Summer Fly Fishing The Terrestrial Hatches

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It’s terrestrial time on our Mt. Hood Lakes and streams!

By: Jacob Noteboom

 This trout caught from an alpine lake was feeding on winged ants.

Don’t put those salmonfly patterns back in storage just yet! You can still get some use out of them. If the sun is shining this time of year, there are lots of bugs out crawling around that didn't hatch from water. These critters can be easy meals for our local trout. The trees that surround mountain streams and lakes are great habitat for Ants, Beetles, Cicadas, Hoppers, Winged Termites and Yellow Jacket Wasps, just to name a few. Most of our higher altitude lakes and streams tend to be a bit breezy during mid-day, which means branches over the water turn into a conveyor belts of food. Primary food source for alpine lakes that are surrounded by timber: ants, beetles and bees.

So picture that you just got to a lake, got rigged up with a beetle and started for the water, but what are you going to do?

Look for points or areas where trees are hanging over water (around 3 feet or deeper). Fish will cruise under these trees waiting for something big and juicy to fall in front of their face. Cast upwind of the target area and allow your fly to drift with the wind right into the strike zone.

A winged carpenter ant queen.

Terrestrials are pretty helpless once they hit the water, but they certainly attempt to escape their watery grave. This usually entails the bug floating on its “Back” repeatedly flapping their wings against the water in effort to get back up and take off. The vibration caused by this is like a dinner bell for hungry trout. If a dead floating presentation isn’t working, I’ll change my retrieve to the shortest quickest strips I can, which replicates a bug in panic mode after it hits the water. Strikes on a stripped terrestrial on the surface can be the most entertaining and explosive takes, while dead drifted terrestrials often earn a Sip or a very soft subtle take from trout.

Beetles feeding on a fish carcass.

Most of our terrestrial patterns are tied with a good amount of foam, more than enough to float a chironomid or midge pattern under. The more options you give the fish, the more likely they are to find their way to one of them. A Chubby/dropper rig can be just as effective on the lakes as it is on flowing water.

Many of our smaller local streams have an abundance of terrestrials as well, which can be very effective to fish as attractors during these warm summer months. Ant patterns arguably are the most effective on these creeks. Flies mimicking terrestrial insects can treated with floatant and be fished dry or be left untreated and fished wet dead-drift. Remember terrestrial insects often drown quickly after making contact with moving water.

A yellow jacket wasp that is cold in the morning hangs onto a grass stalk until the sun will warm her.

Some of my favorite patterns for matching terrestrials on Mt. Hood are:

Kauffman’s Stimulator, olive, size 12-16

Para Humpy, Chartreuse or black

Joe’s Hopper size 10

CDC Ant size 16 (Not shown on website, in store stock)

Chubby Chernobyl size 10-12, gold.

Tayler’s Beetle (Not shown on website, in store stock)

Clipped Head Cricket size 10 (Not shown on website, in store stock)

Throw your favorites into one of our Fly fishing shop Fly Boxes of your choice, get out and go get some fish. Tight lines, -Jacob.

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