Fishing oyster racks for bream is nothing new. We have been fishing them for years on the coast on all types of tackle. However it’s a totally different proposition fishing these racks in the dark of night.
I have been fishing the oyster racks around our local waters for at least 20 years and with the fly rod for at least 15 of those. Early days were spent mostly through the daylight hours, but then we tried to fish them at night. This is heart stopping fishing and requires a change of tactics. This is a quick overview of those tactics that hopefully you can use to have a crack at these bream at night.
First of all though a safety message. Oyster racks can be a dangerous place to fish at anytime of the day, especially when there is a bit of tidal flow. It only take one distraction and you can find yourself hard against a pole and potentially thrown off balance. Make sure you have a lifejacket on which is now compulsory at night anyway.
There are some big bream that hang around the racks at night and the advantage of fishing at night is that these fish are far less timid and will range away from just sitting under the racks. Most of the good fish I have caught from the racks at night have been hard against the posts sitting just out of the tidal flow and waiting for something tasty to waft past.
I use the word waft deliberately because that is exactly what you want the fly to do. We fish unweighted flies on intermediate lines and let the fly move with the current and into the zone hard against the posts. Snag guards are a necessity here, both to prevent getting hung up on the post or racks, but also the fact that around most racks there is a god supply of ribbon weed.
The favourite pattern for us is a fly that originated in the USA by Jimmy Nix. It’s a simple shrimp fly that uses a clear drinking straw as the carapace and the body as we tied it is made from Antron dubbing and then burnt mono eyes. Again, no weight at all so it slowly drops like a shrimp does in the current.
So that’s the fly side of things covered off, now about the gear. 7 weight rod, floating or sink tip line and 20lb all the way down for a leader and keep it short. As you are fishing in the dark there is little chance of finding leader shy fish and when you are fishing in close quarters to the actual poles and racks you need some ability to pull hard to get fish out of harms way.
If you give these bream a chance to get their head down, then you will probably find yourself wiped out around the shellfish encrusted structure. First hit – strip strike and pull hard! Given it’s dark you can’t see your line all the way to the structure and you won’t see the fish until it hits the surface, so you need to play hard!
Technique wise it’s pretty straight forward. Cast in as close to the structure as you can and only mend the line to take the slack out of it. Let the fly drop as naturally as possible and wait for that tap tap at the fly. Strike on every hit, but do not lift the rod tip. If you don’t hook up allow the fly to drop again until you are too far from the structure.
Target posts that have protection from the tidal flow as that is where the fish will hold up. Poles that the birds rest on are good places to start and the droppings from the bird usually attract fish and shrimp, so posts that are covered in droppings would be my first shot.
Best times to fish? Probably the hour either side of high tide. Don’t go on super dark cloudy nights as you won’t be able to see a thing and you don’t want to be shining a torch around as that will spook fish. Don’t go on a full moon either. The tides are usually to big and it is far too bright on the water and the fish will see you coming. Be quiet – be very quiet. The reason you are fishing at night is to be stealthy, so playing doof doof music or shouting at you companion probably isn’t going to foster great results. Most of all have fun and stay safe!
Remember release what you don’t need – the fish below were all caught in 2003 and were taken for food.