7 Tips for Fly Fishing Hoppers

Photo by Marc Kummel

-Tip #1 Fish Fast

When water temperatures get above 60 degrees in Montana, trout tend to hold in heavier water than you’ll find in spring and fall. Riffles, deeper outside seams and outside edges of the river, where the water is moving faster, is where you’ll find the majority of trout holding. There’s still fish in the inside seems and shallow runs, but you should be fly fishing more mid river and moving water.

-Tip #2 Twitch It

When hoppers are in the water, they tend to kick their powerful legs, and this can be a trigger for trout to strike. When fishing hopper patterns it can be very effective to twitch the fly on the water. Observe how the fish reacts on different days as the twitch can be a deadly technique one day and the next day they want it dead drifted. Let the trout tell you what they want.

-Tip #3 Single And Ready To Mingle

Hoppers come at a time when the river is low and clear. All of a sudden the trout’s vision becomes a significant factor. The Hopper/Dropper can make the difference between a slow day and a great day. Here’s why you may want to hold off on the dropper out of the gate though. With high skies and clear water, every detail of your setup is on full display, especially your dropper and tippet attached to your dry fly. We have seen it many times where a single dry will outproduce a dry/dropper. When trout are on the dry, smarter/bigger fish notice minor details and often will refuse the dry when a dropper is attached. Start out with just the dry fly first and if nothing happens, then experiment with different droppers but test this theory sporadically throughout the day.

-Tip #4 Taste The Rainbow

Grasshoppers in Montana come in the standard colors- tan, green, yellow and all points in between. Grasshopper patterns in Montana come in many more flavors. When people stop by the fly shop for hopper patterns and we point out pink, purple, blue and red, there’s often a deer in the headlight look, followed by the question “Why do trout eat a Pink Hopper”. Good question. Wish we had a good answer! But it’s proven, trout seem to love just about every color hopper. If you look in any fly fishing guides fly box in Missoula, chances are you will see more unnatural colors then natural and there’s good reason for it. Trout like skittles! That’s our best answer.

-Tip #5 Size Up

Make room in your box for a couple of giant hoppers. With such size variance in the naturals, it’s only to be expected that trout will sometimes focus on big hoppers. So if you’re sizing down, as we all do, and it’s not working, go big! You don’t have to go home, but you might need to go big!

Photo by Marc Kummel

-Tip #6 Old School

Every time you sneeze there are 5 new hopper patterns. Most work at some point. However, don’t sleep on the tried and true old school patterns. Dave’s Hopper, Joe’s Hopper or the Parachute Hopper can be some of the most productive patterns in Montana. Like most things in life, fly fishing is full of trends. New patterns appear, they start to work, word spreads like a wildfire and everyone seems to be fishing the same pattern. Anglers don’t give fish enough credit, but after being hooked so many times by the same pattern, they learn. If you’re fishing the hot pattern and you’re not catching as many fish as you used to, then look to something a little more old school. They wouldn’t still be around if they didn’t work.

-Tip #7 Hot Legs

Missoula guides know small details can make or break your fishing day. One small detail is the leg color on Hopper patterns. Looking at natural hoppers, you notice that many of their legs are brighter and a different color than their body. Fishing bright colored legs on your hopper can be a strike trigger for the trout. It happens a lot around Missoula. Guides fish two similar hoppers with one difference, one has brighter colored legs. The Hot Legs usually out fishes the plain legs. A great example is the Yellowstoner Hopper, tan with bright red legs. This is one of our favorite patterns at our fly shop.

Additional Hopper Resources