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Hoppertunity Time

 

Grasshopper patterns are one of my favourite ways to fly fish for trout. Mention grasshopper fly fishing to any angler that has ever hit it right and their eyes will glaze over as they remember explosive rises to large dries. Grasshoppers while powerful jumpers and flyers do end up on the water and once there make a commotion. They are good swimmers and use their powerful hind legs to propel themselves. So once on the water they basically struggle, trying to swim or jump but usually they are just ringing the dinner bell for hungry trout.

Hopper time on the Bow River

Hopper time on the Bow River

In mid-summer most trout streams will start seeing grasshoppers along the riparian zones that border streams, rivers and lakes. Some years will see huge numbers of these terrestrial insects around while others will have very few, but regardless there are usually enough of them that find their way onto the water that the trout will take notice. Hoppers become more and more active as the day warms up. Anybody who has walked a field trying to catch hoppers knows that if you get out early, when it is still cool you can catch them at will, but later in the morning once the air temperature and vegetation has warmed up they are all but impossible to catch. The trout will get used to this so and often won't move into these shallower feeding areas until this warming takes place, consequently you might be wasting some good hopper water that the fish haven't moved into yet by fishing early in the morning.

Trout will move into the shallows looking for Hoppers

Trout will move into the shallows looking for Hoppers

Grasshoppers will live almost anywhere along the riparian zone of streams or lakes but certain areas will always be better than others. Areas with overhanging vegetation are always a good bet. Higher banks with grass or a field of crops are dynamite spots to find hoppers on the water, and harvest time can produce some extraordinary hopper "hatches". Remember a bad hopper year for the farmers will be a good hopper fishing year for the angler. Hopper fishing can be good anywhere in a lake or stream but near the shore or bank is always better. Wading upstream casting a hopper pattern tight to the bank can be deadly, and don't ignore the shallows especially in riffled water, fish will often move into this very "skinny" water for these large morsels. While we usually associate hopper takes as aggressive, exploding takes, they can also be gentle sips or slurps that barely move any water. When drift fishing a river from a boat the water conditions will dictate how often you will need to cast. On swift, riffled water you will have hit the pockets in behind rocks and other obstructions by making many short and quick casts. On gentler runs keep the fly on the water as much and as long as possible, reposition them occasionally by twitching, skating or using an aggressive mend.

A good hopper bank

A good hopper bank

Hopper patterns are large flies and very user friendly. They are easy to see, a lot of the time they are tied with foam with bright colors on top, so they float high and are easy to spot on the water. Also they don't require a delicate presentation. Plopping them on to the water with a splat acts like a dinner bell for the trout. The naturals don't land gently and they struggle fiercely once on the water so twitching and skittering your fly a bit will actually give you a more natural presentation. When using most hopper patterns in fast or riffled water you won't have to impart much action as the flies’ rubber legs will do the work, but on slower, flat or calm water you can move and twitch the fly to imitate a struggling hopper. You don't need a special rod for hopper fishing, your favourite nymphing rod will do the trick. While large in size hopper patterns are usually not very heavy and the foam ones are tied with closed cell foam so they absorb very little water. I like to use a shorter leader when fishing hoppers, 7.5 feet instead of my usual 9 foot, and I like to go to a little stiffer 3X leader to handle the bigger bug. These flies are usually big patterns with wings and legs and whatnot hanging off of them and they tend to "helicopter" when cast, twisting your leader. The shorter length and stiffer material helps alleviate this somewhat.

You will also want to slow down your hook set, it's very easy, especially on the aggressive takes to pull the fly out of the fish’s mouth, try saying "now I've got you" or so other saying before setting the hook, a "catch" phrase if you will. The term "hopper/dropper fishing was coined when some astute anglers started hanging another fly off of their hopper. The hopper then becomes both a fly and a strike indicator. The second fly is often a nymph but can also be a dry fly. Quite often at hopper time there are Trico’s hatching, small #20 or #22 dry flies which are very hard to see. Tying one these on a couple feet from your hopper, either off of the eye or the bend of the hook is a great technique. You know that your Trico is within a foot or two of your hopper so if you see a rise anywhere near it, set the hook. Ants are also a good choice, leave the floatant off of them and let them sink slightly below the surface, the result can often be fish that try to take both flies, grabbing the ant on their way to the hopper! Another good tactic for smaller streams that have grassy banks is to cast your fly into the grass and then tug it off onto the water, the takes on this style of presentation can be ferocious.

Try casting up on the grass and pulling your fly off into the water.

Try casting up on the grass and pulling your fly off into the water.

