With the end of stonefly season rapidly approaching, its time to turn tactics and focus on one of our other favorite foamy friends, grass hoppers. Hoppers may be my favorite bug to fish. They elicit explosive takes, are big high floating foam flies, catch big fish, and work well midday on some local rivers. It seems all to common that a customer comes in and asks, “Why can’t I catch fish on hoppers?” Some people assume it’s a secret pattern, a secret spot, or they believe that like much of fly fishing the stories of biblical hopper fishing are just straight BS. I’m here to tell you none of those reasons are valid. Yes there are patterns that are better than others, yes some spots are better areas, and yes many fisherman exaggerate but a lot is about tailoring your hopper game to the area you are fishing.
Small Flat Water
Potentially the most gratifying scenario in fishing is catching a large brown trout in a 3 foot wide dead slack stream in the middle of the prairie. Hoppers make this possible. The key to fishing these areas however is not spooking fish. Landing a large foam hopper with multiple rubber legs going every different direction is not a good approach for flat water. On flat water, it is more effective to use a light, almost weightless hopper pattern. Joe’s hopper or Dave’s hopper are great options for this. Parachute hoppers are also a soft landing pattern that can result in more hook ups throughout the course of a day.
Big Freestone rivers
On larger freestone rivers, hoppers are abundant and generally the flow of the river is heavier. Being that hoppers are often most abundant later in the summer (August and September), the water is usually warm which pushes fish to the broken, oxygenated flow of riffles. These areas require a big foam hopper with legs to allow that pattern to float through these heavy water areas.
Morrish Hopper: By far the most realistic and effective hopper pattern I have used. The entire thing is foam, the legs are realistic, and the low profile results in far less refusals from fish. If I could have 3 colors in a size 10, I could catch fish in any hopper infestation. My favorite colors are the pink, green, and the gold. However, tan and black can be awesome producers.
Parachute hopper: Not fun to fish, not that high of a floater, and not as cool as its foamy counter parts but the thing straight up slays fish in calm water.
The final thing that must be considered while fishing hoppers is the technique used while doing so. No matter if you are fishing the fast moving freestone streams or the slow moving streams in the meadows, every time a natural hopper hits the water it is moving! They never sit still! Twitch your fly! Putting some movement on the fly can be the difference between sticking none and sticking a ton. The next thing to know about hoppers is that are not all that naturally buoyant. Many times they sink. If you are really struggling on the surface, wet that hopper down and fish it underneath. This sounds ridiculous but it can be deadly. I prefer a size 10 tan Morrish hopper for fishing this method. The last thing to consider is downsizing. If its 100 degrees and bright sun, fish are always reluctant to look up and eat a big fly. Try using an ant or a beetle behind a hopper and increase your catch rate. This can be a great way to keep things interesting between the big explosive surface takes on the big bugs! The time is now, stop by the shop and pick up some of what you need! Get ahead of the crowds and be ready. Any day could be the best fishing day to come!
Enter your number below to receive new, up-to-date river reports from Montana Troutfitters.