Night can be an excellent time of day to catch trout. Trout are often less wary under the cover of darkness, and some species such as Brown and Brook trout prefer to feed at night.
Keep reading to find out more about fishing for, and catching trout at night.
General Advice and Best Practice When Night Fishing
Do not fish in new water at night
During the day, reading the water is much easier. It is easy to see the speed of the current and to identify pocket water, structure, and deeper holes.
It is possible to see the dropoffs when wading, and the gravel bars can be spotted well in advance.
When fishing at night, everything becomes that much harder to see.
If you know the water well during the day, it becomes much easier to fish from memory alone at night.
Be familiar with your tackle and technique before using it at night
Night fishing is difficult at the best of times, good technique and accurate casts go astray.
Before fishing at night, you need to have a good understanding of your gear and how to fish it. If you struggle to cast during the day, it only becomes more difficult at night.
Untangling a line wrapped around a tree branch is tricky enough in the daylight, it becomes so much more tedious at night.
Bring a good headlamp and alternative light source but minimize its use!
Two light sources are almost essential. I like to bring a good powerful headlamp and a second backup light source for when my main light fails.
In saying that. While I recommend bringing too light sources, keep them off as much as possible. The idea is to protect your night vision as much as possible. After half an hour or so, it is usually possible to see quite well in all but the darkest of nights.
I have been able to watch trout raise and grab hatching mayflies by starlight alone.
Ideally, you will not have to turn the light on until the walk home, or maybe to frighten away any strange sounds in the dark.
I will admit, while I keep my torches off as much as possible. Curiosity often gets the better of me, and I do use my main torch to search for fish after fishing a pool. It is just interesting information to know what was there for my next trip.
Use all your senses, Hearing is as important as sight at night
When night fishing use all your senses to find trout.
Hearing can be just as important as sight. Listen for the splashes and ripples of feeding and escaping fish.
If you hear splashes in the shallow, chances are a brown trout is attacking a shoal of baitfish. This is the perfect place to cast a streamer or lure.
Check regulations before night fishing
Night fishing is not always legal, so it is a good idea to check the regulations before heading to your local spot for a bit of fishing.
Also, check the closing time of any parking lots. Some parks annoyingly lock their gates during the night. I have had mates who were forced to spend all night
in their car fishing after getting locked in for the night.
The Moon and night fishing
The moon does influence trout fishing, but most importantly it makes it a lot easier to see. In dark areas, I like to fish during the full moon because it makes seeing so much easier.
I also feel Rainbow trout are a bit more active on brighter nights.
Advantages to Trout Fishing at Night
There are several advantages to trout fishing at night, in this section I will quickly cover them.
Trout are less wary and move into the shallows
Trout are a lot more confident at night, bigger trophy trout come out of their hides and are more likely to feed out in the open.
Many trout also move into the shallows from the deeps, making casting to them much easier. When trout fishing during the day, we only see a fraction of the true number of wild trout in the water. Most of them are just resting and waiting for the cover of darkness to start feeding.
Brown trout are more active and predatory
Large brown trout are well known to be much more active during the night. That is when they go on the hunt and search for their prey.
Many anglers believe, and I agree that during the summer the best time to target trophy brown trout is between 1am and 3 am.
Nights are generally less windy than during the day
I have often found nights are significantly calmer than during the day. Not having to contend with the wind makes casting and spotting fish signs much easier.
Fishing spots are less crowded. Can have the whole river or lake to yourself.
Some popular trout spots get very busy during the day. On the weekends it can be impossible to get a parking spot.
This is never a problem at night because even the keenest of anglers typically head home shortly after the dusk hatch.
Disadvantages to Night Fishing for Trout
Night fishing can be very rewarding, but it has its challenges.
Harder to see, everything becomes more challenging
Everything from reading the water, to seeing fish to tieing knots becomes harder. Even walking down a riverside trail can be significantly harder. It is important to plan ahead and have everything well organized before reaching the river.
Wildlife are less cautious, strange noises in the dark
Outside at night can be scary, our mind can play tricks on us and start to imagine things that are not actually there.
