Fishing the grasshopper season is one of the most spectacular times that I look forward to each year. There is nothing better than to flick out a natural or artificial grasshopper and watch it drift down a rippled run and within an instant be swallowed by a big, golden-coloured river trout. The feeling is indescribable.
The hot summer days turn these terrestrial insects into active grass-eating machines that in some places can do a lot of farming damage. Those farmers hate grasshoppers and one can’t blame them, but anglers hold them in high regard for providing insurmountable fishing sport.
For most anglers, the ’hopper season starts mid-summer. For me, it usually starts mid or late November. This is a short period of preparation in walking the riverbanks in search of the first grasshoppers.
These grasshoppers are very tiny about 25mm in length and won’t interest the trout in any way. So why put in this time and effort, you might ask?
Well, once I see the tiny baby ’hoppers along the riverbank I know that in 3-4 weeks time I’ll be one of the first anglers to fish the river to trout that are less spooky and haven’t received the fishing pressure that they do within the peak of the season. This is a tactic worthy of the effort.
Good grass growth right up to the edge of the river is the number one factor in choosing a good waterway in grasshopper season.
If there is a limited amount of bankside grass, then success with a hopper presentation will be small. In this situation it will be time to search for areas of the river that have pockets of good grass growth and to then carefully fish these areas.
Weather conditions will play a vital role in your fishing success. The hotter the day, the better, for grasshopper fishing. A strong breeze that aids in blowing these terrestrial insects into the water is also good.
If you use natural bait then arriving early in the morning to gather the natural ’hoppers is a better proposition than to try to catch them in the heat of the day. The cool of morning makes catching grasshoppers quite easy, as they are less active at this time.
Once you have collected a good number of ’hoppers it’s better to wait for the heat of the day then make your way to your starting point. I always find that the further away from access points you go the better, which basically means less fishing pressure.
Grassy banks, good cover and water flow are the best areas to search. Anglers can start with a bubble float rig with a small piece of cork or rubber valve for a stopper. Then thread a small hook through the collar of the grasshopper keeping it alive. Your upstream cast needs to be executed with care, so that the hopper doesn’t flick off, and just upstream a metre or so to drift past the prime area where you feel a trout maybe hiding.
Greater success will come to anglers using the bait drifting method, which involves little or no weight at all. Understandably, there are conditions where weather and terrain will limit its use, but where possible the results will be high. By casting with a gentle lob a short distance upstream and letting it drift down back to you while retrieving the slack line will produce the most natural presentation. Sometimes you can add a little split shot but don’t over do this. All that remains is to watch that wild river trout take the bait.
Fishing a ’hopper fly pattern is almost like fishing natural bait, as you’re casting to the same areas as you would be with bait.
Flyfishers have a few advantages, however, like being able to cast longer distances. Being able to change to different patterns and produce a few different presentations like a ’hopper fly on top and a second fly below.
A recommended fly outfit for ’hopper fishing is a light, 4-5wt fly rod with matching line and a 2.7m leader.
When fly fishing a river with a hopper imitation it’s best to work every nook and cranny and most times it will pay dividends to make your fly hit the water with a splat, which can attract the trout to the fly. Sometimes you can even give the fly a slight twitch every now and then. Also, don’t be afraid to try a wet hopper pattern that can sink below the surface, as many a fine trout has been taken this way.
Another consideration to fishing a river at ’hopper time is the structure of the river. Some rivers like the Stevenson at Buxton are in good condition, being flat with no soil erosion and less cover from objects like fallen logs and trees.
Trout in these smaller streams are generally more dependent on deep water and overhang for cover. While are careful approach is still required it doesn’t need to be to the extent of that on a river like the Rubicon at Thornton.
The Rubicon, which has bad soil erosion and high banks, needs an extremely careful approach, even to the point of getting down on hands and knees to stay out of sight.
