Someone once told me that the best time of day to fish is whenever the fish decide to bite. And this is true. Fish will feed all day long, but there are certain times of day when it’s easier to get them to fall for an artificial bait. If you opt to go in the middle of the day, the presentation of the fly is going to have to be close to perfect to get the fish to strike. 

What is the best time of day to fly fish? 

As a fly angler, the way to identify the best time of day to fish is to pay attention to the fly hatches. More often than not, the hatches will occur as the sun is rising and as the sun is setting. You’ll be able to tell if the flies are hatching by watching the water.

If you see all sorts of splashes or “rises”, it means the trout are feeding on the hatched flies on the surface. At this point, buckle up because you can be in for some of the most entertaining fishing around. Most fly anglers recant stories of the fish caught during a massive hatch.

This is going to sound silly: “Trout don’t wear watches”. You must learn to observe your surroundings. If you know your at an area that has fish and bugs aren’t hatching, tie on a nymph.

Is it better to fish in the morning or evening?

Fish tend to feed in the mornings and the evenings. If you’re targeting trout, pay attention to when the fly hatches are occurring. If it’s earlier in the spring, the flies will hatch during the warmest part of the day. This is true even in the winter. It’s more difficult to predict hatches when the weather isn’t as consistent as it may be in the later summer months. However, if you are on the water in the midst of a hatch during a cold winter or spring day, you’ll catch fish! The feeding time is shorter, but that means more fish will be feeding all at once.

In June, when temperatures are consistently warm, the flies will hatch more in the evening. Nothing beats a warm summer evening in June when the flies are hatching. Hours of fun can be had trying to catch a trophy trout on a small dry!

Come July and August, the flies will hatch consistently at dawn and at dusk. This is when the fish are going to be the most active in feeding. If you are out before a hatch has begun, that doesn’t mean the fish won’t bite. You may have to throw a nymph or emerging fly until you see the flies on top of the water. If you are in this situation, the best way to figure out what the fish want is to choose flies based on a process of elimination.

If you know mayflies are going to be the main hatch, tie on a bead head pheasant tail or a hare’s ear and see if you can get any to fall for it. If you can’t find any, pay a little closer attention to the water. Do you see trout feeding? Are their tails the only things coming out of the water? If this is the case, the trout are feeding on emerging flies. Tie on a Barr Emerger or Extreme Emerger and see if the trout take it. Fishing with emergers can be just as exhilarating as fishing with dries.

Fly Fishing in the Morning
Fly Fishing in the Morning

In the spring, fish during the warmer parts of the day because the flies will be hatching. In June, focus more on the evening hatch; it’ll be more prolific. In July and August go ahead and fish early morning and dusk. Come September and October focus more on the warmer parts of the day when the fish will be looking for those hatches. The colder it gets, the less ferocious the bites will become. It may be a small swoop to the top of the water and right back down. Be sure to have the polarized glasses and pay close attention to the end of that fly line because it may only be a small twitch.

Do trout bite at night?

Trout absolutely bite at night. Ask any experienced fly angler and chances are some of their biggest fish have come in the dark of night. Catching a fish when it’s pitch dark out is amazing. Standing on the edge of the stream and waiting to hear the smack of the water or tug on your line will get your adrenaline pumping.

fly fishing at night
fly fishing at night

One of the most fun techniques to try at night is mousing. The bigger trout are looking for prey that may have fallen in the water on accident due to the darkness. Mouse flies can easily be tied with the purchase of Rainy’s Foam Mouse body and some deer hair to imitate the whiskers.

When throwing the mouse pattern, try and fish near a place with reeds around the water. The mice will often fall off the reeds and make a splash on the water where the large trout wait to feast. Throw the fly diagonal up stream toward the reeds and twitch it back towards you.

If you can find slow moving water that will also make life easier because it’s difficult to see where you need to mend your line at night. You’ll hear a smack of a big trout eating that fly and the fight is on. Bring a headlamp because once the fish hits it’ll be easier for you to see where you’re going in case the fish takes you up or down stream.

Caddis flies will also hatch during the night in warmer months. If you choose to fish dries when it’s dark, have as little drag in your line as possible because you won’t be able to see the trout rise and hit your fly. Make shorter casts and try to fish slower moving water. This way you may be able to hear the trout smack the surface and you’ll feel that initial tug. It’s a skill that takes some extra practice, but it will make you that much quicker with the strip sets during the day!

How can I match my fly to what is hatching?

This is one of the main questions asked by beginner anglers. You wander up to the stream, see all sorts of trout rising, tie something on and cast in hopes of getting something to bite. Nothing is more frustrating than when you see hundreds of trout feeding on everything but your fly. When this happens, don’t fret. Take a step back and pay attention to the insects. When flies are hatching on the water, they’re everywhere. Do your best to grab one out of the air. If you can’t do this, grab one off of the water. Place it on top of your fly box and examine it. What do you have in your box that looks similar?

Fly Fishing Matching the Hatch
Fly Fishing Matching the Hatch

This will usually solve the problem for those who can’t seem to get the trout to bite on their dry. However, as long as a fly is presented well, trout will usually strike. If it looks natural and there isn’t unnecessary drag, you’ll get something to take it. This doesn’t mean you can choose any fly, but if you find something that is similar in size and color and present it well, you’ll get fish.

Don’t be afraid to try new flies! You never know what is going to work.

What are some signs that fish are biting?

The most obvious sign that fish are biting are the splashes or “rises”. When this is occurring, it doesn’t mean that the fish will only eat dries. If you want to tie on a streamer and throw it in the deep pools, you may get bigger trout who want to a fly that emulates a bait fish.

Fish will eat all day, but they will feed the most early in the morning and later in the evening during the hatches.