The following story is taken from the jornals of the late John Foley.
The following story is taken from the journals of the late John Foley. I personally never met him but have had the pleasrure of hearing many stories about him from his fishing buddy Bud Durfee. I have also had the pleasure of reading parts of his fishing journals. He lived and fished right next to the Mason Tract on the South Branch of the Ausable River. A place he loved, and which I have come to love dearly as well. - Daniel Atherton
The Nocturnal Frog
From the fishing journals of John Foley
The night was warm - quiet and dark, just stars bright in the clear sky. As I worked down the run, casting to the opposite shore, where the trees were just visible against the sky line, my thoughts were drifting away from fishing. I listened to an owl hooting in a near by tree, and then heard Coyotes whooping it up in the distance. I made another methodical cast, and the fly started its swing back into the current. Suddenly the surface exploded, as a large fish bit the fly and was hooked! The rod was almost pulled from my hand. The battle was on. The fish did not want to come in to me and fought long and hard in the swift current.
After what seemed like hours, during which I had to rest my arms, and keep the fish from getting into the sweepers behind me, I was able to gill it and get to (shore with ) my prize. I later found what I was holding onto so desperately was a 23" hook jawed male brown trout, that weighted 5Lbs. !!
It was my largest trout (yet) taken during my years of night fly fishing. I have no doubt that I could not have caught this fish during daylight fishing.
I developed my night fishing mania quiet by accident. During my novice years a fly fisherman, I fished only until dark. The exception being during the "Hex Hatch", when I would stay at the river after dark, to see if the hatch came off.
One evening in Mid July, I left the river at dusk and on arrival at the end of the access road,, I saw a truck parked there, and an elderly man was standing by the tail gate. When I asked how he had done, he advised that he was just getting ready to go down for some "night fishing". I noticed an old felt hat the he wore, which contained many very large squirrel and deer hair flys. The brim of the hat had numerous notches cut in the edge. My curiosity was aroused. When I inquired about the hat, he replied "the notches represent every fish over 12 inches that I have landed this season." My look of envy must have been very obvious, and taking sympathy on me he proceeded to advise me about the art of night fishing. When I left him, I had become firmly convinced that I must try fishing after dark, if I wanted to put very many notches in my hat.
A short time later, I gave it my first try. I talked to the late Jack Sweigert at this fly shop in Roscommon and he recommended several flys including the Houghton Lake Special, and a large deer hair moth. Observing the size of these flys, I wondered out loud how I would be able to cast them. He suggested a stiff action rod, and a short, heavy leader. Thus armed for action, I went to the river on a warm, humid and very dark night.
I now found out why some people turn up their nose at night fishing. Its just plain scary out there! I never realized there were so many unidentifiable noises after dark. As my night fishing progressed, I was able to identify them, but I still go into a state of nervous shock when an unobserved beaver slaps his tail on the surface,, or a deer burst out of the shoreline bushes. Be advised to keep an empty bladder, so you don't feel something warm trickling down you r wader legs.
I landed several nice fish on my first night excursion and found that after I acquired my night vision I was able to cast fairly well, without getting hung up in the bushes on the opposite shore or on my back cast. I learned to false cast parallel to the shoreline and turn on my forward cast, so the fly landed across stream and then swing down with the current. As the season progressed, I found the fish might hit the fly, right after it landed, as it swung down or at the end of the drift.. The trick was not to strike too soon as this would jerk the fly form the fishes mouth or prick it and it would not bite again. Many times the fish would strike (Savagely) and hook itself. It was then important to raise the rod tip quickly and take in any slack line that usually developed during the drift. I will admit that even now, I miss more fish than I hook
By now you are probably wondering why this article is entitled the "The Nocturnal Frog." That is a story in itself. My brother-in-law, Dick, and I fished together frequently. We fished together one night in August, landed some nice fish, and kept several for our dinner the next evening. As we were cleaning the fish back at my cabin, we noticed that a brown trout about 15" long had an extremely swollen midsection. When we opened it, we found five small green frogs in the stomach! At times, when flashing my light on the water, I had noticed a frog swim by, but had not realized that they were a main item on the trout menu. Dick, who is avid fly tyer, said he would attempt to tie a fly that resembled this frog. The following week, he came back with some rael dandily flys, made from clipped deer hair, that the trout took too much great relish. It has become our number one trout taker for night fishing. A detailed description of the fly will follow this article.
All of the flys I use at night are surface flys. This way there is much less chance of getting snagged on under water obstructions. In a way, I guess you could say this is a dry fly fishing, the exception being that you do don't have to concentrate on a drag free float. The fly should make lots of noise when it hits the surface and disturbs the water as it swings down. The frog achieves this very well.
As the seasons have passed, I have learned much more about the art of night fishing and the rewards have been great. A major contributor to my knowledge was a fisher man named Howard Lentz, a retired police officer from Bay City. One dark night as I was approaching a favorite fishing hole, I heard a voice ask if I was "fishing through." This was the best night fisherman I ever met. We became friends and fishing buddies and fished together for several years until he lost his fight with cancer. In his last season I watched his efforts to wade the river and wondered where this driving desire was coming from. He finished that last season and passed on to the "Happy Fishing waters" in the autumn. At the end of each night's fishing, Howard and I always met at a small island in the river, before we returned to our vehicle. I never pass this island now without assaying "Hello" to Howard and asking how his fishing has been. If I ever receive an answer I might just give up night fishing!
There is much to be enjoyed when fly fishing in the daytime and it certainly has many rewards, but for r me night shining is where the real action is. It is full of thrills and memories.
If you would like to add some of these to your fishing life, then try it, you many just like it!
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