Hopping mad
  |  First Published: March 2013

Tasmanian and Victorian stream levels are now running very low, clear and warm as we head into autumn.

With the grass and bushland dried off and to crisp and yellow, you can walk through a paddock and grasshoppers will be jumping away from you everywhere. This is when terrestrial fly patterns will come in to their own, to represent these insects such as grass and leaf hoppers, which by pure accident or by a forced hand will often commit suicide by flying or jumping from the safe dry land streamside, onto that fatal water surface of a stream.

Trout seem to become less selective and more opportunistic about their feeding at this time too, and will usually take these kamikaze offerings with gusto.

For a Fly Fisher wanting to remain pure to the feathers and fur, you need to be trying grasshopper imitations like the great Noel’s Nobby autumn hopper or other legged hopper or Bibio style dries. Those who love the creativity that foam has given us will love patterns like Muz Wilson’s Wee Creek Hopper, the Madam X and a multitude of others.

Stealth and good presentation is required, but you won’t (or shouldn’t) need that little mayfly pattern that did so well from October until Christmas during the mayfly hatches.

Instead of trying to land it very delicately, sometimes landing the grasshopper fly with a plop or splash can actually produce better results. If you watch a grasshopper fall into a river it doesn’t land softly, so don’t be scared if the fly hits the water a bit hard.

Grasshopper fishing traditionally has been done from the elevated banks of streams, and many bait anglers using live grasshoppers love these high undercut banks, where they can sneak up and peer over the edge into the water without revealing their whole profile to the unsuspecting trout.

Fly fishers can adopt the same approach, but the ease of casting further with fly rod and line it’s better to wade upstream and cast towards likely areas, using the traditional upstream or up and across approach, or wait and cast to sighted fish instead.

Another good reason to wade in the stream water instead of walking the banks, is so you don’t have to try and sight fish and watch for snakes at your feet at the same time! Just work the ripples and runs thoroughly with the fly, and always keep an eye out for fish, ‘hoppers are quite a unique and large pattern, so it is better to present it in front of a fish rather than flogging it blindly.

The best Tasmanian rivers for ‘hopper fishing are any streams with grassed areas surrounding them, the favourite habitat of the humble ‘hopper. The Leven River as one of the best hopper streams in the state and it really fishes well around the Gunns plains area at this time , but ‘hopper fishing on smaller creeks and streams in the mid North west like the Wilmot, Dasher, Minnow, Gawler and Rubicon will usually always result in bags of small but legal sized trout.

In the north of the state the St Pats, North Esk, South Esk, Meander and Forester rivers are worth a big go and down south the tributaries of the Huon that flow through grassy fields are awesome, like the Russell River – cormorants pending.

In Victoria the streams of the north east are the ticket – just look for those grassy banks and grasshoppers fleeing from your every footstep.

Most of these streams are tributaries of larger rivers so they often carry a few bigger fish here and there as well as the average fish of 300-700g.

But have a look around too, half the fun is not reading about it in a report, but finding your own special little stream by trial and error that can remain in your heart forever.

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