by Tim Flagler
In the late spring and summer, when days are at their longest, some of the most productive trout fishing takes place after dark. As long as water temperatures stay cool enough, the first couple hours after sunset, for me, are a wonderful time to fish. Fewer anglers are on the water, the heat of the day has dissipated, there’s more insect activity than you might think and, perhaps most importantly, the cover of darkness seems to ease trout inhibitions.
Although there are other patterns that are quite effective, none rule the night quite like the Rusty Spinner. It’s intended to imitate mayflies which have already hatched and mated, and are returning to the river to deposit their eggs and fall spent with wings and tails outstretched in the surface film. These protein-rich spinners are scarcely able to move and are an easy target for hungry trout that have spent most of their day trying to beat the heat down deep or tucked away under cover. It’s remarkable to me how quickly the wariest of trout will casually come to the water’s surface to feed once the sun completely sets.
There really is no need to be out creeping around in the middle of the night either. Even during the longest days of the year, it’s simply not all that productive to be on the water much past 11 pm, as far as I’m concerned. The spinners usually taper off around 10 or 10:30, but it’s always fun to chuck a streamer or perhaps a mouse pattern for a while afterward.
It takes time to get accustomed to fly fishing in the dark and it may not be for everyone. Be sure to fish only water you’re familiar with in the daytime. You also want to avoid fishing in fast-moving water. Not only is it dangerous, it’s not the best place for fishing Rusty Spinners, as your imitation will quickly sink making it difficult to detect a take. In this vein, most of the time you will end up hearing a take rather than seeing it or feeling it, and you need to set the hook accordingly. I like to fish Rusty Spinners alone, not off an indicator or with a dropper fly. Both of which I believe detract from a natural drift.
There are a few key pieces of equipment to bring when fishing at night. Trout do not like artificial light of just about any kind but a head lamp is still an absolute must. It shouldn’t be on while fishing, but is essential for getting to and from the river, removing hooks and quickly releasing fish. In addition, I’d strongly urge you to bring along bug spray, a wading staff, an extra layer of clothing and perhaps, most importantly, a fishing buddy. In the dark, accidents, particularly falls, are common and happen without warming and having help immediately available is key. Besides, having someone along adds to the fun.
Recipe: Rusty Spinner
Hook: Fulling Mill 50 50, size 14.
Thread: UTC 70 Denier, rusty brown.
Tails: Microfibbetts, white.
Abdomen: Turkey biot, rusty spinner-colored.
Wing: Polypropylene yarn, white.
Thorax: Super Fine dubbing, rusty brown.