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These little 10 to 30 cm terrestrials are widespread and consistently active during the summer months in the vicinity of the rivers and streams. Hoppers also work well on stillwaters where hook sizes up to 10s or even larger are an option. Always keep an eye on what’s happening around the water and in particular, try and match the size of the naturals that are active at the time. Many end up in the water and because they are poor swimmers, struggle to reach the safety of terra firma again. It’s no surprise that they are familiar and recognisable insects to the fish, something they have seen, eaten and enjoyed before.

In fly fishing speak they are simply, hoppers. I have fished many of the representative patterns, but probably the one that really got my attention some 20 or more years ago was when Ed Herbst and I were having a discussion about the trout attracting merits of triggers and movement in flies, that he introduced me to his pattern, otherwise known as you guessed it, ‘Ed’s Hopper .’– I have used it ever since and still do. However, he is currently experimenting with new varieties that are showing early signs of potential. (See his Instagram posts @ed_herbst346)

In recent years, especially on my annual visit to the Eastern Cape Highlands, I have experienced what has seemed like a population explosion of hoppers especially of the LBJ variety (Little Brown Jobs). As a consequence, I set about tying a pattern incorporating features that I’d seen on other patterns and using materials that would produce triggers familiar to the fish. I say LBJ, but as you will see it includes colours of yellow, orange or red – this for the reason that I noticed one or other of these colours on the naturals in flight and while struggling on the water. However, I combined these colours in elements of the pattern because I felt that they were one of the triggers and something the trout associated with these sizeable bits of protein. It certainly has worked and this little hopper has been my go-to terrestrial especially during the summer months when the insect are at their most active. It has also proved its worth as a searching pattern.

Hopefully and not wanting to sound pretentious, it has amongst companions been labled Pete’s Hopper – I share below what I believe is a little gem.

What is of course important, is to have a fly that has features representative of the natural insect’s distinguishable profile, legs, wings and colours and the use of materials that will create movement.

Materials and tying notes.

Hooks - my preferred hook is the TMC 103BL in #13 and #15’s. Alternatively, Grip

11011BL in #14 and #16s.

Abdomen - PHOTO 1 - yellow foam cylinder heated and shaped into a blunt taper. (I make my own foam cylinders - https://callofthestream.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/diy- foam-cutter/)

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Head and wing - PHOTO 2 - deer hair. I do stack the hair, but it’s not essential for the tips to be perfect and I feel it adds to the bugginess. It takes a little practice to achieve the right length of the wing after forming the head. The deer hair is added facing over the eye after securing the abdomen. Make sure when the hair is secured that a space of approximately 2 mm is left clear behind the eye.

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Underwing - PHOTO 2 - orange Antron, or similar. In this example I have used peacock herl, but you can add a CdC feather in a split thread after the underwing.

Head and wing - At this point the deer hair needs to be folded back forming the head and main wing over the back of the fly.

Legs - PHOTO 4 - rubber or silicone legs, preferably translucent that acts as an additional trigger, are the final addition before whip-finishing behind the head.

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Notes on fishing the hopper.

Present the hopper as the naturals do as masters of the belly-flop, with a ‘plop’ on the water. This will get the attention of the fish. The rest is up to movement and the distinguishing features.

Although they fish well throughout the stream, close to the banks and overhanging grass or vegetation is where they are most likely to be found.

I prefer short drifts before casting again and capatalising on the vulnerable stage when they first land on the water kicking and screaming.

Twitch the fly in a few quick, short movements soon after it has landed on the water. This is the instinctive movement of the insect in its feeble attempts to swim to safety and when they tend to open their wings showing the colours mentioned. They are terrible swimmers and give up quickly before drifting on the surface at the mercy of the elements.

Peter Brigg

January 2024

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