Written by: John Way, The Tackle Shop
When most anglers think western terrestrial fishing, they think grasshoppers. When hoppers are in abundance, they are a great food source for trout when not much else is hatching in midsummer. All you need to do is learn a few tricks and you will master your “Hoppertunity.”
On many rivers, the hopper fishing does not get going until a few things happen. First, it helps if the adjacent hay fields are cut. This will drive the local hoppers to the green lush riverbank and into the trout’s backyard. Second, a nice dry late summer will also congregate hoppers along the streams. Third, windy days blowing across the river will aid in pushing the clumsy flying bugs into the water. If all there of these happen, some of the largest fish in the river will be on the lookout for large, floating hoppers.
While hoppers are the main course, do not forget about ants. We catch more fish on ants than any other fly in late summer. Ants are available to the fish all year and many fish will hunt them out. We like a size 14 Cinnamon Ants in a parachute pattern. Be on the lookout for swarms of flying ants, as well. On many rivers, the flying ants will periodically swarm along the river bank. If you happen to hit this event, every fish in the river will be gorging on the unlucky ants.
Dropper rigs rule the day. If you’re fishing a hopper, especially a foam pattern that floats high, rig a nymph dropper behind it and play the old hopper-dropper game. We like to hang a really long dropper, of at least 24 inches. Remember, the tippet to the dropper nymph needs to be one size lighter than your main leader. If you get your nymph hung up, you only lose one fly. We like to us 3X to the hopper and 4X to the dropper. If you are having trouble turning this rig over on your cast, try this: Tie a 6-inch section of 3X to the hook of the hopper. Then blood-knot the 4X to that tag end. The short section of thicker stiffer tippet will help turn over the nymph.
If you ever collected hoppers and threw them into the river, you know that they freak out when they hit water. The hopper’s wings flare, and they use those big kicker legs aggressively. To mimic this, twitch your hopper every few feet of your drift. A slight twitch will move the rubber legs and make the fly look more like a natural.
Hopper season is one of our favorite times of the year. Fishing large dry flies that float well and which are attacked by the fish is fun. It sure beats staring at an indicator all day.
John Way owns and operates The Tackle Shop in Ennis, Montana.