certainly plenty of hopper patterns out there, and no doubt plenty
of mighty fine fish have been caught on each one. But like many
fly tiers I like creating my own designs, much like a cook enjoys
creating new recipes: often the ingredients and proportions are
similar to bits and pieces of other recipes, but the result is
different enough to feel a sense of creativity. I also enjoy simple
recipes (whether they are for flies or food) that will satisfy
those who are "feeding", but that are also easy to prepare. It
is out of this mold that I assembled the ideas for "Pete's EZ
background, I remember as a kid observing grasshoppers after I
threw them in the water. At least in the bigger sizes, once they
broke the surface film, the butts would tilt down and the head
and shoulders would be the only part of the grasshopper above
water. They neither rode high in the water, nor lay in a horizontal
plane. My thought was to design a hopper that would duplicate
that presentation, using traditional materials as well as the
foam I have begun to favor for panic and bass poppers.
came from various sources. You may see some resemblance to Ed
Shenk's famous LeTort Hopper. I have always been attracted to
the visual simplicity of Mr. Shenk's pattern, as it floats low
and tilted down in the butt just as I wanted. The idea of the
wrapped foam body came from a foam Stimulator tied by Bill Hammons
of Bakersfield, California. The shape of the foam head is original
(or at least I haven't seen it before), but the basic tying idea
is the same as one of the standard patterns for making a foam
beetle! And finally, I first saw rubber legs on a Madame X, although
I clip mine so they do not extend as far forward.
for preparing the basic materials are in the order in which they
are applied to the hook:
for body: To prepare a thin strip of yellow foam for the
body, you need to acquire a sheet of 1/16" (2mm) thick "fun
foam". Numerous fly fishing catalogs carry a selection, but
the best prices are at stores like Wal-Mart and Ben Franklin
(about $.50 for an 8" x 12" sheet). You will need to slice off
a foam strip about 1/16" wide. I do this by placing the foam
on an old clipboard, holding down a metal straightedge on top
of it for a guide, and cutting off a long slice by scoring the
foam with a razor blade. An 8" slice will tie five or six hopper
bodies! You can also prepare the foam with a sharp pair of straight
nose scissors. Although the edge of the slice will be a little
ragged, I doubt the fish will notice!
Quill: This is used for the underwing, but you can use other
feathers if you wish, or none at all. Many tiers use "Church
Window" feathers from a Ring Neck Pheasant. I use a piece of
Turkey Quill that is about ¼" wide and about 1" long. I cut
quite a few sections from the quill and spread a couple of drops
of flexible cement (I use Dave's Flexament) over the top and
bottom by pulling the quill section between my forefinger and
thumb. Do this the day before, as it will need to dry overnight.
This treatment allows the quill sections to bend when folded
lengthwise over the body. An alternative I have heard about
is backing the quill sections with clear packing tape, but I
have not yet tried this. Finish preparing each quill section
by using scissors to round the tips.
Hair: Many recipes call for stacking deer hair before tying
it in. To keep things simple (although perhaps less aesthetically
pleasing for some) I don't bother using a stacker, although
I do realign a few of the longer hairs. This gives a more tapered
appearance and less of the "paint brush" appearance that results
from using a hair stacker. I am currently using a patch of bleached
(light tan) Coastal Deer Hair.
head/wingpad: The foam head can be made from the same sheet
of yellow foam from which the body strip was cut. But I like
to use white foam, which I color green or tan with a waterproof
marking pen. I leave a spot of white on the top, however, to
help me locate the hopper on the water. From the edge of the
foam sheet use your razor blade or a pair of sharp scissors
to cut a rectangle about ¼" x ½". I then use scissors to snip
and angle the corners so that when tied onto the hopper it will
give the appearance of a head and wingpad. Once the corners
of the rectangle are trimmed, the appearance is more like a
diamond than a rectangle.
Legs: The rubber legs will be tied in on each side of the
hopper. It is my feeling that they act like outriggers on the
water, preventing the hopper from rolling from one side to the
other. I use the simple Madame X style (a straight piece of
leg material tied on each side of the head). If you want to
get fancy, you can use a dark waterproof marking pen to make
segments on the rubber legs. Some tiers may even want to knot
the legs to give the appearance of leg joints. For this, a simple
overhand knot can be used.
In addition to the list of materials below you will need CA glue.
Waterproof marking pens are optional.