Grasshoppers are from the order Orthoptera. The two main Australian families Acrididae and Tettigoniidae contain many species. The most commonly seen grasshopper is your normal field grasshopper from the family Acrididae. The grasshopper has a very simple life cycle.
The adult female deposits her eggs on leafy vegetation or in the ground and hatching will begin around the start of summer. The newly hatched young are called vermiform larvae and these will grow through a series of moults to the adult sized grasshopper within a 3-4 week period.
Most grasshopper flies include a touch of orange in their construction and this is the key to a good grasshopper fly. Selecting an imitating fly among the great many available seems a big task, but a fly imitating the natural in size, shape and colour will do the job.
Some of the excellent patterns I recommend are the Nobby Hopper, Banjo Hopper, Hackle Hopper, and a fly I tie called the Latex Hopper. This fly is tied on a size 12 hook with a latex mayfly body and olive deer hair head and two orange rubber legs that wriggle on the water surface imparting a real life like struggling ’hopper action.
Towards the end of the season I have seen some grasshoppers that land in the water and sink instead of floating and subsequently my floating pattern has been refused. The first time this happened to me I was totally amazed – and fishless.
At home I set about tying a wet grasshopper pattern from water absorbing materials and although my success rate with it has been small, a wet grasshopper pattern does work. The reason grasshoppers sometimes sink is hard to say, but I’ve discussed this with friends and we came to the conclusion that the grasshopper body having many joints would eventually have to absorb water and sink.
An appropriate fly to imitate this is a Nobby Hopper that retains the yellow chenille body and golden pheasant tippet legs, but instead of a deer hair head I dub a water absorbing material in its place. This fly will sink at just the right depth, retaining its grasshopper form.
There are many rivers and streams in Victoria that are great to fish during ’hopper time. I’ll just recommend my favourites.
The Rubicon flows through farmland and the township of Thornton until it joins the Goulburn River a few kilometres downstream of Gilmours Bridge. In its upper reaches it is fast flowing and its banks are overgrown with vegetation which hampers casting but can be a real challenge for those who want to improve their casting skills.
Downstream it opens up to where casting is unrestricted. The river carries wild brown trout from 250g to 2.5kg+, with rainbow trout and sometimes Atlantic salmon, which occasionally escape from the trout farms. Grasshoppers are abundant along the Rubicon with many species evident including the big locust grasshopper.
In its upper reaches it is a good nursery stream for the Goulburn River with a good gravel bottom. Below Buxton there are some sections of gravel with some siltation occurring due to soil erosion upstream. Good populations of small wild brown trout will be found, as well as rainbow trout. Like the Rubicon, there is a large population of grasshoppers.
This stream is also a good nursery for the Goulburn with spawning occurring within its good gravel streambed sections. Brown trout are the main inhabitants with some in the 1kg range, but most are around 500g. Grasshoppers are abundant along different sections of the river with the Flowerdale area particularly good.
Snobs Creek begins in the Torbreck Range and runs into the Goulburn River about 4km downstream from the Eildon Pondage wall. In its upper reaches, it harbours many small brown trout. The section of stream that runs downstream of the Goulburn Valley Highway, and particularly at its junction with the Goulburn, contains bigger sized trout. Grasshoppers can be found in good numbers along this creek.
Victoria’s wild river trout love to eat grasshoppers and, more times than not, big trout feed on them with tenacity. Whether you’re an angler that uses a natural or an artificial grasshopper to catch trout, there’s no denying that it’s one of fishing’s special moments.
1.The common field grasshopper that is present along many streams during summer.
2.The wet Nobby Hopper is an ideal sunken ’hopper imitation.
3.The Latex Hopper with orange rubber legs.
4.Fishing guide Neil Bennett holds a nice ’hopper-feeding trout taken from the Rubicon River.
5.John Guljas with a typical small river trout that fell to grasshopper pattern.
6.Walking the grassy banks of the Rubicon River searching for ’hopper-feeding trout.