They Only Come Out at Night
Some of the most magical moments in all of fly-fishing are those spent watching a speckled brown rise from the depths of a stream to devour your dry fly floating blithely downstream. But if that magic doesn't occur, night fishing can save the day.
The Endangered Salmon
Within the past fifteen years the North American salmon has dwindled from 800,000 to 200,000. In 1991 Canada began a salmon moratorium and bought out commercial salmon fishermen in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Catch-and-release regulations were implemented and enforced.
These were steps to protect mature ocean-bound salmon so they would return to freshwater rivers and streams to spawn and reproduce increasing numbers of young fish.
Disaster struck in the summer of 1997, when less than half the expected number of salmon entered the rivers of Newfoundland. With few exceptions, the rivers of Labrador and Nova Scotia fared little better. Governments closed rivers to fishing.
Many feel the Atlantic salmon are a sensitive barometer of change because they depend on the health of oceans and fresh water for survival. Salmon are said to be a first-line indicator of the consequences of overfishing and global warming.
Save the Bull Trout!
In June  Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt signed the bull trout's “threatened status” on the banks of the Blackfoot River. The threat: Canyon Resources planned to open and operate a cyanide heap leach mine on the banks of the Blackfoot River near Lincoln, Montana. This was thought to pollute a world-class native trout fishery and pose an added threat to the bull trout that spawn near the headwaters of the Blackfoot, where Canyon Resources hoped to develop the mine.
The members of this genus (Salvelinus) are by far the most active and handsome of the trout. They live in the coldest, cleanest, and most secluded waters. Bull trout are a member of the North American salmon family, which includes salmon, trout, whitefish, char, and grayling. The bull trout got its name from its large head and mouth. It is distinguished by its predatory nature; the adult bull trout's diet consists largely of other fish. But when given an opportunity, it will eat frogs, snakes, mice, and ducklings.
The bull trout is presently listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Category 1 candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Lobbyists are hoping to have the Blackfoot bull trout listed immediately since they are in the greatest danger of extinction if the Canyon Resources mine is ever permitted.
Bull trout have historically faced another threat: fishermen who, in the mistaken belief that this species of trout ate the eggs of other trout, placed bounties on the fish. It has since been proven that the bull trout will eat only the eggs of other fish when those eggs have broken loose from the nest.
Native to the Pacific Northwest, including Montana, Idaho, and northern California and Nevada, the bull trout has some of the most demanding habitat requirements of any native trout species—mainly because it requires water that is especially clean and cold (no more than 64 degrees Fahrenheit). Abundant a century ago, dams, siltation from logging and farming, and efforts by state game agencies to poison it have greatly reduced its numbers and range.
In 1992, a Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks review of the status of the trout in Montana found that bull trout occupied less than half of their historic range. The remaining population was fragmented, meaning many isolated communities of bull trout might not have enough numbers to maintain a viable population.
After this report came out, several Montana-based conservation groups petitioned to have the bull trout listed under the Endangered Species Act. After reviewing the fish's status in 1994, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided that listing was “warranted but precluded” because other species that were more in danger needed listing first. While the bull trout is threatened, as defined by law, its numbers and distribution remain sufficient to ensure that it is not at immediate risk of extinction. Today, the bull trout remains one of 179 candidates for listing.
The metabolism of trout rises as the water temperatures rise, but only to a certain extent. Even though daytime fishing may be slow, the trout are eating more and at a different time. The angler willing to fish “after hours” is often in for a treat. Fishing an oversized leech pattern in the shallows on a floating line is usually all it takes to make a believer out of you.
If permitted in your state, night fishing often produces some hot and heavy action. Of course, night fishing is not for everyone, and there are certain safety issues that need to be considered. But for those of sound mind and not afraid of the bogeyman, night fishing offers plenty of rewards. Watch out, though, for often snakes descend from nearby rocks and desert areas to cool waterside in the evening. So be careful not to tiptoe at night!
Some hunters fish strictly at night and often float tubing on large reservoirs. Night fishing isn't for everyone and there are certain obvious dangers. Common sense goes a long way here, and if you plan on fishing at night you must keep safety your main concern. Fish only waters you know very well at night. Tubing may be the safest way to fish after dark, with the least chance of error if you use common sense. Wear a life jacket and carry a good waterproof light.
During the security of darkness, the edges around many lakes come alive with fish that have moved from the depths to feed. Again, large patterns are called for—the leech being a favorite. At night, all that's needed to fish a leech is a floating line. What I like to do is cast in tight to shore since feeding fish can be found in extremely shallow water at this time. They'll sometimes hit your fly as soon as it touches down, very much like a largemouth bass.
Trout, of course, don't need to see at night; they can sense movement of the leech in the water, then strike. You don't need to cast more than 10 or 20 feet of line at night when fishing a shoreline from a float tube. You won't spook the fish, and the more line you have flying around, the greater your chance of tangles or injury. Back casts should be avoided as much as possible, and use barbless hooks.