The sun slowly crests over the horizon, shooting beams of light across the
landscape. Instantaneously as it hits my face, the mercury begins to skyrocket and the day turns to setting the air conditioning and finding shade. Summer has officially started in the mountains when the temperature climbs like the tourism.
Late July through early October is an exciting time of year to be a fly fisherman in the mountains of North America. The snowmelt has come to an end, the trails to distant waters open up, the farmer’s tan is in full effect, and the daylight seams to never end. Ranchers are cutting their crop, birds chirp throughout the mountains, and the cold clear mountain streams run clean filled with fish. The difference however, is in the insect life.
The caddis hatch of late may through June has slowly receded, the green drakes
begin to pop off, PMD’s dance on the surface waiting to be gulped, and a few
salmonflies splatter your windshield in the afternoon light. But a distant humming and clicking deafens the landscape in the sway of the grass along the riverbanks and fields of alfalfa. The rise in temperature does bring one amazing food source to the river, and the terrestrials take over, distracting even the pickiest of trout.
I almost wait from mid April, when the snowmelt begins, until the middle of July to even fish. The hatches of that time period never really get me excited. The Mother’s Day caddis hatch is up there with the most annoying hatches as there are just as many anglers as bugs, but with few fish brought to the net to show for it. When late July rolls around, my couple months off from swinging streamers turns to my first casts of a dry fly where the clumsiness of my cast, dusting off cobwebs actually works in my favor.
Grasshoppers are the fist thing, aside from the early morning chirps and calls from birds, that begin stirring the second the sun comes up. A walk near a patch of grass near a stream bank jolts their hind legs that make up one third of their bodies and launches them clumsily wherever they set for projection. Their air traffic controller is definitely drunk on the job and the pilot was clearly at the bar closing it down with him. The landing is nowhere near as graceful as the take off, making for a crash landing to say the least. But depending on how rusty you are at casting or whether you are just starting out, the hopper is one of the greatest, “hatches,” to get into fish. The less graceful your presentation the better as for the most part, grasshopper landings are rarely smooth. The splash is usually what triggers the trout’s response, sitting near the bank of the stream or river waiting for whatever accidentally lands. So there is no need to get frustrated if your presentation wasn’t what you wanted.
If it was a hard landing, it will work in your favor. Sadly you almost have to turn off your perfection side of your brain when approaching the use of grasshoppers. The other great thing about grasshoppers is the need to fish in the relative middle of the day. There is no need to wait until low light situations for a hatch to begin. The grasshopper’s start stirring the moment the sun comes up, waiting to warm their bodies and stretch their legs for activity. The fish seem to know this as well, given some of the most success I’ve had with hoppers and terrestrial in general have been in the middle of the day.
Also don’t be discouraged from taking them up in elevation. Just because there isn’t any tall grass near or around an alpine lake at 10,000 feet, doesn’t mean
grasshoppers don’t exist. Golden’s, cutthroat, brookies, and even grayling have
flashed and shown interest in small grasshoppers on the weekend backpacking trip. They hop onto the summer afternoon breezes and take flight into the elevated areas. There are glaciers and even lakes throughout North America that are named with,”grasshopper,” for this specific reason.
Ants and beetles also have a say in the matter for summertime terrestrials. Though the activity isn’t as exciting or even spontaneous as the grasshopper, the clumsy beetle and ant that wonders out to the end of that blade of grass will fall in, and the splash for a presentation works the same. When a fish rises to your beetle or ant pattern, the excitement jolts through your body, as there isn’t another time of year the beetle pattern will work. The parachute adams hopper could be used early or even later in the season given that it does look like several other hatches that pop off throughout the year. But an ant or beetle for that matter is as unique as the fish that are interested in them, and the takes are just as exciting.
Though the middle of the day is an active time frame for terrestrials, the trout are slow to rise at times because of the sunlight. Like us, trout to do not want to peer up at the sun. So when the early or later part of the day begins, and the shadows take over the banks of the stream, creek, or river, the fish are far more eager to rise. But a big enough splash near a bank and even a blind trout will find a way to strike.
They’ll put a bend in the rod like no other as the calorie intake from a giant and juicy grasshopper or beetle has fueled their drive and narrowed their vision to the menu. Summer sparks this terrestrial life but also the most active time of year the fish will be. Netting one of these fish with a giant foam grasshopper or beetle in the corner of its mouth with their eye starring at it, wandering what fooled them into thinking it was a meal is something that I look forward to each year. Despite enjoying swinging streamers with snow lining the banks or even falling in the middle of winter, my brain flashes to the summer terrestrials and the count down until that happens again.
Even sitting near the bank of a small creek, after a fun day of catching native trout on terrestrials in the hot summer sun, typing away this exact story, the sound of hoppers deafen the keys on the keyboard and beg of why I am even writing when there are eager trout waiting for my clumsy cast along the banks of a river.
Article written by Sean Jansen @jansen_journals.