Salomone: Five reasons to throw flies in the dark

Anglers willing to throw flies in the dark are rewarded in more ways than one

Michael Salomone, Vail Valley Anglers
At night, fish orient themselves to structure and current in a very predictable manner.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Fly fishing in the ocean is a daunting task for some freshwater anglers. The transition can be humbling. Low catch rates, obvious refusals to perfect presentations and failing gear all compound what should be a celebratory experience into a fiasco of effort. So why not tilt the odds in your favor? I’ll give you five solid reasons for throwing your flies in the dark.

Anglers can search and plan for what should be a high-percentage chance of presenting their flies in front of fish. But the reality is, in the wide-open ocean, the tarpon could come through this pass or maybe that one. Saltwater captains, however, have an awareness about them that is worlds above other anglers. Their sense of what esteemed outdoor writer Todd Tanner refers to as “awareness,” elevates their productivity and success. But even with their heightened senses, they can miss the mark.

The dock lights fly-fisher has the table tilted in their favor. When the current is moving, the lights become the stationary point where all forms of finned folly gather. The baitfish swarm the lights — and dark shadows follow. Popping on the surface and slashing through the light, the targets fly anglers pursue are illuminated in the night. Finding the fish is less of a guessing game. The lights don’t move.

Finding fish is less of a guessing game at night because the lights don’t move.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The weather at night is unbelievable for southern Florida. The air on the ocean and throughout the Intracoastal Waterway is a crisp, clean breath that fills your lungs and your hopes at the same time. The quiet — unachievable in the daylight — washes over you in the dark. Uncharacteristically soothing winds broaden your smile while planing through the moonlit night. These are feelings unattainable in the heat of the midday sun. 

Also, dehydration is less of a debilitating factor at night. The daytime sun’s toll on your body is nonexistent during the night. Sunscreen doesn’t need to be applied or reapplied either, and glare from bright sunlight doesn’t hamper your vision or require polarized sunglasses.

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For the most part, shots at trophies in the sunlight are a one-and-done opportunity. Hit your mark when it presents itself because the chance for a second opportunity often just doesn’t materialize. A missed fish is just that — a missed fish. 

At night, however, fish orient themselves to structure and current in a very predictable manner. Repeated shots at the same fish or group of fish are obtainable in the dark. A missed opportunity can be reattempted within minutes. Fish reset, begin feeding again and offer the chance at another shot from the same vantage point. Try that in the daylight.

The competition for prime areas can be a cutthroat affair on the open ocean. Saltwater captains have a no-nonsense approach to their game and don’t like it to be bothered. Pulling up to a known area expecting to shoe-horn your way in between anglers and boats does not make for a cordial encounter. 

But at night, the whole world slows down to a friendlier speed. The lack of competition is felt throughout everything. From the unhurried pace encountered on the boat ramp to the nonexistent rough water conditions boat traffic creates and onto the vast amount of locations with amicable perspectives, fly-fishing at night is an unimpeded pleasure.

Fly-fishing in the dark possesses an overwhelming “cool” factor. The process itself leans toward an ominous experience, but the truth is, the peacefulness attained at night blankets a unique perspective only achievable under the light of the moon. 

Fly-fishing in the dark possesses an overwhelming “cool” factor.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Casting needs to be spot on for accuracy. Boat lifts, dock pilings and jet ski platforms all provide obstacles that are magnified in the waning light, and your best chess game is necessary to extract the gymnastic efforts of a tarpon once you hook up. Technical casting skills and down-and-dirty fish fighting — combined with multiple shots at trophies — all combine to enhance the challenge.

Five reasons for fly anglers to embrace the night with a fly rod in hand: predictable fish, heat management, multiple shots at hook-ups, little competition and a “cool” factor unachievable during daylight fly-fishing. My first snook on the fly came from a bright flashlight I hung off the end of a boat dock twenty years ago. Today, fish-attracting lights are a common occurrence throughout south Florida. The angler willing to throw flies in the dark has it all and some quiet.

Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River valley in 1992. He began guiding fly-fishing professionally in 2002. His freelance writing has been published in magazines and websites including, Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly, FlyLords, the Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, the Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the bank of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a brace of yellow Labrador retrievers.

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