by Joe Cermele

When the sun is shining, that big, mean brown trout you’ve always wanted to hook is likely under a big, mean undercut bank. Good luck yanking it out. Once the sun goes down, however, that fish is going to move. Tagging studies have shown that large browns in rivers will travel up to 4 miles per night with one thing on the brain: food. Here’s how to greet them.


1 – Glass Bead
When it’s time to rig up, slide a 6mm red glass bead ahead of the tungsten bullet weight. Tungsten is a hard metal, so when you strip, the bead will click against the weight and amp up the sound element. You can buy packs of beads at Bass Pro Shops ($3 for 25).

2 – Bullet Weight
In the dark, you just want to lay out your fly and start your swing without worrying about mending or sink time. If you slide a 1⁄16-ounce tungsten bullet weight on your tippet and peg it at the nose of your streamer, there’s no question; it’s in the zone on the entire pass.

3 – Super Fly
Though any dark, bushy sculpin streamer is a good choice for a nighttime quest, the new Schultzy’s S3 Sculpin ($3) is packed with different furs and feathers that will increase flutter in the water, beef up the silhouette, and make more noise on the retrieve.

Choose Your Weapon

Stalk softly and carry a stout stick–plus a light source and a proven plug.


1 – Go-To Lure
Like largemouths, giant brown trout eat mice, too, and no other topwater imitator’s gurgle will stand out in moving water as well as the Jitterbug’s ($6). The 21⁄2-incher is perfect for small to medium rivers.

2 – Headlamp
This is an obvious must-have for night fishing, but make sure yours has a red-light setting. Red light is harder for fish to see–but bright enough for you to change rigs. Petzl’s Tactikka ($30) is a tough lamp that features a flip-down red filter.

3 – Spinning Outfit
Fenwick’s new line of Elite-Tech smallmouth rods includes a 6-foot 3-inch model ($130) that’s not too long for a smaller river but effectively works larger lures. Spool up with 10- or 12-pound mono.

4 – Fly Outfit
St. Croix’s 7-weight Bank Robber streamer rod ($430) is designed to swing big fly patterns–and let you put serious heat on trophy trout. Opt for a large-arbor reel to help reduce line stacking.

Plot Your Late-Night Stalk


Fly by Night
Fly casters should find a run with no large rocks, few overhanging limbs, moderate depth, and uniform current that’ll allow them to back cast and swing a streamer with little obstruction. If the run also has a slight depth increase along the bank, even better. Position yourself 6 to 8 feet off the bank and stay put.

A – Cast down and across at a 45-degree angle, gradually increasing distance to cover more water.

B – Don’t strip or twitch. Keep the tip high and line tight, letting the current sweep the fly across the run. This swing will draw a reaction strike from fish cruising through the main current.

C – When the line straightens out along the bank, violently strip the fly upcurrent. Any trout that is already holding along the bank, or moving in to use the softer bank current to make its way upstream, will deliver a crushing blow.

Mouse Trap
After sunset, brown trout will hunt the flats for baitfish that are gathered together.

There is no better place to present a mouse-imitating topwater lure than in skinny water. Spinfishermen should look for shallow spots adjacent to deeper runs or near other midriver structure, such as boulders or downed trees.

1 – Wade to the upstream side of the structure and cast upriver onto the flat. Forage moving from the bank out into the main river often draws more strikes.

2 – Retrieve the lure toward structure as it sweeps in the current, increasing your speed the closer it gets. This simulates a mouse trying to reach higher ground.

From the April 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.