Summer Fly Fishing The Terrestrial Hatches

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

By: Jacob Noteboom 
Updates & editing by Mark Bachmann

 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, 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, change your retrieve to the short quick strips, 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 dry fly. The more options you give the fish, the more likely they are to find their way to one of them. A Floating beetle can serve as a strike indicator for your dry/dropper rig. A dry dropper rig can be just as effective on the lakes as it is on flowing water.

Forest habitats surrounding many of our smaller local streams are factories for producing abundant terrestrial insect populations. Ants, beetles, bees, and termites that rain down from the surrounding forest  is an important food source. Flies that imitate these critters can be very effective to fish attractors. Ant patterns arguably are the most effective on these creeks. Flies mimicking terrestrial insects can be 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:

Foam Antsize 12-16 Unlucky workers

Flying Ant, Black size 12-16 Migrating queens

Parachute Ant, Black size 12-16 Unlucky workers that are easier to see.

Caleb's Bee, size 12

Hi-Vis Foam Beetle size 12-16

Hi-Vis Micro Chubby, Olive, size 12-16

Hi-Vis Micro Chubby, Purple, size 12-16

Hi-Vis Micro Chubby, Yellow, size 12-16

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