The intense buzzing can be heard from the truck as rods are hastily rigged with giant globs of foam with spider-looking legs dangling from all directions.
It’s hopper season, and there are few things in angling that rival the excitement of watching a trout attack a #10 dry fly! Here’s a crash course on how, when, and where to fish these terrestrials from summer far into fall to wrangle up trout from waters all over the country.
Fishing a hopper differs greatly from more traditional dry flies. The gentle cast, landing, and drift can be shelved for more rugged splashes and jerking strips on the retrieve. For a perfect example of how to fish a hopper, try to track a live one down and toss it in the water. Observe how it swims continuously back towards shore with all of its legs moving at once.
This should be the model for which to strive in our hopper fishing as we cast out and bring the fly back to us with short, constant stripping motions. An added layer of imitation can involve fluttering the rod tip left and right rapidly to give the fly a skittering motion across the top of the water.
Hoppers are so fun to fish in part because of the time of year in which they shine! Summer, complete with wet wading and warm breezes, is the best time to start focusing on terrestrials. What most don’t realize, however, is that hoppers could (and should!) be fished far into fall.
These bugs will exist in grassy fields and stream banks until the first freeze, which typically doesn’t happen until late October or November in the East. Even once this happens, trout still remember what they are and more importantly they instinctively understand the boost of protein that is to be had by inhaling these buzzing bugs! That’s why “hopper season” usually starts in early June and doesn’t stop until early November. What’s not to love about a six month season casting big dry flies?
Grass is King
Grass, grass, and more grass! Much like trout, mayflies, tricos, crayfish, and anything else in the riparian ecosystem, grasshoppers look for and prefer certain areas. In most cases, this means meadow stream sections with taller grasses. These are the locations where most grasshoppers will call home and by extension, are where trout will also feed.
The intersection of trout/hopper habitat is the place to start, so wherever streamside vegetation is thickest is the best place to start our fishing. Casting tight to the bank is preferred as the closer to the grasses we are, the more grasshoppers will naturally fall into the water.
Hopper fishing can bring big trout to the surface, and it happens to coincide with warm weather and wet wading bliss. Knowing where to fish, how to fish the flies, and when to go out can go a long way in turning our hopper fishing dreams into a reality!