Top 5 Mistakes Trout Fly Fishers Make Fishing Terrestrials in the Summer


Terrestrials - Great flies to fish for summer
A few Monthly Fly terrestrials (clockwise from top): Black Gnat (flying ant) #12, Black Beetle #8, Dave’s Hopper Yellow #6, Bitch Creek #8, Montana Yellow #12

If you’re like me you’ve stood there in the stream on occasion staring down into your open fly box, hot

neck and cold feet, at the myriad and complex choices as if THE fly, the ONE you should fish RIGHT now

would magically identify itself.

Fishing terrestrial imitations such as grasshoppers, ants, beetles, bees, wasps and others in the summer

is no secret. As we work on building custom monthly fly plans for our customers across the country we

encountered some interesting assertions about mistakes we make fly-fishing terrestrials for trout in

the summertime. Some of these made not only good sense to us but good reading so we collated and

condensed them for our Monthly Fly readership. Enjoy and share your own!


Mistake 1: We don’t fish them enough!

This may seem elementary but apparently the majority of us treat terrestrials as a specialty fly not

usually included in your “go to” group in the summer. While we all know terrestrials are a great bet

in the summer when these insects are most prolific, the psychology of the fly fisher is a complex and

amazing thing. We may reach for that fly on which we have caught more fish, or the one that “kinda”

looks like something we saw buzzing past our faces a few minutes ago. We need to work terrestrials into

our standard rotation in the summer to really give them a fair chance at working- made sense to us!

Mistake 2: DON’T Match the Hatch!

Wait, what? We can all sometimes get tunnel vision trying to imitate what we think (or know)

is streaming past a trout’s nose to the exclusion of other alternatives. Are we expecting rafts of

grasshoppers to come floating downstream with voracious trout ripping them apart in a feeding frenzy

as the signal to tie on a foam hopper? With rare exception, probably not. There isn’t really a terrestrial

“hatch” (again with rare exception such as a flying male ant swarm…but that’s another article). Embrace

the fact that terrestrials will appear usually as singles and are simply more prolific in the summer so

more on the trout’s menu- and most importantly you’re not going to see them as a signal to tie one on.

This means terrestrials will ALWAYS be on the menu when they are around, day in and day out, over a

broad range of times. Don’t wait for a “hatch” to tie one on!

Mistake 3: We only fish terrestrials on the surface

Sure a slashing strike from a good fish on a large dry gets the adrenaline pumping, but beneath the

froth and bubbles on the surface you’d probably be amazed at the number of drowned terrestrials trout

are sipping from the deeper currents. Fishing terrestrials, especially smaller fly patterns like ants, small

beetles, and bees, subsurface can be VERY successful if trout are not rising to dry versions.

Mistake 4: Switching too soon

We’ve all had those days when we just can’t seem to crack the code, or present the fly just so, or notice

some other variable that is key to generating the strike. We try half the flies in our box to no avail.

Mistake 4 is that after trying the terrestrial, we give it 5 drifts and back in the box it goes. Nope, they’re

not eating terrestrials today (see Mistake 2). Especially if you’re guilty of Mistake 1, since the terrestrial

is not in your “go to” rotation it gets put up to dry too quickly. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Make

sure you’ve nailing the presentation a number of times with a drag free drift through that likely holding

water you’re eyeing before retiring it!

Mistake 5: Only fishing them in pools and slow areas

In our research to construct your monthly fly plans we read up on flies, insects, and techniques A LOT,

and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen terrestrials recommended for big pools, wide open flat

water, and slower water. Should you fish them in these areas? Sure! I will bet you however that a lot

of those terrestrials passed through riffles, tailouts, rapids, fast water, etc. etc. to arrive in the slow

water. I know it’s a bit of a silly point so we won’t belabor it- experiment with location! Try fishing your

summertime terrestrials and the combination of a big protein bite and a shorter window of opportunity

for the trout to size it up and bite in fast water may just be the ticket for that strike!


So the next time you’ve got a hot neck and cold feet and you’re staring down at that fly box with

hundreds of choices- give a terrestrial a try for a while. We think you’ll like the result, and we’ll

guarantee terrestrial flies won’t catch a trout looking pretty in your fly box!


by Josh at

Let us help you Match the Hatch at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *