Night Fishing for Trout – “Mousing”
Night fishing for trout is a way of life here in Michigan, traditionally people start fishing after dark beginning in mid June with the onset of our Hex hatch. In the middle of July though the majority of our hatches have come and gone, the terrestrial fishing is beginning to heat up, our weather has shifted to warmer and more humid days and nights, and the larger fish in our rivers still prefer to hunt during the darkest hours. As the Hex hatch winds down a lot of folks will retire for the season and start breaking down their rods and reels and hanging their waders up until next year. In my opinion this is the time of year that the night fishing really begins to take off and a technique we commonly refer to as “Mousing” provides us with the means to perform at night. The crowds are gone and food is limited making for some hungry predators roaming about in the dark. This is our second chance to seek out the larger trout we missed during the Hex hatch or to locate new fish that have not shown up on the radar as of yet. Simply put, as much as I love the Hex hatch and the opportunities it provides an angler to cast at larger trout feeding in a stationary position, I still feel like mousing is your best shot at the largest trout of the year.
Mousing is a form of night fishing that has gained considerable popularity here in the Midwest over the last five years. This technique has been around since before my time and has provided anglers with a plethora of species to target and different times of day to achieve success. In Michigan we need the night time to make it work with conviction, trust me when I say “the night time is the right time and mousing is a hair raising experience!” The technique is aggressive and explosive, and much like streamer fishing you are targeting the larger predatory trout in the river. Fishing on rivers such as the Pere Marquette and Manistee River will allow the angler plenty of shots at trophy sized trout and will often leave you on the edge of your seat. As with most fly fishing techniques presentation is very important. Fly placement, casting angle, pace, and moon phase are all keys to success and having an understanding of all four elements will dictate your outcome.
Casting tight to the bank is a must, one must remember that mousing is a searching technique and you want to cover the water thoroughly. Fishing the outside and inside banks of the river will also help you locate areas fish might be utilizing in the dark. It never hurts to have a few addresses as well, and knocking on as many doors as you can night after night will definitely increase your success. You can move your fly with popping strips, let it drift and then move it again, or you can move it with a steady pace creating a constant wake behind the fly. Remember mousing is a game of cat and mouse and you want to keep the fish interested long enough to elicit a strike. Dark nights tend to be more productive and knowing when the full and new moon cycles occur will help you to determine the best times to go. There are plenty of lunar charts on line and having a couple of your favorites book marked will aid you in planning your next night time adventure.
Mice, frogs, waking flies, gurglers, and push flies are all examples of fly types we use just to name a few. Mice and frogs are pretty self explanatory, flies that emulate the size, color, and silhouette of your local mammal and amphibian populations found along your favorite river is a great place to start on building up your fly selection. Waking flies and gurglers are designed to float high and move a lot of water creating a very well defined wake. Some nights this is very important to triggering strikes and on some nights the fish will be more apprehensive to lash out at this presentation. The push fly is the answer for those nights where the fish are more cautious and don’t want to explode on your fly. A push fly is any fly that can be fished in the surface film or subsurface. Having flies that can perform at all the necessary levels of the water column will increase the potency of your fly selection and ultimately lead to more and bigger fish to be caught and photographed.