F&S Fly of the Week: The Chaos Hopper

Sure, it’s springtime, and we trout addicts are mostly focused on aquatic insects. But before you can say “terrestrial,” it will be high summer, with warm, breezy days, tall grass, and lots of grasshoppers. Hopper fishing is a blast, and the Chaos Hopper is a great fly to use for it.

A hopper pattern can work just about anywhere, but the essence of fishing it is to drop the hopper along a grassy shore, where trout wait for hoppers that somehow lose their footing and end up in the drink. The ideal setting is a meadow stream in the Rocky Mountain west. The Chaos Hopper hails from Craig Mathews’ legendary Blue Ribbon Flies shop in West Yellowstone, Montana. The customers and the trout seem to love it.

I love it too, because I admire flies that are both simple and effective. All you need is a strip of tan closed-cell craft foam (the width of the hook gap) for the body, an even thinner strip of the same foam in a bright color for the sighter, a little bundle of Z-Lon or similar fibers, and a couple segments of banded rubber leg. Tied on a standard dry-fly J-hook, it goes together in minutes.

Unlike many foam hoppers, the Chaos Hopper runs small, and that’s helpful both for casting and for strategy. The best fly-fishers often drop down a size or two when trout are reluctant to take what’s otherwise an appropriate fly. It’s worth a try where trout have been seeing two-inch Chernobyl Ants plopping on the surface day after day.  Real hoppers can be half that size, and probably taste just as good as the big ones.

The two key design elements are the body shape and the legs. It’s easy to cut a taper into the tan foam strip with scissors, but an easier way to make a better shape is with a foam body cutter like the ones sold by River Road Creations. As for the legs, all that’s needed is to lash them to the sides, but you’re welcome to tie an overhand knot in the back leg to suggest a jointed appendage. The sighter is strictly for the angler’s benefit and isn’t visible to the fish.

Summer can be a confounding season for the trout fisher, with warming water and dwindling hatches, but hopper fishing provides something to look forward to. And by the way, this fly can stir up some chaos along the shore of a bass pond, too.

Chaos Hopper Recipe 

  • Hook: Dry Fly, 1x Long, Such as Mustad R50-94840, Tiemco 5210, or Similar, Size 8-14
  • Body: Tan Craft Foam, Strip Wide as Hook Gap
  • Wing: Yellow Crinkled Z-Lon, EP Fibers, or Similar
  • Sighter: Thin Strip of Craft Foam, Hi-Viz Color of Choice
  • Legs: Montana Fly Company Speckled Centipede, Medium, or your favorite rubber legs
  • Thread: Tan 140 Denier (6/0)

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