Summer in the Shenandoah Valley offers a few fly fishing opportunities to target some big, greedy trout without much finesse. Up and down the valley we have several springs that collect into some very nice trout fisheries. These streams are home to plenty of aquatic insects, but roll through farmlands with fields of grass and bushes that dot the stream. Grasshoppers, ants, and beetles fill the fields and bushes and with a good gust of wind are likely to fall into the water. Mossy Creek and Beaver Creek outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Buffalo Creek outside of Lexington are a few that come to mind. Here is an article about those streams.
Terrestrial Flies: An Overview
Terrestrial flies are designed to imitate insects that live on land, rather than in the water. These patterns mimic ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and other terrestrial insects that occasionally find themselves in the aquatic realm, becoming a delectable treat for hungry trout. Understanding the behavior of these insects and using the right fly patterns to match them is crucial for successful fly fishing on spring creeks. Late summer marks the peak of terrestrial activity, as these insects often fall or get blown into the stream by the wind. This period coincides with the heat of summer, making the water conditions ideal for trout. Spring creeks, known for their constant water temperatures and clear, spring-fed flows, provide an excellent environment for trout to thrive.
The Best Terrestrial Patterns
When it comes to terrestrial patterns, several classic fly patterns have proven effective time and time again. Let's take a closer look at some of them:
Ant Patterns: Tiny and ubiquitous, ants are a staple in a trout's diet. Fly anglers often use ant patterns in various sizes to match the natural ants that fall into the water.
Beetle Patterns: Beetles are another common terrestrial insect trout eagerly consume. Beetle imitations, with their dark bodies and distinctive shape, are a must-have in your fly box.
Hopper Patterns: Grasshoppers are larger insects that trout find hard to resist. Hopper patterns, like the famous "Letort Hopper," imitate these insects and can produce explosive strikes when presented well.
Cricket Patterns: Crickets are known for their twitchy, erratic movements when they fall into the stream. Cricket imitations with a lifelike presentation can entice even the most cautious trout.
Fly Fishing Techniques for Terrestrials
When fishing with terrestrial flies, anglers often employ dry fly fishing techniques. This means presenting the fly on the water's surface, imitating the terrestrial insect that has fallen in. The key is to make your fly drift naturally, as if it were a real insect. Trout, especially brown trout, are known for their tendency to hide along structure or undercut banks, waiting for terrestrial insects to fall into the water. Look for over hanging bushes, fallen trees, and places where water and food collect. Targeting these areas with accurate casts is essential for success. Take your time walking along the bank and watch for rising trout. Knowing how to approach the water is necessary to not spook the fish.
Matching the Hatch: Terrestrial Style
Just like with mayfly hatches, it's crucial to match the hatch when fishing terrestrial flies. Observe the insects in the area to determine which ones the trout are feeding on, and then select the appropriate terrestrial pattern to imitate them. If you are fishing hoppers you should find one before hand. Size and color make a difference. If there are no Japanese beetles around, then fish likely aren't going to eat that pattern. Many anglers make the mistake of thinking any pattern will do, but many big trout will analyze your fly before eating.
Terrestrial fly fishing on limestone spring creeks offers some of the best opportunities for anglers to connect with nature and experience the thrill of trout fishing. Hit the water knowing that you don't have to perfect to get a trout eat. Fishing terrestrial patterns have led to some of my best fly fishing trips, and some of my biggest fish. Whether it's hopper fishing or flying ants catching spring creek trout is always a thrill.