Saturday night, a little cold, the river was a little high and off-color for my tastes, but I was going to night fish. The water was 40 degrees and I thought I might be able to move some big browns.
Before dark I laid into some stocker rainbows. It was good to knock the skunk off before dark. Though I was hopeful, I wasn't certain I'd get on fish. So, though they weren't what I wanted, I wasn't going to be annoyed about them.
After dark, I started with a large, black, unweighted Heifer Groomer. I worked the flats, back eddies, and around wood structure. That failing, I switched to a mouse. It was quite cold. I was getting ice in the guides. While I walked between spots my fly froze solid. I wasn't hearing anything going on. Even in December I've heard night action here, so I know temperature wasn't the issue. I just don't think the flow was right. I wasn't getting the kind of drifts I wanted. I know when I'm being forced to fish to fast, and I was absolutely not fishing slowly enough on this night.
I didn't move squat. I fished until 11:00. In between pools I spent a lot of time seeing what I could see in thew shallows. Don't just use your light to see where you're going and choose and tie new flies. You could easily miss noticing the key to the night if you don't occasionally turn your light on. Obviously, don't do it in the spot you intend to fish, but between spots, point your light into the shallows and see what's swimming around.
What Saturday night lacked in warmth, Sunday night wasn't going to. So I was going out again. But it was very different water and a very different game. Smaller mice, big nymphs, and big wetflies were going to be the name of the game.
I fished a couple deep pools initially, but most of this stream is pocked water and I had a feeling big trout would slide in and out of the more slow pockets on the sides of the stream to hunt. I worked these pockets carefully with the mouse, slapping it down as though it were jumping from one rock the swimming across to the next. It was challenging work in the dark. And man was it ever dark last night. Though we had a near full moon it was completely cloudy. Add to that steep canyon walls and hemlocks and I was working about as close to blind as was possible for this game. An hour in something slashed at the mouse. I set the hook, and at first though I had missed the fish. I turned on my light though and got was shocked to see a fat, gravid, 10 inch redfin pickerel just barely hooked on my mouse. While I struggled to get out my camera it managed to silently slip away. I was left annoyed that I had managed to miss what was likely a once in a lifetime occurrence.
I continued downstream, failed to find any more willing fish, and spent a little time catching macroinvertebrates.
Going back upstream, I nymphed. For an hour and a half, nothing. Then, something. A very small trout, I thought. But it wasn't. It was another gravid American pickerel. Unbelievable. I've never even seen one in this stream, which I've been fishing for years. Pickerel are also pretty much exclusively diurnal feeders. Targeting them at night is essentially pointless. I've caught one chain pickerel at night. And now, on the same night, two redfin pickerel. I doubt I could do so intentionally, honestly.
I have been less excited had I caught two 18 inch brown trout.
|E. americanus americanus|
Having caught anything at all, and especially something pretty atypical, I am even more inclined to night fish trout streams in the coming weeks. I'll be night fishing a bunch soon anyway, with the river herring knocking at our door. Things are about to blow wide open, and it can't happen soon enough. I'm getting pretty trout-sick. I crave variety.
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