Fly Fishing Hoppers Tips and Tricks (2021)
There are a large number of different fly patterns and ways to fly fish. Using hoppers is by far one of the most exciting methods of fly fishing. I talk to so many fly fishing anglers that love using hoppers, but I also talk to many anglers who have never tried them. I thought it would be best to write about how to fly fish with hoppers, great hopper patterns, how to setup a hopper dropper rig, and some other tips and tricks when using them.
One of the most important parts about fly fishing with hoppers is making sure that you are using quality hoppers, and not unrealistic looking ones. Your hopper needs to imitate real life grasshoppers! Let’s dive into the ins and outs of fly fishing with hoppers and why you need to start using them today!
What exactly is a hopper
A hopper pattern is a fly pattern that imitates natural grasshoppers. Lots of hoppers have foam tied to them that helps them to float. Other common hoppers have elk or deer hair tied to them which also helps them to float. Ideally, you will want to have multiple styles of hoppers with you when fly fishing to increase your chances of catching fish.
How many hoppers should I have in my fly case
Hoppers are no different than your other fly patterns. You will want 2-3 of each hopper, and at least 5 or more different patterns. The more patterns you have, the better your chances of catching fish. The reason you want 2-3 of each hopper is in case you lose one or the fish start biting them, and you need to borrow one to a friend. Flies also get beat up and come apart from fish or getting your fly hooked on a logs or rocks.
When should I use hoppers
You can use hoppers whenever the want is there. But, for the best chance of catching fish on a hopper, you will want to wait until there are an abundance of natural grasshoppers present in the tall grass near the water source that you are fishing. Take a walk through the tall grass and if you see a ridiculous number of grasshoppers jumping around, then this is when you want to bust out your hopper fly case.
What is a hopper dropper rig
A hopper dropper rig is very simple. You tie your leader to the hopper, then tie a piece of tippet to your hopper on the round mental part of the hook. From there you will tie a nymph fly pattern to the other end of the tippet. The tippet should be 12-24 inches in length. The nymph you tie on should be small to medium in size as you don’t want it sinking your hopper. If possible, avoid bead head nymphs.
The hopper will stay afloat, so you will be targeting the fish rising to the water surface. The nymph will trail along under the water, giving you a greater chance of catching fish. There are many species of fish that don’t rise to the surface as often as others do. Also, depending on the day, many fish will only be subsurface eating. The hopper dropper rig covers both the surface and subsurface which is why it is so effective and popular among fly fishing anglers around the world. Hopper dropper rigs have been around for many years.
What nymph should I use in my hopper dropper rig
The best chance of catching fish is always trying to match your nymph to the natural nymphs in the water. If there are naturals, try and match up your fly pattern with the color and size of the natural nymph in the water. If there are no naturals in the water, then you can go ahead and choose the pattern that the fish you are targeting like to bite.
Usually, the rule of thumb is if it’s a hot sunny day with clear water, bright colored nymphs are best. If it’s a cloudier day with murky water, try darker colored nymphs.
I have found that certain types of fish prefer brighter colors than others. Don’t be afraid to switch up your nymph if you don’t catch anything within 15-20 minutes.
Can I use a hopper without the nymph
Yes, you can absolutely use a hopper without a trailer nymph below it. If you are fishing smaller rivers that are shallower, or streams/creeks, then using just a hopper without a nymph is a great idea. The nymph will often catch bottom resulting in snagged hooks. Another reason why you might opt out of using a nymph under your hopper is if you are trying to cast your hopper right beside shore or a faller tree in the water. If the nymph is on, it may snag the grass or brush on the side of the water, or the log.
Can I use a hopper and a dry fly
Yes, I use a hopper and a dry fly all of the time if there are a large number of fish rising to the surface. The dry fly should be tied on the same way you would the nymph in the hopper dropper rig. You can use any type of dry fly that you’d like, from a small Adam’s to a large stimulator.
Where are the best places to fish with a hopper
- Ideally, you want to fly fish with hoppers where the natural grasshoppers are, near grassy riverbanks or the shore on a lake. If it rains, grasshoppers will get washed into the river causing fish to have a feeding frenzy.
