When White River brown trout look to the surface for terrestrials in late summer, it is as exciting a dry fly experience as you can find on any trout river. Right now the high flows have the browns comfortable and feeding regularly in preparation for the fall spawn, and the number of browns being fooled on hoppers may be at the high point for the season. Most of the browns being caught are in the 16-20inch class, with fish over 20” common, and the odd 2 footer in the mix as well.
A leggy, wiggling bug floating helplessly on the surface is such a tempting morsel for a hungry brown trout, and there is a flavorful variety of prey, from crickets and beetles to grasshoppers, katydids and cicadas. Some browns chomp these floating foam flies with reckless abandon, while others more cautiously and gracefully sip them off the surface. One of the biggest challenges to terrestrial fishing (and dry fly fishing in general) is timing the hookset. When a brown eats a terrestrial slowly and cautiously, 2-3 seconds may pass between the moment the fish breaks the surface to the moment it has closed its mouth completely with fly inside. It takes real poise from the angler to allow the fish time to eat before jerking the rod up. As a rule of thumb, wait until the fish has disappeared completely under the surface before setting the hook, and use strong enough tippet to set with authority. Generally 2 or 3x tippet is sufficient. A good bottle of floatant is a must as well to keep your bugs riding high where you can see them.
Foam terrestrials of various patterns are pulling some great browns early in the morning, late in the evening, or under cloud cover. Guide favorites include Fat Alberts, Juicy Bugs, Western Ladies, and Chubby Chernobyls. High water nymphing deep and heavy under large indicators is effective for numbers fishing. Stick with large San Juan worms and eggs for attractors, and trail them with Tungsten Pheasant Tails, Hare’s Ears, Micro Mayfly nymphs, Lightning Bugs, Wotton Sowbugs, Whitetail Midges and Super Midges in #14. Schmidt’s Double Deceivers, Lynch’s DDs, and Viking Midges are great large profile streamers to try and tempt a big brown, especially if the weather’s too crumby for hoppers.
Low flows for a few hours in the morning provide the best wade fishing opportunities around and fish well with Ruby, Root beer, or Redneck midges, scuds and sowbugs. High flows the rest of the day are best fished with San Juan worms, eggs, Sunday Specials, and Super Midges or Whitetail Midges. Smaller streamers like Cheech’s Leech, Autumn Splendor Buggers and other cone head variety buggers are effective on high water as well.