Brown Trout Fishing At Night: Over 31 Expert Guide Tips

Bill from Wild Bills Guide Service is holding a massive brown trout. Bill is a master at brown trout fishing at night. See more massive brown trout on his Instagram.
Bill from Wild Bills Guide Service is holding a massive brown trout. Bill is a master at brown trout fishing at night. See more massive brown trout on his Instagram.

Brown trout fishing at night can be an exciting and rewarding experience, especially if you use the best methods and take necessary safety precautions. In this article, I’ll share some valuable guide tips to help you increase your chances of catching brown trout after dark.

As a bonus, I’ve got extra tips and advice from a true expert at nighttime brown trout fishing, guide Wild Bill from Wild Bills Guide Service. All pictures in this article are from Bills website or his Instagram page, so be sure to check him out.

Listening to Bill talk about his home river and his unique tactics for catching huge brown trout has given me new insights on brown trout fishing at night, which I’m looking forward to sharing with you here. This is going to be a great article, so enjoy.

Do Brown Trout Bite at Night?

Yes, brown trout do bite at night, especially during the warmer summer months. In fact, brown trout can be more active and feed more at night than during the day, especially on rivers with a lot of angler traffic during the day.

However, since I’ve guided many anglers in the dark, I have found that night fishing for brown trout can be very challenging for many anglers regardless of which method you use, and especially if they try it on their own.

But with some of my tips, fishing for brown trout at night can be much easier and much more effective.

Factors Affecting Brown Trout Activity at Night

Wild Bill with another huge night time brown trout.
Wild Bill with another huge nighttime brown trout. Check his Instagram link above to see more giant nighttime brown trout like this.

The activity level of brown trout at night can vary depending on various factors, and in some rivers, night fishing is not very good. However, on many rivers, especially when it comes to the big trophy brown trout, they are often more active at night.

It’s essential to understand the specific conditions and adjust your approach accordingly.

Best Time to Fish for Brown Trout at Night

One of Bills clients holding a big brown trout caught fishing at night.
One of Wild Bills’ clients holding a big brown trout caught fishing at night.

I have found that the best time to fish for brown trout is the first 3 hours after sunset and even more so during the full moon or the four nights before and after the full moon.

I find that brown trout tend to be more aggressive during this time, and the extra moonlight improves visibility. Fishing on moonless nights can also be productive but poses visibility challenges since it’s as dark as I could be.

Although brown trout can feed all night, I find that 3 to four hours after sunset they become less active. I’m unsure if this is because they’ve been feeding for 3 or 4 hours and are full, or if other factors slow their feeding activity.

Reasons Why Brown Trout Bite More at Night

There are three primary reasons why brown trout are more likely to bite at night:

  1. Increased Food Availability: Just before dark, there is often an increase in insect activity, which attracts brown trout. Additionally, baitfish and smaller trout become more active with the increased insect activity, drawing the attention of larger brown trout. Nightcrawler worms are also more abundant, making them a popular food source at night. Mice are also more active at night and a mice can be a great food option for big brown trout. See Trout Fishing With Worms
  2. Reduced Daytime Pressure: Brown trout in heavily fished areas may become less active during the day due to angler pressure. They become more nocturnal and feed predominantly at night, especially the larger and wiser brown trout.
  3. Cooler Water Temperature: During hot summer months, brown trout are more active in the last hour before dark, throughout the night, and into the early morning hours. The cooler water temperatures during these times encourage feeding behavior. See Summer Trout Fishing Tactics

Challenges of Night Fishing for Brown Trout

Night fishing for brown trout presents several challenges that you should consider:

  1. Limited Visibility: Fishing in the dark makes it difficult to see and increases the risk of accidents, such as falling, getting tangled, or losing your way. It also hampers your ability to cast accurately and detect strikes.
  2. Casting and Targeting: Covering the water effectively becomes more challenging without proper visibility, affecting your casting accuracy and ability to target specific areas where brown trout may be holding.
  3. Strike Detection: Detecting bites when bait fishing or drifting flies is particularly challenging at night since it’s harder to see your line, fly or float.
  4. Tangles: Untangling line and fixing knots becomes more difficult in the dark, especially for inexperienced anglers.
  5. Hiking In and Out: Yep, I don’t know how many times my clients fall on the way out in the dark. Go slow and careful.
  6. Taking Pictures: Often, night pictures suck, and what sucks even more is if your trophy trout is washed out or too dark. So plan ahead and look up how to take better nighttime pictures, and know your best nighttime camera settings so you are ready to take great pictures.

