Lead image: MidCurrent (Hughes)

Most rivers still have an evening rise during Spring and Summer where trout rise voraciously to feed on insects concentrated in the surface film. Stretches of river which appeared barren during the day suddenly spring to life as dusk approaches. It is arguably the best time to be on the river if you are a dry fly fisherman. Casting to rising trout in the half light is highly addictive, especially as there is often a much greater chance of hooking a trophy.

This “evening rise” phenomenon is due to the fact that many insects hatch and drift during the hours of darkness which explains why trout feed so voraciously at the dusk change of light. The nocturnal drift usually peaks just after dusk and then declines throughout the night, sometimes with a smaller peak just before dawn. Many of the larger insects drift during the hours of darkness which is why the bigger trout feed at night. If you want to learn more about why freshwater fishing is better at night and what the optimal conditions to look for are then click on:- https://activeanglingnz.com/2015/11/10/why-is-fly-fishing-in-freshwater-better-at-night/

One of the skills that a fly fisherman has to learn in order to successfully fish at dusk and during the early hours of darkness is the ability to cast by feel. Those anglers who watch their line when casting are at a decided disadvantage in low light levels. Casting by feel is a valuable skill to learn as is practicing delivering a fly with pinpoint accuracy in the dark. Click on the link for more information:- https://activeanglingnz.com/2015/11/30/fly-casting-by-feel/

The other thing which may be important when fishing at dawn and dusk is the reflected UV “fingerprint” of the fly that you are using. There is a growing body of thought which suggests that trout may lock in on the shape, size and reflected UV fingerprint of the fly and that this is why trout sometimes feed highly selectively.  To find out more about reflected UV in fly design click on:- https://activeanglingnz.com/2016/06/07/consider-reflected-uv-when-tying-flies/

Obviously it is important to try and match the hatch when dry fly fishing but after dark it is arguable that shape, size, where the fly sits in the surface film and sometimes how it drags during the drift are the key things to consider. Over the years I’ve pared back the number of flies that are in my night time arsenal and settled on five flies that I use interchangeably, depending on what is hatching and moving in the margins. These flies are:-

Hoflands Fancy variant


Hook: Size 10-16 (Up eyed – such as Tiemco 500U or Kamasan B440).

Body: Reddish brown with a gold tinsel tag.

Hackle and Tail whisks: Red cock.

Wings: Hen pheasant or Woodcock.

Fished dead drift this fly works best when it is slightly waterlogged and sits lower in the water.

Laidback Caddis Tan


Hook: Size 14-18. Kamasan B401 or equivalent.

Body: Pearl Mylar overdubbed with Sand or Tan Antron. Ostrich herl could be used instead of the Antron.

Hackle: Pinch of CDC.

Wing: Tuft of white Deer or Elk hair.

This pattern needs to be tied sparsely. The whiskers of CDC add movement and the using pearl Mylar under the Antron makes the body glisten. Dead drift or allowed to drag this pattern is equally effective. The white hair wing keeps it afloat as well as making it easy to spot. Excellent imitative pattern.

Mallard & Claret


Hook: Size 10 -14

Tail: Golden pheasant tippets.

Body: Claret seals fur ribbed with gold UTC Ultra wire.

Hackle: Claret although black or red cock also works well.

Wing: Bronze Mallard or Paradise breast.

My preference is to keep this fly in the surface film using floatant and it is deadly when it is allowed to skate on the swing to imitate a sedge fly skittering across the surface. Fish down and across the current.

March Brown


Hook: Size 10-14 (Up eyed – such as Tiemco 500U or Kamasan B440).

Tail: Partridge fibres.

Body: Hare’s fur spun on yellow thread. Ideally the thread should show through to suggest segmentation.

Hackle: Double of brown partridge. A stiff ginger hackle can be added to improve floatation.

Wing: Hen pheasant wing secondaries.

This pattern fished down and across the current is a good sedge imitation as the partridge hackles waterlog quickly. It can also be a useful mayfly imitation. If a turn of yellow thread is left exposed near the base of the tail then this can represent the female insect in the act of depositing eggs.



Hook: Mustad 9672, or any 2X long streamer hook. Sizes 2/0 to 10.

Thread: Kevlar.

Body: Coarse deer hair, natural coloured.

Tail: Strip of chamois or leather shoe lace.

Ears: Chamois or any other thin, tan leather.

Whiskers: Moose hair or black horse mane hair.

Eyes: Black marker, painted on.

The fly in the image above has a nylon weed guard. This is not necessary but it does help if you are fishing amongst the snags in gnarly country. Splash it down near the bank or snag, strip slowly to mimic a mouse swimming and hold on.

Click on the following link for full tying instructions: – http://flyanglersonline.com/flytying/intermediate/part44.php



  1. on one of our local rivers the evening rise in summer can be prolific and after many patterns colours sizes and frustration I only use one, a black cdc emerger with a grey antron body ribbed with fine copper wire. The main insect hatching is caddis. Tied on 18–16 grub hook. Fished slightly up from target Fish.
    Hope you find this of interest

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