Happy Hopper Hunting


Hopper hunting _ John Chapman

IT WASN’T an auspicious start when I knocked on the door and the boys were still in bed.

As a tip for the un-initiated sleeping in for a guide trip generally won’t put you in your guide’s good graces. But I’d got to know John Chapman over the years and he’s a hard man not to like, his enthusiasm for fly fishing, and passion for fun is contagious. You will spend a lot of time laughing in his company.

Besides it was the last day of their trip and they had a late night the night before: John is one of fellow guide Clint Wilkinson’s regular fly fishers and good friends, and gave me a heads up to get moving. I think I was still giggling when I texted Clint to let him know we would be late joining the rest of the party: 6 other guys, and 3 guides who were then banging fish at Bull Shoals.

We wandered in late and missed the best of the morning bite, which is one reason not to be late when the guide sets a certain time. But I had a rescue plan _ the hopper bite in the afternoon. When the push of water came in over lunch, we picked off a couple of ‘bows at the Dam then headed downstream.

The first 100 yards were slow then when we pulled into a favorite little pocket, I told them the technique which they quickly put into practice. I had barely stopped my story when John said there is a fish under my fly. A brown which came in slow inspected, half refused then ate.I wish I’d seen it unfold _ such moment are the dreams of a dry fly addict.


The first brown

We took photos, slid that 22.5” brown back in the water and switched spots: and the brown trout bite went nuts. I swear it took an hour and a half to float 600 yards of river. John, had the hot stick, he had a really good fish on within 3’ of where his first cast landed which broke off and they kept coming.

We actually stopped taking photos of 18”-19” browns because we wanted to get back on the bank. His best fish of 23”, pictured at top, was just short of his best ever brown on the river, and we kept hunting. When we finished we were shaking heads, and laughing. Truly it was the most ridiculous 90 minutes of brown trout fishing I’ve ever had on the White: and with two fun characters I was more than happy to enjoy it with.

The rest of the crew were having an equally good time _ the whole group wandered into the store Saturday morning on their way out of town saying this had been their best trip ever, and they have been coming down fishing with Clint for a number of years _ all on the back of some awesome dry fly hopper fishing.

Dave and a nice hopper brown trout

A lightning strike slammed this tree 30’ feet away from the guys one evening _ it was a memorable trip