Grasshoppers fall into the catagory of 'terrestrials' - (they also fall
into the water which makes it great for fly anglers!) Terrestrials
as opposed to acquatic insects which emerge and live in the aqua
(water). Terra means ground or earth, so the word terrestrials are
critters from or on the ground. The whole group includes ants,
beetles, spiders, spittlebugs, leaf hoppers and grasshoppers.
There are two major forms of hoppers, one has a short antennae
and are called short-horned (Family Acrididae)
and these have been used as fish bait for centuries. Most of these
are large, and remain active even with a hook through their tough body wall.
As a kid in Ludington Michigan, I watched with facination as my
dad did what I called a dance around an old wool blanket he had
spread next to our pond. He was a fly fisherman, but
in this case, he was catching live grasshoppers on the fibers of the wool
blanket. As he walked briskly around the blanket the hoppers would
jump on the blanket and be hooked by the teeth on their legs.
There are a ton of grasshopper imitations, which include the
Yellowbodies Grayback, Crazy Goof, Humpy, and Goofus Bug
are all good floaters and are thought to be taken by fish as grasshoppers.
This hopper is primarily found in the eastern, central, and southwestern
areas of North America. They are secretive and occasionally dive into
the water when disturbed. These hoppers are plant eaters, and are
the insects also called locusts.
The second important grasshopper is called the Meadow Grasshopper,
(Family Tettigoniidae) and are slender forms with
wings which are usually longer than the abdomen. The antennae of
these are longer than the body. These are also called the meadow
katydid. They swim very well, and can be found along margins of
the water and on emerging vegetation. Meadow Grasshoppers are
very widespread in North America. The color of these hoppers
ranges from brown to bright green, the green color derived from
the chlorophyll of the plants they eat.
The size of hoppers varies greatly. The short-horned run from 1/2 inch
to 3 inches in length - as do the long-horned or meadow hoppers. So a
wise anglers will have hoppers in more than one size.
Perhaps the best part of hoppers is fishing them. The delivery is distinct,
you should hear your fly hit the water. "SPLAT" is recommended. Cast
next to the bank, and if your accuracy is good, try bouncing the fly off
streamside vegetation. Fish the pockets too.
For more on Grasshoppers and the flies, read
Henry's Fork Hopper and
Credits: Information from Aquatic Entomology by W. Patrick
McCafferty, published by Jones and Bartlett, and Terrestrials
by Harrison R. Steeves III and Ed Koch, published by Stackpole Books.
Top grasshopper photo from The Art of Fly Tying by John
van Vliet, published by Cowles Creative Publishing.