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Fly Fishing at Night

Guest post by veteran Orvis Saltwater Fly Fishing Festival guide and author, Colin Macleod.

Fishing in darkness is a strange but generally rewarding experience and is to be highly recommended. Prolific and exciting fishing can be enjoyed beneath the stars with a number of species keen to roam the shores in search of a midnight snack. Bass and mullet may predominate but also expect action with sea trout around estuary mouths and scad (a member of the jack family) where baitfish gather under the glow of harbour lights, or road bridges during late season. Choose a mark you know intimately, in the interests of safety.

The approach to fishing at night differs little from daytime angling but some basic preparation will facilitate a trouble free experience. Prepare a fly box containing a selection of night-time flies, along with some pre-tied casts with flies attached. Dark coloured flies present the most conspicuous profile, with a black Clouser, Deceiver or surface disturbing Gurgler highly effective for bass. Similarly, dark hued patterns have found success with mullet under night skies, most noticeably the Mullet Bach, Flexi-shrimp, Montana and black GRHE, all size 12. Interestingly, all of my largest bass have fallen to nymphs while prospecting for mullet. Come equipped with a head lamp for changing flies and releasing fish, preferably with a red lens which is less detrimental to our night vision than white light. Avoid shining light on the water, which will spook any fish present. Bring a net to assist in the landing of large fish and wear safety glasses with clear lenses to protect the eyes from errant casting. Fish with a companion if the need is great but the full sensory experience comes with fishing alone.

Initially, the loss of vision experienced while night fishing can feel a little unnerving but the other senses, especially hearing, soon become the angler’s eyes. Listen carefully for the sounds of feeding fish. Mullet betray their presence by splashing and jumping as they feed confidently under darkness and are extremely easy to locate. Bass typically produce a ‘popping’ sound as they suck in bait, while larger fish may splash loudly as they attack. Move stealthily towards the sound of activity, covering water as you advance. Employ a slow retrieve and be prepared for bass to follow the fly virtually to the rod tip before they strike. Check the fly regularly to ensure that the wing has not become tangled around the hook and that the fly is weed free.

Bass, sea trout and mullet feed in the same places and at the same stages of the tide in darkness as they do in daylight, so plan your visit to coincide with recognised periods of day time activity.

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