Late August means one thing for sure: Hopper Season. While there are grasshoppers around most of the summer, August is the best month for fishing them. Lots of things can contribute to a good (or bad) hopper year. Summer moisture is a big one, as is temperature. On hot, dry years the hoppers will congregate down by the river. On years like this one where we have had a lot of rain over the summer and things are still pretty green and healthy, the bugs are more spread out. How aggresively farmers use pesticides and such does make a big difference as well.
Our guides and anglers through the shop have been reporting that this year isn't great, but isn't too bad either. If you fish a hopper long enough you will likely get a fish to eat it. But it's not just the gangbusters off the wall action of some years. Natural colors such as tan and yellow have been working better, and the larger sizes are the way to go right now. One of our guides has been fishing a size 4 or 6 and doing much better than the 8s and 10s.
The larger hoppers are a much better choice if you are going to be fishing a dropper with your dry. Hoppers make a great choice if you want to fish a double fly rig. They are big and bouyant and easy to see. Modern foam hoppers are not only very visible and bouyant, but they are a lot more durable than traditional hair and feather styles. Fish generally hit hoppers with abandon and can chew flies up fast.
You'll do best on hoppers fishing meadow or open stretches with lots of brush and grass along the river. The Lower Yellowstone and parts of the Madison are prime examples. Windy days are best as the hoppers can get blown down in the rivers. The natual bugs make a big splat when they land, and fish will key in on that kind of presentation. You don't need to be delicate with these flies.
What is it about Hoppers that make everyone crazy? Fishermen love to fish big flies. It's a lot more fun (and easier) to fish a two inch long bright foam fly than some size 22 Trico. Also, when the hopper bite is on, it's on. Trout will chow down on these things with reckless abandon. It can be very productive and very fun. If you hit a great hopper day once, you'll always want to fish them. All the magazines, books, videos, etc glorify hoppers, so it's easy to get wrapped up in the frenzy.
While the craze about hoppers is not likely to subside anytime soon, don't overlook other terrestrials. Ants and beetles will often times outfish hoppers ten to one. Especially on waters where hoppers just won't work as well, fish an ant or beetle to do pretty well. Fishing an ant or beetle behind a hopper is a very effective this time of year...
Late summer can be a challenge. Turn to terrestrials to make the most of it.