Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hopper time is here!

I think this has to be my favorite time of year for fishing our area rivers! Days are beginning to start out a bit chilly, mornings are crisp and afternoons warm. The fishing conditions are in good shape as we head into fall.
Hopper fishing has really picked up the past few weeks out on the Yellowstone, making for some fun and exciting fishing. Another thing I enjoy about this time of year is that what crowds we have compared to some rivers in the state, have thinned out dramatically now that hunting season is here, school started and tourist season is winding down. It won’t be long and fall colors will be with us too! I floated the Yellowstone several times this past week, and not only was the fishing pretty darn good, but we literally had the whole place to ourselves, maybe seeing a boat or two early, but they quickly disappeared down the river.
The cooler temperatures and rainy days from a few weeks ago drastically reduced the water temperature, and may have saved our bacon. Now first thing in the morning, the water is downright chilly. Even for a guy who likes to wet wade, wader time probably isn’t too far away. With the water being cold as it is to start the day, there’s no point in hurrying to get out on the water.
The fish aren’t likely to be too active first thing, and may be hunkered down a bit. So, nymphing or streamers may be the way to go to start the day. It may mean adjusting tactics too and getting the nymphs down deep and allowing streamers to sink a bit deeper. Hopper fishing hasn’t really been getting going until late morning. All of the recent smoke in the air has had an overcast effect on the water, keeping the intensity of the sun down and making the fish more active.
As the day goes on, the big dry fly/hopper will still get some attention. On the warm afternoons, you can hear the hoppers chattering on the banks. If there’s a bit of a breeze, but not too windy, all the better! It’s also the time of year when some hatches aren’t too far away from appearing. By mid-September, we usually have some baetis/blue winged olives showing up in the early afternoon, as well as some larger mayflies. Look for rising fish in the foam lines, tailouts, and slick water.
A good tactic to use is to fish a larger dry fly like a parachute adams, purple haze, or royal wulff in a size that is easily visible, and trail a smaller dry fly or emerger pattern. Use a size smaller tippet than what’s used to the top fly and use a short leash of a foot or so. Most times, if fish are actively feeding, they will eagerly hit both patterns. Sometimes they’ll neglect the dry fly and be all over the emerger variant. Another tactic I’ve been using with success is to trail a smaller dry fly off of the hopper. This usually gets some eats in likely water even if there are no actively feeding fish.
It’s a great time of year to fish in these parts. There are scenic waters with excellent fishing conditions right here in our back yard without having to burn a tank of gas to get there. Tight lines!
Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus.