Outdoor Articles

Terrestrial Madness

by Pursue The Outdoors on November 30th, 1999 in Fly Fishing

The heat of the summer has arrived and the grasses are turning from shades of green to shades of brown. This change in colors signifies the start of what can be some of Southwestern Montana’s finest dry fly fishing of the year. The cool mornings and afternoon showers of June and July are something in our past and now we can look forward to hot days and dry conditions. The great hatches of Yellow Sallies, Caddis and Pale Morning duns are starting to slow down and the main food source will now become tobacco spitting hoppers, ferocious flying ants and decaying matter loving beetles. Many of the local rivers will still have some aquatic insect hatches but the fish will really start to key into the land born insects of the late summer. The waters within the borders of Yellowstone National Park along with the Yellowstone River in Montana provide some of the finest terrestrial fishing in the country.
The real start of the hopper activity on the Yellowstone River is spurred on by a water born insect know as the “Midnight Stone”. These large golden stones migrate from the depths of the river to the banks where they dry their wings and procreate to continue the existence of their species. The large stoneflies are very poor fliers and you will not see them hatch in large numbers. As their name suggest they tend to hit the shoreline as the sunsets and partake in the festivities of mating after the sun heads below the horizon. They return to the river as the sun rises above the horizon in the early morning hours. The most adults that I have seen on any one day numbers less than a couple of dozen and most of those were seen on the shoreline. They are very poor fliers with very short wings, thus you will not see them high in the sky like their close relative the Salmon fly. The good news about these large stoneflies is that the best imitations for them are most of the hopper patterns we fish later in the month when the hoppers are falling into the water. The “Midnight Stones” are mainly seen on the Yellowstone River and they are responsible for the great start of the hopper fishing the Yellowstone is famous for.
Many of our other waters in the area will have some great terrestrial fishing as well but it generally is a week to ten days later than the Yellowstone. One of the great parts of terrestrial fishing is that most of the insects make a loud disruptive landing on the waters surface, thus a short leader and heavy landing flies can produce some very good fishing. This is quite a change from the water born insects that require a light delicate presentation on a long leader. If you do head out in the next six to eight weeks be sure and bring along more than just hopper patterns. Most anglers get very excited about hopper fishing and forget about the other terrestrial insects such as ants, beetles and cicada’s. Some days the fish will give these other insects more interest and you can miss out on a good day of fishing because you were only thinking about the Hopper action. Good luck and enjoy the later half of summer. Before we know it we will be stripping streamers for colorful brown trout and chasing feathers for the upcoming winter of fly tying. Have a great time outdoors and if you get a chance be sure and Take A Kid Fishing!!!!!

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