June 01, 2021
Graveyard shift tactics for taking fish on fly.
When the stars come out, some of the largest and wariest fish let down their guard. Using a fly rod at night can seem like a daunting task. However, with a little know-how you'll be slinging the fly after hours and taking trophy fish with ease.
First and foremost is safety: In the daytime, most anglers wear sunglasses while fishing and aside from the obvious, they also serve to block the fly on an errant backcast. While you could wear clear safety glasses after dark, I recommend watching your backcast: Follow the flyline with your head, turning just before the fly comes past to see where your backcast is going. This does two things; it helps you avoid any obstructions you could snag behind you and, more importantly, it protects your eyes, as your head is turned away from the oncoming fly an instant before it comes whizzing past.
Get into the habit of checking your fly often. It could be slightly fouled or there could be debris on the hook.
Casting in most places after dark will have you relying more on feel. Therefore, it can help to use either a slightly slower action rod or you can overline by one weight. This will emphasize the feeling of the rod loading up on your backcast. Also, fly lines with a shorter front taper are easier to feel loading and are well suited for close distance casting, which prevails after dark. Day or night, I can't recommend the use of a stripping basket enough, and this is doubly important at night. It's heartbreaking to see the biggest snook you've ever hooked break off due to the stray twig or rock that your line may have found its way around down by your feet…trust me!
Another important habit to get into is to check your fly often. The fly could be slightly fouled or there could be a small bit of debris on the hook that'll hurt your chances when that big momma snook has a midnight snack in mind. While some places you may fish at night will have enough ambient light to see pretty well, you may find yourself in that secret spot on the beach in the pitch dark. I like to use a small headlight that has a red light option to keep from spooking fish while tying knots or performing other chores.
If I had to choose a fly color for use after dark, it would be black. However, there are times, especially around brightly lit bridges or underwater dock lights, when I'll throw a white fly as it stands out in the lighted areas and seems to be easier for fish to see as they wait in the shadows. If the water happens to be crystal clear and the fish seem picky, I'll use flies that are more natural in color. Deer hair flies and some of the EP style synthetics will push a little water and be easier for predators to key in on.
Unless you're throwing at dock lights, you probably won't see the fish eat your fly like you can in the daytime; you're simply waiting for a tug on the line in your hands. But when that thump turns into a huge snook wallowing on the surface off the beach, or when a triple digit tarpon explodes into the air under a bridge, you just might find yourself having to go through a lot less sunscreen while fishing! FS
Published Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2017