Story last updated at 4:51 p.m. Thursday, August 15, 2002

Nighttime is the right time to find solitude
Sepp Jannotta
Casting about

When it comes to fishing, solitude is often as prized as the size or abundance of the catch.

There is this great ideal that Alaska is a place where an angler can wander miles and miles along some unpopulated river that teems with huge flashy fish. If you've got the money for a plane or even a boat, that might be the case.

But let's face it, the best salmon streams in road-accessible Southcentral are often not the brochure photo op for that solitary angling experience -- picture the Anchor River on the first day of king salmon season.

Well if you're short on funds but hoping for that mystical experience of having the whole river to yourself, try night fishing. As we cross into the last half of August, the night sky has once again gotten dark enough to deter all but the most fanatical anglers. On a good night there may even be stars shining above you.

Before you run off for a midnight rendezvous with trout, there are just a few things you'll need to get yourself started on the newest fishing fad.

First off, get a head lamp. If you're a true revolutionary, you could try to memorize all your fishing knots by practicing them blindfolded. Otherwise it's handy to have a light that allows you to have your hands free.

Next, you'll need a new set of priorities. Night fishing is about the experience and process rather than the actual hooking and landing of fish. In other words, the darker the night, the lower your odds of actually catching something.

And you'll need a camera with a flash, because if by some stroke of luck you do manage to catch something, you'll definitely want a picture. That way your friends will believe that you were casting your fly or spinner into the shadows and night and caught more than a cold.

Then off you go. Imagine walking up to your favorite hole on the Anchor River or the Russian and finding no other anglers.

Fish a little. Then walk up or downstream to the next likely spot and see the same thing -- nothing.

There is something surreal about seeing the wake of passing salmon in the inky surface of a river.

While your sense of sight might be working overtime and playing tricks as the water flows hypnotically seaward like a dark silken ribbon, your ears will become amazingly tuned in. The sounds of the churning water and surrounding brush. The sounds of the rain hitting the alder leaves. The occasional splash of a salmon. And when there is movement in the brush, you're a lot less likely to write it off as just another angler.

As far as sense of touch, when you get a strike, the jolt to your line is truly electric, and that tree stump to the shin lets you know you're alive.

The streamside environment is at once more alive and more peaceful than it is during the daylight.

Even the Fishing Hole out on the Homer Spit -- the antithesis of wilderness fishing -- becomes a relatively quiet place as the clock moves toward midnight. Suddenly there is enough space to fly fish for the hundreds of silvers currently swimming there without endangering any of your fellow anglers.

There are even those who swear by nighttime halibut fishing. Some charter companies among Homer's halibut fleet offer an overnight, double-limit trip that allows anglers to combine seasickness with their fishing in the dark. And as good as the halibut fishing typically is, you have a decent chance of pulling a 100-pounder out of the depths.