At The Crack of 12

Fly fishing: The early bird gets the worm right? Consider this a night-owls manifesto

At The Crack of 12

February 2022

The early bird gets the worm right? That’s the prevailing theory, especially amongst those “die hard” anglers who fight for spots on busy rivers. I guess fighting early morning work traffic and early morning ski traffic just isn‘t enough for some people. Recently on the TroutBitten podcast, their crew even discussed showing up on the river at first light in the dead of winter. Maybe I’m just not a morning person, but that sounds insane to me. I reject this notion. Consider this article a defense for the night-owls who choose not to fight the losing battle for morning glory.

As I’ve pursued late-day river adventures (fully rested, might I add), I've picked up on some trends. One pattern became particularly apparent on a famously busy stretch of river (busy due to its proximity to Denver). By the time I would get to the river in the afternoon, I reveled in amazement as I witnessed the wolfpack of rod-vaulted fishing-mobiles driving home. The later I would go, the more open water I found. As the afternoons progressed, I could feel a weight lifting. Previously zipper-mouthed trout suddenly began emerging from cut-banks and shadows to feed. Some even chased streamers, a technique only the seemingly bold or stupid would dare on this technical nymphing stream. Even though my time was limited, my success wasn’t. This begs the question, "Do fish recognize the daily cycling of morning pressure and evening relief?" Depending on this common theme I witnessed, I couldn’t help but wonder.

Crepuscular by Nature

You might often hear about the crepuscular nature of fish. This means they are most active during dawn and dusk. Logically, this makes the Noon Patrol a risky game, right? You miss the morning bite to arrive during high sun when many fish are most weary. Fortunately, trout anglers may find feeding fish throughout the day, and people like me can get away with showing up after the initial wave. But the dawn patrollers often miss something that I never pass up. Dusk. I feel no shame in arriving late knowing that I’ll be out there until the stars begin to twinkle into existence. While it's true that many prey species avoid peak daylight due to predation risk, the promise of dusk stirs aquatic activity, thus providing excellent opportunities for latecomers, such as your truly. Plus, I think success in catching fish is equally likely at the onset of nocturnal prey activity, versus timing my fishing for the tail-end of the same activity in the waning hours of the night during sunrise.

Water Temperatures & Seasonality

Now, I can only imagine you’re all supremely excited to sleep in and join the Noon Patrol, but there is a caveat, especially for those of us in the arid and semi-arid western states. At times, my noon patrol badge has cost me. Stream temperatures in late summer climb as the day progresses and can push back or cancel any chance of afternoon lift off. Similarly, showing up to a trout lake mid-day in late summer isn’t a great idea either unless you’re prepared to fish deep out in the middle via float-tube, kayak, or boat. Afternoon thunderstorms are another consideration, at least along the Front Range in Colorado. That being said, days are longer and the extended dusk can still present opportunities as things cool off, or as storms pass. In my experience, bass fishing functions much the same way. Fishing for carp should work well under the high sun, but I’m no carp expert.

Fishing Should Be Fun

At the end of the day, fishing should be fun. If you feel the need to outpace others en-route to the river just to gain fair access, we want you to know there are alternatives. There are other ways to adventure and forge new ground, explore new water, or at least see your home waters in a new way.

When we all rely on the same regurgitated information, it's no surprise we snag each other's lines and fight for shoulder room on the river. Even if you disagree with the concept of this article, we feel the need to offer a voice challenging the status quo in an effort to combat river over-crowding. Great anglers should strive to catch fish and enjoy their time on the water, no matter the conditions or time of day.