Presented from Issue 102
We all love the onset of summer, don’t we? Warm weather, cold beer and of course dry fly polaroiding for trout. But it’s not only the highland polaroiding that gets me excited at this time of year, because it is also closing in on hopper time on my favourite local streams.
As you wander the edge of your secret stream hotspot take a look in the long dry grass as you go, if you are kicking out a few of the resident grasshoppers then its time for a change of fly boxes. Tuck away that nymph/dry box and bring out the one loaded with big, fat foam flies. I guess you can also have some other hopper style patterns in there as well if you wish, not every fly has to have some foam in it, does it?.
Another bonus at hopper time is the standard of fish you can come across in your favourite stream. You might be surprised what you will pull out of that deep pool or undercut bank, so it pays to always be on the job. The big trout love the sight of a fat, juicy hopper as much as we do as anglers, and you can bet in the heat of a midday sun just as the mind starts to wander back to previously mentioned cold beer that small stream fish of a lifetime will thump your hopper on the surface and stitch you up before you can say Boags Red.
Where and when
Most rivers will have some sort grasshopper action on them to varying degrees, but there a few different things that can help turn those good summer days into great ones. Plenty of open stretches of bank with that long dry grass around the edges wont go astray, though sometimes thinking about it these can be hard to find with the ever present, stream hugging willows about. But I am sure you know of some somewhere. Throw in the odd deeper pool to hold that beer destroying thumper and you are nearly good to go. All we need now is some hot, windy summer weather which there is plenty of at the moment and its time to go. One other added bonus of this type of fishing that I forgot to mention is the fact that the prime action isn’t usually till in the afternoon, so there is no need for early morning alarms and kamikaze car rides in the darkness dodging all manner of Tasmanian wildlife. Relax, sleep in a while then get up and go fishing.
Small stream tactics
My favourite type of hopper fishing is on the smaller streams around my home town on the North-west coast of Tasmania. Though I find it harder and harder to drag myself off the Mersey River to fish other streams these days, it is the hoppers that will do it. Not that Mersey isn’t good at this time of year its just that I love to be on a small water, fishing a short rod and big fly when the hoppers come out to play.
The place I really love to do this is on my home town creek, the Redwater. Redwater creek sneaks its way down thru the centre of my beautiful Nan’s place just out of town. It was here as kids we first encountered trout/grasshopper interaction. In the bridge pool down the road a bit lived what we thought at the time to be a massive brown trout. Looking back now it appears as though that trout may have just been an average size fish for this water, don’t you love the minds of children!. My cousin and I used to spend quite a bit of time up on the road bridge dropping all manner of insects to this fish, but it was the grasshoppers that got the most attention. Standing up there in the bright summer sun we would be amazed at the speed and skill of this fish as he would come out and snatch our offerings from the surface. Maybe that was where one of the seeds was sown for my current, and what will be a lifelong addiction to fishing for trout with a fly-rod.
The Redwater is only a very small stream, in some places not much more than shoulder width wide. I like to fish this and other waters similar to it by wading up the middle. In some places it can get a bit tight, but I believe you get a far better shot at the fish this way and you also cover a lot more water. My rod of choice is made from fibreglass and is only 5’ 9” long. It is a Vision three weight. I love the slow, relaxed rhythm that casting this rod brings and the short length is perfect for sneaking shots in to those tight undercut spots where the bigger fish like to hang out.
In the height of summer these smaller waters can become quite low. It is vital to take your time, wade nice and slowly and do your best to blend in with the surrounds. The fish aren’t going anywhere after all, unless you charge in there and spook them!. As you wade nice and quietly up the centre of these smaller waters fire off quick accurate casts to all the likely looking spots. No need for huge lengths of line here, you won’t have room anyway. Save the full length casts for the those Great Lake sharks and just learn to straighten out a couple of metres of fly line and your leader and you are in business. This is another aspect of the glass rods I have to come to love recently.
