1 Before you go:
- Like all fishing trips, it is imperative you tell someone your plans (i.e. where you are going and when you are returning). While the dangers of fishing are ever present they are even more so when fishing at night. For this reason, I strongly advise fishing with at least one other angler.
- Extra gear: As well as all the usual gear, you will need the following extra equipment;
- N.B. Two head torches (at a minimum). The second to be used as a backup as the last thing you need is to be stuck in a high mountain lake/river when your batteries die (and they will), without a light to guide you safely back to your camp.
- Extra layers: Even if it is a warm night it is essential to pack extra layers. The temperatures can drop rapidly in the early hours of the morning and without the appropriate layers you’ll quickly get cold. As well as that if you do get wet you are not moving as much as you would during the day and you will not dry as quick under the moonlight. The results are you’ll cut your night short and miss out on some of the best fishing as the bigger fish become more active as the night progresses.
- Waders: unless you like the sensation of eels biting your legs that is! While not a very pleasant experience it is something you may have to put up with when wading at night. Having a pair of waders at least prevents them from tearing your skin!
2 When you arrive:
- N.B. Arrive when it’s bright: It is essential that you spot check the areas you plan to fish that night. Therefore, you will need to arrive at your location when it’s still light. Survey the water, the bottom, and identify any potential hazards. Mark these hazards by reference to any landmarks on the bank and make a mental note for later. It is also a good way to identify potential lies which will increase your chances later that night.
- Rods/Setup: I’m not going to spend too much time on this as everyone is different. However, from a safety point of view I find double hand rods are the way to go. Casting big flies is dangerous anytime but especially at night. I’m very new to the double hander scene, however, it is a much safer and therefore, more enjoyable option. Furthermore, I find that a bad cast on a double hander will go a lot further than a good cast on a single hand rod, with a fraction of the effort! A nice advantage when distance is required. With regards to leaders, I go very short (approx. 4 feet)! This is to facilitate easier, safer casting but also because I can simply get away with it at night when the fish are less spooky.
- Test casts: before darkness descends it is important you check how your gear is working and more importantly how your mouse is fishing. You will not see this at night and if you have not seen it fish in the bright you will start second guessing yourself. The strength of the current usually dictates how much action I put on the mouse (strong current = less action, little/no current = more action) but I was amazed at how much movement a little pull will enact. Had I not tested this on my first night I would undoubtedly have spooked every fish I covered due to aggressive pulls.
- Relax: do not be too quick to get on the water! Dusk is the time I like to mentally prepare myself. Sometimes I have a warm brew or a drop of Whiskey and other times I use this time to get some sleep. It is a long night ahead and in my experience the fishing gets better and the fish bigger as the night progresses! Those extra couple of hours rest earlier in the night could mean the difference between catching a fish of a life time and not.
3 The fishing:
- Torches on the water: this is a contentious subject. I’ve heard a lot of anglers say that you should not have your torch shining directly on the water as it spooks the fish. I agree to some extent and I do not deliberately shine it in areas I’m casting to. However, when I’m moving down a couple steps after a few swings I always have my light on because 1_ it’s imperative I see where I place my foot next and 2_ I’m not overly concerned if it shines over the water I’m fishing or not. Only last week one of my fishing partners was shining his torch on me as I cast and on the water as the fish smashed my mouse. I’ve had trout grab my mouse moments after having my torch shone on a tree branch just above where he was lying after an overshot cast! But I’m sure other people will have different opinions and stories to tell so I am only speaking from my own experience.
- Slow and steady: wading and fishing! Take your time when wading. Pick your next foot position before you move and like all wading, never take chances. With regards to fishing, the fish are more active at night and tend to move around a lot more. Therefore, I don’t! While swinging flies during the day I will move a few steps down after ever other cast. However, I tend to throw a few more lines before repositioning at night. It allows fish more time to come to me rather than vice versa and the lack of movement and vibrations means fish can often be caught very close in.
- Stay close: by this I mean stay close to the bank/shore and also each other. Fish will move into very shallow water along the shore so there is no need to wade deep. Also, the deeper you wade the higher the risk of an eel bite in areas you do not want to be bitten! Stay close to your fishing partner and keep regular chat going. It is a wonderful experience fishing under the moonlight so make sure to take stock and share in it together but always remember…SAFETY FIRST!