This not the season one would normally talk about
grasshoppers. But since the Fly
of the Week
is Joe's Hopper — one of the recommended flies for the Yellowstone National
Park Fish-In for FAOL folks the last week in July '98 — This Weeks
View is indeed about grasshoppers.
Have you ever watched a grasshopper on water? They
don't really swim — but they sure do float. And frantically paw
at the water. I wonder if fish feel that vibration, or notice a
disturbance on the water. Whatever the mechanism is that
"keys" trout into eating, grasshoppers must be on the
Big river, small streams and the edges of ponds and lakes;
anywhere grasshoppers exist is a likely place to use a hopper
fly. There are lots of variations, my personal favorite is Joe's
My dad fished a little stocked farm pond when I was
growing up. He would walk down the hill from the house to the
pond while I watched from a screened sleeping porch. It was
usually a summer evening after work. He always carried an
old wool jacket with him. For years I thought the jacket was to
wear on the walk back if it cooled off. Wrong.
He laid the jacket down on the grass, and walked around it.
I couldn't quite see what he was doing, but in short order he
would begin casting his fly rod. I could see fish rising around
the pond. The glow of the late afternoon light would glint off
the golden rod. Mesmerizing for a little girl.
After only a few casts, he would hook, play and release a
trout. Some fiddling with the line and he began casting again.
Another fish — hooked, played and landed. He did not use a
net, but slipped his hand under the fish and removed the hook.
To my knowledge he never killed one of those trout.
Years later, when I had a serious interest in fly fishing, I
read about how to catch grasshoppers. If memory serves me,
the suggestion was to spread out a wool blanket ... walk
around it and then gather up the hoppers that had their raspy
legs caught on the wool. Never did try it myself, but I'm sure
that is exactly what dad did.
What I have tried is grasshopper flies. Here is a place
where accuracy is important — and it's not the presentation of
the fly. Match the size and color of the grasshopper to the
local variety! Then, make your cast in such a way that it will
bounce off foliage along the stream or lake. It will then plop
onto the water much like the real grasshopper who overshot
Or make a hard cast forcing the fly to splash when it lands.
In summer and early fall, even if you don't see any hoppers,
try them anyway. Trout have a memory — and hoppers drive
Trout and bass eat them up like popcorn. (Sorry purists,
but bass are fighters and great fun to catch.) If you are
fishing a lake, find some cattails or lily pads and bounce the fly
off those. Keep the tippet as small as you safely can, and have
fun! Here is a little hint: smash down the barb on the hook —
you can use a size lighter tippet.
Grasshoppers are just one of a whole group of terrestrials;
i.e.various insects that don't come to trout via the nymph
route, (land-bred critters.) Ants, spiders, and beetle flies all
work well in summer and early fall. One of the most famous
terrestrials, called the Jassid, was designed to match a
Japanese Beetle. The fly still works, even tho' the insect it
imitated was wiped out years ago.
Some years ago, on a mid-west stream, JC and I were
sitting on a stream bank, waiting for an expected mayfly
hatch. We saw a trout come up out of the water to take
something, right under an overhanging birch tree. We didn't
see anything on the water. No insects. And it happened again.
Finally we couldn't take it any more and examined the tree.
We found a little greeny worm, (maybe an inch worm.)
We usually had a stream-side tying kit in the car, and with a
little green chenille a reasonable imitation appeared. There
just isn't anything like tying an experimental fly and giving it a
shot. Unless it is having a nice trout grab it!
Terrestrial numbers are astounding. If you find surface
feeding fish and can't find the usual suspects hatching, look a
little closer. You may discover a whole new world.
~ The LadyFisher
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!