By Nick Simonson
In our summer fun tying series, we’ve addressed beetles and ants and whipped up a spider, but by far the finest floating fly to flip for fish in any flow is the late summer classic – the foam hopper. In yellows, greens and beiges these foam flies can be tied to match the commonly-occurring grasshoppers that are getting big and juicy right now, populating streamside and lakeshore stands of grass, just begging to be blown into the water and savagely inhaled by a hungry trout or attacked by gang of bluegills. One could even tie them up in black and brown to imitate the crickets that are also coming of age this time of year. However you make it, this is the best foam hopper for beginning fly anglers, as its bulk draws strikes from feeding fish and it takes the abuse of dozens of hits due to its wire ribbing and an added drop of head cement.
Hook: Curved Nymph (TMC 200R) Size 6-10
Thread: 6/0 to Match Pattern
Underbody/Head: Green Dry Fly Dubbing
Body/Head: Yellow Closed Cell Foam
Ribbing: Medium Ultrawire
Wing: Stacked Elk Hair
Legs: Round Sili Legs
Select a strip of closed cell foam that is cut thin and about three times the length of the hook shank. Form a thread bed and secure the foam to the hook, tying it in behind the hook eye and wrapping back to the bend (1). Once the foam is secured with a couple passes of thread, tie in a stretch of medium ultrawire and dub the thread with the desired color for the underbody – it could be contrasting as in the example, or a similar shade (2). Dub the underbody in to about two-thirds up the hook shank and stop (3).
To form the tail and the abdomen of the hopper, fold the foam over so there is a slight space between the foam and the dubbing and secure the foam in place at the two-thirds mark where the dubbing stops (4). Pinch the foam down against the body, forming a tail that hangs out slightly from the hook shank, and secure that in place with a turn of wire. Wrap the wire forward to the two-thirds point, creating small segments in the body before securing the wire with a couple thread wraps and trimming the excess (5).
Select a small pinch of stacked elk hair and tie it in as the wing, so the tips are about as long as the foam tail. Secure the hair nubs with a few wraps of thread and lock down the remaining foam underneath them all the way up to the hook eye (6). Dub the thread with the same dry fly dubbing and form the underside of the fly’s head (7).
Fold the foam back over the fly, forming the top of the head by tying the remaining foam strip in place at the two-thirds point on the hook shank (8). Once secure, tie in a round silicone leg on each side of the pattern and trim them so that they are about as long as the tail in back and even with the head in front. Trim back the excess foam above the wing so just a little hangs out behind the head (9). Whip finish and add a drop of head cement to the bottom of the thread wraps and the foam hopper is complete (10).
Late summer is the ideal time to be casting hoppers to trout in streams and bluegills on lakes and ponds. A fun trick for the latter is to stroll along any grass-covered bank and watch the insects make their haphazard escapes which put them in dangerous territory on the surface. Cast your foam offering out where bluegills key in on these kicking prey and odds are it will disappear along with the real thing. Target overgrown banks, especially on windy days on those grassy trout streams and it’s likely a big brown or rainbow will emerge from the shadows for an easy foam snack. While a slightly advanced pattern, it’s easy to crank out a dozen of these in a single session at the vise. Vary the colors and sizes to have a garrison of grasshoppers at the ready for all of your late summer fly fishing.