August in the Rockies means hopper time for the trout and angler. This year has shown a bumper crop of grasshoppers too.
On a recent drive up to the Tongue River there were literally thousands of grasshoppers crawling over the highway as they moved from one grassy meadow to another, evidently too fat to fly far.
As these insects make their way to streamside foliage, more than a few will become too fat on native grasses to hold onto their perch, thereby falling into lakes, rivers and streams.
The heat of August most certainly guarantees hoppers will become more and more active throughout the day. Since grasshoppers are large sources of protein, many trout will forsake what’s currently hatching to eat what amounts to eating a big juicy sirloin steak to us.
A friend from Montana was talking with me about fly patterns, specifically quick and easy-to-tie, hopper-style flies. The subsequent discussion got me to thinking about the condition of my hopper boxes at the time and how much I really look forward to the dog days of August.
A quick hopper box inventory showed a lot of space in the size 10-6 range. I like my hopper patterns tied on a 3X long hook shank. I also like easy to tie imitations since my time is tight when it comes to banging out a couple of dozen flies at a time.
Years ago, I developed an easy-to-tie grasshopper fly pattern which turned out to be a rubber-legged style pattern fashioned after the Madame X fly. My pattern is called the Horror, aka Ho, that has since turned into a popular hopper-stonefly imitation. It’s tough, easy to tie and the trout like to see it on the water.
Trout like this fly in its natural color (tannish gray) most of the time, but there are times when trout also like some color in their hoppers. Tying up a Turck’s tarantula is too time consuming for me, so I adapted a Turks body to the Horror’s deer hair bullet head, added rubber legs and, viola, I had a cross between the Madame X and a ‘near-enough’ Turk’s tarantula in a fraction of the time.
Here’s what I did. Using fluorescent orange 6-0 tying thread, I tied in golden pheasant tippets as the tail, which should extend past the hook’s bend half the length of a 3xL hook. I dubbed the body with my favorite hopper color which is yellow (you choose yours) up the hook shank until I had about a third of the hook shank remaining.
Then I tied in white polypro yarn as an under wing which I prefer over the MFC crinkly poly pro used on the Chubby Chuck hopper-stonefly patterns available at fly shops these days. I over-topped that with 10 strands of pearl Crystal Flash, then trimmed the white polypro yarn and Crystal Flash at the midpoint of the golden pheasant tail fibers. Then I cut a thick bundle (50-75 hairs) of bleached mule deer hair (substituting elk is okay but tougher to tie down securely and get to flair like deer hair does when thread pressure is applied) and tied it in snug and tight, so that I could form a nicely shaped bullet head from deer hair afterwards.
After tying down the deer hair and forming the head (about 1/3 the hook shank), the deer hair tips should reach just past the body, a bit shorter than the polypro and flash underwings. Tie in oval rubber legs in white, black or the popular black-barred rubber legs that come in a variety of colors on each side of the head where the collar was formed at the back of the bullet head.
Finally, trim the deer hair underneath the hook and behind the head so the body color is well exposed underneath the wing and underwing. Try this faster tying method. I think you will like the results seen at the tying vise. I can assure you the Ho Candy is still a go-to hopper pattern the trout still eat with abandon when it is hopper time.