- You can cast a hopper into still water or fast-moving water, the fish will see them regardless.
What fly rod weight is good for hopper fly fishing
Hoppers are on he larger side of dry flies there are. However, they still do not weigh all that much. A normal 4-6 weight trout rod with the same weighted reel will work perfect for casting hoppers.
Hoppers are larger in nature, so you will be targeting all sizes of fish. Do not be surprised if you get a monster on. Fish love eating grasshoppers because of their size!
Casting a hopper
If you have experience with fly casting, then you won’t have any problem casting a hopper. I like to use a 15-foot leader when fishing with hoppers. I perform a simple back to forward over the should cast, the same I would when fishing with any dry fly pattern. There are many different styles of casting the exist. You can easily search for them on YouTube if you are interested.
Presenting a hopper to the fish
Presentation is key when fly fishing, every angler knows this. If you are presenting your fly to the fish in a natural looking way, then you will have an amazing chance of catching fish, compared to just casting your fly out in the water and hoping for the best.
Grasshoppers are larger insects, so when they hit the water, they will often be quite noticeable. When you cast your hopper, it will be similar to a normal dry fly presentation but giving it a bit more force is better for when it hits the water.
Different hopper patterns
There are many different hopper patterns, from elk hair hoppers to foam and everything in between. You will come across many different color combinations, but size and shapes are most important. Below are a few pictures of different hoppers that Zinger Fishing sells.
Should I be using flotant on my hopper
If your hopper is made from elk hair or deer hair, adding flotant is a great idea. If you are using a foam hopper, you won’t need to add any flotant to it. For those of you that don’t know what flotant is, it is a gel/liquid substance that is applied to the hair or wings of dry flies that help the fly to float. Simply apply a little bit on your fingers and rub them into the fly. It is best to wait a few minutes before letting the fly hit the water.
What size of hoppers should I be using
Hoppers are meant to be large in size, as they are supposed to imitate the natural grasshoppers. Hook sizes 8-12 are ideal. This may change depending on the species of fish you are targeting, and of course the size of fish. Try to get hoppers that are proportionate when it comes to foam and the hook size.
What time of the year is best for hoppers
I know people that fish with hoppers in the Spring, however hopper season is usually mid-late summer and into the late fall. Some years will be different, and that is why it is your job to pay attention to see if there are grasshoppers flying around down at the water body that you are planning to fish.
What time of the day is best for hoppers
Hoppers will come out earlier in the day, but the best time will be late morning to late afternoon when the sun is high. Grasshoppers are not shy of the heat! You can also hear them. If you don’t hear anything, chances are they are not out yet, so hold off on using your hoppers for awhile.
Matching the natural grasshoppers in the area
Zinger Fishing has a blog on matching the hatch. Matching your fly to the natural is extremely important and it does not change whatsoever whether you are using hoppers, dries, nymphs, or midges. Simply grab a few grasshoppers from the river bank and inspect them well. What color, size, and shape are they? Next, open your fly case and see if you have a hopper that matches all 3 characteristics of the natural grasshopper. If you have one the matches, you are in luck! If you don’t, that means you need to buy more hopper patterns.
Best water bodies to use hoppers on
I find that using hoppers on mid-large size rivers are the best. It doesn’t mean you can use hoppers on smaller rivers, lakes, and streams. Fish love eating grasshoppers, so hopper fly fishing tends to work everywhere.
Getting experimental with hoppers
A few weeks ago, I ended up giving away and losing all of my light green hoppers which was what the fish were striking. The light green hoppers matched the hatch. However, I tied on a white hopper and caught the largest rainbow trout of the day. There is no rule book saying you can’t try weird and random patterns when fly fishing! I highly suggest trying to match the hatch, but if that doesn’t work, get funky!
Conclusion when using hoppers
There is nothing more awesome than seeing a massive brown trout jump out of the water while striking your big old hopper! They also make some of the coolest pictures as well. A reason I really like hopper fishing is because they are so visible when floating on the water. They act like a bright strike indicator. Who doesn’t like watching their fly float down the river then get smashed by a fish! Hoppers are well liked by most anglers, if you aren’t using them yet, I suggest giving them a try. Best of luck out there!
If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.