While aquatic insects such as mayflies get most of the attention in trout fishing literature, today terrestrial insects (those living on land) are becoming more important in the diet of trout. They jump, fall, get blown in by wind or washed in by rain and are greedily gobbled up by waiting brook, brown and rainbow trout.
Tip: Catch a few of the terrestrial insects along the stream or
river’s edge and pick a pattern from your fly boxes that most
closely duplicates the naturals.
In a past blog we looked at ants as a staple for trout fishing . Now let’s consider another important land insect that can offer great fishing, especially in fall. That’s the grasshopper fly. Fishing imitations of these insects often draw strikes from some of the largest trout in a stream.
Even small trout will gobble them up, though. I once kept a 12-inch long trout and examined its stomach. Inside were 20 grasshoppers! To say he was stuffed is an understatement.
Grasshoppers actually start appearing along stream borders in April and May. It’s during late summer and fall, though, that they reach peak numbers and trout key in on them for frenzied feeding binges.
To enjoy the best fishing, try to catch a few of the naturals along the stream or river’s edge and examine their predominant colors and sizes. Pick a pattern from your fly boxes that most closely duplicates the naturals. A precise match isn’t required. Just get one as close as possible. I’ve used sizes from 4 down to tiny size 18 hooks.
Fishing with grasshoppers is most productive from mid-morning until late afternoon. That’s when the insects are most active and most likely to fall or get blown into a stream. Top weather conditions are warm and dry with wind also being a plus, since it might blow them into the water more frequently. On rainy, cool days, opt for other flies.
Grasshoppers make a distinct “splat” when they enter a river. Trout learn to key in on this sound in their feeding by racing to any such sound. By dropping your fly with a “plop” you can duplicate this sound and draw strikes. Simply overpower your forward cast slightly to smack the fly onto the water. Another good delivery is the sidearm skip cast, which skitters the fly over the water and allows you to bounce the hopper back under shoreline brush, where big fish often lurk.
Grasshoppers often struggle in the surface film. Imitating this with a gentle twitch can draw strikes from reluctant fish. Just nudge it gently to make the fly quiver or twitch slightly.
The biggest trout often hang out within inches of the stream banks when hoppers are tumbling in, waiting for them. Dropping your fly close to the bank is a good tactic, since that’s where fish are used to seeing the insects come from. The shore where the wind is coming from is often best. But don’t ignore mid-stream locations, either.
When the wind starts to gust, it’s time work
the water with a Clipped Head Hopper.
Hopper Tackle: These bulky flies work best with a fly rod that has some backbone. I like an 8 ½-9 ½ foot 5-7 weight rod with a weight-forward floating fly line. An 8-12 foot leader tapering to a 3-6X tippet completes the setup.
Bass and Panfish: Grasshoppers are large enough that they can produce excellent catches of bass. I like to fish them on ponds for largemouths and streams and rivers for smallmouths and spotted bass in sizes 4-8. Bull-sized bluegills will also nail hoppers on ponds and lakes. Use sizes 10-14 so the panfish can get fit these imitations in their small mouths.
Patterns: A variety of ties will work for hopper imitations. My favorites include the Joe’s Hopper, Letort Hopper, Dave’s Hopper, MacHopper, Foam Hopper, and Nymph Hopper. The latter is a pattern I invented to imitate the immature life phases of hoppers and described in my book, Tying & Fishing Terrestrials (Stackpole Books).