When imitating hoppers, as with any insect, try to match the body color as close as possible, natural hoppers will have bodies that range from dull browns and tans to ones that have bright yellow, green and orange bodies, and everything in between. Hoppers hatch in the spring and grow throughout the year so be aware of the size of the naturals and know that they will grow as the year progresses. They will vary on various water bodies so be prepared with a variety of sizes, styles and colors. There are basically three styles of hopper patterns, foam patterns that ride high and wiggle like crazy which are perfect for bigger rivers and streams. Classic or natural patterns such as Dave's' Hopper or Joes' Hopper float lower in the water and are perfect for gentler currents and smaller streams. Parachute style patterns which ride lower in the water but are still easy for the angler to see due to the parachute style wing.

Hopper box loaded and ready.

Hopper box loaded and ready.

Hopper patterns are excellent searching patterns when the naturals are around, and even for a while after they have been killed off by a hard frost or two. Once the trout get used to seeing them they recognize them as a big meal and will go out of their way to eat them. Dry fly fishing with large easy to see flies with no need for a delicate presentation that doesn't start until mid-morning makes hopper fishing one of my favourite ways of fly fishing. Ask anybody who has hit the hopper hatch just right and they will regale you with stories of large trout, in shallow water exploding on a big dry hopper pattern presented with splat. Give it a try this fall, you'll be hooked.

Big trout know that Hoppers are a big meal and will lose some of their wariness at Hopper time.

Big trout know that Hoppers are a big meal and will lose some of their wariness at Hopper time.



Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Hoppertunity Time
(2) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(3) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(4) Early Season Fly Fishing
(5) Walleye Logic
(6) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(7) Grammy’s Fish
(8) Top 10 Trout Lures
(9) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(10) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(11) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(12) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(13) There’s No Place Like Home
(14) A Golden Opportunity
(15) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(16) Un-matching the Hatch
(17) Alberta Super Bugs
(18) Glass is Back
(19) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(20) Speed Kills
(21) Entering the Twilight Zone
(22) Old Man River
(23) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(24) Small stream BT fishing
(25) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(26) In The Walleye Zone
(27) Zoo Trout
(28) Fly Selection for Beginners
(29) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(30) New Waters
(31) Big Bad Burbot
(32) Looking Back
(33) Out of Africa
(34) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(35) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(36) The Browns of Autumn
(37) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(38) Walleye Town
(39) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(40) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(41) Going With The Flow
(42) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(43) Swinging The Fences
(44) A View From The Aerie
(45) Dixieland Delight
(46) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(47) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(48) Montana's Cool Missouri
(49) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(50) Toothy Critters
(51) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(52) Top Ten Flies
(53) Northern Exposure
(54) Home Water Lessons
(55) Chicken Of The Sea
(56) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(57) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(58) Keep It Up!
(59) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(60) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood
(61) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(62) Hawg Holes
(63) Saltwater Salmon
(64) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(65) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(66) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(67) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS
(68) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES
(69) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(70) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(71) Fall Walleye
(72) Wet Flies
(73) Versatility the Key to Success
(74) Grayling of the Boreal
(75) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(76) Size Matters
(77) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(78) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(79) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(80) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(81) The Point Of It All
(82) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(83) Fall Fly Fishing
(84) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(85) Big River, Big Fish
(86) Bottom Bonanza
(87) Fishing Small Flies
(88) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(89) Four Seasons of the Bow
(90) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(91) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT
(92) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style
(93) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(94) Edge Walleye
(95) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER
(96) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(97) Four Corners – Four Waters
(98) Chasing Pothole Trout
(99) Springtime Stoneflies
(100) The Torrents of Spring
(101) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(102) Bust Them With Bait
(103) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(104) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(105) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(106) Terrestrials
(107) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(108) Rocky Mountain High
(109) Reading the clues
(110) Where the Trout Are: The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.
(111) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(112) Fly Fishing 101
(113) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(114) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(115) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(116) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(117) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(118) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(119) Trust Your Electronics
(120) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(121) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(122) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(123) Walleye can be Humbling
(124) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(125) Winter Flyfishing
(126) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(127) Hot Fall Pike Action
(128) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(129) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(130) Frequently Asked Questions
(131) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(132) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(133) Deep Water Perch
(134) Post Spawn Brookies
(135) A Fisher's Life
(136) The River's Last Stand
(137) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(138) Coho on the Coast
(139) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(140) Summer in the Mountains
(141) Peak Walleye Season
(142) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(143) Last Ice Rainbows
(144) The Burbot Event
(145) Tackle Matching
(146) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(147) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(148) The Lure of Brook Trout
(149) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(150) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(151) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(152) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(153) The Vesatile Plug
(154) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(155) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(156) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(157) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(158) Daily Fish Migrations
(159) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(160) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(161) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(162) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(163) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(164) The Fun in Ultra Light
(165) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(166) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
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(177) June Walleye Frenzy
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