The summer months provide some of the most exciting dry fly action for fly anglers while targeting rivers within the Pacific Northwest. In the early summer months Caddis and Mayfly hatches usually bring the first taste of dry fly action that most fly anglers yearn for! But once the heat of the summer moves in and these hatches slowly dwindle one should not give up on the dry fly method so soon.
The fact is, is that land-bred insects, known as terrestrials, are a staple forage in a trout’s diet from as early as May and all the way until October. Some insects that fall within this category are grasshoppers, beetles and ants. Fishing terrestrial fly patterns can provide some of the best dry fly action anglers can experience!
So how does one go about fishing these terrestrial patterns? Well it’s not much different than presenting any other dry fly. However, there are a few tips that one can apply to improve the odds!
Selecting the Right Fly: First thing you want to do is to look around your surroundings. Are there grasshoppers along the shorelines? Look in the foam lines on the river, are their beetles or ants floating within the “food trough”. If you see an abundance of one type of terrestrial that is usually a good pattern to start with. To choose the size of fly comes down to a simple balance of providing the fish with the greatest opportunity of a big meal without spooking it.
If you are fishing in fast deeper waters then you may want to start with a larger size than if your were fishing in a shallow slower run so that you get their attention. So the key here is to have a good selection of sizes of each type of terrestrial pattern so you can best match up your presentation to the water you are fishing.
When presenting your fly allow for a dead drift along the run. The first initial smack of your fly hitting the water may entice the fish to bite. Sometimes the fish will follow your presentation 10 to even 15 feet down the river before they decide to strike or to turn away from it. The smallest movement with the rod tip without interrupting the free drift of the fly can also entice the fish to strike. This especially works for ant patterns where the movement from the rod tip will create life like movement to the legs on the fly.
Windy days are the prime time to pull out your arsenal of terrestrial flies! The wind will push the land-based insects into the water. Obvious areas to present your fly is along cut banks where trout may be holding waiting for an easy meal to drop in, under trees or grassy banks can also be prime areas. Don’t shy away from presenting your fly in the middle of the river; even though the insects may fall along the banks eventually the current will take drift of them. Again, locating those foam seam lines are a buffet of forage insects for trout!
Once a trout strikes your fly don’t pre-maturely set the hook, be patient and wait for the fish to finish turning its head back towards the water. If you are finding that fish are rolling at your fly but your not getting hook ups, there is a good chance that the trout is deciding last minute that it doesn’t like what it sees and simply closes it’s mouth and refuses your fly. If this happens, try changing to a different size or even a new fly of the same pattern. Sometimes the way the fly sits on the water will be just enough for the trout to refuse the fly at the last second.
Terrestrial flies are best presented in the afternoon to early evening when these insects are most active. Trout in streams and rivers in the Pacific Northwest and especially the Rocky Mountain regions rely on feeding on terrestrial flies as they provide a large calorie intake compared to a smaller insect. The smaller the stream or river usually means the trout are heavier dependent on terrestrials as a food source.
So the next time you are headed out to target a river for some dry fly adventure be sure to load up your fly box with some terrestrial patterns. Stopping by the local fly shops will also help provide you with invaluable knowledge on what the trout are feeding on during the period that you are there visiting!
Tight lines & please take a youth fishing!