Terrestrial Madness

End of a Summer Day

During my years in the Cumberland Valley, terrestrial fishing provided the bulk of my dry fly fishing. On some streams, terrestrial time offered the only significant dry fly fishing of the year. Much of the lore of terrestrial flies and fishing was developed there by the likes of the Letort Regulars. Fox, Marinaro, Shenk, Koch and Schweibert all shared their insights and their brilliance through their writings, much to the benefit of all who came after them.

Fishing beside Ed Shenk I learned how to fish the gentle limestone springs with his classic patterns and techniques, stalking trout and presenting the fly in tight quarters. I can never repay my debt for his friendship and mentoring. During my summer trips to the Catskills, it was only natural to experiment with terrestrial flies when the ubiquitous mayflies proved scarce on hot afternoons.

On the big water of the Delaware and its tributaries, many think first of long distance casting, but the calm stalking approach to select cover still has merit. That style of angling can be very effective when fishing hatches, and it is essential for fishing terrestrials. Some of my largest Catskill browns have fallen to terrestrial dry flies delivered by this stalking approach.

Thinking about last summer’s success and my limestone roots caused me to pull Harry Steeves’ and Ed Koch’s “Terrestrials” off the shelf and give it a read. Thinking of that book as a “new” title, I was a little shocked to note the publication date of 1994, twenty-five years ago. I clearly recall sitting down in my fly shop with the two of them, talking fishing and flies and congratulating them on their collaboration. Ed was somewhat of a regular visitor to the shop in those days, and I had met Harry at one of the first fly tier’s symposiums in western Pennsylvania a few years earlier

Reading their words and remembering our talks inspired me to tie some of the patterns they showcased in the book, flies I look forward to presenting to our Catskill browns next summer. I am particularly interested in seeing how they react to Steeves’ Firefly when it alights beneath an overhanging branch.

Steeves’ Firefly

One fly I have used very little in the Catskills is the grasshopper, though I have certainly seen them in the fields. There are grassy areas along the Delaware that beg to have a hopper cast to them from a passing drift boat. I hope conditions are favorable when August comes around to give that idea a try!

During my little flurry of terrestrial tying I managed to bring back and update one of my patterns developed on Falling Spring years ago. The fly was tied with Kreinik metallic braid for the body, a material I discovered courtesy of Harry Steeves. Friends fished the fly in Montana that summer and returned with big smiles and fish tales, and I fooled several big Falling Spring browns with it over the years. It is high time I introduce it to the rivers of my heart.

Mark’s Hopper 2020

Thinking about high summer in these mountains has me thinking about designing a new cricket pattern to complement that hopper. The sun just glared through my window making it difficult to sit here and write or to tie. It’s time to take a walk!

2 thoughts on “Terrestrial Madness

  1. Mark, looks great! Is that your camera you are using to take those pictures. i’m starting my mid winter ritual of scouring used bamboo websites, South Creek LTD has a granger registered, but it’s sale pending.

    love the shenks cricket. i have one or two left that you tied for me on the black hook.


    1. Glad to hear the Baby Cricket is working for you. It has temped a few fish up here too. Playing with a new design, something with a bit more plop. Hoping the Kreinik Stteeve’s style beetels and firfly will have enough plop to get the interest of the 20 and up set next summer.


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