Nature Boy strikes again.

Nature Boy is Alan Eckelman, my 17-year-old, 100-pound pal from Silver Spring.

He reminds me of everything I like to think my childhood was - happy and carefree and boundlessly energetic. Last spring he showed me how to catch trout in the Northwest Branch and how to spot deer tracks and raccoon tracks and fox dens in Wheaton Regional Park.

But trout season is over. The days are steaming and the nights are still. It's high time for some serious jutterbugging for bass.

Where to go?

Alan knows. He has spent half his life wandering through the woods within walking distance of ho,e and he's filed away a lot of information.

"You won't believe this," he said breathlessly over the phone last week. "Eighteen bass in one night. We can walk there from my house."

He had been revisiting some childhood haunts, poking along little-used trails in the Silver Spring woods, which are getting scarcer and scarcer.

He stuck his head out on a golf course (we'll never tell where) and saw a pond. So he went back with his fishing gear one night and laid waste to largemouth bass.

A few days later we were off, laden with bug repellent and tackle boxes and rods and flashlights.

The trail started off broad and got smaller and smaller. Finally it petered out altogether and we were cutting through tangles of poison ivy and greenbriers.

"Sure you know where you're going, Alan?"

"Hey, man I'm the Nature Boy."

Sure enough, in 10 minutes we emerged on a handsomely manicured fairway. In the distance a foursome shuffled up to the green, the last golfers of the day. They waves.

It was perfect - a two-acre pond with a recirculation pump to keep the oxygen level up. It even had an icecold water fountain for thirsty golfers - and fishermen.

We didn't come close to duplicating the success of Alan's maiden visit, but in two hours three of use dredged up five bass and a mess of fat bluegills. We returned all but the biggest bass - a 2 1/2-pounder.

It's not the numbers that matter, anyway. Night fishing used to be a sacred sport among Washingtonians who suffered through the long tropical nights B.A.C. (before air conditioning).

It's beautiful, of course, to be out on a warm night and watch the moon rising and the starts emerging and feel the first cool evening breezes.

It can be great sport, too. Night bass fishing is mostly accomplished with topwater lures and the fish invariably bite better.

They've been hunkered down in the deeps all day, avoiding the blistering heat and brilliant sunlight.

At night they move to the surface, splattering along after minnows and frogs and bugs.

We used jitterbug lures, which go wobble-wobble-wobble across the surface, and Hula Poppers, which go splosh-splosh-splosh, and buzzer spinnerbaits, which sounds like rusty bicycle chains and worked best of all.

It's all sensory, since you can't see the lure. Something comes up and smacks it and you have to wait to find out what. Everything sounds twice as big as it is.

The only problem with golf courses is that they belong to other people, and it would not be right to suggest that anglers descend on them with impunity. We just were lucky not to get caught.

But there are public places to go night fishing, and most are underused, what with air conditioning and television to keep Joe Average pacified.

Joe Fletcher said the sandy beach just upstream from Fletcher Boathouse on the Potomac used to be jammed with night catfish anglers when he was young.

There are still plenty of catfish there and lanterns usually glow from the beach on weekend nights. Upstream of Chain Bridge anglers descend to the rocks from the Virginia side and catch catfish.

There is good smallmouth bass fishing with jitterbugs near the Little Falls dam, for those willing to hike through the woods near Lock 5 on the C&O Canal. Pioneer that one in the daytime first, so you know where you're going.

Roach's Run, on the west side of the GW Parkway just above National Airport, is loaded with largemouth bass which ought to hit topwater poppers in the dark of night. And the planes don't run after 10 p.m. there, either, so it's quiet for a change.

Burke Lake in Fairfax County instituted night fishing until 11 p.m. this year and the folks there said they have weighed in one 10 1/2-pound and one 15 1/2-pound channel catfish caught at night in the last two weeks.

That's a lot of catfish.

In July and August, practically anyplace that has fishing in the daytime has better fishing at night.

Says Feltcher, "Everything starts jumping. There's 50 times more activity after dark than in the dattime. It's wild. You hear something splashing out there and you don't know what in the world it is."