Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

March 2nd, 1998, 1998

Old Favorites

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 gourmet list.

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 Hopper.

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 it's target.

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 them nuts.

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

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