Tips for Night Fishing for Brown Trout

To make your night fishing experience more successful and enjoyable, follow these tips:

  1. Fish Familiar Waters: Stick to fishing spots you are familiar with to minimize the risk of getting lost or encountering unforeseen hazards. Venturing into unfamiliar territory at night can be dangerous.
  2. Carry a Headlamp and Extra Batteries: Invest in a bright headlamp for better visibility while walking trails, crossing rivers, and handling fish. Ensure you have spare batteries in case you need them.
  3. Move Slowly: Take your time both on the trail and in the water to avoid spooking brown trout that may be nearby.
  4. Inform Someone of Your Plans: Always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. This ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts and can assist in case of emergencies.
  5. Glow Sticks: Use a glow-stick that lights up and goes on top of your float to help you see it.

Locating Brown Trout at Night

When fishing for brown trout at night, their behavior and habitat change slightly. Here are some tips on where to locate brown trout at night:

  1. Small Trout: Smaller brown trout tend to stay close to their daytime locations when feeding at night. They avoid venturing into larger fish territory to avoid becoming prey. Look for them in areas where they typically reside during the day.
  2. Large Trout: Big brown trout exhibit different behavior at night. They often move from their deep resting spots and venture into shallower water in search of food. Keep an eye on areas where smaller fish, minnows, crawfish, and other prey are present.
  3. Transition Zones: Focus on areas where the river transitions from deep to shallow or where there are structures like undercut banks. These areas provide cover for brown trout during the day, and they tend to venture out from these spots at night.
  4. Know Your Fish: One of my best tips for my clients that want to learn to hunt and catch big brown trout is to search them out during the day. Often fishing with streamers or lures during the day can help you locate large trout, and since large trout tend to stay in the same area you can go back and fish them later.

Fishing Techniques for Brown Trout at Night

While you can use various fishing methods for brown trout at night, adapting your approach to the limited visibility is essential. Here are some techniques that work well:

  1. Float Fishing: Drifting bait under a float is a productive method for catching brown trout at night. This technique allows your bait to move naturally with the current and attracts trout by mimicking their prey. See Float Fishing For Trout
  2. Fly Fishing: Fly fishing at night can be challenging, especially for beginners. However, experienced anglers can find success using nymphs, streamers, and topwater patterns like mouse flies. Stick to familiar surroundings and use flies with contrasting colors for better visibility.
  3. Lure Fishing: Lure fishing can be highly effective for brown trout at night. Choose lures that have a straight, steady movement to make it easier for trout to detect and strike. Noisy lures with vibration or rattles can also attract brown trout, especially in low-light conditions.
  4. Drift Fishing and Bottom Bouncing: Drift fishing and bottom bouncing with bait can be effective at night. Although detecting bites becomes more challenging, these techniques allow you to present your bait effectively in the water column.

Bait Fishing Tips for Night Fishing

Bait fishing can be particularly effective when targeting brown trout at night. Here are some tips to enhance your bait fishing success:

  1. Use Live or Organic Bait: Brown trout have a strong sense of smell, especially at night when their vision is impaired. Opt for live bait or organic options that emit a scent and attract trout effectively.
  2. Utilize River-Style Floats: Employing river-style floats can enhance your bait fishing results. These floats provide better control and help slow down the movement of your bait, increasing visibility and attracting trout.
  3. Target Slower, Deeper Water: Focus your efforts on slower, deeper water where bait moves slower, giving brown trout more time to spot and strike. These areas often provide prime feeding grounds for trout at night.

Best Bait for Brown Trout at Night

Certain baits tend to work best when fishing for brown trout at night. Consider using small to medium-sized worms, spawn sacs, grubs, maggots, leeches, crayfish, or minnows.

These natural baits are highly effective, primarily due to their movement and scent, which attract brown trout even in low-light conditions.

Nighttime Fishing with Worms

Live worms are a go-to bait for many anglers when fishing for brown trout at night. To maximize your success, avoid balling up the worm on the hook.

Instead, hook the worm once or twice through its body to allow for natural movement. This creates a larger profile and increases the chances of enticing a bite.

Lure Fishing for Brown Trout at Night

Lure fishing can be highly productive when targeting brown trout at night. Here are some tips to improve your success:

  1. Opt for Straight-Moving Lures: Choose lures that have a straight, consistent movement in the water. Avoid jerky or twitchy actions that may spook the trout. Smooth and steady lure movements are more enticing to brown trout in the dark.
  1. Noisy Lures: Select lures that produce noise or vibration, such as spinners with rattles. The vibrations can attract brown trout by stimulating their lateral line, helping them locate and strike the lure even in low visibility.
  2. Retrieve Slowly: Retrieve your lures at a slow pace to give brown trout ample time to spot and react to them. Slow movements allow the trout to track and strike the lure more effectively.
  3. Upsize Your Lures: Consider using slightly larger lures than you would during the day. Brown trout rely more on their senses, including vibrations and silhouette, at night. Upsizing your lures by an inch or two can increase their visibility and make them more enticing to larger brown trout.

