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Jeff's Hopper
By Jeff Pierce (Dr. Fish)

This is a simple hopper pattern that is very durable and has fooled more than its share of fish. If it performs half as well for you as it does for me I think you'll be quite pleased.

Materials List: Hopper

    Hook: Mustad Signature R52S in size 6.

    Thread: Monofilament.

    Body: Rainy's Medium Float Foam (Yellow).

    Front & Middle Legs: Rubber legs/Silly Legs cut to length.

    Back Legs: Medium flex hackles (Dark Ginger).

    Wing: Mottled Winging Material.

    Flag: Orange CDC.

    Head: 2mm Sheet Foam (Light Gray).

Tying the Hopper

    1. Start behind the eye and wrap a base of thread covering one third of the tying length.

    2. Cut a length of foam (about 2" for a size 6) and notch it at the center. This will help to keep the foam from bowing out when doubled over. I have used yellow here but also often use white or light brown and color it with the Prismacolor markers to "match the hatch."

    3. Double the foam over and secure it to the hook shank three sixteenths of an inch behind the eye. Also be sure to secure the foam to the hook just forward of where the bend starts.

    4. Trim a piece of winging material to form the wing. It should be wide enough to cover the body completely at the widest point. Fold it over to form a crease down the center.

    5. Tie in the winging material so that it overhangs the foam body slightly. Take care to secure it as straight as possible to keep the fly from twisting when cast.

    6. Thread some rubber legging material through a needle. Run the needle through the body at an angle to form the front leg on one side and the middle leg on the other side. Repeat this process so the 2 front and 2 middle legs are in place.

    7. Get 6 hackles of medium stiffness that are at least 3 inches in length. I like a dark ginger with a black centerline. Take off the hackles and simply tie an overhand knot. As you tighten the knot adjust the position of the feathers so that they are the correct shape when tightened. Once the proper shape is attained, coat the legs lightly with some head cement for added durability.

    8. Secure one of the "leaper" legs in between the front two pairs of legs. Tie it in at a slight upward angle. The length should have the elbow extend out to the area between where the foam body ends and the wing ends. Once one leg is set, tie in the other. Do your best to keep the legs as straight (up & down) as possible. If one leg is angled outward too far it will act as a propeller and cause the fly to spin.

    9. Tie in a flag of CDC on top, between the first and second set of legs. This is simply to help you see the fly better.

    10. Trim a piece of sheet foam so it is as wide as the fly body and tapers at each end. Poke a hole in the center of the foam so that the eye of the hook will pass through it.

    11. Slide the eye of the hook through the sheet foam.

    12. Fold over the sheet foam and secure it between the first and second set of legs. The tag end of the foam on the underside of the fly should be trimmed as closely as possible. The tag on the top of the fly should be trimmed to allow the foam to overlap the CDC slightly. Whip-finish the fly and apply some head cement.

Fishing Suggestions

I really enjoy my time fishing out west. Fishing the creeks and rivers of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado are a welcomed change of pace for me. I live right on top of a couple wonderful trout streams here in Upstate NY. While I love the very technical fishing with small flies and light tippets, I'm always looking forward to my next trip out west to toss huge flies at big trout. Some of the flies I fish in Montana would send my local fish running under the bank for cover. A size 4 or 6 hopper sure is easier on the eyes then a size 28 midge.

Fishing a hopper is pretty straightforward. While you should concentrate your efforts along the banks, do not forget those hungry fish holding mid-river. I find that I like to fish a longer leader when hopper fishing. Most of my leaders are around 9 feet, I will shorten that if the river I'm fishing is close quarters. My standard tippet is usually 5X or 6X. If there is one thing I've learned about hopper fishing, it's don't go too light with the tippet. Big fish love hoppers so very fine tippets can cause some nervous moments. Also, the nature of the flies and all those legs, the fly may want to spin on you. This is not such an issue with the heavier tippets. Unlike the typical delicate presentation you make with other dry flies, an Apollo space capsule style splash down landing is a good attention getter with a hopper. Don't be afraid to give the hopper a twitch or two during the drift. This can really elicit some wild takes.

Hoppers also make great strike indicators when running nymphs. It sure is fun fishing a hopper/dropper and having a Cutthroat hit the hopper like a freight train. I will never forget my biggest trout (resident stream fish) I've taken on a fly to date. I was fishing the Yellowstone in August of 2002. It was about 2PM and I was wading a nice section of the river, north of Gardiner, MT. I was running a hopper/dropper rig (same hopper tied here) in about 3 feet of water, about 2 feet from the bank. The fish pounced on the hopper with a large splash and I was soon into my backing. Nearly 10 minutes later and 50 yards downriver I had in hand a most beautiful Yellowstone Cutt. The fish measured out at 23.75 inches and must have weighed 6 pounds. Since there was no wind that afternoon I was fishing my 6.5ft 3WT spring creek rod I love so much. Man, that was a lot of fun! Yes, I love hoppers! Oh, don't forget that other fish like Bass and Panfish LOVE hoppers too. ~ Jeff Pierce

About Jeff Pierce

Jeff Pierce, AKA "Dr. Fish" is the Sales Manager of Fly-Fishing Products for O. Mustad & Son and Partridge of Redditch. When not in the office, he can be found chasing fish wherever possible. Whether it's Sailfish off Borneo, Payara in Brazil or Brook Trout in the Adirondack Mountains, you can bet that Jeff is no doubt casting flies to something that will bend a rod.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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