Fly Fishing with Terrestrials in the Late
Summer and Fall Months
Terrestrials are flies that fly anglers only fish when other things seem not to work in the summer and the fall.
Actually, terrestrials are good patterns 10 months or more in the year. Yes, especially with the global warming
that our streams have experienced.
That's easy..the ones that they are hitting! HA HA! Well you probably know that but here's a simple way
of solving the terrestrial problems that you might encounter:
- Does the terrestrial hop or jump around?
- Does the terrestrial crawl or is it at the mercy of the current?
- Does the terrestrial emerge or hatch in large numbers or does it fly?
- Does the terrestrial fall off the bushes, tree limbs etc into the stream?
They never asked these questions in those fancy books and videos did they? And you wonder why they don't
catch too many trout! Trout become accustomed to the behaviors of terrestrials just like their aquatic
brethren but most fly anglers and fly fishing writers seldom understand that part. Years ago on Falling
Spring Run in Chambersburg when it was the best little stream in the country (it's not in great shape now and most
of the hatches in any number are gone) trout would become so conditioned to hoppers on the sides of the stream that
all you had to do was to bounce a Letort Hopper or Letort Cricket off the rocks on the side of the stream and a
massive trout would literally jump on top of the fly!
Those days are gone but the lessons learned are still with me. Here's a simple method of choosing flies
for terrestrials fishing because the trout may take a patterns because they have been feeding in the recent
past on certain flies with exhibit certain behaviors.
- If the trout have been feeding on hoppers, crickets or related critters they may take a big fly and they
may take it if you make a commotion with it on the surface. You can sometimes get a big trout to come up that
wouldn't usually rise for a mayfly or caddis for a big terrestrial. Patterns:
Letort Hopper; Letort Cricket: Joe's Hopper; Muddler
Small terrestrials that float or seldom struggle much on the water such as beetles, and other "bugs."
Patterns: Deerhair Beetles, Foam Beetles, Small Foam Patterns.
Ants and flying ants hatch in large numbers on many streams. Because of this it's often like fishing a
mayfly or caddis hatch. There are tons of different types of ants. You should carry the following
patterns: Fur Ants in Black, Cinnamon, Red. Foam Ants in all colors; a couple of
flying ant patterns.
Does the stuff fall off trees? Inchworms, caterpillar larvae and host of similar critters including gypsy
moth larvae are eagerly taken by trout. Patterns: Deerhair inchworm; foam inchworm
and insect larvae imitations.
Know the behavior of the terrestrial you are fishing! When trout are taking certain
types of terrestrials such as hoppers, crickets etc. they are keyed to the type of light pattern and movements the
insects make. On the other side if you sometimes try to put too much motion in fishing a beetle I've seen
trout head for cover especially on spring creeks. If there are a lot of different types terrestrials on
the water realize that some trout may be feeding on one type of light pattern and behavior while another trout
might be feeding on something else. Don't fall for the mayfly myth that is used way too often in the fly
fishing world that all the fish are hitting a certain stage and size of the fly. One famous trick basically
invented by the legendary Ed Shenk is try throwing a large beetle pattern behind a trout with a "plop." The
trout will often turn and take the fly immediately! You can usually pull this off with a terrestrial because
the fly makes just enough noise and water waves to attract the fish but not spook them. This works well even with
crickets. It is one of the best techniques for fishing shallow spring creeks like Falling Spring Run. You can really catch a lot of fish on
terrestrials but it takes a little more skill than just tying one on and throwing it out there. Match your leader
to the fly. Always use the heaviest tippets that you can get away with. Don't grandstand by tying a 7x tippet on a
hopper or cricket pattern and think you land a big fish. I've seen these clowns and if they don't break the fish on
the strike they try and play the fish to death so they won't break their fine tippet!
A nice trick that no one uses is to tie two or three ants on a leader. I prefer droppers instead of
tandems. Now fish this trio in back currents and eddies with kind of a sloppy twitch. Ants often spin
and move this way in the currents! This is an excellent technique on sophisticated trout. Try these
techniques and methods. Don't underestimate how the light pattern and behavior work together when fishing
terrestrials and you will be rewarded!
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©2012 E. Macri