Fish hopping for hoppers
As a general rule of thumb, the insects that make up the trout diet tend to get smaller as the summer progresses. The most notable exception is the grasshopper. These bugs are relatively long-lived, and they grow larger during the season. In the last week of July the hoppers made their appearance in the Sierra, and they have the trout looking up for chow. The most common color at this time is tan. The critters are young (1-inch long) and size No. 12 or 14 flies will be a close match.The most notable hopper bite from an anglers perspective has been on the Walker River drainage on the east side of the Sierra. Jim Weil from Kens Sporting Goods in Bridgeport reports that on the West Walker river along Highway 395, hopper fly patterns are the No. 1 fish catcher. The West Walker is just now getting down to fishable flows, and a big fly will get the trout to swim up through fast water to take an insect on the surface.The favored habitat for grasshoppers, as the name implies, is grassy areas. Combine grasslands adjoining water with a good afternoon breeze and you have the recipe for well-fed trout in late summer. Both the East and West forks of the Walker River flow through numerous meadows and this time of the year is known for the hopper bite.The hopper reports from the Bridgeport vicinity are not isolated. The Carson River drainage, half an hour south of Lake Tahoe, has been doing well on hoppers. The West Carson through Hope Valley has had a good hatch. One location that has been fishing well with large dry flies has been the Yuba River below Englebright Lake. The in-river insect populations are down after the high scouring flows of this past spring on the valley reaches of this river. Terrestrial-based insects have increased in importance in the fishes diets. Hopper patterns and Stimulators in hopper sizes have been the most productive in the last couple weeks. The Hopper & Dropper, adding a small nymph hanging below the large dry fly, can increase your odds. For the non-fly rod angler, you can fish a fly by adding a casting bubble to your line. The other alternative is to fish the real thing on waters that allow bait fishing. The most efficient time to capture hoppers is early in the morning when conditions are damp and cool. The hoppers are sluggish at this time. The best tool is a fly swatter. A quick swat will stun the hoppers and then you can pick them up. The next question is what to do with them. One solution is to get a spare sock, drop them in and tuck the open end of the sock between your belt and pants. You can then squeeze them out one at a time without the whole batch escaping.For the bait angler, the best hooks are light wire dry fly hooks. The light wire hooks keep the hopper alive and kicking. You might also pick up a few hopper fly patterns in case the hopper hunting is poor.Denis Peirce is a fishing columnist for The Union, the Suns sister paper in Grass Valley.
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