But I will also note, that wildlife, in general, are more confident at night. I have had Coyote’s approach much closer at night than any time during the day. They always slink away when I turn the light on them.
Deer also can get much closer, and make unexpected sound as they sprint away.
I have never seen a bear, big cat at night but I am sure it is a concern in some areas.
Fly Casting becomes more difficult, increasing the chance of snags and lost tackle
I can spin fish at night with ease, but the moment I get my fly gear out disaster strikes.
My loops open, and my accuracy decrease. My back casts ends up on the ground or in the branches and it is one disaster after the other.
When fly fishing at night, unless you are a master caster I suggest plan your casts well. A few well executed and presented casts is much more productive than many casts that just increases the chance of a tangle.
What Trout Species Can Be Caught at Night?
Can Rainbow trout be caught at night?
Rainbow trout are generally considered to be easier to catch during the day, but they are still active at night and they can be caught especially on bright nights.
Can Brown trout be caught at night?
Brown trout, generally speaking, are more active at night. Their peak feeding period often occurs in the early hours of the morning.
Some brown trout are entirely nocturnal and never feed during the day.
Heavy angling pressure during the day can also encourage them to feed at night.
Can Brook trout be caught at night?
Brook trout can be caught at night, and some studies have suggested that they feed more at night than during the day, although their feeding patterns are highly correlated to food availability.
Brook trout are best targeted with a fly or nymph. They are less predatory than browns, so can a bit tricker to fool on a lure or streamer.
If there is more food at night they will feed at night, if there is more food during the day they will feed then.
In lakes, Brook trout often seek out deeper, cooler water during the day, but will move towards the shallows and lake margins at night. This could be in response to seeking lower temperatures.
Do stock trout feed at night?
It can be challenging to catch stock trout at night simply because they have been conditioned to feed during the day. In saying that, Stock trout typically are not fussy and often have a vigorous appetite so chances are they will still feed even after dark.
Spinning for Trout at Night
While I prefer to fly fish during the day, I usually get the spinning rods out at night simply because the casting is easier.
When spinning for trout at night, I like to start with a surface presentation. A lure or hardbody which swims across the surface. This seems to grab the attention of any trout lurking below and they will swim up to investigate.
I highly suggest a very slow retrieve, give the trout plenty of time to detect, sight, inspect and strike your lure.
When I know the trout are hunting minnows, I sometimes wait until I hear them splashing about. Then I will cast in the direction of the sound. The strikes are often aggressive when casting to hunting trout.
Another advantage of using a surface lures is that it minimizes the chance of snagging the bottom or on some unseen structure.
For more specific examples of spinning lures to use at night check my article here.
For a more comprehensive article on spinning at night for trout check here.
Fly Fishing for Trout at Night
There are two sorts of fly fishermen at night, those of us who cast big streamers and the occasional dry, and the more hardcore that fish subsurface with nymphs.
Given the right conditions, all methods are still effective.
I usually target large, sometimes trophy size predatory brown trout. So I favor a large black streamer. I like black, because it contrasts nicely against the brightness of the sky. I cast out, preferably towards the swirls of a feeding trout and slowly retrieve. If you are retrieving too quickly, try the figure 8 retrieve to slow it down a bit.
If you can see the trout are taking from the surface, maybe during an active hatch then by all means tie on a dry fly and fish accordingly.
If you are really up to a challenge, then it can be worthwhile blind fishing the ripples and gutters with a nymph but it does take a lot of concentration to detect the strike. While night hides many sins, trout can still detect drag on a nymph or dry. So drag free presentations are still essential to maximize chances of success.
For more specific examples of streamers, I enjoy fishing at night check my article here.
Bait Fishing for Trout at Night
Some anglers like to fish bait at night. It is in fact one of the best ways to fish minnows, either dead or alive.
Cast them out, beneath a float and hopefully, they will be intercepted by a hunting trout. I have written an entire article on it here.
If you are not into minnow fishing, then consider fishing a nightcrawler or other traditional bait. Trout will still willingly take them.
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