Every year about this time, grasshoppers start to show up on the banks of my favorite backcountry trout streams. By mid-July, a few warm days have managed to string themselves together, and, although not terribly big, the hoppers are now officially prolific.
They’ll get bigger and bigger as summer progresses, but right now might be my favorite time of the year to tie hopper patterns to my tippet. I can still use a light-weight fly rod and easily fish a size 10 hopper pattern (a good small hopper pattern is Walter Wiese’s GFH Hopper — you can watch Tim Flagler tie it below). In a couple weeks, I’ll have to go with a heavier rod, because the bugs will be twice the size they are now, and you’ll need some extra heft to achieve that perfect “splat!” landing.
Between now and the middle of September might be the best two months of the year for dry-fly anglers. Grasshoppers are big chunks of protein, and even big, wise trout can’t resist the urge to take a bite now and then. In the backcountry, where big trout are fewer and farther between, hoppers can be the flies that bring the larger fish to the top.
And, of course, fat, foam hoppers are ideal for droppers, giving anglers the flexibility to use two flies to pursue summertime trout. There might not be a deadlier combination than a high-floating foam hopper drifting over a deep run while a size 12 Prince Nymph dredges near the bottom.
If you haven’t cranked out a few hopper patterns — and there are so many out there that work very well — it’s not too late. Hopper season is upon us, and the trout will be looking up, whether we’re there to cast to them or not.