DALLY’S HOW TO: Hopper Time



SUMMER’S come calling and it’s terrestrial time, truly one of our favorite times of the year.

The days are long, you can wear flip flops and shorts and the fish can be big. Really big.

And there is nothing like watching that brown trout nose appear from nowhere to envelope your fly. No matter whether you are wading or floating, fishing the White River system or the Rockies, getting some hopper time every year is a whole lot of fun. Check out Ben Levin and Steve getting some hopper time a few years back here

Which Hopper Is This: image by Michael Schraeder


Summer is bug time, leave your porch light on some time and check the spider webs in the morning. All sorts of stuff will turn up.

But what is important to the fly fisher is the bugs that live in the trees and grasses along the river banks _ ants, grasshoppers, beetles, cicadas, and katydids. Basically anything that can fly, fall or get blown onto the river’s surface.

Tall banks, tall grass or overhanging trees on the upwind side are a great place to start looking. Just don’t expect to see regularly rising fish on a terrestrial hatch, most of the time. Sporadic subtle rises are more of a giveaway to the random nature of terrestrial falls. That being said if you hit a fly ant fall, just right, or the hopper  congregations we saw in ’08 you won’t lack for consistent risers.

But this is the nature of terrestrials, exactly what is on the water and when in any summer can be a mystery of nature. But you won’t know if you don’t go looking.

Conventional wisdom is that the bugs become more active during the heat of the day and afternoons bring more wind putting more bugs on the water. But lowlight periods, morning and evening produce good fish every year, peaceful without the extra boat traffic bigger fish seem more willing to rise.

Look for the current lines which collect food, changes in depth, ledges and flooded grass.

Elizabeth and Gabe hunting hopper eaters last summer: Steve Dally image


Your everyday 5wt will suffice for a lot of outings but there are better tools to deal with bigger flies and afternoon breezes.

More commonly you will see 6wts and 7wts being dragged out. Sage X and Mods, Orvis Helios2 and Recons and TFO BVK, and Mangrove. With 2x tippet and big trout there isn’t much need to skimp.

There are a wide range of actions in this lot, pick the rod you can cast accurately and consistently with a minimum of false casting. Your line choice can help a bunch. Faster rod afficianados are picking the RIO Big Nasty or Smallmouth line, perhaps a RIO Grand or Perception on more moderate rods.

The point is you are going to be casting a lot. Even foam flies don’t take mending like bobber will, drowning those wings: if you can’t see the fly its next to useless. Pick up reach cast and hit the target, maybe a small mend then hit the target again. Don’t let the fly drag.

Carry some silicon floatant gel and some dry shake. Prepping the wing of your flies, and reconditioning regularly will keep them fishing. The alternative to floatant and shake and bake is just buying enough flies so you can change them up every time they are drowned



Some days it seems any pattern would surfice, but its hard not to get superstitious about real producers.

The prime colors for our waterways seem to be blacks, purples and pinks over more traditional tans, yellows and greens. Smaller sizes early in the season and bigger  fatter bugs once the cicadas start singing in the trees.

Fatter chunky patterns like the Fat Albert have more of a Cicada appeal where as something like a Willy’s Ant would have the profile of a katydid or big ant, andthe Juicy Bugs perhaps smaller  leaf hoppers.

This year we are seeing the resurgence of what you might regard as a more imitative hopper pattern, albeit with a pink belly, in the Western Lady, perhaps a sign that hoppers numbers are on the way back up. These things are cyclical like most populations in nature. Click to Shop our mainstay Terrestrials _ there are always some newer untested patterns coming through the fly bins