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As we move into the middle of July, a majority of our hatches are done, terrestrial fishing is starting to pick up, and of course, nymphing throughout the day will always produce fish. However, most of our big brown trout still prefer to feed under the cover of darkness. Many people first experience night fishing for trout during the hex hatch. Although the fishing can be spectacular during this hatch, the rivers are often crowded and the window of opportunity to hit a big fish is pretty small. After the hexes wrap up, many people pack away their gear until next year and miss out on some great fishing opportunities. Mousing is a technique that has gained popularity in recent years as a go-to method for targeting large trout. The combination of light angling pressure and a limited supply of food sources during the day can make for some great nighttime opportunities.
Mousing is an aggressive technique much like streamer fishing. As with all forms of fly fishing, presentation is critical. Casting close to the bank is a must. Some nights the fish seem to prefer a straight swing to get a constant wake and other nights they want a more aggressive popping retrieve. One thing that is certain is that there is no mistaking when a fish comes up to hit your fly. It is not a sip or a gulp as with hexing, but sounds more like someone dropping a rock into the river off of a bridge. Typically the darkest nights are the best so try to concentrate on fishing during a new moon or on cloudy nights.
As far as fly patterns go, there are a few types to concentrate on. Mice, frogs, gurglers, and push flies are the main ones, although the list is endless. Mice and frogs are pretty self-explanatory. Gurglers are typically tied using foam and push a lot of water when popped, which can be a big key some nights in triggering fish. Push flies are flies that sit right in the surface film or just below the surface. They do not throw nearly as much water as the other flies, but can be extremely effective, especially later on in the year when the fish start to wise up to all the traditional and popular patterns. The key with all mousing flies is to have a pattern that has the right size and profile, and pushes some water. We have all seen extremely realistic looking mouse flies, and although they look great they are often not the most productive flies.
As far as rods go, 6 through 8 weight rods will work just fine. Reel-wise, I use a large arbor reel with a smooth drag. For lines, a standard weight forward line can get the job done in a pinch, however there are much better choices on the market today. The Titan Taper from Scientific Anglers is my personal favorite and the Rio Power Fly line is another great choice. These lines are designed to turn over very large, wind resistant flies with ease. For the terminal end, there is no need for long, fine tippets and leaders. Keep them short and beef them up as the trout are not shy when attacking your fly. A good quality head lamp is a must have as well. Look for one that has a red light setting as the red light doesn’t kill your night vision should you have to retie.
Many people are a bit apprehensive to wade around at night, but there are a couple things you can do to make sure you stay safe. First, make sure you map out the stretch you want to fish during the daylight and look for potential trouble areas. Having a fishing partner along with you is another good idea. Fishing with a guide will not only keep you safe, but will greatly increase your chance of success as you will be able to cover much more water when fishing out of a boat. And of course it never hurts to have the addresses of a few fish. Here in Michigan, there are really three good ways to target the bigger trophy trout: streamer fishing in the spring and fall, the hex hatch, and mousing. Although all are great methods, mousing offers the largest window of opportunity. Typically the season kicks off in early to mid-July and goes through September. Of course there are opportunities out there earlier and later on depending on the river system and weather. There is really nothing out there quite like the startling strike of a big fish interrupting the quiet of the night, and the joyous panic of hooking and fighting a big fish at night. If mousing is something you have never done, give it a try this summer. It just might become your favorite way to target trophy trout.
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