Aug 14, 2012

Hopper Fishing for Trout

It’s deep summer, and you pull up to the river with your windows down low and you hear a very distinctive click click click… click… click. This sound gives you a warm feeling inside because you just know that the hoppers are flying and you can hardly wait to get at your terrestrial box to pick out a bug.

Grasshoppers. Trout love them. I love them, dearly. They don’t bite and they don’t really crawl all over you. They just hop around, make music and occasionally fall in the river and get gobbled up by trout. All this in deep summer, when the mountains hide behind a smoky haze and the prairie grass is nearly all brown.

I like hoppers because they are fun to fish. Many hopper patterns today are all foam and float really well. The hardest part is casting them, but once they hit the water, you can shake them, wiggle them, and dance them all around and they are still going to stay afloat. This is great when casting into small eddies and under tree limbs along the bank, where you need a quick aggressive mend.

There are many types of hoppers out there, but I don’t know their names or their biology. I just know that some are small, some are large and they come in different colors. Most are tan, green or yellow but it all depends on the day and where you are fishing. Some can fly, others cannot. Have a look around and see if you can find one that is similar in your fly box.

On the river this morning, I started out with a small, size 10, tan hopper. They were everywhere. I got one quick look from a fish, but otherwise nothing. I noticed some large hoppers clicking around further up the bank, so I tied on one of those and bingo, they started hitting.

As far as presentation goes, a dead drift or a dead drift accompanied by some measure of twitching is best. It really all comes down to the water and what type of mood the fish are in. Traditionally, these flies were all fished on a dead drift, however, over time people started to notice that fish would take immediately following their mend. The mend would often pull the fly across the surface briefly, give it some action and elicit a response.

To twitch the fly, simply make minute, sharp jerks with the rod tip. No, we are not talking popper retrieves – just little, short bursts every now and then during the drift. Sometimes it can be as subtle as moving just the head of the fly that wakes them up. Use little more than your wrist. After the hopper lands, mend the fly (if one is necessary), let it sit and then try a twitch or two.

I do this most often when I am fishing in tight to the bank. Banks are littered with trout homes. Often there are numerous holds over a relatively short distance. I’m looking to land my fly in the troutiest looking spot on the bank, give it a quick mend and as my fly travels down along the bank, I will twitch it as it rides over every little hold that I can see. In places like these, where fish are tucked into a lot of structure, I think the twitch really helps. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep that fly from coming under tension and peeling off downstream. Whenever this happens, don’t fret… just twitch. Fish will often come up and take on a downstream twitch!

If this isn’t working, try the old reliable dead drift. There are days when this is more effective. More often than not, I go with this presentation when fishing riffles, seams, and flats that are out away from shore. This morning was a perfect example of this. The majority of the fish I hooked were further out in the channel in two to three feet of water. This time of year, fish enjoy getting out into some faster feeding lanes while river temps are high. The brunt of my action came during mid-late morning on long dead drifts.

Another thing I would like to bring up, I guess I’ll call it the excessive false cast presentation, happens when you let the fish know what is coming. These fish can see bugs in the air, and it’s possible that by giving them a preview they will get their hopes up and their mouths will start to water. Try it sometime. I think this is particularly effective for holds that are surrounded by structure and fast water. If a fish is sitting behind a boulder, the fish has a limited amount of time to see what is coming. Some holds are so tight, that your fly will peel out of the zone before the fish has time to react. So in places like this, piece together one or two false casts with the fly hovering over the fish’s head so as to get him ready.

Hoppers offer a nice reprieve from trying to figure out some odd-ball hatch that the fish are keyed on. Instead of fiddling with a size 20 midge or some weird crane fly imitation or something that you just might never figure out over the course of an afternoon, try twisting on a meaty, buoyant hopper. They are fun to fish and the fish really dig them.

Have a good time,


  1. Duffy, I like your perspective! I agree with the majority of what you say. I don't know the biology or what they do, but I do know it is one of my favorite times of year to fish! I get the best of both worlds as well. By that I mean I usually get to fish my home state of Pennsylvania in August and then come back to Florida to fish a later hopper season.

    I have been working out a design for Dragonflies as well. I don't know the types or families. I know that the Bass here love to gobble em down whenever they spend a bit too much time hovering the same spot. They don't cast real well either, but they are effective so a little extra effort is OK.

    I know you are right with the hanging a bug out over the fish and let em know what's coming, concept. I can do that up north but not down here. The water here is generally to tannic to see. Sometimes it breaks up and there is great clarity, but those are the days when I catch nothing.

    Thanks again Duffy! Your perspective made me want to get off the computer and head out the door!

  2. Lying Fisherman (nice tht someone will actually own up to it),
    thanks for checking in and dropping some comments.. yes, it is so much fun to throw big terrestrials around! another thing-- i think there are certain water types whre they really excel.. this being broken surface water: soft chop, foamy edges etc.. sometimes in the glass, or deeper soft water they seem a bit obtrusive or their imperfections stand out way too much. I really like to fish them in shallower "grabby water" and hit every little spot that i wish without the fear of it diving. that's cool about dragon flies. have yet to hook one on one of those but i shall now try...

  3. Thank you, seemed fitting. Tossing big ol bugs at banks is a great past time! I love it! I know exactly what you mean about water types. There is a lot to be said for reflection, refraction, temperature and clarity. I think it's why top water works real well in tannic waters. I think the murk adds to the flair of the fly? Although as soon as the sun gets high enough to cast a good silhouette, all bets are generally off. That being said, I am not a man of casting strictly for big fish. If given the option, I'll cast for big blue gill all day long. Check out the design I put up and tell me what you think? I'm new and still figuring all this out but I'm liking it thus far.


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