I really like any type of fishing that is done in the dark. It’s not because I have sensitive skin or that I’m agoraphobic or something like that; it’s simply because I can do it when the rest of my family is asleep. I caught wind of the nighttime brown trout fishery about 8 years ago, or not long after my daughter was born. I had read plenty about mousing for nighttime browns in magazines when I was a kid, but for some reason, I never took the time to work out the lateral move to spin fishing.
Cross-referencing is everything in fishing and it should have been obvious to me that the trout eating those mouse flies were not carefully making sure what they were about to eat was a mouse. These fish are predators and they are going to eat whatever it is that swims by them, whether it’s a mouse, garden spider, wounded minnow or elephant beetle. In my research, I found out that most of the stuff the fly guys use for this fishery would be categorized as a waking fly, something that floats and leaves a wake on the surface.
There are, of course, thousands of waking options on the freshwater market, the tougher job is finding something small enough for the average stocked brown trout, that you can trust to wake reliably. Most of the smaller offerings on the market lack the buoyancy needed to stay on top all the time. Which left me looking at prop baits, Whopper Ploppers seemed too aggressive for trout a Tiny Torpedo would probably work, but then I had an idea. I had to travel all the way back to about age 10 when I got my first jointed Rapala. I remembered using it like a floating jerkbait, splashing it on the surface. I also remembered a rainy day in my canoe slow-crawling that bait like a Danny Plug in the surf and watching bass crush it among the early summer raindrops.
I bought six J-10 Jointed Rapalas and made a nighttime run to a stocked trout pond to test my theory. It was an October night with hard north winds and the results of that trip were hard to comprehend. After 20 minutes, or so, of dialing in the perfect retrieve speed, my buddy got smashed by something big. He had that fish on for about 15 seconds and it came off. A few more moves down the shoreline and we landed in what I can only describe as a blitz. Every few casts one of us would hook up, but the problem was, we couldn’t land them! Every fish came off! I finally backed way off on my drag and landed a nice brown close to 20 inches, and we landed one other fish.
In the time since, I have learned how to fix this problem. First, you need to change out the hooks on the J-10’s, I use Mustad KVD Triple Grips in size 10, you should also spool your reel with 8-pound or lower mono or at least tie a 6- to 10-foot leader of light mono onto your braid. Attaching your lure with a loop knot is advised because it will help you get the most action out of these tiny swimmers. Your rod should be very light and parabolic with light drag on your reel to avoid pulling hooks. The hardest part of the whole thing is you have train yourself NOT to set the hook, instead, listen for the take—which can range from a light slurp to a vicious smash—and when you hear it, reel down fast until you feel the fish and gently lift the rod. Those sticky-sharp Triple Grips will do the rest.
This style of fishing can be enjoyed in any lake or river that is stocked with brown trout, although we have also caught rainbows, tigers and a small broodstock salmon this way. You may have some surprising bycatch too, like sunfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, yellow perch and even bullheads. I typically do this from early October through mid-December, it’s fun, different and some nice fish come in to prowl the shorelines under the cover of autumn darkness.