Grasshoppers prime bait for big trout
When I was a young boy, I learned that using live grasshoppers was an effective way to catch trout by reading Ernest Hemingway’s story, “The Big Two-Hearted River.” In the second part of this two-part story, Hemingway’s character, Nick Adams, describes his fishing with grasshoppers.
Grasshoppers (Acrididae) are typically found on meadows or rocky slopes. They are terrestrial insects and found along our local streams in the streamside vegetation. They grow to an inch and a half or even larger and can represent a large morsel for trout.
They are not particularly good in flight, so on windy days you will often find the wind carrying these insects onto the water. The trout feast on them as they struggle helplessly in the water.
The best time to fish grasshoppers is August into early September. Warm, windy days are the best times to fish them because of their availability to the trout.
Since I started fly fishing I remembered my early lessons as a youngster using live grasshoppers. I began using hopper imitations and did very well with them just as I had done with the real ones. This season it seems that fishing the hopper alone or with a dropper has been better than I can ever remember.
Perhaps it is because of the number of warm days that we have had this year. We have had many more days in the 80s than I recall since moving up here nearly 31 years ago. This has led to a good population of these insects.
There are also many more fly patterns for grasshoppers than there were when I first started fly fishing. The most effective pattern in the old days was a Joe’s Hopper. While this is still a reliable pattern, there are many more to choose from now. Some are incredibly realistic-looking and very effective.
Most anglers fish the hopper on a dropper rig. A second fly is attached to a dropper rig off the hopper. There a number of ways to do this, but the easiest to cast for beginners is accomplished by tying the dropper fly to the bend of the grasshopper imitation.
The dropper fly is generally a nymph of some kind. The grasshopper imitation works as an indicator when a dropper is fished off of it. You will either see the fish take the floating grasshopper or see it go under when the nymph is taken by the fish.
Because it is a pretty good-size insect, some very large trout can be caught using grasshoppers. I personally like to fish just the grasshopper imitation, because I love catching fish on the dry fly.
Whatever your preference, with or without a dropper, it is not too late to give grasshoppers a try in our local waters. As long as the weather holds, we should have grasshoppers around for awhile. It can be a very productive means for catching trout.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.
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