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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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Very droll I know!;-)

Hopper! Not Dennis, not Hedda, just plain old 'garden variety' 'grass' hopper! The word You beautiful thing! evokes all sorts of images in the mind of the fly fisher. Long hot summer days, dry grass and some outsized fish! For many this is the most exciting fishing for the entire season. And in this short guide we will attempt to arm you with the necessary knowledge to allow you to share in the fun.


Trout eat stuff drifting down stream all day long. While there are times that fish shut off altogether, mainly due to biological andFishing a grassy edge down below Thornton on the Goulburn River environmental factors, for the bulk of the season trout feed well throughout any 24 hour period. As a result we know that when we cannot find a visibly feeding fish that it is more than likely they are still active down deep. Knowing this we confidently fish nymphs out of sight in the depths, often with great success, which proves to us that although we cannot see them feeding, it is still happening

Most of the time trout react to what they are seeing in the following way. They will feed exclusively on the item to be found in the largest quantities atHopper feeders are always in close the time. 'Well der!' you may be saying, obviously this is the case, but think carefully about the last time you saw a good hatch on evening. Chances are there were several species of dun and spinner, caddis, midge and maybe even a few stoneflies. In this scenario there are also likely to be nymphs, pupa, even spinner eggs, so what are the fish taking? It's simple. They will feed on the item that is occurring in the largest volume, whether it is on top of or below the water's surface.

On any given night you may have a sprinkling have huge duns coming off but the smaller caddis are outnumbering them by a factor of 20:1. There is your most likely option. Are there more adults or pupa? Simple application of logic. Select the correct fly, present it the right way and away you go. That is the basis of all fishing for trout in rivers. And then there is nature's curve ball. The hopper hatch!

This time of the year is whenA nice fish comes to the net fish lose a lot of their reticence and forget all 'the rules'. While you still have to be careful and not be seen, a large grasshopper fished with thought will catch fish all day. While they may require the size, shape and colour to be right, you will not have to second guess fly selection too much. Hoppers, hoppers or hoppers are the way to go. These huge gobs of protein are just too tempting to a fish. Effort for reward is maximised. Just sit along the edge and wait for them to fall in or drift down. 'Ah life is good' say the hopper feeding trout!

Hopper Hatch

Not so much a hatch as a fall! The insects have hatched months earlier and only become of concern to the fish, and therefore the angler by about An average brownie disgorges a live hopper after being caughtmid-December when they have grown and are starting to end up in the river. We start to notice the first hoppers in the grass in mid to late November. Tiny little critters that jump out of your way when you stray too close with either feet or camera lens.

Warm dry weather is the hopper's friend. Cold snaps, or even worse frosts, spell death for them. Thankfully we don't get frosts in spring time but the vagaries of the weather play a significant part in determining the quality of any given hopper season. This year we have had a bumper crop so you only have to look at the weather for the past few months to see what they need to do well. But what will happen next season?

It would seem logical to presume that because this year's crop was good that the extra eggs laid will mean more hoppers nextHook up on the Rubicon, Geoff hooks a lovely brown on one of David Scholes' favourite pools season.Unfortunately this is not always the case.Grasshoppers are way down the food chain and as a result they spawn many thousands of offspring each time to offset the likelihood that the far majority will not make it to adulthood. The largest determining factor of the number of hoppers to be found is the weather. A few cold snaps will kill vast numbers. Give them the right conditions and they thrive.

In early summer the hoppers can be found all over the paddocks in large numbers. You only have to get out and walk across one of them to literally have thousands of them jumping out of your way. However as the summer intensifies and the grass dries and is eaten they congregate along the rivers edge where grasses do best. This is about the time that the fishing gets really good.

Racing stripes in Nritish racing green! Not quite but sounds good!Hoppers go in for all sorts of reasons. A wind gust on a hot northerly day can catch jumping hoppers and slam them into the water. Cattle walking along the streams edge often send dozens at a time into the stream and the fish will rise and take each one, oblivious to the big bovine profile on the bank above! I was watching a dozen fish rise in the Rubicon the other day. A group of cows were walking along the edge and scaring hoppers in every few minutes. This

resulted in a trickle of hoppers coming down. Perhaps twenty in one batch. All were taken. Then thirty or so more a few minutes later, all were again taken.

