Tips for Grasshopper Fly Fishing

Just because the hot days of summer signal that the mayfly season is mostly behind us doesn’t mean that fly fishing has entered the “doldrums.”  In fact, I’d say things are just about to get really good.

You see… it’s hopper time.  And when trout in rivers key on grasshoppers and other terrestrial insects, the fly fishing action can be better than at any other time of year.  There is just something very special about how a trout follows a lazily floating grasshopper in the current, then makes a deliberate slurp to eat the fly.

But there are tricks to making grasshopper fly fishing work best…

First and foremost, you have to remember that the grasshopper bite is an opportunistic, sporadic bite.  When trout eat mayflies in a run, it’s like they’re popping M&M’s Candies, one after the other, into their mouths.  But the grasshopper floating down the river looks like a T-Bone steak… or so it should.  You want to make your grasshopper fly an “offer the trout cannot refuse.”  A little twitch here, an attention getting jiggle there to make the hopper look lifelike, etc., are never bad things when you’re looking for large trout.  Too much action on the fly, however, can be a deal-stopper.  Keep everything looking natural.  Watch the riverbanks as natural grasshoppers fall into the water; you want your fly to move like they do.

It’s also very important to cover a lot of water with your casts.  Foremost, you should target areas closest to the banks.  Undercut banks with grasses sweeping over the river are the best targets.  You also want to look for classic holding water that trout prefer.  Look for ledges, drop-offs, transition lines (where faster currents meet slower currents), and structure (like rocks, deadfall timber, etc.). 

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.