In my estimation, this is the best fishing Wisconsin's spring creeks have to offer. Wisconsin's "Coulee Country" is tailor made for terrestrial fishing. The large pastures, prairies and wooded riparian areas combined with narrow streams are ideal for terrestrial fishing. You can bet that these spring creek fish are always watching the bank areas for unlucky terrestrial insects.
Besides the hopper fishin' that everyone looks forward to, crickets, ants, and beetles are all of major importance. Most of these "hatches" occur in June and later when many trout anglers have already called it a season. Foam seems to be a reoccurring theme in my personal terrestrial fly tying and I have had great luck with these patterns. Terrestrials are often best fished during the middle of the day when nothing seems to behatching.
Ants come in many sizes and colors and are probably the most consistent of the terrestrials. Expect fish to take them slowly and confidently, requiring you to keep a perceptive eye on your fly. My most effective ant patterns are either dubbed patterns with black or grizzly hackle legs or foam patterns with kelvar thread for legs. Whatever pattern you use, expect it to be hard to see on the water. Greasing your leader to within a foot or two of you fly may help you detect the subtle strikes that trout often make when ants are the fare. Ants are also effective when there is a heavy hatch that you can't imitate or fish are difficult to catch. It seems that fish have a hard time resisting a well presented ant. Ants are best fished in sizes from 12 down to 24. I tend to prefer the smaller sizes, particularly #16-22.
Beetles are another overlooked terrestrial that is of great importance. They are normally available during most of the trout season but are most important from June through September. Beetles are normally black or brown and can range from a size 10 down to #24's. While I've had some luck on larger patterns, it is normally the size 16-20 beetles that I catch most of my fish on. My two favorite patterns are the foam beetle, particularly Bob Blumreich's micro-beetle, and Ross Mueller's, BHP Beetle.
BHP Beetle (Brown Hackle Peacock)
Tying Notes: Wrap the hook with a thread base then tie in the overbody at the hook bend. Tie in a hackle and a couple of peacock herls. Wrap the herl forward and then the hackle. Clip the hackle short and then pull over the overbody and tie it off. Clip the overbody to leave a small head section extending past the hook eye.
Crickets are probably more numerous than hoppers but are certainly less utilized than are hoppers. Crickets are great searching patterns and are generally the first fly I'll tie on when searching for trout in June through September when nothing is hatching. The LeTort Cricket is an old standby but I find myself using foam to imitate these terrestrials. A smaller, all black version of the West Fork Hopper (see below), one of my own creations, is my favorite. Other favorites are Bob Blumreich's foam cricket and Ross Mueller's cricket pattern.
Bob's Foam Cricket
Ross Mueller's Cricket (variation of a Tom Wendelberg pattern)
Tying Notes: Dub a plump abdomen and treat a wing with flexament for durability. Tie the wing over the abdomen and trim it to a rounded shape. The head will be tied in bullet head style. Leave a couple of fibers to act as antennae and trim the deer hair tips to leave a few tips on each side to act as legs.
Grasshoppers probably provide the most exciting and explosive fishing of the year. Look for a large prairie or pasture section and hope for a light wind which will help blow hoppers into the water and hold on! Either dead drifted or fished with a few twitches to imitate the struggling hopper trying to get back to the bank are effective. Plopping down a hopper often helps to get a fishes' attention. Another effective ploy is to cast to the trout's tail if it won't rise to a normally presented fly. Often a cast to the tail will get a quick response and not let the fish have time to critique the fly or presentation.
Again, foam flies rate as my favorites for hoppers though I do use LeTort's, Dave's, and Henry's Fork Hoppers at times. My favorite pattern is one of my own creation which has an all foam body and represents the natural very well. It was named the West Fork Hopper after landing a gorgeous 18" brown on its maiden cast. Another favorite is Bob Blumreich's Summer Hopper.
West Fork Hopper
Bob's Summer Hopper
Tying Notes: Create a thread base for the hopper body. Cut a small slit in the hopper body and super glue it to the shank. Allow it to dry then tie down the front part of the body. Tie in a flexamented section of turkey wing and the legs. Spin the deer hair head and tie it off. Clip the deer hair to shape, leaving a few fibers over the wing.
©Jason Freund, 1998 for Bob Blumreich and Silver Doctor Flyfishing Services