On the subject of leaders I rarely find a need to go longer than the length of rod you are fishing but in the case of a 5’9” rod I do stretch my leader out a bit, but not much. Around seven feet is good I find, and a slightly thicker than normal butt section can be useful to turn over the bigger, more wind resistant flies that this type of fishing has us using. I have also in recent times been converted, for this smaller type of fishing, to gluing my leaders into the fly-line. The main advantage of doing it this way is that you can actually cast the leader join out thru the eyes of the rod without any hassles at all. You can buy the super glue kits from Peter Hayes and if you couple this with one of the flat butt leaders he sells, then you have what is just about the perfect set up. And if all that doesn’t help you turn over a leader in front of that hard to reach small stream trout then maybe you should have a casting lesson from him as well when you pick the leader kit up. Hey, even Tiger Woods still practices every day.
In keeping with the nice relaxed afternoon approach to this style of fishing I like to keep the rest of my gear simple as well. I now use a Patagonia sling style bag and I believe it is one of the best fishing related purchases I have ever made. Big statement I know, but if you haven’t tried one already go and do it. You might have to join the waiting list to get one though as I am told that is how popular they now are. In this I just carry the usual things. My hopper fly box, spools of leader material, one spare leader, floatant, forceps to protect the smaller fish, nippers(don’t bite the leader material people) it does the teeth no good at all, camera with remote for those solo shots which I am not very good at yet! and on my back I always carry the weigh net because it never lies.
Just back to the spare leader for a minute, in all my years of fishing I can hardly remember having to change a complete leader during a day. It has happened but not often yet I always carry a spare. In the event of a lost leader and using the super glue method I would just nail knot the new one in place though you could carry the glue kit with you if you wished to. All that’s left to do then is go fishing. If after all this you still struggle to catch a fish at hopper time do what I do. Take my two boys with me along with a few pre-caught naturals and get them to crawl along the bank throwing some in to liven the fish up and as an added bonus they scare off the snakes that love these small waters as well!. Sorry people, in case you hadn’t noticed I like to have a joke and a bit of fun so don’t tell my wife please, if she thinks its true I will be in a bit of strife.
|My current favourite is hands down Peter Broomhall’s Bruisers Bug|
Hopper flies, where do we start. There would have to be hundreds of them, I know I wouldn’t like to have to tally up every different pattern available to us.
I am not sure I will ever write another story without mentioning this fly it is that good. Alter the colours for the type of fishing you are targeting and it will succeed on most occasions.
At hopper time my favourite variation is tan/brown body with orange and clear rubber grizzly legs. I have also had good success with yellow/brown bodies and chartreuse/ brown bodies both with orange rubber grizzly legs. Throw in some WMD and mini WMD hoppers, Muz Wilsons Wee Creek Hopper and you would be hard pressed to not catch a fish.
All these are deadly flies in their original versions but if you love to sit at the fly vice like I do, have a bit of fun with colours and materials and see what you can come up with. It just might be that fly you have to hide behind the tree to tie on so the fish don’t jump all over it. And if it is can you send me a couple please, I wont tell anyone. Don’t limit yourself to only these flies though as they are only what works for me at the moment. Gather as many different styles as you can and try them all, nothing looks better than a well stocked fly box.
Time to get out there
As I said earlier I really do favour the small waters for my hopper fishing but that is only a personal thing. Have a wander along your favourite creek/river and see what you can find. I am sure your best bits of water on the Meander, North or South Esk or any other water you care to think of will all produce the goods at some stage. Scale up the gear from the short twig water set ups to something that is more comfortable and user friendly on the bigger waters and there will be endless amounts of fun to be had.
Just on a serious note though I know I made a light-hearted reference to snakes earlier but if you are fishing the tighter creeks please keep an eye out when wading up the middle. There is nothing worse than looking sideways and being face to face with an angry tiger snake that has had his peace and quiet shattered. And if you decide to give the Redwater Creek a go this summer please look after it as it a place that is very close to my heart. There is not a huge head of fish in it but they are all good fun and I would love for my boys to grow up enjoying it just as I did. By some stroke of luck if we happen to meet on that road bridge I talked about, I might not be throwing in grasshoppers but I will certainly have a cold beer close by to share with you as we relax and tell a few stories.