Hopper season seemed to come and go this year. I was only able to get a fish to hit these bulky flies on my last trip. But there were plenty of fish that refused my big hopper and went for a size 16 parachute fished by my buddies Lance and Shad. Or they'd go for the dropper.
Eventually I had to down size to a size 14 hopper to get consistent strikes - and the fish didn't care that it was bright purple either.
I've been trying to find a hopper pattern that I like to tie and fish. This picture shows the evolution from chunky slabs with a blocky silhouette to more a more realistic fly that is visible, lands upright and has lots of wiggly legs.
In this category are all the chernobyl ant species - I know many people swear by them, but I've never really caught any fish on these. I've has fish hit them but not get hooked. I think this type works best from a drift boat, where fish are coming from very deep to hit it and are larger. These are easy to tie but not fun for me to tie.
Chernobyl Ant Tying Video from Tightlines Productions
Charlie Boy Hopper Style
Charlie Craven's fly is originally tied with a deer hair down wing kind of elk hair caddis style or stimulator style. I've caught fish on this pattern but couldn't always see it on the water. So I tried tying it with a parachute (Shroeder's Parachute Hopper Style). This helped visibility but is low on realism.
Here is a video of Charlie Craven tying the original pattern.
Hopper Juan Style
Jaun Ramirez has come up with some nice hopper patterns that are visible, have wiggly legs and are easy to tie. I tied this variant with the silicone legs for more realism, but dispensed with some of the extra foam layers focusing on using a wing of water shedding widows web (or Enrico Puglisi fibers). This got me a higher floating fly with a highly visible, bushy wing. Fish really liked this fly, but even with the realistic legs, it just didn't look like a hopper to me.
Here are step by step instructions for tying:
The Hollywood Hopper
Here is another great pattern by Juan Ramirez, when he needs to fish a more realistic looking fly to picky fish or for picky anglers. His original does not use the widow's web wing, but uses several pieces of foam. It has a great profile and look, but for such a big fly rides really low and was hard for me to see on the water, so I used the widow's web. After tying and fishing with the molded silicone legs, I've decided I don't like them. They are hard for me to tie in place, they rotate as I crimp down the thread and even though they are squishy to the touch they don't wiggle much. I think wiggling looks like legs moving or struggling on the water. I also tie a much smaller hopper than other folks and so I use a 3mm thick piece of foam made by gluing a 2mm piece of one color to a different colored 1mm thick piece of foam.
Here is how to tie the Hollywood Hopper:
Pocket Water Hopper
Here is the pattern that works best for me. It is part Hollywood Hopper and part Project Hopper from Fly Fish Food. The fly fish food guys really explain how to make the hybrid foam and rubber hind legs that I just couldn't figure out. That was a breakthrough for several reasons:
1 - I don't have to buy legs anymore and I can make them any size and color.
2 - They are easier to attach to the body of the hopper because they don't roll as much
3 - The rubber leg portion wiggles and jiggles to simulate a living hopper
4 - These legs are more durable than alternatives including: silicone legs (because the tying thread cuts through them sometimes), pheasant tail legs (unravel after catching a few fish), foam legs (too stiff) and knotted rubber legs (hard to tie in and hard to get the right proportions).
This is a fly with a highly visible wing, especially if tied in pink or yellow. It has the correct silhouette. And I can tie it as small as a size 14 or as big as a size 8!
Thank you Hopper Juan (Juan Ramirez), Fly Fish Food, Charlie Craven and all the fore fathers of these legendary hopper patterns for your inspiration.