In these hot summer months, I always turn to a hopper dropper rig.
I remember when I was just starting to fly fish and in the late summer months, I’d tie on a foam hopper that I made up with some craft foam from the local craft shops. I’d make this thick beefy hopper with just one slice of foam and slap it on the edges of this meadow creek down from my house.
As soon as that hopper hit the surface it would get smacked hard and I would flinch. I could almost time it perfectly to the second as to when a trout hiding under the bank would slam that fly.
When there’s not really any hatches going on a hopper or even some other terrestrial is a key food source for these trout.
With all this heat and a little rain, the streams are extremely low. This pushes trout to find cover and safety in deep pools and undercut banks along the sides.
For me, this can be some of the most fun times of the summer. I take a nice thick foam hopper (or high-floating ant, beetle) and tie on a trailing piece of tippet with a weighted nymph on the back. You can even customize what you have on the hopper dropper system to what works best for you.
I keep my distance though when I’m approaching the stream.
Because the water is more shallow during this time drop can be a little bit more aware of what’s going on above them. So I usually approach from behind or in front and let my line drop to the surface to add a good amount of slack. Instead of casting on top of them, I try and cast to the side and away from them but enough to where they can see it in their line of sight.
Grasshoppers are big enough to where if you slap it right on top of their nose they’re going to get the hell out of Dodge. At least leave them a few feet so you avoid spooking them.
I usually go out in the late afternoon when the grass is dry. As soon as the morning dew is up the grasshoppers start to come out.
I find that anytime before is rather unproductive and later in the afternoon it’s hard to land anything on a hopper. So it’s best to go out in the heat. Just like your parents would say “wear sunscreen.”
Most of the time I start out with just a single hopper on the line. After a while it’s kind of hit-or-miss on a hopper. If you’ve fished a hole multiple times and not landed a trout it’s time to do something different.
Think about it. How many times do you think a hopper will repetitively linger too close to the edge and fall in? Not very often.
Trout have been conditioned to know this so after a while they sit back and stay deep. Over the years I’ve noticed that if you give a hole a good amount of time in between casts with a terrestrial the trout will eventually get back on the feed and hit it on the first cast.
Instead of switching flies and trying something new, tie on a section of tippet and add something to get deep. You’ve already got an indicator (AKA your hopper) so save some time and just add a fly off it.
Often times, a nymph will do the trick.
Adding a dropper
There are tons of combinations for hopper dropper systems.
You can have a dry fly with a nymph, a dry fly with a streamer, a dry fly with an emerger, and even a dry fly with a dry fly. It is up to you and the conditions that you are experiencing.
A lot of people asked whether to do drop the second fly from the bend of the hook of the first fly or from the eye of the first hook.
Tying from the bend of the hook was brought in from the competitive side of fly fishing because in less than three seconds they could attach a new section of tippet. I personally do not like tying from the bend only because it only makes it harder to hook a fish and even increase foul hooking.
Instead, I highly recommend tying from the eye of the hook.
I’ve had a few bad experiences from the bend after I’ve missed a few fish that tried taking the first fly. The line protruding from the bend would be an early warning system for the trout and it would block their mouth from the hook setting properly. When you add a new section of tippet from the eye, it makes the whole fly available and allows you to set the hook firmly.
Favorite Hopper Dropper Flies
Chubby Chernobyl Golden Brown – Size 10
They are some of the best searching patterns for both grasshoppers and stoneflies. Rubbery legs and a white flag off the top produce a fantastic profile and improve visibility.
Sandwich Hopper Streambank – Size 8
Not only one of the best-looking hopper patterns out there but the Sandwich Hopper Streambank also has a fantastic high-profile that makes it easy to spot. In terrible light conditions, the yellow post sticks out like a sore thumb. Give it a twitch or drop a fly off the back, it’s up to you. Either way, it’s one deadly pattern.
Lightning Bug – Size 16
Whenever I toss a hopper I usually have a dropper. I look for small nymphs that are weighted and have a slim figure so they down fast. The faster they get down, the longer they roll near the bottom and the better chance you have. The lightning bug is a favorite of mine for those reasons and it brings a bit of flash to the party. So when the water is clear, the sun hits it and lights up the water.
Snyder’s Mad Hopper – Size 6 or 8
Cooked up in a lab, these insane high-floating hoppers are ready to drop some nymphs and hook some meat lovin’ trout.