fly fishing hoppers grasshoppers summer

It’s no secret that terrestrials are both fun to fish and incredibly effective at luring up big trout from the depths. 

In terms of protein, ants and beetles certainly pack quite a punch, but it’s the hopper that really makes trout go crazy.  These buzzing bank-dwellers jump through tall grasses and sometimes errantly fall into streams, much to the delight of fish. 

While hatches of spring and early summer garner the attention of most anglers, it’s this mid-summer action that can provide some of the best dry fly fishing of the year!  Here are three tactics to keep in mind over the next few months as hopper season rounds into form. 

Make It Move

Imagine what a live hopper would do if it errantly fell into the water:  it would kick violently working to get back to shore, and this gives anglers an important clue on how they should fish these flies.  A favorite method is to crouch down along the bank, cast it upstream or straight away, and using short, intense strips to retrieve it back towards us.  This movement will perfectly mimic a live hopper that would be scrambling to make it back to land before it winds up in the belly of a hungry brown trout! 

Fish Opposite of Mayflies

Fishing with mayflies usually means attempting to get perfectly drag-free drifts in the midst of a hatch.  As trout gently sip these morsels from the surface, the hope is that our fly looks perfectly natural drifting along with the natural current speed. 

Throw all of this out the window when it comes to fishing hoppers!  Anything goes with these larger dry flies, and they can be fished in a number of different ways.  They can successfully be fished upstream, on a downstream swing, or in tiny pockets with a little rod skitter. The finesse and subtlety of dry fly fishing does not apply to hoppers! 

  • Upstream cast.
  • Down-and-across swing.
  • Skittering across the surface.

Cover Water

Unless trout are really keying in on terrestrials, most fish will turn their nose up at a size 12 hopper drifting by in July when flows are low. 

The very nature of these flies will turn off certain fish and spook them before we even have a chance.  That comes with the territory, and it’s important that anglers play off of this by covering more water.  If only a fraction of fish in a given section will actively feed on a hopper, it’s best to target those fish and move on to the next run or grassy bank.  By doing this all day long, we can show the hopper to as many fish as possible and get the maximum number of opportunities. 

The fishing isn’t terribly unlike streamer fishing where the cadence is “cast, cast, two steps upstream, and repeat.”

Hopper season brings some of the most exciting times of the entire year.  Anglers lose sleep at night thinking of trout moving from several feet away to engulf a hopper twitched several times off of the stream bank.  It can definitely be a challenging time of year as well, and these tactics can go a long way in helping you watch more 18-inch brown trout track down and attack a parachute hopper retrieved back towards the bank! 

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