Dark nights, dark arts
  |  First Published: February 2004

IT’S amazing the difference between the trout fishing in the north and the south of this State.

I was having a chat around Christmas with fellow NSWFM scribe Steve Williamson from Jindabyne and he said his local good trout fishing was only starting because the water was just beginning to warm up enough to get the insects active. I said, “Geez, it’s getting so bloody hot here it’s getting hard to catch them at all.”

Down in the Southern Alps they have the benefit of all that snowmelt to keep the water flowing cool, whereas up here we just have to live with the fact our trout streams are only one or two hours from the Queensland border.

That’s not to say you can’t catch trout around here when the weather is warm. To survive warm water conditions, trout tend to go into a more nocturnal feeding mode, lying low in the deep pools during the day. You have to fish very early or very late, or maybe try your hand at fishing at night. Later in the season, say from mid-March onward, we get more cold nights so the water will begin cooling and the daytime fishing slowly improves again.

I haven’t really done much creek fly-fishing for trout at night (sounds a little scary to me) but I know it is very popular in other places, so why wouldn’t it work here? During Summer and Autumn we start to get good hatches of hoppers and crickets, as well as the omnipresent cicadas, so it would seem logical to start by fishing with imitations of these terrestrial insects. Of course, if the water conditions are better than average, particularly in the really cool high country streams, these bugs will also work during the day. I am talking about fly imitations here but if you are a lure fisher, there must be small lures, poppers and tiny soft plastics that could do the job on the surface as well.


In the past I have fished into the dark using flies like Muddler Minnows or a Muddler-Simpson fished just close enough to the surface to create a wake. I was never sure if the fish took these things as sub-surface minnows or actual insects but they sure smashed them. I’m certain that if the same flies were slapped down on the surface near a feeding fish and ‘tweaked’, they would be wolfed down just the same. There are many other terrestrial flies that should work used in this manner, including Dave Whitlock’s hopper, black crickets, large ‘Palmer’ tied dry flies (I’m talking around size 8 here) and tiny Dahlberg Divers and deerhair bugs to represent cicadas.

When there are really big trout on offer it sounds like it could be very exciting, to say the least. Fly tackle seems to enjoy attaching itself to bankside vegetation, so doing it all at night could potentially be 10 times as tricky out on the little streams. A stripping basket around the waist would seem sensible. Hooking onto one of these 1kg to 2.5kg silver spotted freight trains with fallen logs in the water and bracken fern and blackberries on the bank could be interesting. Would it be worth staying out late for?

I just got off the phone with our good Editor Tony. I was worried that I had filled this column with too much trout information this season and had neglected the native species like the Murray cod and bass. The bearded one allayed my concerns when he correctly pointed out that you keen anglers out there just love to catch trout and it’s too true, because that has been the bulk of my guiding work this season – teaching people to fly-fish and catch trout.

We also discussed the fact that there is a whole lot more ‘technical stuff’ to catching a trout on fly on any given day, whereas, quite frankly, with the natives if you get yourself to a good river location you don’t need a university degree to get action. That being said, the cod and bass have been going very well over this past Summer. Thankfully we have an abundance of those quality river locations. More details will have to wait until next month.

Big rainbow trout from small creeks will put a smile on your dial – but how would you go at night?

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