Night fishing for trout gives anglers a taste of all the best parts of trout fishing. You have a shot at landing trophies, get to throw large flies and test your abilities. To land trout at night, you must know where trout hold and understand what they want.
One of my first-ever trout fishing trips was at night. After sunset, we got to the water, cast mouse flies along the bank, and hoped something would happen. As soon as darkness fell, I heard a soft splash and felt a tug on my line. I landed a beautiful 18-inch brown, and I’ve been hooked on trout fishing ever since.
Night Fishing Techniques for Trout
When I first started fishing for trout at night, I assumed all the methods I use during the day translate perfectly to night fishing. While certain methods did, I had to practice different techniques that felt wrong. At night, trout behave differently, and we have to adapt. I’ve consistently caught my biggest fish at night but had to learn creative ways to target them.
Look for Changes in Depth
At night, trout feel free to roam around all levels of the water column. The larger the trout, the more confidence they have. If possible, find a pool and fish near it. Start by casting above the pool in the shallow riffles. Depending on where the fish are sitting, you may put the fly right in front of the fish.
Trout make reaction strikes at night, so a properly placed fly can mean a fish.
If the shallow water above the pool isn’t working, toss your fly and let it drift into the front edge of the pool. Trout often sit at the front of the pools, waiting for food to drift into it. A streamer, spinner, or nymph naturally drifting into the front edge of the pool is a great strategy when targeting trout at night.
Seams and edges of rapids are other places to look for depth. The slow-moving water along the edge of white water is often deep enough for trout to sit. Rapids bring food downstream, and trout wait on the edges for smaller fish or insects.
Keep Your Bait Above the Trout
At night, you’ll find that trout feed looking up as much as they look down. You usually fish under the trout by bouncing nymphs or streamers along the bottom and waiting for them to slurp your bait.
At night, the shadow of your bait and the trout’s habits of looking up entice them to eat things above them. Whether drifting a lure, streamer, or nymph in shallow water or tossing a dry, stay high in the water column.
I like to use unweighted nymphs and streamers when I fish at night. They drift higher in the water column, and I don’t have to deal as much with snags. It can be difficult to mend and adjust presentations when fishing at night, so the unweighted flies allow for natural drifts and don’t get snagged as often.
When spin fishing, I cast my lures and don’t let them fall too far in the water column. As soon as they hit the water, I begin the retrieve. I also make sure to avoid deep-diving spinners. If they get below the surface a few feet, that’s fine, but I don’t want them diving to the bottom.
I also rely heavily on dry flies. I love throwing dries in the dark, whether it’s large hoppers, beetles, ants, or mice. Trout wait for the small splash and pounce. The big trout expect large meals at night, and if I can give them a sizable dry, I do. A few large meals are more exciting for trout than a lot of little ones like nymphs.
Swing Your Flies
If you’re fly fishing for trout at night, swing your flies. Many anglers like to dead drift nymphs and streamers through pools, riffles, and seams, but night fly fishing calls for swung flies.
The tension that a swung fly creates allows anglers to understand the location of your fly. To do this, cast up and across the stream. As your fly moves downstream, strip in a little slack to continue to feel the tension.
As you feel the fly get below you and move across the water towards you, be ready. Trout hit the flies on the swing. Once the fly is directly below you, strip in the fly and cast again.
Fish Near Shore
Trout anglers love the idea of a major blow-up right near shore. Whether you’re throwing mouse flies along the bank or a Panther Martin near a cut bank, the shore is a perfect place to fish at night. Trout understand insects, mice, and other food enter the water at night. They’ll sit near a log, weeds, or rocks and pounce on food that falls into the water.
Trout Fishing at Night
Everything is a little different when you’re fishing for trout at night. The fish behave differently, we fish differently, and your equipment looks a little different. Having a complete understanding of the fish and your setup will help you land more fish.
