see your fly. I tend to go up in size, while bigger flies don’t always equal bigger fish. When fishing at night, it seems to increase my catch rate.

You’ll also find that adding visual aids to your flies can help. Glow in the dark flies is certainly an option, especially if you are fly fishing at night for bass.

Shake, Rattle, Roll, and Splash!

I just talked about helping the fish find your fly.

This next one is important.

Do anything you can to attract attention to your fly. If you’ve read my article on types of fly fishing flies, you’ll have seen a variety called attractors. These are great for creating commotion in the water.

If you haven’t got any attractor flies, don’t worry.

Here’s what to do.

Make sure your flies land with a ‘plop’. Predatory fish seem to home in on these sorts of sounds at night. Often they’ll snatch the fly as soon as it hits the water!

Tread Cautiously

I mean this in two ways.

First, you’ll know that most things sound louder at night (like my ex-wife). You don’t want to create havoc by crashing around. Tread lightly and deliberately.

Fly fishing special forces, remember?

You’d be amazed at home much you rely on sight to avoid trips and falls, especially on rocks. You lose this advantage at night. To avoid a twisted ankle or a nasty injury, be sure of your footing.

Remember…

There’s no rush, and the fish won’t be going anywhere. Better to get there in one piece.

Use Your Ears

You might not realize, but you can use your other senses to great effect with a reduction in visibility.

Sounds that would be missed in the day are amplified at night. You can use this to your advantage. Keep a good ear out for fish splashing and feeding, especially in the shallows.

Come Prepared

There are two types of people in this world. Those who prepare ahead of time, and those who don’t.

Guess who catches the most fish?

Here’s my advice.

Get your fishing bag packed at home. Give each piece of equipment a dedicated pocket and remember where you’ve put it. When fishing, be sure to put it back in its home after you have used it.

This saves time, prevents you from losing and leaving gear, and makes you much more efficient, giving you more fishing time instead of frantically searching your pockets for your reel…

…which is in the trunk back on the highway.

Get There Early

This is one of my key tips, so make a careful note. Just because you intend to fish at night doesn’t mean that you have to arrive in the dark!

In fact, it is far better to do the opposite. Try your best to arrive at dusk at the latest. This way, you can make your way down to the swim, assess the conditions, and have a final review. It also gives you ample time to see any fly life on the water that could give you vital clues.

Ever tried to tie a tiny size 24 fly onto a fine leader at night?

Trust me, it is an exercise in patience.

Tackling up in daylight is so much easier.

Be Safe!

I’ve saved this tip for last for a reason.

I want you to remember it.

You know that I look out for you guys. Above all else, I really, really want you to be safe.

Here’s a quick checklist to keep safe while angling at night:

  • Let somebody know where you are going and what time you’ll be back. A broken leg is no fun, even more so if you are stuck in the wilderness in the pitch black, with no hope of help or rescue. Give someone an ETA for your return and tell them where you are going.
  • Don’t fish anywhere that you wouldn’t feel comfortable fishing during the day. Don’t overdo it with your sense of adventure.
  • Keep an eye on the weather! Flash floods are no fun at the best of times. At night they are even worse.
  • Dress warmly. Hypothermia is insidious. Often victims don’t realize they’ve got it before they are too late. Dress warmly. You can always take layers off!
  • Take something to eat and drink. Keeping your blood sugar up is important. Oh, and while I’m on the subject, leave the beers at home for when you return!
  • If you are tired, stop. When you fish tired, it is easy to make mistakes. Some of these could affect your safety. If you feel drowsy, why not pack up and save it for when you can really enjoy it?

Conclusion

Fly fishing at night can be great fun and is a wonderful experience. With a little extra thought, you can put yourself in a prime position to have the fishing battle of your life.

Be safe, deliberate, and plan meticulously.

Do you prefer fishing in the day or fishing at night? Give me a shout in the comments. I love hearing from you guys!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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