Best Lures for Brown Trout Fishing at Night

Several lure types have proven effective for catching brown trout at night. These include slow-moving lures with enticing wobbles, such as Kwikfish, crankbaits, and in-line spinners like Mepps and Vibrax. See Best Lures For Trout.

Choose lures with dark or contrasting colors to improve visibility in low-light conditions.

Topwater Lures for Nighttime Brown Trout Fishing

Using topwater lures at night can be exciting and effective for targeting brown trout. These lures are easier for both anglers and trout to detect in the dark.

Brown trout, which may be less cautious at night, are more likely to strike at surface presentations. Experiment with topwater lures like poppers, mice imitations, or other surface patterns for thrilling nighttime fishing experiences.

Lure Colors for Fishing Brown Trout at Night

Contrary to popular belief, darker lure colors tend to work better for night fishing. While bright colors may be effective during the day, dark-colored lures create stronger silhouettes against the dark water and sky making them more visible to brown trout at night.

Solid black lures are highly effective, but if they are hard to find, opt for dark shades like dark green, brown, or purple.

Fly Fishing at Night

Fly fishing at night can be challenging, especially for beginners, but this is where Wild Bill and I agree that it is our favorite way to target big Brown trout, and it’s very effective.

Fly fishing for brown trout at night requires even more planning of each cast and slowing yourself down. Getting excited and firing off casts is going to end up putting your fly in the trees behind you or in from of you.

Be sure you are aware of your surroundings, be patient, and carefully cast. The more experience with night fishing you have, the better, so don’t get too upset if your fly ends up in the trees on the first few nighttime trips.

Bill and I fully agree on the use of mouse patterns at night.

An amazing tip Bill provides is to use mouse patterns but don’t set the hook until you feel the fish pull. Bills theory is when a giant brown trout hits a mouse, the initial hit is to stun and drown the mouse, once the mouse drifts motionless, the trout will grab it and eat it.

If you’re a new or experienced fly angler looking to fly fish for brown trout at night, consider the following tips:

  1. Focus on Streamers and Nymphs: Streamers and nymphs are effective fly choices for night fishing. Use larger patterns that create more movement and are easier for trout to detect. Flies imitating small baitfish, crayfish, a mouse, or large insects can be particularly successful.
  2. Utilize Lighted Indicators: Attach a lighted indicator to your leader or fly line to improve visibility and track your fly’s movement in the dark. This can help you detect strikes and monitor the presentation of your fly.
  3. Consider Moonlit Nights: Fly fishing during moonlit nights can provide additional visibility and make fly fishing at night easier. The moon’s glow illuminates the water, making it easier to see your surroundings and make accurate casts.
  4. Use Scented Flies: Applying scent to your flies can help compensate for reduced visibility and attract brown trout. Scented fly attractants or fly patterns treated with scent can enhance your chances of success.
  5. Slow and Steady: Often a slow and steady retrieve allows the trout to home in on the streamer fly and hit it easier.
  6. Pause: When using streamer and mouse patterns, try a steady retrieve for 4 to 6 feet with a 3 or 4-second pause. Paused can really aggravate and trigger a strike response.
  7. Wait For The Pull: when using sub-surface streamers or mouse patterns, wait until you feel the fish’s pull before setting the hook.

Remember, fly fishing at night requires extra caution, and it’s important to be familiar with the water and practice safe wading techniques.

Catching Brown Trout at Night With PowerBait

While PowerBait is a popular choice for trout fishing, many of you might already know it’s rarely my first choice, however, it can and will work at night under certain conditions, and with some luck.

In my experience, I believe that live bait or natural organic baits tend to outperform PowerBait at night.

Rainbow Trout and Brook Trout

Rainbow trout and brook trout can also be active and feed at night, although their behavior may differ slightly from brown trout it’s very possible to hook into a surprise rainbow or brook trout if they also live in the same river.

Brown trout are my favorite species to fish for and I have a lot of experience and tips and advice to share with you in my article Brown Trout Fishing Tips and Tactics Used By Guides.

Brown Trout Fishing at Night Q&A

If you have any questions or would like to share your own experiences and advice on brown trout fishing at night, feel free to leave a comment below.

Tight lines,


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      1. That’s true thanks Graham I tried out the Oakley shallow glasses prism they work pretty well it cuts the glare nicely and you can see in the water much better especially seeing if there boulders or any logs in the water