When night descends and we find ourselves surrounded by darkness, there is a certain apprehension that comes with looking out into the blackness.
After all, we are creatures of the light.
In the wild, however, there is a lot activity, especially feeding activity, that occurs under the cover of the darkness.
Fish are both daylight and nocturnal feeders. Also, fish that normally feed during daylight hours in the deeper waters along the drop-off will most often move into the shallows to feed at night. They tend to feel more secure under the cover of darkness, and will often become aggressive and opportunistic feeders. The thing about fishing at night is that it’s pretty much the same as fishing during the day, except that it’s harder to see what you’re doing. In effect, fish are still in their element even when we are out of ours.
One important thing to remember, especially when selecting a fly pattern, is that fish are seeing the potential food source while looking up from the shadowy depths of the water. Fish see the fly as a shadow or silhouette against the moonlit sky. Specific details that are important during the day, become far less important when night fishing. Patterns should generally be big, dark and bushy. Dry fly patterns need only to sit high and well on the surface of the water. Subsurface patterns should impart some sort of lifelike, if not overt, movement that will attract fish even in the dark of night.
When casting in fading light and/or under moonlit conditions, whether on a lake or stream, work an area by casting out in a fan pattern. Listen for the sound of fish rising to feed on the surface or among the reeds. Cast towards the sound. Set the hook when you feel a tug or when you hear the gurgle of a fish close to where your fly might be. You may end up with a fair number of false sets, but you will also be amazed at how many times a hit will sit you upright in your boat – especially when all hell breaks loose.