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Hopper Season

By Jeff Samsel

Fly-fishermen know. Whether they are targeting brown trout, stream smallmouths or farm pond bluegills, fly-rodding anglers know that from mid-summer to late fall, displaced terrestrial insects provide important forage for gamefish cruising near the shore, making hopper patterns and other “terrestrial” flies outstanding options.

Spin-fishermen often overlook this fun way to fish, but in truth, what a terrestrial insect fly pattern can do, a Rebel Crickhopper can do better! Crickhoppers and Bighoppers (larger Crickhoppers) offer a natural profile and colors, just like a good fly, but it’s far easier to make quick accurate casts to current seams, eddies and pieces of cover with ultralight spinning gear than with a fly rod. In addition, a Crickhopper can be brought to life with rod tip twitches or slow reeling to effectively imitate the natural behavior of terrestrial insects that find themselves afloat.

If you’ve ever seen a cricket or grasshopper land in the water and watched what happened next, you probably understand what makes this kind of fishing so exciting. You also might remember the bug’s behavior. Typically, a grasshopper that finds itself afloat will be motionless at first, maybe just trying to gain orientation. Then, it in starts scurrying across the top – sometimes steadily, but often frantically – in the direction of dry land (or so it hopes). It will stop periodically, whether to rest or regain orientation, and then continue its surface kicking. In many streams, ponds and lakes, chances of getting back to shore are minimal.

Work a Crickhopper to match this behavior. Cast near the bank, beside cover, to a current seam or to some other inviting spot and let the bait rest or drift in the current for several seconds. If nothing attacks, barely twitch the rod tip one or two times and then start working the lure either by reeling steadily or with short sharp twitches of the rod tip. Slow reeling causes the bait to swim at the surface and push out a wake. Quick twitches make it dance more erratically.

Either way, pause the lure every now and then, and be extra ready when you start it moving again. Often fish hover beneath a bait when it stops, and the next bit of motion triggers an attack.

Be aware that if bluegills or other panfish are present, they are apt to hit a Crickhopper repeatedly, and smaller fish, especially, often won’t connect. Don’t set the hook unless the lure disappears, or you’ll yank it away from fish quite a bit. Just keep working it when you are getting smaller bites, and it won’t be long before something attacks more decisively.

Crickhopper Popper

A Crickhopper Popper provides an excellent alternative to the regular Crickhopper when you want sound to get fish’s attention but still want a cricket/grasshopper profile. It has the same body as a Bighopper but is equipped with a cupped popping face. Fish it with gentle rod snaps and pauses and hold on tight!