White River

It’s hopper time on the White River

Posted by John Berry on July 11th, 2014
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As I have written about before, this year has been a complete bust for me, when it comes to catching the hatch and fishing dry flies on the White River. I have seen a few very sparse hatches of caddis and sulphurs but I have not been able to key in on a respectable hatch, where the trout are keying in on the adults. It appears that there has been a conspiracy against me. Every time that I am present, when a hatch is beginning, they turn on four generators, which completely eliminate any possibility of fishing the top. I am always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As hopper season begins, all of that I about to change. My most reliable dry fly year in or year out is grasshoppers. The hopper season traditionally begins on the fourth of July and runs until the first frost. I don’t slavishly follow this schedule. I tend to fish hoppers year round. I had a client take a fifteen inch rainbow on a grasshopper on the Norfork River in mid February, when the temperature was below freezing. It is true that there are more hoppers available in late summer and the trout tend to key in on them at that time. Grasshoppers are a large tasty bite that opportunistic trout will take even when they are not expected to.

Hoppers are not aquatic insects. They are terrestrials. They are set up to live on land not in the water. They enter the water by accident. They are usually blown in by the wind and tend to struggle in a vain attempt to get back to dry land. Therefore the best way to fish them is to bang the bank. A delicate presentation is not required as hoppers frequently enter the water with a splash. An energetic mend that causes the hopper to twitch is frequently all it takes to generate a vicious strike.

The rigging is easy. Since this is a heavy fly and would be difficult to turn over with a typical long dry fly leader, I generally tie them to the end of a seven and one half foot 4X leader. When choosing a rod, I generally opt for the nine foot five weight Sage ZXL that I ordinarily fish. A stiff nine foot six weight would probably be a better choice.

Fly choice is pretty simple. Dave’s hoppers are great but I find myself fishing more foam hoppers. They float like corks, are almost indestructible and they do not have to be dressed. Be sure and get some sort of quick sight on the back of them to make them a bit easier to see. At the beginning of the season the grasshoppers are smaller (size #12) and they get progressively bigger as time goes by (size#12). The hoppers that I have been seeing in my yard are green but I have had more success lately with tan ones.

To increase your catch, I suggest that you use a dropper. I always do. The hopper makes a great strike indicator and is especially effective in water that gets a lot of fishing pressure and where the fish can get a bit picky. Places like the Catch and Release section below Bull Shoals Dam or the Norfork are great places to use a hopper and a dropper. The best place for the dropper is whatever nymph that is producing that day. The pheasant tail nymph or ruby midge are personal favorites.

Whether fishing from a boat or wading, it is hopper time and I am ready for it. Give hoppers a try!

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