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THE HOPPER

by Bo Uzzle (aka bingo)



    “Ooooh, here’s a fatty!”
    “Wait up dude... I got your back if he flies.”
    “Got him!... Ow, dang-it!”
    “Hold his legs together, then he can’t spur you... Good. Now, chunk him to the far bank and maybe we’ll see that nose.”

    I tossed the grasshopper into the current seam which ran into a dark cut-bank. Suddenly a long shadow loomed up from the bottom and the bug was gone. We had tricked another giant brown into revealing his lair. All that remained was to tie on my best artificial approximation, figure out the approach and bingo! Time to break out the camera again....

    Whether it’s hoppers, gurglers or poppers, most of us, given our druthers, would rather catch fish on top. Bass can be good sports about it too, gleefully inhaling whatever garish concoctions you care to pitch at them. There are other times, though, when bass slowly slide up to the Sneakiest Pete you got, eye it balefully and swim off. That’s when a more specific imitation is required. I don’t believe any fish spawned will sit and count legs, eyeballs, and antennae; I do think sometimes they are more attuned to certain general triggers than others. Whatever the reason, sometimes a hopper is just more effective than a popper.

    These bugs earned their place in my warmwater flyboxes, and not just because of their value as a cold water Lowrance device. Part of their charm lies in their allure as equal opportunity forage. If bassin’ is slow, I’ll tie on a hopper to tempt panfish while not giving up on the big guys entirely. Hoppers also work famously as the lead bug in a two fly rig, known as the “Hopper and Dropper”. This may not be the best way to target large fish, but if you are interested in bringing home the groceries, it can be pretty hard to beat.



BEST SEASONS AND SITUATIONS


    June to October, is prime “hopper-time”. Some bugs may survive the first frosts of November, but they are toast after that. Obviously the size of bug will vary according species, habitat, and time of year, but generally speaking, I just toss a size 8. Spots, shoalies, redeyes, smallmouth, largemouth, redbreast, shellcrackers, and bluegill will eat this size; so, I just don’t bother with tying them larger or smaller.

    I throw them only to feeding lies that are conducive to surface predation, since hoppers are generally dry flies. Shallow shoal water with grassy islands or tight to the banks in runs and pools are the best spots.



TIPS AND TECHNIQUES


    We aren’t talking brain surgery here. Although grasshoppers can swim, they usually won’t until they hit the slowest water available - so whatever it takes to produce a dead-drift is ideal. When wading, if you are not adept at mends and pile casts, it is easiest to cast upstream or quarter upstream to get a dead-drift. However, if you’ve got those tools under your belt, the doors of presentation open up quite a bit wider. Speaking of which, these bugs have a heck of a lot more weight than a mayfly so don’t worry about being too delicate - the hopper should hit the water with a satisfying splat.

    When floating, it’s usually much easier to get the longest possible drift by quartering to targets downstream. Once again, mends, curve casts and pile casts will extend your range considerably.  Only on the slowest pools is it really useful to employ any sort of retrieve. Then, it goes something like... twitch...pause.....twitch, twitch.....pause. When in doubt, catch a natural, chuck it in and watch.

    Earlier I mentioned the “Hopper and Dropper” rig. If the idea of fishing two areas of the water column simultaneously appeals to you, all you have to do is cinch knot a length of tippet to the bend of your hook and attach the nymph or wet fly of your choice. Lengthen or shorten this dropper according to the depth you intend to fish. At some point it becomes too unwieldy, so I usually start out at 18 to 22 inches.  A “Hopper and Helgrammite” rig is deadly on the Flint. The hopper functions just like a bobber to let you know when somebody has molested your nymph. We’re talking pretty big bugs here (and sometimes some strong fish) so your tippet should be 3x minimum.



PATTERNS


    The sheer number of patterns developed to imitate the hopper is testament to their effectiveness: Dave’s Hopper, Letort Hopper, Whitlock Hopper, Shoeder’s Para-Hopper, Bullet-head Hopper... it just goes on and on. These patterns share in common their reputation for being time-consuming and difficult to tie. My current fave (for warmwater), is crafted out of closed cell foam, is incredibly durable, floats like a champ and is quite easy to tie. I’m sure someone invented it, I’ve seen it and now I’m just knocking it off - but unfortunately I can’t recall it’s name. For now, I’ll just call it the Dennis Hopper...



DENNIS HOPPER RECIPE


Hook: Tiemco 200R or equivalent

Thread: I like clear mono, with yellow 6/0 monocord as a substitute

Body: yellow or tan closed cell foam cut into strips (you can get large sheets from Michaels Craft shops)

Underbody: yellow or tan dubbing

Rib: Copper wire

Underwing: elk hair topped w/ rootbeer krystal flash

Wing: lacquered grouse feather or turkey quill slip

Legs: round yellow rubber hackle



TYING INSTRUCTIONS


1) run thread 2/3 of the way to end of bend and tie in strip of yellow foam

2) attach copper rib

3) wrap a small segment behind bend of hook to create the base for an extended abdomen and anchor rib to foam

4) dub underbody forward (leaving thread less than 1/3 away from eye , then pull foam strip forward and wrap copper rib tight to produce segmentation



5) tie in sparse elkhair wing, tie krystal flash on top

6) pre-cut v-shaped notch out of lacquered grouse feather and tie in.

7) tie in rubber legs (one strand per side) - leave long for now

8) fold back head to form collar- anchor w/ several wraps and whip-finish - glue wraps



9) trim legs and cut v-shaped notch in collar (see final fly)

I ain’t the best tier in the world - but this bug works for me. Twist up a few. Chuck them at the bank and see what happens.


Dennis Hopper: the finished product
 

 

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