The hopper ‘hatch’ in late July/August is an occurrence many look forward to after the dust has settled from the Stonefly happenings of early-mid July. As rain decreases through the summer, grass across the province begins to dry up. This means that grasshoppers must flock to areas with lush grass to continue feeding. Conveniently, this grass is primarily located next to water. This forces them to line up along the banks of nearly every river. Often, all it takes is a windy day and those hoppers will be hitting the water like leaves in the fall. Once on the water, hoppers look like a leggy mess just waiting to be consumed by a hungry trout. Trout are opportunistic and will begin to rely on hoppers as a food source as soon as they are consistently ending up in the water.
Hopper season lasts from early August through early-October. Understanding which flies to use, how to fish them, and where to fish them are all important pieces of the puzzle during late summer hopper fishing.
With so many flies to pick from it can be tough to leave a fly shop without a handful of hoppers. When selecting a pattern, size, buoyancy, and color are the most important things to consider. Not ‘matching the hatch’ with real hoppers on the bank can be a turnoff for some fish. Two main factors determine the size of the naturals on the bank: time of year, and area. In general, the size of the naturals increase as the season progresses. This means that we will often start fishing size 12-10 imitations in early august and step up to size 8’s later in September. Further, areas in the mountains often have smaller naturals. This is due to the shorter growing season and relative absence of abundant grass compared to streams lower in the Foothills. Throughout the season we will stick to size 12-10 patterns on these smaller streams. The downside to these smaller patterns is that they do not support droppers as readily as their bigger counterparts. Using a bigger imitation can be a good route to go when a heavier dropper is called for. Keep in mind that fish see plenty of big imitations throughout the season, so give a lower profile, lightly dressed pattern for picky fish. Finally, color is not something worth getting too caught up in. While it is nice to match the color with the naturals on the bank, it isn’t necessary. When a fish is looking up at a pattern it has a tough time making out color against a bright sky.
Using a dropper off a hopper is a great way to pick up fish that would have otherwise passed up on a foam offering. Leeches, Pheasant Tails, and a plethora of other small nymphs perform great as droppers. Jig style nymphs also work well as droppers due to their slim profile and hook-up orientation. These qualities allow the fly to get down quick and reduce snags, respectively. Ultimately, the most important consideration when choosing a dropper is weight. While it is important for it to get down, it’s crucial that it does not pull the hopper down. Small brass beads get the job done as trout are often sitting in 1-3 feet of water.
Time of Day/Weather Conditions
Contrary to fishing stoneflies, the midday sun is your best friend. Hoppers are most active during the day in bright sun and warmer temperatures. You will often see them flying and leaping around the most during this time. Unfortunately, some of the best hopper fishing on the Bow is had during the windiest days. While this can create difficulties for casting, there are a few ways to work around this. One of the best ways is to use a shorter leader. A seven and half foot stiff leader helps deliver more energy directly into your hopper-dropper rig and turn it over. Another way to achieve this is through using heavier, stiffer tippet. This will also help to reduce tangles. Finally, using a good old double haul can prove to be indispensable.
Where to Fish Hoppers
It’s important to focus on water close to the banks. Not only is this where trout spend most of their time, but it’s also just a few feet from where the hoppers reside. This makes the water 1-4 feet off these banks the most common area for them to slip up and take a swim. They are most vulnerable immediately after hitting the water. The ‘plop’ in the water creates a ripple that draws fish right in. However, it doesn’t take long for a downed hopper to start making its way back to the bank. That’s right, they can swim. With all this in mind, it’s essential that an imitation is plopped right next the bank. While a dead drift often gets the job done, don’t be afraid to give it a light twitch. Finally, when a fish does come up for a hopper it’s pertinent to give the fish a moment or two to get the fly in their mouth. It can be tough to resist the urge to lift the rod instantly. Pulling the fly away early from a fish happens all too often. It’s particularly heartbreaking when said rising fish is over two feet.
Hopper fishing can be an absolute blast. Incredible days can be had by putting the right flies in the right spot and getting out there when the wind and sun are up. Give us a call at the shop or stop in, we are more than happy to chat about hopper fishing.