Trout Stream in the Smokies

Terrestrial Season in the Smokies by Tyler Legg

I don't know about you, but I like the words "terrestrial season." We are getting close to the dog days of summer. With those hot, muggy, days, fast approaching, comes plenty of land bugs. It's a change of pace from the mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies so plentiful in the Spring. Don't get me wrong, all three are equally great, but terrestrials are the cream of the crop (or cream of the stream in this case) come summertime. Terrestrials are considered the zenith of the year on eastern hatch charts. In terms of mayflies, Blue Wing Olives are the primary food source during the winter months. Quill Gordons and Blue Quills take over in March, while the warmer temperatures of April trigger the Hendricksons, Red Quills, and March Browns to start making a run to the surface. Light Cahills and Yellow Stones begin to make their appearance in the latter part of the month. Light Cahills, March Browns, and Yellow Stones continue to hatch, along with a plethora of other aquatic insects. The terrestrials start to become increasingly active in May and June, before the rollercoaster starts to head back down when the first frost hits (usually around October) leaving trout exclusively looking for Blue Wing Olives once again.

Terrestrials have enticed fish to the surface across every corner of the globe. In the midst of summer, a big, juicy, grasshopper floating downstream seems to be irresistible to a hungry fish. Grasshoppers are not the only terrestrial prone to being swept into a stream. Ants, beetles, crickets, inchworms, cicadas, bees, wasps, leafhoppers, katydids, and caterpillars, just to name a few, are common terrestrial insects found in the Smokies. Of course, some of them show up at different times during the summer. Cicadas being one of the last to be seen, as they usually start to emerge in July and August. Still, hoppers, ants, beetles, and inchworms are going to be the most important on a Smokies trout stream. Make sure you have a handful of patterns that imitate each terrestrial.   

Grasshopper Pattern 

Grasshoppers- Long legged and helpless as all get out when in water.

Hoppers are probably one of the most popular terrestrial patterns anglers use. They are not necessarily more effective than the beetle, ant, or inchworm though, but they are effective nonetheless. Grasshoppers come in a variety of sizes and colors, usually depending on the stage of development. Newly hatched nymphs are small, while fully-winged adults are larger. Color is also varied, but most species are usually a yellowish brown with some having some green coloration. Usually they blend into their environment pretty well. With that being said, they are pretty helpless when they venture too close to the water's edge. Once they are caught up with the river's flow, the next stop is usually a trout's stomach.


Trout will often wait in shallow spots adjacent to the bank, patiently waiting to hear a PLOP from a grasshopper falling into the water. That "plop" sound hoppers make upon hitting the water's surface, seems to send the fish looking for the source of the sound. In some cases, it triggers an aggressive response, in which the fish comes racing up to the insect to pluck it from the surface. Floating hoppers do not stay afloat forever though. Just when the grasshopper thinks it's had enough torture, rapids, eddies, and rough water eventually drag them under. Rivers are horror movies for unsuspecting grasshoppers! Adding weight to sink a hopper pattern is never a bad idea. Sometimes wary fish seem to feel more comfortable taking a sunken hopper, opposed to a hopper on the surface.
Some excellent hopper patterns for the Smokies...

Burkholder's Club Sandwich
Al's Hopper
Dave's Hopper
Letort Hopper
Parachute Hopper
Whitlock's Whit's Hopper

Little River 

Ants- popcorn for trout.
Ants are not fun at a picnic. However, they are fun on the trout stream. They are definitely abundant in the warmer months, whether or not they are the large, solitary carpenter ants or the tiny ants that always get into the potato salad. Dead drifting an ant pattern through a likely looking spot is just asking for a bent rod and a tight line. Fish slurp ants off the surface like candy. Like grasshoppers, ants cannot float forever. If fishing ant dries is not bringing Moby Dick from the depths, try a sunken ant, or add some split shot to your ant dry.

Some excellent ant patterns for the Smokies...
The Ant
Hi-Vis Foam Ant 
Carl's Foam Flying Ant
Steeve's Transparants
Chernobyl Mini
Hi-Vis Para-Ant

Beetles-  A trout's rendition of crunchy M&M's.
Beetles are another very important terrestrial insect. Trout probably do not see them as frequently as ants, simply because there are far more ants climbing above the water in trees, brush, and tall grass. Nonetheless, they are still abundant. In the Smokies, most beetles are going to be small. You are not going to find any African Goliath Beetles around here. A #16 black beetle is a perfect size for the Smokies. If that #14 is not catching fish, downgrade to a smaller #18 or so, or you could sink it. As with most terrestrials, cast a beetle relatively close to the bank. Be creative. You can start out with a large beetle, such as a #12 and downgrade until you hit the jackpot.

Some excellent beetle patterns for the Smokies...
Disco Beetle 
Lawson's Hi-Vis Beetle 
Potter's Fathead Beetle

Inchworms- The little green fish catching machines.
Trout will The bright green color most inchworms have is a natural fish attractant. Bright colors, wiggly movements, and their abundance makes the inchworm a very important terrestrial in the summer. They have all of the above and they drive trout insane. In fact, trout seem to like them so much, that a #12 Green Weenie fished in the middle of the winter will, more often than not, catch fish.  Inchworm dries work just as well when fished in the middle of the summer. Cast your inchworm pattern of choice under overhanging trees and brush where these green worms slip off and fall into the water. Try to get that fly relatively close to the bank.

Green Weenie 
Furry Foam Inchworm
Deer Hair Inchworm

With the land bugs soon to emerge from their long siesta, fishing will start to get increasingly interesting in about a month or so (as long as water levels and temperatures do not get too out of hand). As long as your presentation is good, you will rarely find a time where trout are overly selective. Whip up some of your favorite terrestrial patterns

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