Splattered & Scattered: Hopper Time

A size 6 Fat Albert doesn’t so much land on the water’s surface as detonate.

The bug turns the surface of the White River into its own personal trampoline, compressing surface tension then riding a geyser Wile E. Coyote would have been proud of, concussion waves radiating, booming “Eat Me”.

And someone heard: a gator head plucking the morsel from the surface, and backing down into its lair, with less fuss and commotion than Jaws taking Quint off the back deck of the Orca.

Now it’s the moment of truth.

“Farewell and adieu, to you fair Spanish ladies….”

If the Buddhist are right, apparently I either was making some very bad decision or have a spectacularly good time the last go round. It’s the only way I can figure the fates conspired to land a degenerate dry-fly addict in a nymphing paradise.

If it wasn’t for the caddis, some sporadic sulphurs and the terrestrials, I’d probably be curled up in a fetal ball all summer, jonesing, scratching and muttering about bugs: make them hatch, fly and float.

Streamer fishing too has helped wean me off a diet solely of mayflies, long tippets, and only casting when you find a rise.

Of course the big bugs aren’t seen in the same light as Trico, a Flav or a PMD among the cognoscenti. Owning up to fishing foam in certain circles is akin to admitting you are dating Shrek over the Princess, or digging through a cooler of craft beer for the last Nattie Lite. But it’s not going to get you outright excommunicated like asking out your fishing buddy’s daughter, chumming with corn or tying a squirmito on your tippet. 

It’s not just the fact that here on the White River you can legitimately target trophy class brown trout on the surface. My first real trout came on a hopper, it was a hatchery escapee rainbow in a brown trout river, but it was the first fish I found, cast to and it ate just like it was supposed to. Early influences often cast a heavy shadow, hoppers, both grass and leaf, beetles, cicadas and  ants, I loved them all. Happily so do trout.

Read On For More

Lines & Leaders

The right leader will go a long way to inducing that seductive splat.  A traditional, long tippet dry-fly leader designed to minimize drag won’t carry the energy to turn over big bugs.  Too short will create plenty of splat, but runs the risk of spooking fish. Somewhere between 7.5 ” to 10″, depending on your cast, works.  Use 3x or 2x on the point. A slightly over powered cast should help make enough noise.

Fly lines become something of a personal choice, though I have a definite preference for RIO’s Low-Stretch Intouch Lines.  RIO’s Intouch Perception and Gold will work. Mississippi Johnson favors the RIO Small Mouth, but this season I am going to return to the RIO Intouch Grand for its ability to pick up and turn over big bugs and minimize drag from conflicting surface currents. Six-weight will give you more performance in upstream winds.

Pick Your Poison

Building a White River terrestrial box is as simple as remembering 50% should be black.  Black is a solid color choice no matter the conditions.  I lean toward the larger sizes, #6 & #8 in patterns like the High-Viz Fat Albert, Jake’s Trigger Belly, Chubby Chernobyl, Morrish Hopper, and the Juicy Bug.  Second tier I’ll run purples and pinks in the above patterns where available. The pink Western Lady, I always carry a smattering of tans and yellows across sizes #6 – #12 in patterns like the Western Lady, Charlie Boy Hopper and Dave’s Hopper.  While these haven’t been mainstays in recent years, they have earned their place in the past.   Finally  remember a handful of the old school Schroeder’s Parachute Hopper.

Wing and a Prayer

Your fly selection is going to include bugs big and scary, thin and leggy, and even somewhat hairy. Profiles and wiggly legs are what is important to the fish. What is on the upper surface is what is important to you the angler. Foam floats almost forever, but drowning the wing will make it almost impossible to see.

Heavy handed Thingamabobber mends which drag your hopper through the water do your bug no favors.  Treat the wing with Dry Magic before getting it wet and use Dry Shake when your fly starts to wilt. Otherwise You will need a deeper selection in your fly box.  You can treat them or buy more flies.