Where Do Trout Hold at Night
At night, expect trout to move around a little more than normal. The large trout have no fear and cover as much water as they need to find enough food. They’ll sit in shallow water near shore, deep in pools, and everywhere in between. Start by fishing shallow in the calm waters along the shore.
Trout of all sizes sit near the shore.
Smaller trout tend to sit in cover more than the large trout. They understand they’re prey for large trout and other large predators in the water. They’ll move and feed, but they always need safety nearby.
Fish all of the typical spots you would during the day, but spend time higher in the water column. They’ll still spend time in pools, eddies, seams, and riffles in rivers. If one spot isn’t producing fish, move on to the next.
In lakes, trout stay shallower at night. They cruise the shallows, looking for crustaceans, insects, and larger prey that have fallen into the water. Trout cover a lot of water at night. Don’t stay married to the deepest sections. The more depth you cover, the more chance you have at landing fish.
What Lures and Bait to Use for Trout at Night
At night, you have a few different options. You can open your tackle or fly box more and use various lures or flies. Don’t be afraid to try a bunch of options! I’m always surprised at what fish are willing to eat in the dark.
Stick with some of the traditional trout lures while fishing at night. They work as long as they move water and catch fish’s attention. Lures like Rapala’s, jerkbaits, XRaps, Roostertails, Dare Devils, and Panther Martins all work and fulfill what trout want.
Topwater lures like poppers and spooks are great places to start. You always want to have topwater lures as your disposal when fishing for trout at night.
Some of my favorite dry flies to use at night include Master Splinter, Chubby Chernobyl, Royal Wulff, and Flying Ants are my favorite.
I stick with Woolly Buggers, Muddler Minnows, Clouser Minnows, and Drunk and Disorderlies for streamers. These move water and attract fish’s attention at night and during the day.
Some of the best nymphs include Pat’s Rubber Legs, Prince Nymphs, Copper Johns, and Hex Nymphs.
Bait fishing for trout at night is always successful. Minnows, worms, and terrestrials are always the best options. I’ll throw on a 3-6 inch sucker or shiner minnows in a small drop shot rig. A couple of split shots above a hook and let the minnow do the work.
If this doesn’t work, I’ll transition to Nightcrawlers. One of these baits always works.
What Equipment to Use for Trout at Night
You don’t have to have a special rod and reel if you’re fishing for trout at night. Whatever you usually use works. If possible, I like to use a little heavier gear than normal because of the possibility of hooking into a trophy, but I usually have no trouble.
Use a medium-light or medium rod when fishing for trout at night. You can pair it with 10-12 braid or monofilament. It may be overkill for trout during the day, but you want the extra weight if you hook into a giant or snag. The heavier line is hard for trout to see at night, so don’t worry about spooking them.
Fly anglers can use anywhere from a 4 to 7-weight 9’ rod depending on where you’re fishing and the size of the fish you may catch. In lakes, I stick with a 6-weight or 7-weight because I want to cover water and always seem to catch big fish.
When fishing large rivers, I stick with the 9’ 6-weight or 7-weight.
I use a 4-weight or 5-weight 8’ rod for the smaller rivers and streams.
I pair these rods with 0x or 1x leader and some heavier tippet. I want to ensure I don’t break off on a trophy fish.
Always carry a headlamp when fishing for trout at night. As you walk to your spot and prepare to cast, keep your light on. It helps you make accurate casts and understand exactly where you’re fishing. Once you’re ready to make your cast, turn off your light and use the darkness to your advantage.
Some anglers choose to use glow-in-the-dark bobbers or strike indicators to give them a better idea of where their lures or flies sit. I like these when I’m fishing in rivers. It gives me a better idea of what my flies look like when drifting.
Safety is essential, so always use the headlamp if unsure.
Fishing for trout at night offers anglers moments of high adrenaline and excitement. You never know when they will strike and what size of fish you’ll catch. Keep your lures and bait above the trout; don’t be afraid to cover water. Trout want to feed at night; you just have to find them.