Night fishing for Trout in Urban Environments.

Urban parks, rivers and lake shores can hold a surprising number of trout. Living in such densely populated areas they often receive a lot of pressure, making them difficult to catch. Many especially the larger fish can become wary, often laying low or darting away at the first signs of danger.

In such rivers, trout are more likely to become nocturnal, simply because the angling pressure during the day keeps them in hiding.

What gear to fish with?

When night fishing, I use the same gear I fish with during the day. Casting at night is more difficult, and I use what I am most familiar with.

If I have multiple sets available, I always fish slightly heavier. Two reasons, first is snags are more common. It is harder to avoid obstructions when fishing in the dark, trout are also more likely to reach cover. Slightly heavier gear makes it easier to land trout quickly.

Secondarily, the chance of catching a big fish is somewhat higher at night. I have found that large brown trout are often more active after dark, and having the gear to handle them is important.

Best Bait, flies and lures for night fishing?

Again, I prefer to fish what works during the day, but I do tend to go for slightly larger sizes and darker colors. I also often find the insect life in urban rivers to be somewhat smaller than what can be found in more pristine waterways.

Yes, it can be productive to tie on a massive mouse fly or large dark streamer, but trout continue to eat prey of all sizes. So, by all means go large, but do not overlook smaller offerings.

Where to cast?

With very few exceptions, trout feed in similar water as during the day, although they might be even more shallow. Firstly, I will quickly cover the main day time locations.

  1. Riffles: Shallow, fast-moving sections with oxygen-rich water where trout often feed on drifting insects. I find it is best to fish dry flies or nymphs even during the night.
  2. Pools: Deeper, slower-moving sections that provide shelter and cooler temperatures, attracting trout. Fishing large streamers can work particularly well, otherwise concentrate on the foam lines.
  3. Runs: Concentrate on the shallower margins of the runs. Trout will target a wide variety of prey. The deeper water of the runs, often also contain shoals of baitfish, making streamers efficient.
  4. Eddies: Calm, circular currents near obstructions where trout can conserve energy while waiting for prey. Nothing really specific for night urban fishing.
  5. Undercut Banks: Trout are less likely to hold around undercut banks than during the day, although they are still worth prospecting. Areas along the stream’s edge where the bank has eroded, creating shelter and ambush points for trout. I often like to fish mouse flies in such locations.
  6. Overhanging Vegetation: Trees or bushes over hanging water are a prime spot during the day, but they are less productive at night, this is because the darkness gives the trout the confidence to feed more out in the open.
  7. Boulder Gardens: More common in wilderness rivers, but boulder gardens where they occur in cities still provide excellent pocket water. Take care when fishing such water at night because the flows do tend to be faster than normal and the rocks slippery.

What is the best time to fish urban waters at night?

There is not really any best time, because it is location and season dependent.

Summer and the warmer months

Thanks to the warmer air temperatures this is certainly the most pleasant time of year to be on the water at night. It also happens to coincide with some of the best night fishing.

The best fishing is generally during the warmer months into the fall, that is because a couple of hours after sunset is when water temperatures start to be noticeably cooler than during the day. While dusk is normally a good fishing, because of hatches water temperatures are typically still high. So in warmer months I aim to be on the river about two hours after sunset. Early morning is also a great time, but I find it is hard to get out of bed before sunrise.

Spring and late fall

It is tempting to fish at this time of year because it gets dark at a reasonable time, this means more time on the water. At this time of year, I expect the water to be cool enough any time of day or night. So I typically aim to be on the water by dusk to take advantage of any hatch. Fish on into the night. the early hours of the morning can be particularly productive for large browns. This is when I have caught many of my largest brown trout.


I often fish at night during the winter, simply because by the time I finish work it is already dark. I am not going to lie; winter fishing is tough and the colder it gets the harder it becomes. It is possible to catch trout at night, but every fish is going to be a struggle. Place the cold can be tough on the hands, dress warm and I wish you the best of luck.

Do trout feed under streetlights?

While fishing for trout at night in urban areas, it is not uncommon to see trout feeding in the glow of a riverside light. Only the trout know exactly why they are there, but it is not hard to speculate.

It is no secret that lights attract insects, they often swarm around such lights and many drop into the water below. These insects also seem to attract smaller baitfish into the brighter area.

I know from my saltwater fishing background, that lights can attract all sorts of fish, and trout seem to be no different. Another reason why trout are attracted to the light might simply be because it is easier for them to see there.

How to catch these trout?

Seeing them is the easy part, getting them to bite has always been much challenging. First, and foremost stealth is important. I find trout feeding beneath lights to always been on high alert.

For this reason, I advise to cast into the glow of the street before sighting it. It is a top spot, so blind fishing works well. If you get close enough to see the trout, they can see you. Trout are more confident at night, but they will still dart away at the first sign of danger.

How I target these fish does depend on what tackle I am using. When fly fishing over the summer months, I prefer to use a large dark dry fly. Which I will cast upstream and allow to drift back down.

It is also possible to fish a nymph behind a bobber in the same fashion, but I personally prefer to fish dries or streamers at night. When the water is colder, and the trout unlikely to raise I will strip a dark streamer pattern instead.

If I am spinning, then I like to cast upstream of the illuminated area, and slow retrieve lures through it. I like to use a floating Rapala and retrieve it ever so slowly.

Are trout feeding beneath lights easy to catch?

No, they are easy to locate, but I personally find them more challenging to hook than fish feeding in darker parts of the river. I suspect they might already be on edge due to feeding in such a bright area.

I also notice that the trout which do feed in such areas are generally smaller than average in size. I personally make a few casts, then continue fishing up the river.

Safety considerations

Generally night fishing in an urban setting is safer than in the wilderness, it is only a few minutes walk and you are back on the streets or a nicely paved walking trail. There is also a lot more artificial lightening, making it more difficult to getting lost in the dark.

With that said, it is still essential to bring a torch, sensible clothing for the weather conditions and to let someone know where you plan on fishing.

Unless you are planning to fish in a rough part of town, there is probably not much to worry about.

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