Going up top with terrestrial patterns
I'm not one of those elitist fly fishermen who believe a dry fly is the only sporting way to go, the only proper field of battle between me and the trout. Hardly. I can dredge beadhead nymphs in perfect contentment, even using a strike indicator, which really is just a polite word for bobber. Shoot, I even use what's known as a Thingamabobber, and I'm not the least bit ashamed of that.
Too, those dry-fly-only purists wouldn't be caught dead globbing a couple nightcrawlers on a hook, setting their rod in a forked stick and sitting in a chair along a farm pond at night, listening to a ball game on the radio and catching a few bullheads in the spring. Fishing is fishing, and although I have gravitated to fly fishing more in recent years, I can still go back to my roots without skipping a beat.
But every once in a while, I get a strong urge to toss dry flies – specifically, terrestrial patterns, those highly visible, sometimes outright gaudy grasshopper, beetle and ant imitations that trigger explosive strikes from trout. That was the case last week when I headed out the door at 4:30 a.m., bound for the West Branch of the Ausable, my vest loaded with Chernobyl ants and hoppers, Letort crickets and hoppers, and even some foam patterns I tied myself that apparently look a lot better to the trout than they do to me.
The early departure was to get out on the water before the river warmed to levels deemed too stressful for trout, and the cool nights of late have helped greatly. The truck's thermometer read a crisp 45 degrees as I donned by waders and headed downstream.
It quickly became apparent I could catch more trout going deep with nymphs than the terrestrial offerings would yield. But I didn't care that the lone rises I saw all morning were those that came to my flies. I wanted to toss terrestrials up top, and I was doing just that, getting enough action to keep me interested and never given nymphs a consideration.
I missed several strikes, lost several other fish, and landed just a couple before hiking off the river at about 9:15 a.m., content with the day's action and hoping to get back soon. If not on the Ausable, maybe to a backcountry brook trout stream where just about any pattern looks good to the scrappy brookies.
I'll probably fish hoppers, ants and beetles well into late summer, shifting gears only during the hatch of tiny tricos, which offer the luxury of sleeping in, since things don't heat up with the tricos until mid-morning.
But I have a weakness for terrestrials. Thankfully, so to the trout.