Aug. 5th, 2011: Hoppers

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Being of an analytic mind I enjoy spending time formulating hypothesis and attempting to test them under semi-scientific circumstances. During hopper season each year I tend to visit a single run for a couple hours a handful of times to hone and test some thoughts on fishing hoppers and patterns I’ve tied for the hoppers around here. At the creek with my line strung through my guides I searched the grass around the banks downstream for close to fifteen minutes counting the numbers and varieties of hoppers I could readily catch. The two pictured here came in the largest numbers with the Brown/Yellow out numbering the Green/Yellow by almost 2:1. This information is important and can help you catch more trout from a single run which was my goal: see how many fish could be taken from a single run with a hopper.

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Matching the size, shape and color of the hopper matters more when attempting to fool several fish from the same spot, if you’ve got the time and the creek you can bounce from place to place taking one or two at each spot with a less-exact imitation but I’m of the opinion that the closer your imitation is to the natural the easier trout will be fooled time and time again even after seeing their friends surface for the bait only to meet a net in the end. I rated my hopper imitations pretty low on the accuracy scale with respect to the naturals I was seeing. My boxes contained hoppers of the correct size but the colors need a bit of tweeking, I didn’t have a yellow bellied foam hopper on me and both Green and Brown hoppers had yellow bellies. The Green on my hopper imitation is a bit off but maybe would work, the legs are totally wrong and should be adjusted for [singlepic id=2777 w=280 h=200 float=right]next time. The Brown hopper imitation was a bit more accurate and scored more points for the matching legs, the natural has barred orange and black legs. Yet the wing is too light, it may help me see the fly  better but doesn’t help convince the trout. My assessment led me to fish the Brown hopper imitation first because I found twice as many of them and I had a better imitation with me. Pretty simple stuff here.

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This riffle/run and mini-pool is roughly 20ft long, the riffle is about 6ft long and is deeper along the left side, this always holds between 1 and 3 Brown’s, don’t let the depth fool you they are there. The run is short between 3-4 feet and drops into the pool that runs roughly 10ft or so. Fish stack in the run below the riffle at a depth of a couple feet, when undisturbed they hang out here. Smaller fish hang back scattered in the pool. My assessment told me to stick my Brown hopper right at the bottom of the riffle just as it hit the run, my hopper would fly past the trout in the run quickly and they would be forced to make a decision. The first cast came after I positioned myself and waited a couple minutes to lull any disturbance I may have caused entering the creek. Sticking the cast a nice 13inch Brown surfaced almost immediately taking my hopper. I quickly backed the trout out and landed him in the riffle I was [singlepic id=2782 w=320 h=240 float=left]standing in. My eagerness typically gets the best of me and I want to get right back at it but in this case I forced myself to literally set my rod on the banks. I dried my fly, made sure my tippet wasn’t twisted from casting the bulky hopper and began searching for invertebrates. Scuds were the clear winner with all the instream vegetation around.

I waited for over five minutes before I touched my rod again. Logically, even under windy conditions, a hopper doesn’t fall or jump into the perfect spot on a run every minute let alone every thirty seconds which is what it would take if I just kept casting allowing my fly to drift back to me. My thought here is that less is more, way less… could be way more. I took aim and made my second cast but stuck it too far left in pool. I picked my cast up and waited another minute or two then sunk it in the same spot on the lower riffle, right into the run and… nothing. I picked my fly up, [singlepic id=2785 w=400 h=340 float=right]dried it off, stood and waited some more. I knew if I sunk it further up the riffle that one of the potentially three fish would hit it no question but I wanted to wait and see if I could pull more from the run and pool. I let one cast bounce of the weeds and into a slack portion of the pool, a long slow drift resulted in a sharp strike from a small 8inch Brown.

The process continued as I walked the fish out, dried my fly and waited. I had two more strike-less drifts in the pool and decided to wait before casting to the couple fish I knew were hiding up in the riffle, far to the left (you can see in the picture the slightly deeper water caused by the direction and force of the flow). The first drift resulted in a strike immediately but I was just a hair late on the hook set, that or the fish didn’t hit the fly well enough. I waited a couple more minutes and presented to the riffle one more time, this time I stuck the hookset and landed a 9inch Brown that was hanging in the lower end of the riffle. I dug the spotting on this one alot. I swapped to the Green hopper imitation and waited as long as I could before casting it to the same group of trout, second drift I brought one more fish up. I made a couple more casts in the last fifteen minutes I was there but nothing else would stir. My goal is to increase the number of strikes with better presentations using more accurate imitations next time.

Post-Note: I’m wondering now if the Green hopper is an earlier/younger of the Brown hopper. More research is needed.

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5 Comments:

  1. Given the variety of biggish flying insects, and the relative infrequency of them landing with a splat – is matching in anything other than a general way really necessary?

    In seasons past I was able to draw some strikes if I gave some subtle tugs on the hopper just after it landed, but often as not the fish was in motion towards the bug before it hit the water. I think in the latter case form and behavior, not color, is the thing.

  2. I love the colors you came up with for your hopper patterns. Mine are yellow foam/deer hair/yellow rubber legs….very basic. That said, I was thinking as I plopped my hopper patterns on the creek this weekend that it didn’t really matter what color they were as long as the size and shape were accurate. The naturals I found stream-side were greener than what I was fishing, but the big browns I was hooking into didn’t care. It seems like they reacted primarily to the sound of the hopper hitting the water..probably the shape as well. On the fish I caught, the second that hopper plopped in the water, a flash emanated from the depths and the hopper was gone. If I didn’t get a strike within 4 seconds of the hopper landing, I typically rolled out another cast.

    Maybe as the season progresses and the trout see more of the real thing and more fishermen are throwing their hopper patterns, the trout become more attuned to what is real and what is not?

  3. love your hoppers.

    try leaving the flash and bucktail in the bag.
    the fish will take just the foam AND legs.

    though foam-only hoppers aren’t very productive.

    that’s the result of my empirical investigation.

  4. “Given the variety of biggish flying insects, and the relative infrequency of them landing with a splat – is matching in anything other than a general way really necessary?”

    Mr. Bubble: The point of this was to see if a fly angler armed with good if not near perfect imitations could create a situation where by the infrequent splat of the hopper could still bring fish to rise even if it occurs more frequently than it is supposed to.

    My thought here was if you were going to pick a single riffle/run/pool section and fish only that could one take more fish or get a greater number of strikes if a couple of things were payed attention: The Imitation and it’s accuracy and the amount or number of times the target sees the imitation in a given period of time.

    I agree with you and Paul that for most situations an exact match for a natural isn’t going to make that much difference, normally they want it or they dont and the splat, bounce and float is all it takes to get the strike we want. This was just my brain thinking of a spot where there is only the one good section and if there was a way I could maximize the number of strikes I could get.

  5. Good and careful accounting. What I like most is that you know that piece of water very intimately.

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