Updated: Jun 23
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.
Normally these creeks require some high water and big streamers, or very technical fishing with very small flies like tricos and thin tippet. However, as the grass grows and summer heat creates some windy days, this means it is terrestrial season. These terrestrial insects are big pieces of protein for fish that have been eating little bugs all day. Grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, and ants are all good options for these creeks and can result in some pretty explosive trout eats.
How to Fish Terrestrial Flies:
The best part is that using these terrestrial patterns is that they actually require a bit of a splashy cast. A grasshopper doesn't gracefully land on top of the water, but more crashes down as it hits the water, creating some racket. Go with the smallest tippet you can get away with though as the water is very clear in limestone spring creeks. Don't be afraid to take five minutes or so in the summer looking for Japanese beetles, June bugs, etc. Knowing what is actually around, size, and color still all apply to matching the hatch. Lastly, I prefer the foam tied terrestrial fly patterns as they don't need floatant and can take a bit of a beating.
Pick up the direction of the wind and try to find the trees and bushes that hang over the stream. Understand that most ants and hoppers aren't going to make it to the center of the river. Look for undercut banks or structure along the bank that create spaces to hide that trout like. Make the fly splash upstream and provide a little twitch as the fly drifts downstream toward their likely spot. Remember when terrestrial fishing that these bugs would still be alive when they fall in. That little bit of movement might bring a big wild brown trout to the surface. The heat of the summer actually can be the best time to fish for spring creek trout. Just make sure there is a breeze around and the hopper pattern and ant pattern you throw matches what is around you. Your imitation should still be the same size and color of the bugs along the section of spring creek you are fishing. Also remember that even larger fish don't need much depth in these streams and late summer still means lower water here too. Beat the heat of summer and go slow, spring creek fishing requires patience and a little stealth, but catching a large brown trout while fly fishing terrestrials is hard to beat.