It seems as if the word of the Midnight Mousing has spread amongst the many young adventuring fly fisherman in this area, and lately I have received many of them coming into the shop with tons of questions on Mousing at night. There’s something quite invigorating about standing in the dark in the middle of the night hunting the apex predator fish that move into the shallower waters to feed on the smaller fish at night. When it comes to techniques, there are many theories and different circumstances that may require a tweak in presentation methods and so forth. With fishing in general, sometimes it’s not just one method that works, but it can be a combination of many techniques that can provide for the most excellent fishing. I personally have used several mousing techniques over the past decade while exploring this somewhat abstract style of fishing.
Here are some key pointers I’ve discovered while mousing in the Southwest Montana area;
1) The style of mouse used can make or break it. Using too big of a mouse can make it harder for the fish to fully take the mouse and set the hook resulting in a missed opportunity, especially while factoring in your reaction time to set the hook in the dark. This can vary from state to state, in Alaska we were most successful on massive articulated rat patterns, but I’ve found that to be too much for your average Montana trout.
My top suggested pattern is the Morrish Mouse size 4-6. The flat lay of the deer hair with the foam creates just enough wake or movement to attract the lateral line of the fish and trigger an aggressive strike. If you have a mouse pattern with popper-like foam, be careful not to strip it in such a way that it pops like a popper, you may get a few strikes this way, but typically it spooks more fish than it attracts.
2)The presentation of mousing will be determined by the type of water your fishing and weather your fishing from a boat or wading.
-If you are fishing from a boat, casting perpendicular to the banks in softer water while keeping a tight line with small medium-paces strips is the most successful.
-If you are wading and find yourself in boulder or pocket water, target the slower waters typically closer to the banks by bouncing your fly gently off a boulder and into the eddys pockets behind the boulders as if the mouse had fallen of the boulders. Make sure to keep tension on your line and add small strips while twitching your rod tip. You can also swing the mouse into these eddys, letting the mouse drift lifelessly into the eddy then stripping it back to you.
-If you are wading in an area with a typical riffle-run-pool structure find the shelves and/or the slow-moving runs. For this water, you’ll want to do your typical streamer swing across the current while once again giving short quick little strips with a rod tip twitch. The fish love taking the mouse on the swing, when giving short strips be cautious not to add an over aggressive strip if you have a foam, or popper-like mouse.
-If you are in a lake area, targeting the banks with a slow small strip and a rod tip twitch will be your best bet.
3)When to go? Many people aim for around the full moon throughout the summer. This is always a fun time because of the experience of a warm summer night and a bright moon giving enough light to where you don’t even need a headlamp. The Solunar Theory is also a tool commonly used by fisherman to predict the most successful fishing times for certain species. Another great time to throw on the mouse is right before dusk when the fish are looking up for those evening hatches. Don’t shy away from the daytime as well, given the right conditions paired with the right trout , you could be in for a great catch!
4)To headlamp or not to headlamp?…. The answer is no, its unnatural and will spook more fish than it attracts. Using a headlamp is definitely recommended while venturing to the spot you’d like to fish, but as soon as you near the water, i would suggest turning it off.
Bottom line is; mousing can be very hit or miss, sometimes when you have the technique down, the fish just aren’t there, but when it’s on, there is nothing like the rush of a midnight fight against a trophy trout!