With the sun light diminishing and the dark settling in, I take a deep breathe of clean, fresh cool mountain air. My senses are on full alert with the sounds of elk rutting across the lake. Each and every bugle reminds me of why I live in this beautiful place. The surface full of yellow leaves slowly making their way across the lake with the slight crisp breeze. But tonight, the stage is set. Itís not about the Fall colors, or the bulls fighting, itís about top water Brown Trout.
Most anglers know that Browns feed heavily during the Fall in anticipation of their spawn. Browns can be found feeding on almost anything while staging in the shallows. What some anglers may not know is throwing out floating stick bait, worked slowly across the surface, through the shallows will land you a ton of fish. But the key is, not early morning, not at dusk, but in the dark of night. Personally, the late night hours are convenient because of my work schedule and days off. (or lack there of) Not to mention a trip to the hospital that kept me off the water during my favorite time of year. With the ďAll ClearĒ from the Doc, I called my buddy, and it was onÖ
Stage set, sun setting with an amazing Colorado sunset, floating jerkbaits and 5 inch swimbaits tied on to a few different rods. Bundled up to stay warm and in an area that I know holds browns this time of year. But this time, itís dark, and really dark. Now, fishing at night seems to bring some senses to the fore front and others get pushed to the back burner. I quickly started listening for any kind of splashes so I could dial in the locations and where they were compared to shallow bays, current or drop offs.
Quickly we were getting into Browns. The slower we could crank, the better the lure stayed on the surface, plugging along making a wake in its path. Now, hereís the challenge, instinct says set the hook when you hear the splash or follow the typical one second rule. But you canít use your senses that you would normally use in daylight. Much like northern pike
, Browns are infamous for missing top water and misjudging the bait on the surface especially in the dark of night. So you need to set some ground rules for yourself that may feel a bit awkward. First and foremost, we all want to set the hook when we hear the splash. Not seeing the fish jump will also throw a monkey wrench at your senses so give yourself a 2 second pause before setting the hook. Naturally, 2 seconds can feel like an eternity when you know a fish is on your lure, but trust me, this will increase your hook up rate significantly. This pause will make a committed brown come back for the lure even if he missed it the first time. Even if the lure is sinking, (which was the case with the 5 inch swimbait set up) the fish will still take another swipe at it. This is where feel comes into play.
You canít see, you are working a lure now on a pause, so having a sensitive rod and line will up your odds of landing the fish. Quickly, grab your line ( I prefer Braid ) with your fingers and wait for that ďtickĒ. If you are on the pause, there will be slack. Crank a time of two and set the hook. Get that fish in and get your headlamp on to help see rocks or anything that could hurt the fish if releasing. Speaking of the headlamp, I have not noticed a difference with having a light on or off. On can be exciting because you may see fish in the shallows, but off brings a whole new element of fishing that is like nothing else and quite honestly, is extremely exciting. Confidence can be keen when it comes to trying something new.
So next season, get out on your favorite Brown Trout water early to mid-Fall. Give this topwater technique a shot and hang on when that hit comes. You may be shocked at what can come up in the middle of the night after your lure. After all, Large Browns are not uncommon in the Fall. Again, be confident in what you are doing. If you do not know the structure of the lake, get there a few hours before sundown and get some lures in the water. Make notes of locations that can hold fish and come back to them later hitting them from numerous angles. My best advice when it gets dark is to cover water. After a few casts with no activity, move on. Donít wait for them to find you. Give this technique a shot and you might be pleasantly surprised at how deadly it actually is.