Hoping for Hoppers

I’ll take a wet summer over a hot, dry one any time. However, at the risk of sounding difficult, I’d like a wet summer and hoppers please. It’s not a common combination, and as we hit halfway in yet another soaked summer, I’m delighted by all the water around my central Victorian home, but I have missed my hopper fishing. 

Then yesterday, the boys and I went for a fish on the local streams (something that would be, incidentally, all but a lost cause by this point in a hot, dry summer) and, for the first time in a long time, I saw hoppers without even having to look for them. Whether it be mayfly, beetles, flying ants or whatever, my loose rule is, if I’m by the water and an insect is sufficiently abundant to just be there as part of the landscape, it’s likely the trout will be eating them.

High, steep banks, wet-wading warm, and a gusty wind should mean hoppers.

Yesterday, although the hopper numbers weren’t quite at the level of an ancient Egyptian plague, they were obvious – bouncing out of the grass every step or so on the track down to the stream. Quite a variety too: some slimmer, some fatter, different colours, and all a good size – without too many of those really big flying species which can glide annoyingly across any waterway narrower than the Goulburn.

On the stretch where we were about to fish, plenty of steep banks rise almost vertically from the water; and coupled with a gusty prefrontal northerly and wet-wading warmth, the ingredients seemed to line up for our first hopper fishing of summer. I took the gamble and suggested we all rig up with hoppers, even though it took me a moment to find the right box. 

This hopper, and quite a few of its mates, ended up on the water all by themselves.

Sean and I had barely begun casting when Daniel called from upstream to say he’d just missed a good fish on a Polyhopper. Almost on cue, a real hopper drifted right past us, and then another. It’s promising to find hoppers on the bank; it’s better still when you see them on the water. Although our first few searching casts were full of anticipation, they produced no action. Then Sean polaroided an unmistakable shape finning right beneath a steep bank. His initial cast caught a gust of wind, and his deer hair hopper plopped on to the water a good metre behind the trout. No matter, the fish turned immediately and chased it down towards us. Once it caught up, it literally head-butted the fly, but without eating it. Just after it turned to go back to its lie, Sean flicked the hopper on top of it, and this time the trout casually ate it right in front of us. Fantastic!

This trout was sitting right beside the bank in the background – no wonder!

The next couple of hours produced mixed success: hopper eats that stuck, hopper eats missed, and even a trout or two which ate the nymph beneath. Then, some storms which had been conveniently skirting around us got a bit close for comfort, and fat drops of rain began splatting onto the water and our caps. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning flashed up on my phone, and it was time for an honourable departure back to the car. Still, our cut short session has proved that, at least locally, the hoppers are about despite all the rain – and the trout know what they are. Win/ win.