Hatches Made Easy:

Grasshoppers - (Acrididae/Tettigoniidae)            

05/21/08

The grasshopper was the first thing I used to catch fish on a fly rod. I don't
remember exactly when it happened but I do know that I was a child. I caught
grasshoppers and fished with them in farm ponds for bream and bass. I feel sure
many of you had the same experience.
My normal procedure was to catch a couple of them and throw them in the water.
If the fish ate them, I would put one on my hook. About the time I became a
teenager, I was able to buy flies at the local hardware store. Most were poppers,
but I also bought some rubber legged ants, crickets and grasshoppers for use
on my fiberglass fly rod and heavy, automatic reel. I still catch one occasionally
and throw it into the water when fly fishing for trout. I just follow up with a fake
hopper instead of a real one.
I can still vividly remember wading out almost to the center of the pond to a place
I had never been able to reach with the water up to my mouth, casting and
hooking a bass on a hopper that begin to jump right in my face. I almost
drowned but somehow caught the bass.
There is just something about a grasshopper falling into the water that turns a
fish on. I am certain it is opportunistic feeding on the part of most of them but
there is a distinction in how the trout react to hopper imitations between areas
that have large concentrations of hoppers and areas of streams that don't have
them. I have caught as many as a hundred trout in a day on western streams
that ran through hay fields where large concentrations of hoppers were present.
Strangely, I have caught trout in the Smokies as well as other locations long
after a hard freeze ( a month or two) had occurred. A hard freeze is supposed to
end the of life for the grasshopper and I am sure it did. I caught trout last year in
the meadows of Yellowstone National Park with a six inches of snow on the
ground when I feel certain there were no grasshoppers along the stream.
Unlike the aquatic insects that choose where they hatch, the terrestrials don't
choose when they fall into the water. Most of the time they fall near the banks
but in strong winds these critters can sail for a relatively long distance.
Some streams have such concentrations of grasshoppers that trout hold near
the banks just waiting for one to get blown into the water. These streams are
usually surrounded by a lot of weeks or grass. Streams located in old farm fields
and open meadows are idea for summer and fall hopper activity in the Smokies.
The more grass and shrubs there are along the bank, the better the hopper
fishing usually is. This simply means more hoppers are going to get in the water.
Since hoppers don't belong in the water, they get there by blowing or jumping
into the water, there are rarely enough of them for the trout to become selective
on them.
Even streams that are not located in prime grasshopper habitat have some
population of hoppers, including those that are located in the heavy forest of the
Smokies. Irrespective of the quantities of hoppers available, in many cases
during the summer and early fall months of the year, hoppers may be one of
your best bets.
Most grasshoppers use their legs to fly just about as much as they do their
wings. Grasshoppers cannot fly very well. They jump and then seem to sail
through the air like a bird floating in air. The flight ends wherever they happen to
land. Most of them stay airborne for a very short time.
Grasshoppers vary greatly in size depending on their age and species. They
hatch from eggs and begin their life as a nymph. They emerge and continue to
grow to their full adult size. In the Smokies, they usually emerge in the late spring
or early summer and stay around available as trout food until late fall. They
usually hang around long enough to the first frost of fall but a hard freeze kills
those remaining.  
Since grasshoppers are not that difficult to spot in the grass or weeds, it is fairly
easy to see what it is you are trying to imitate. When it comes to choosing a fly,
you will find that there is really not a lot of fly patterns available as compared to
the aquatic patterns. Commercially available hopper patterns come in a range of
sizes, from about #16 all the way up to a #2 hooks. A few, say three or four
sizes, will cover most situations but this is not the situation with the color. Most
commercial available hoppers are yellow; but green ones and very dark brown
ones can occasionally be found.
As with most fly patterns, the correct size is supposed to be more important than
the color, but there may be times when color of the hopper could be important
than the size. The colors of hoppers range from yellows, browns, and tans to
greens.
It is usually not critical to have just the exact size of imitation as the naturals you
find, simply because there are usually more than one size of hoppers available.
The color of the imitations should be as close as possible to the naturals; but
that does not seem to be a critical factor. The grasshoppers the trout see can
vary in both size and color. I don't mean that matching the naturals is not
important. The closer your imitation is to the real thing, the more likely it is going
to work.

Coming Up Next:
Hopper Presentation:

Copyright 2008 James Marsh