Nature's Camouflage

Just take a look at these hopper photos. Do you notice something about them? Natural earthy and grassy tones. Patterns that break up shape and form. These insects are supremely camouflaged from all but one direction, and that is the one we are concerned with. When seen from below hoppers are beige, yellow, green with flecks of orange and red.

Then there are the legs. Legs that make George Gregan's look like chicken Orange legswings!

These allow the hopper to leap vast distances relative to its size and are a prominent feature of the insect and therefore any imitation of them needs to take this into account.

They have a very bulky body and prominent head which not only creates a particular profile but also ensures that when they go in they fall with a splat. No delicate landings with these creatures. It's all or nothing as they desperately try to avoid the water and invariably come down with a crash, sending ripples and waves across the water's surface. This commotion does not go unnoticed!

Prime Lies

Great hopper bank....

During our streamcraft sessions here we often we talk about holding lies, feeding lies and prime lies. The spiel goes something like this. A holding lie is a position a fish goes when it is frightened or stays in when it is not feeding. Often deep in a pool or beneath an undercut bank. A feeding lie is where a fish goes to feed on the hatch and throw caution to the wind. Positions out in the open like the bubble line in the centre of the stream or the tails of pools that offer lots of food but limited protection. A prime lie is both.

A place where a fish has cover and a great feeding spot Another golden/olive brown to the Knobby-Xrolled into one.

These positions are jealously guarded by the larger fish and rightly so. And it is here that our best fishing on the hopper occurs. The larger specimens will come from such places.

This is not to say that fish will not come out from holding positions and take up spots along the edges, because they will, and they do. But the better fish will be found in the spots that have both cover/structure and a good supply of hoppers.

Debunking the Goulburn-Rubicon Hopper Urban Myth

Here goes. I am going to step on someone's toes here, as rumours all start with someone, but BS is BS. There is a school of thought that suggests that Goulburn fish make their way up the Rubicon to feed on hoppers each summer. While we do know there are small migrations of fish up the Rubicon during some seasons and a few extra hopper feeders are the by-product, they venture up because of more suitable water temperatures and certainly

The release comepletes the storynot grasshoppers.

This typically will happen during two situations that occur in summer. Firstly when very warm water is coming down the Goulburn (i.e. low lake conditions) there will be some fish that will move into the cooler flows of the Rubi. This only applies to fish from down around the mouth of the Rubi or below. Fish move up to find cooler water. That is their biological reaction. Trout just have it hard-wired into them that to move upstream will result in cooler water temps, hence the irony of a low lake Eildon producing a warm water tailwater. No matter how far up they go the water is warm.

Then the same thing can happen in the reverse climatic conditions. Take a high lake producing very cold water temperatures in the 10-11 degree range.


Fish feel the warmer temps of 16,17 or 18 degrees in the Rubi and go 'this is alright, I'm outta here'! This is the time that you can get a few more fish than usual run up there, when very cold water in the Goulburn can cause some fish to relocate downstream and inadvertently find the warmer flows of the Rubicon into which they will swim.

However to suggest that trout live in the Goulburn until some triggering factor makes them all make a bee-line for the Rubicon to feed on hoppers is naive if not downright ludicrous. I mean a hopper landing in sends a corresponding ring across the pool it lands in, but not much further than that! I have not heard of a six on the Richter scale hopper landing to date.Go slow and the rewards are many!

Trout are simple creatures. They are reactive not pre-emptive. Unfortunately for us the coalition of the willing are both. But suffice it to say that there is no large scale, 'organised' migration of Goulburn fish up the Rubicon each season.

Fishing the Hopper

We will look at this in two ways. Firstly in relation to the Goulburn and secondly to smaller streams in general. The Goulburn is a large river in summer that offers up some first rate fishing with hopper patterns. There are two distinct places to be looking, the first of which are the backwaters.

4lb of small creek brown on the hopper ..summer fihsing at its bestBackwaters, also know as reverse eddies, are great spots to find a larger fish locked onto terrestrials of all descriptions, hoppers included. The way to approach these is from the upstream end (see backwater article) as the fish are facing into the current that is reversing along the bank. Stalking is the key here as this is combat at close quarters with no prizes for second place.

When fishing hoppers in this situation I try and get the fly to land about a metre or so off the bank, as fish can be flighty in that close to the edge.Another one swims off to fight another dayHopper sizes can be scaled down to same size or a size smaller than the naturals. If you cannot locate a fish with your polaroids or see one rising, then search carefully from the nearest end of the reverse and use a number of casts to work your way 'up' the reverse. Often fish will move a long way to take it so give the fly ample time to be found. This is exciting, visual fishing and is a real highlight of the Goulburn calendar.

The other situation is to find a good current that follows the edge of an overhanging, grassy bank. In this circumstance I try and get the fly as close toThere's gold in them there hills the bank as possible as fish are in tight seeking refuge from the current. This method is more physically intense as you will be repeatedly casting a short line up to about eight metres all day long. Takes are often quick and violent resulting in solid hook ups but a lapse in concentration in the harsh summer sun will often result in heartbreak. Focus on the task at hand. Rest often and drinks lots of water. Make sure you use a good fly repellent or you will be constantly swatting at them making it even more of a challenge to remain focused.

As to the small streams it is much, much easier. You will be wading or walking the edge and being very wary of clinking rocks or throwing your profile on the skyline or shadow on the water. Fish a short line dead drift in all likely looking water. Slower water will require great care and careful assessment before even making a cast. Heavier, broken water may require many dozens of drifts to adequately cover properly.

Hopper take on typical hopper bankAs mentioned earlier look for prime lies and fish them carefully, particularly in the slower pools. I would even scale back fly sizes when fishing this sort of water. While you can just fish your way up them, I would forsake the tails and go right over them to the better spots to give myself the best chance of getting a good fish. This pretty much means that in the better pools it will be your first or second cast that has the most likely chance of a positive outcome.

Fly Patterns

There are so many that will work but I have one that I use a more than most these days. That is Geoff's Miss Knobby-X. Geoff is not the neatest fly tier going around but he has hit on something with this that many more 'accomplished' tiers who are basically just tying versions of versions, will never accomplish. AndNatural and imitation that is to design and effective and truly unique pattern.

This hopper pattern is special. From the way the head is constructed to sit on top (not spinning the deer hair), to its under body of yellow that is allowed to extend to the eye of the hook, its over wing, crossed x-styled rubber legs, minimalist yet bulky body that gets waterlogged and lands with a splat yet floats, and finally the three or four colours of deer hair that again match the camouflaged natural well!

Orange legs and groovy camo

This fly is now being used in Wyoming, Montana, Patagonia, Tassie's western lakes, the Snowy Mountains, New Zealand, up in northern Australia for bass, on Alaskan wilderness rivers out of drift boats. The list continues to grow and will do for many years to come. In case you can't tell I am a great believer in its qualities.

To sum up its effectiveness I draw you to the 'law of fly selection'. Size, shape colour. This has all the classic 'signals' that say hopper to a fish as well as a great lifelike action thanks to the rubber legs. But this is only one of many patterns that you can tie and use. Dave's hopper, the Letort hopper, Keam's Poly hopper,Imagine these things were ten times their size...scary! the Knobby hopper, the Rubi hopper. There are literally hundreds of patterns. Stick to the principles outlined above and you will do fine.

Time of Day

This is an important aspect worth consideration. Hoppers don't get going until the day warms a bit and therefore fishing with them before 11am is rarely great. From about 1pm through until late evening you can expect fish to be well and truly ready to take ahopper. Of course conditions may dictate differently, say if you are going to get a 42 degree day and couldn't bear the thought of the midday sun, or if water temperatures in the afternoon are causing the fish to shut down, or even if you just cant get any other time on the water except the morning! By allGood bye.... means fish them, but be aware that the afternoon is the time to be looking for hopper feeders.

Wrap Up

So there you go. A simple overview of some of the hottest fishing to be found. It's now peak hopper time as I type this on Saturday 14th January 2006 and the day is warming up. I have a couple of guests in today for a streamcraft session and I have to get back to the vice and tie a few more patterns for our afternoon on the river. Make sure you sample some of this delightfully exciting fishing before autumn's cooler days bring it to an abrupt end. But then again, there is always next year.Good bye....




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