The Magic of the Hopper Dropper

The Magic of the Hopper Dropper | Jackson Hole Fly Company

A Deep Dive into the Hopper Dropper Setup

Fly fishing is a captivating sport that invites a world of ingenuity and technique, with the hopper dropper setup taking a prominent place in the angler's playbook. This setup, a combination of dry fly (the 'hopper') and nymph (the 'dropper'), can be an extremely effective strategy, particularly when trout are both surface and subsurface feeding. Here's an in-depth look at the hopper dropper setup, explaining why it works, when to use it, and how to rig it.

The Magic of the Hopper Dropper

The hopper dropper setup is, essentially, a two-fly system. The 'hopper' is a buoyant, dry fly that mimics terrestrial insects like grasshoppers, while the 'dropper' is a weighted nymph or subsurface fly tied on a length of tippet off the bend of the dry fly. This ingenious setup capitalizes on trout's feeding habits and provides them with a choice: a visible insect on the water's surface or a subsurface morsel.

When to Use the Hopper Dropper

While the hopper dropper is a versatile setup, it's particularly effective during the warm months when terrestrials are abundant. However, it's worth noting that this setup is not confined to the presence of hoppers alone. The 'hopper' can represent any large, floating fly—be it a stonefly, caddis, or even a large attractor dry fly.

The hopper dropper setup is also an excellent choice when fishing unfamiliar waters. The dual-approach technique increases your chances of understanding what the fish are feeding on.

Rigging a Hopper Dropper Setup

Setting up a hopper dropper rig is straightforward. Begin by tying your dry fly (the hopper) to the end of your leader as you typically would. From the bend of the dry fly hook, attach a length of tippet—between 12 to 24 inches, depending on water depth and clarity—and then tie your nymph (the dropper) at the end.

The dry fly acts as your strike indicator, so keep an eye on it. Any abrupt movement could mean a trout has taken your nymph. Equally, a sudden disappearance under the surface could indicate a hit on the dry fly.

Selecting the right flies is crucial. The dry fly needs to be buoyant enough to support the nymph, and the nymph should match the hatching insects in the water, or represent a general, irresistible meal for a hungry trout.

Adding a Dropper

The hopper dropper system presents a lot of possibilities for fly fishing, with combinations ranging from a dry fly with a nymph, a dry fly with a streamer, to a dry fly with an emerger, and even two dry flies. The configuration you choose depends largely on the specific fishing conditions you encounter.

A common query among anglers is whether to attach the second fly from the bend of the hook of the first fly or from the eye of the first hook. The method of tying from the bend of the hook was popularized by competitive fly fishing, as it allows for the swift attachment of a new section of tippet within a few seconds. However, this approach is not without its drawbacks. Tying from the bend can make it more difficult to hook a fish and may even increase the likelihood of foul hooking.

An alternative recommendation is to tie from the eye of the hook. There have been reports of unsuccessful catches due to the line protruding from the bend, which can act as an early warning system for the trout, preventing the hook from setting properly. Attaching a new section of tippet from the eye, on the other hand, allows the entire fly to be accessible, enabling a firm and effective hook set. This strategy could potentially increase your chances of a successful catch.

Favorite Hopper Dropper Flies


Purple (Barney) Chubby Chernobyl Black/Purple (Knockout) Chubby Chernobyl
Gray/Amber (007) Micro Chubby Black/Tan (the Black & Tan) Chubby Chernobyl
Tungsten Bead Duracell Jig Beadhead Flash Prince Nymph
Beadhead Flashback Pheasant Tail Tungsten Bead Rainbow Warrior Jig




Buy the Hopper Dropper Fly Box Now 

In Summary

The hopper dropper setup embodies the versatility and strategic depth that make fly fishing such a rewarding pursuit. With practice and patience, mastering this technique can greatly enhance your chances of success on the water, offering a tantalizing two-course meal that trout find hard to resist. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned angler, the hopper dropper provides a fresh dimension to your fly fishing adventures. Get your gear, hit the waters, and let the hopper dropper do its magic!


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