2312, sizes 8 - 12. This hook is a slightly humped 2XL light
wire hook with a straight eye. But any 2XL or 3XL hook should
or yellow Danville 3/0
loop of yellow closed cell foam
wide strip of thin yellow closed cell foam, wrapped
of Turkey Quill treated with flexible cement, rounded at one
shaped foam piece, prepared from 1/4"x1/2" rectangle
of thin foam.
short pieces of rubber leg material. I use white or yellow
to help with visibility.
the hook shank with a layer of thread, starting from behind
the hook eye and finishing at the rear of the shank. Tie
the 8" slice of thin yellow foam on top of the hook so that
it creates a foam underbody over the rearmost 2/3 of the
shank. The loose end of the foam strip will be pointing
to the left, away from the eye. Make a small (about ¼")
loop of foam for a tail by pulling the loose end of the
foam forward and over the top. Tie the loop down with a
few thread wraps at the tie in point.
the foam out of the way, use open wraps to bring your thread
forward over the compressed foam underbody. Wrap and spiral
the foam strip over the shank and forward toward the eye,
until the foam underbody has been covered. To minimize compression
of the foam I do this so it is neither loose nor tight… just
snug. Tie the foam down and snip off the excess for use on
the next hopper. To keep the foam from unraveling, I usually
throw on a half hitch before going to the next step.
the turkey quill section so that the rounded tip ends slightly
past the bend of the hook. Fold the quill section lengthwise
over the top half of the foam body. With your left hand, hold
the base of the quill section securely in a semicircle around
the hook shank at the tie-in point. Make a few tight wraps
around the base of the quill section, employing the pinch
technique. Snip off the excess, tie down the rough ends, and
wrap a smooth platform over the front 1/3 of the hook for
the deer hair wing.
The deer hair should be tied in on top similar to an Elk Hair
Caddis. Cut a clump as thick as a wooden matchstick and position
it so the tips extend a little further than the quill section.
Hold the hair firmly with your left hand and tie down the
butts. The butts will flare upward and outward. Wrap the thread
through the flared butts a few times before trimming. Trim
the butts as short as you can and place a drop or two of CA
glue on the trimmed ends. Wrap them down tight to create a
smooth thread platform for the foam head/wingpad.
foam head should be applied on top of the deer hair with 1/3
of the foam in front of the tie-in point and 2/3 behind the
tie-in point. The foam should be wide enough to fold over
the sides of the shank as you tie it down, with the widest
part of the foam placed over the tie-in point. This allows
the foam to slightly cradle and control the flared deer hair.
Wrap a few tight turns, and before going to the next step
throw on a half hitch to keep the foam from expanding and
loosening the wraps.
the rubber legs to either side of the head. Once tied on,
cut the legs to any length you want. I suggest keeping them
a little long so that you can experiment at streamside. Tie
off the pattern with two whip knots over the foam or several
half hitches behind the eye. Either way, try to get the knots
on the bottom of the hook. Trim the thread and put a couple
of drops of CA glue on the knots and wraps that tied on the
head and rubber legs.
finished fly, top view.
these instructions I celebrated by spending Labor Day morning
fishing for trout for the first time since the July 4th holiday.
It was an overcast morning and the sun was lower than the last
time I had fished this particular area. With both the water and
air temperatures at 63F, it certainly felt like the beginning
of a New England fall. The clouds were very dark and threatening,
although they contained themselves throughout the morning. Because
it had rained a little the day before, the water had that dark
tea-color it so often does in New England after a rainfall. I
am told that it has something to do with pine forests and tannic
acid, but I don't really know the science of it all.
I took out
one of the hoppers I had tied step-by-step while writing these
instructions - one with a white foam head - and tied it on the
end of a 4X tippet. Beginning at the foot of a shallow pool I
began fan casting the area, moving a step or two upstream every
so often. As I moved upstream into the head of the pool I realized
that the white foam hopper head was perhaps not the right choice
for these conditions. Because the head lays just on top of the
water, its general appearance that day was not unlike any one
of the millions of bubbles that were being sent downstream by
the nice set of riffles feeding into the pool. I began to wish
I had tied a couple of hoppers with yellow heads (a color suggestion
I added to my directions when I returned home). Yellow provides
nearly as much contrast against the tannin-stained water, but
is easier to spot when floating in the bubble line.
teenage son tied the left-most hopper pictured with this article.
This was his first attempt and it looks just perfect. To test
my directions I asked him to tie it without my help, as I read
the directions aloud to him. I wish to thank him for his editorial
the pool for about 15-20 minutes, I recognized a slow take just
as the hopper floated out of the tail of the riffle and into the
head of the pool. I set the hook casually. It was such a soft
take that I thought it was one of the little river chubs that
are born to annoy trout fishers. But the fish surprised me by
going deep with a few hard tugs, and then circled behind me tethered
to about ten feet of my line and leader. As it coursed sideways
I could see the beautiful bold dark spots of a brown trout. And
not just a half-starved holdover! This was a very plump 12" trout.
Although the take had been subtle, only the tip of the hopper's
deer hair wing protruded from its mouth. Thank goodness for barbless
one more trout that morning, slightly smaller but just as well
fed. This one fell to a size 12 black foam beetle on which I had
tied a plume of pink poly-yarn. I have never fished with pink
before, but decided to try it after learning from a friend that
he ties all of his parachutes in pink. I could see the pink poly-yarn
beautifully against the dark water and white foam bubbles. I have
purchased a sheet of pink foam and look forward to experimenting
with it. At about $.50 per sheet you can afford to experiment
with many colors. Remember that it is unlikely that the trout
will care what color you use.