Full Moon June - 2022

Fly Fishing for Monster Stillwater Trout by the Light of the Moon
Paul Laemmlen fishing by moonlight from a float tube.


I had been looking forward to the 14th of June all year. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the full Strawberry Moon would rise on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. This moon was unique because it wasn’t an ordinary full moon, but a SUPERMOON, appearing larger and brighter than other full moons.

As a teenager, I remember reading stories in Outdoor Life and Field & Stream magazines about fishermen catching huge trout at night in the dark. Night fishing had always intrigued me, and in all of my years of fly fishing, for one reason or another, I had only experienced limited success at night and had never seriously pursued these big fish at night.

Last week my brother Eric and I headed out to Northern Colorado to fish a lake in North Park we had been to the past few seasons. We arrived on Monday afternoon and set up camp along the shore. The wind was fierce at the 8,000-plus-foot elevation, so we hunkered down in camp for the rest of the day and watched the whitecaps and the plentiful wildlife around the lake. We observed deer, antelope, bald eagles, pelicans, great blue herons, and muskrats.

Blue Heron flying over the lake

Our first night out on the lake was an eye-opener. After sundown, the wind died down to a tolerable level for us to climb into our Super Fat Cat kick boats and fin our way out to an area of the lake where we knew baitfish hung out in the shallows. It took a good half-hour to get there using only fins (there were no roads we could use to drive closer). An hour after getting on the water, we were in place and were pleased to see an eastern glow begin to appear on the horizon. It soon became a huge yellow moon which rose into the night sky, becoming a bright, white orb.

We had prepared well with gear designed to handle double-digit trout. I used an 8-weight 9’ rod with WF floating line and a 9-foot leader, tipped with 25-pound hard nylon. That sounds like overkill, but this rod/line setup turned the loop-knot-attached fly over perfectly on hundreds of blind casts in the dark where water slap and presentation commotion is not an issue. Ninety percent of the fish caught on this trip were caught on Kelly Galloup’s black Sex Dungeon articulated flies.

Kelly Galloup's black dungeon fly

Big trout need big food. They need to conserve energy by eating meat, and leave small bugs for their smaller brothers. At night, the big boys come out for dinner, hunting for a meal in the shallows. Baitfish live in the shallows where water is warmer (less oxygenated) and there is generally more cover there, like reeds and moss. You don’t find big fish there in the daylight hours, when they retreat to the deeper, colder water to wait out the day.

Paul holds a rainbow trout before releasing it back into the lake.

All of the fish we caught were hooked in one to three feet of water. The techniques that worked best were casting to the shore and retrieving in short 6-inch or varied strips, sight casting to rising (swirling) fish, and drifting the fly over the shallow bays–you could call it trolling. Sight casting IN THE DARK? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. We are talking a full moon here. You can see disturbances on the water in the reflection of the moonlight, and you can hear the slurping and slashing of the fish. When you hear that, you need to pull your line in and lob a cast to them as quickly as you can. This technique worked for me on this big brown trout. A second similar-sized brown fell to the same strategy 15 minutes later.

Paul holds a large brown trout before releasing it back into the lake.

It takes discipline to pull on your waders in the middle of the night - when all of the other fishermen are warm, resting in their campers and trailers - and then head out on the water in the dark, to wait for the moonrise! On our last night, we ate a late dinner, then headed out on the lake at 10:30 to be in place as the moon rose at 11:30. We stayed on the water and fished all night, finally coming in after fishing at first light and sunrise at 7:00 AM.

We saw no other anglers on any of the nights we fished. Most fly fishermen we saw concentrated their fishing on chironomids under bobbers or drifting leeches from pontoon boats during the day (while we napped). In three nights’ fishing, we caught over a dozen trout, (browns and rainbows), ranging from 4 to 10 pounds. After this trip I have committed to buying a bigger net!

Rainbow Trout in landing net

There is nothing like being on the water in the Rocky Mountains at night, under the expanse of the Milky Way, catching monster trout, to the serenading chorus of a pack of coyotes howling at the full moon. Night fishing is definitely unconventional fly fishing and it’s not for everybody, but if you are after trophy-sized trout, the rewards are well worth it!

Paul holding a rainbow trout with dungeon fly in its mouth before releasing it back into the lake.

Paul Laemmlen is a fly fisherman and wildlife artist from Cedar Hills, Utah. His artwork can be found at www.lakestreamstudio.com