.............................Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park
08/31/08 Grasshoppers - (Acrididae/Tettigoniidae)
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 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. 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 forest. 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. A few, say three or four sizes of hopper imitations, will cover most situations but this is not the situation with the color. 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.