There is no doubt that fishing when the fish are most willing to feed gives you a mighty edge. For carp, bream and barbel this can be almost obligatory, but how do you get started? Is night fishing so very much more difficult than fishing during the day?
Night fishing for me developed out of fishing early mornings for tench. It was quite early in my angling career that I realised that I could catch more by fishing for a few hours when the fish were willing to feed than by fishing for much longer when they weren't. Getting up at the crack of dawn wasn't much fun, but the tench fishing certainly was! What was even more pleasing was the tales of almost universal woe expressed by those who only fished during more sociable hours.
Tench fishing progressed into carp fishing, and with it came habitual weekends spent at the lake. Short morning sessions turned into one or two night stints. In retrospect, this wasn't the most efficient way of fishing, but when the lake was so far away (and I was dependent upon public transport) there was little choice.
So, I go night fishing for two reasons. Firstly, because for some species, in some circumstances, it offers the best chance of success. Secondly, because if I am forced to stay at the water for more than a few hours I might as well fish all night in the hope of a bonus fish or two. Whether you think the second reason is sporting is up to you. Certainly, if the water is full of bootlace eels I will soon wind in and get my head down!
Staying awake all night is incredibly difficult, and rarely desirable. It is very rare for fish to feed throughout the night, just as they do not feed equally through the day. The hours either side of dawn and dusk are generally the best, although this is not a hard and fast rule. If you want to fish effectively then it is normally best to concentrate on these periods. There are no hard or fast rules though, as angling pressure and the weather can cause fish to feed at other times. With modern bite alarms it is possible to fish and sleep at the same time. Again this comes down to ethics, but most people are now happy with the idea. It is certainly more desirable to be asleep next to your rods than wandering off and letting them fish for themselves. This does lead me on to my first sermon though. Above all, night fishing is about getting away from the modern world, so please keep it that way, tilly lamps, loud bite alarms and 'raves' on the bank are NOT what night fishing is about!
There are no great secrets to successful and enjoyable night fishing. Mostly it comes down to familiarity. The more you do, the easier it will become. For the budding night angler I would suggest gradually easing yourself into this form of fishing. With the right equipment it isn't difficult, but if you are not used to being outside then it can be quite unnerving. The easiest way to begin is to extend sessions an hour or two into darkness. In this way you will have a good idea of the layout of the swim and will not have to set up in the dark. Choose a swim that you know well, and one that does not present any obvious dangers, such as steep banks and thick weed. Choose a warm summers evening and give it a go. Plan to arrive a few hours before dark and pack up a little after dark. The only equipment you will need are a decent torch and some warm clothes. Keeping warm is absolutely essential and sitting out being macho in a t-shirt all night will NOT catch you any more fish!
Head torches are an absolute boon for night fishing. Their only disadvantage is that they attract insects around your head, so only use them when you need to. Tilly lamps and area lights are a no-no. If you sit in the dark you will be amazed at how your senses quickly sharpen up and you will find that you do not need any light for many operations. Something you will have to do at night is change the batteries in your torch. Always carry spares and practice changing the batteries with your eyes shut! This may sound daft, but you don't want to be stuck without some form of light just in case of emergencies.
The other secret, if you want to call it a secret, to night fishing is being organised. I always lay out my kit in a certain way. My torch is kept by the front leg of my chair or bed, tackle box and rig bin is under my chair, landing net is next to the rods and unhooking gear is behind me. Other bits I may need, such as scales and camera, are always in the same pockets of my rucksack, so that I know where to find them instantly. Knowing where everything is also makes it much less likely that you will leave stuff too. Get into a routine (most people do anyway without realising it) and you will be well equipped to fish the nights through.