By Spencer Durrant
Fly fishing hoppers is some of the most fun you’ll have all summer. For me, few things are more exciting when trout fishing, than seeing a fish just attack a hopper pattern.
By learning how to fly fish hoppers more effectively, you can increase your catch rate and extend the amount of fun you have while fish blow up these big bugs.
So, let’s take a look at a few tips and techniques to help you start fly fishing hoppers more effectively.
Forget The Dead Drift
When fishing with dry flies, we’ve all been taught that a good drag-free drift is of the utmost importance. Natural bugs don’t skate across multiple current seams, and trout know this; they’ll rarely hit flies that are creating massive amounts of drag.
However, flies don’t just lie down on the water and accept their fate as eventual fish food. Many try to get out of the water, and back to safety.
Hoppers are no different, and being a terrestrial bug, they have a bit more to work with in terms of getting out of the water.
Once, years ago, I was in Wyoming fishing a river famous for its big cutthroat trout. It was the middle of hopper season, yet neither my buddy nor I could get a fish in the net. Frustrated, I finally asked someone back in town what I was doing wrong.
“Just twitch it. Move the bug a little bit. It ain’t just gonna lay there waiting to get eaten.”
So, I went back to the river and started wiggling the hopper on my retrieve. The first twitch of my foam Chubby Chernobyl elicited a strike from a gorgeous cutthroat, which was the first of many that evening.
That advice changed how I approach fly fishing hoppers, and I reckon you’ll see some of the same success. Next time you’ve passed a hopper pattern over a run that looks too good to not have a fish in it, try twitching the hopper. Imagine that you’re trying to scuttle the hopper out of the water. The bug is kicking its legs like mad, desperate to reach dry land.
If you can impart that level of frenetic energy into the hopper, chances are you’ll be rewarded with a fish.
And don’t just take my word for it. Watch what happens when you put this into action.
So, to recap: forget the dead drift if it’s not working for you. A drag-free drift is always the right first choice when presenting a fly through a run, but if you’re not getting a response, don’t be afraid to twitch it.
Get On The Bank
Although we group them into the catch-all category of “flies,” grasshoppers aren’t a fly in the aquatic sense. They’re terrestrial bugs that aren’t comfortable on – or in – the water.
So, that means hoppers are most likely to enter the water near either bank of the river. Banks with tall, high grass – a favorite place for grasshoppers to live – should be the ones you target first, if they’re available.
Hoppers tend to slip or fall into the water while munching on grass. That’s where you should aim to land your fly. Getting it as close to the bank as possible means the big fish living beneath the banks are that much more likely to take your hopper.
In many cases, it’s recommended to actually cast onto the bank, then slowly pull the hopper into the water, more closely mimicking the movements of the real bug.
This video below explains this tactic in great detail.
This might look tough – or like a recipe for losing a ton of flies – but it’s deadly effective. If fish aren’t reacting to hoppers drifted in runs towards the middle of the river, you’ll want to focus your efforts near the banks, instead.
Don’t Be Gentle
When hoppers hit the water, it’s not with the grace of a mayfly ever so gently drifting through the still morning air. Grasshoppers either fall, or are blown, into the water. Their landing is less-than-ceremonious.
Which means that you, as the angler, need to imitate that. Don’t be afraid to smack the hopper down with a bit of force.
As you can see in this video from Jensen Fly Fishing, the hoppers land with anything but grace – and the fish love it.
Obviously, you don’t want to get too crazy with hitting the water with your flies. But definitely don’t fish a hopper like you would a mayfly. They’re two entirely different types of bugs, and deserve to be fished as such.
Fly fishing hoppers is a ton of fun, and you can make a day with hoppers even more enjoyable by employing these tips. Twitch the bug if a dead drift isn’t working, don’t be soft and gentle with your presentation, and get as close to the bank as possible. These tactics are simple, but very effective.
What’s your favorite way to fish hoppers? Do you have any tips you’d like to share with the rest of us? Leave a comment below.