Hortons Bay in Day and Night
“Bill selected a sandwich from the lunch basket and walked over to have a look at the rods”.
The sun set quickly once Marjorie left. Hortons Bay was very different at night. There was a splash from the trout that cut through the silence. The setting sun had taken away the trout's natural caution. Bill and Nick were not prepared for night fishing but the trout were begging to be scooped up. Their eyes adjusted to the dimness of the landscape and they could concentrate on the pleasure at hand, fishing.
At night most humans and even most fishermen are asleep. Trophy class brown trout are predominantly nocturnal. Many larger specimens spend the daylight hours hiding beneath logs only coming out after sunset. They come out after dark in search of crayfish and crawling nymphs. When the trout hide under logjams and deep pools it is difficult to reach them during the day, but come nightfall they move from the inapproachable cover into the open surface of the water. Bill and Nick were in the perfect position to land a huge brown trout. The biggest difference between day and night fishing will be the tackle used. The main rigging difference will be shorter leaders, 6 to 7 feet at most. The nighttime fishing game is more about raw power than finesse. You have to be willing to throw the line far and deep over and over again. Bill approached the river edge quietly to avoid spooking nearby trout as Nick stepped softly through the grass to join him. Nick entered the water gently trying not to disturb its flat glasslike surface.
“How long are we going to stay out here?” Bill said.
“Just shut up and fish” Nick said and stared out at the black water.
Fishing in the dark is more difficult because your line can get tangled so easily. If you go with short slower stroke casts you can avoid sure frustration. Nick held the rod parallel to the water and let out a few feet of line. Nick felt a small nip and he swung the rod tip up and around backward like he was drawing a loop. He released the line a few feet further from where he felt the nip and just like that Nick caught the first fish of the night.
“She's a beauty Nick!” Bill said with a little too much enthusiasm.
Bill looked over the fly selection and picked a different fly attractor pattern that was more sizable and would make a more explosive strike on the water surface. Nick chose a new fly as well, one that floated so it could be drifted on the surface or pulled under for a few inches and allowed to pop back up to the surface and drift some more. Although it seems as if a bright color would be the best choice at night the black lure is often the most effective color to tempt the largest fish.
“Hey I got one!” Bill said.
Bill hooked a gorgeous 20 inch brown trout. Even in the darkness you could feel her size by the heft and feel in hand. Nick was tempted to switch his fly but he changed his mind at the last second and reached in the tackle box for the handy top water redhead. The top water white body lures or chartreuse will do well during the day, but the trusted mirrored redhead was always a good choice for when you wanted to just fish, not catch anything.
Bill caught fish after fish and was in a fine mood. Only a few hours ago the Bay seemed to be completely lacking big trout. There's something about the darkness in the dead of night on a sweaty summer night that brings out all the best fish. Nick walked into deeper water and began to cast blindly and lost a few flies on some logs you couldn't see in the inky darkness.
“Damn this is pointless.” Nick said finally.
“Try the black wobbler it's been working great” Bill said.
Most nighttime anglers use small lights to bring fish in. They were unprepared and had to rely on the moon. Nick sloshed through the water a little too loudly cursing himself for his lack of stealth. The air was swimming in nighttime bugs and it was still too hot to be comfortable. Nick felt clammy because his feet were still wet and refused to dry. This spot was perfect for fishing because the bottom was strewn with boulders, making it an ideal trout habitat. Large trout were not unusual for this area and champion anglers just needed to miss some sleep to catch the biggest specimens.
Nick had given up on fishing and reeled in the slack line so he would be certain not to catch anymore. The fire had almost gone out so Nick gathered up some branches and got it roaring back to life. Bill looked over to complain but decided against it because he was having too great a time catching all the fish. Nick kicked a rock into the water scaring off any hopes of the trout biting his line. Nick walked back and forth in the firelight feeling the warmth on his face and hands.
With a small pan sized trout you cut the head off, gut the fish, roll it in some flour and throw it in a frying pan with some butter. After the trout has been cooked grab the backbone and pull the entire bone structure out of the meat. Bill was catching much larger fish that are great for showing off as trophies, but truthfully not as tasty. The bigger trout are breeders and should be thrown back anyway.
Field dressing your catch is easy. Turn the trout upside down so the stomach is facing up and turn your knife upside down so the blade is facing up and simply slide your knife along the backbone at the base of the rib cage. Cut up so your knife slides along the outside of the rib cage then turn your knife over and cut along the backbone. You have to be sure to cut through a bridge on the bones that you take out later before you eat it. Never cut through the skin because it holds the meat together. Continue cutting down along the lateral side of the fish right to the tail. A three pound trout can easily feed four hungry people.
Bills stack of fish could feed an army squadron at this point. Nick decided they should throw all the trout back in the water, because without Marjorie no one was there to cook them anyway, so why bother.