The Search For The Ultimate Small Stream Dry Fly (have we found it?)

Category:
Fly Fishing
arizona mini-hopper
Flies
Review
wandering arizona
Added Date:
Tuesday, 21 Jun, 2011
Summary
My standard -- when nothing is hatching or otherwise happening -- is a Parachute Beetle Bug, which is basically a gaudy red Western Adams. It works and ties easy, but I have poked around foam flies a bit, thinking they'd float longer (little fish can drown a proper dry pretty quickly).
 
Content
As a certifiable small-stream fly fishing fiend, I'm always on the lookout for killer small stream dry flies.

My standard -- when nothing is hatching or otherwise happening -- is a Parachute Beetle Bug, which is basically a gaudy red Western Adams. It works and ties easy, but I have poked around foam flies a bit, thinking they'd float longer (little fish can drown a proper dry pretty quickly).

So when I stumbled on these bad boys at the Arizona Wanderings site, I was intrigued:

Arizona Mini-Hoppers

He calls these #12 flies the Arizona Mini-Hopper, and while I'm not sure about the hopper bit, they do ring my "buggy looking" chimes.

A downwing caddis-style fly with a foam back and rubber legs (which you can simply pull off for a more streamlined appearance), Ben was kind enough to send me a few to test, and the results have been favorable.

They float extremely well -- even after being mauled by a steady stream of little fish -- and they work, even on the flatter water.

I won't pretend that small stream trout are the most selective on the planet, but I have plenty of experience with days where one fly handily outfished a couple others.

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The Mini-Hopper has -- so far -- performed as well as anything else, and because it floats so nicely, may become my generic "go-to" fly (the one I fish when nothing obvious is happening on the water).

It doesn't look hard to tie, and because it seems to fall into a niche where it's handily imitating everything from a caddis to a terrestrial, you can see why it might find steady employment on the pointy end of a small stream addict's leader.

Any ideas from the Undergrounders?

See you on a small stream, Tom Chandler.
 
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Destinations
 (2)
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
 (2)
The Jefferson River is an important part of a system of rivers that combine to form the majestic Missouri. Starting at the confluence of the Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers near Twin ... moreBridges, Montana, it winds 77 miles in a northeasterly fashion to Three Forks. Here, it meets with the Madison and Gallatin rivers that together converge into the Missouri River at the Missouri Headwaters State Park. Like so many other rivers in Montana, the Jefferson, named by Clark in honor of the U.S. President, runs deep with history. In fact, the Jefferson River is a segment of the larger Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, administered by our National Park Service.

When thinking about the Jefferson, a Class 1 river for recreational enjoyment, most observers view the river in three distinct sections. Characterized by slow, meandering flows, the upper third works its way through a broad, arid valley. Along this braided, 44 mile long floodplain, you will encounter working farms, dense cottonwood stands, flowered meadows and a variety of wildlife until you reach the town of Cardwell. Throughout the next 15 miles, its waters flow through a narrow, steep canyon where the water can be deep, slow and contained. As a result, the stretch from Cardwell to the Sappington Bridge has comparatively fewer trees, swamps, meadows and wildlife.

At Sappington Bridge the river once again becomes a circuitous, rambling river, rich in swamp life, colorful fields, large cottonwood groves and productive agricultural land. The presence of significant agriculture has resulted in competition for water use. During dry years, the river was tapped generously for irrigation, dropping water levels to the point where fish populations were adversely affected. Recent improvement in riparian management has tended to alleviate these issues. Primarily known as a brown trout river, rainbows, mountain whitefish, burbot and northern pike can also be found here. Less well known and less discovered, the Jefferson offers the opportunity to catch large fish in a scenic, un-crowded environment.
 (3)
The Big Hole River starts in the Beaverhead Mountains south of Jackson, Montana and flows on for about 156 miles. Beginning as a slight stream, it picks up muscle as it joins with ... morethe North Fork, and draws more volume as it passes through the Wise River basin. At the Continental Divide it changes its northeasterly direction and heads southeast until it joins the Beaverhead and forms the Jefferson River close to the town of Twin Bridges, Montana. It hosts one of the last known habitat for the native fluvial artic grayling but is best known to fly fishers for its trout.

Like so many Montana rivers, the Big Hole is as full of history as it is of water. When Lewis and Clark stumbled upon it, the river was providing a buffer zone between rival Indian tribes vying for land as they sagely anticipated the westward push of European miners, furriers and settlers. Fifty years later, a significant number of the Nez Percé, a tribe that had initially befriended the Expedition, refused to accept life on a reservation and were nearly wiped out by U.S. troops in the Battle of the Big Hole. Today’s battles consist of quarrels between ranchers who desire water for irrigation and recreational users who wish to see the water preserved.

Fishing the river can be basically divided into three sections. From the headwaters at Skinner Lake to Fish Trap, the river meanders slowly through high meadowlands. This is where the few remaining artic grayling can be found, although browns and rainbows are in abundance here. In the second section, Fish Trap to Melrose, you will find boulders and pocket water rushing through a narrow canyon; here rainbows outnumber the browns with an estimated 3000 fish per mile. The final section, Melrose to Twin Bridges, is lined with cottonwood bottoms, braided channels and long, slow pools. In contrast to the second link, browns outnumber rainbows 2 to 1 with approximately 3000 fish per mile.
 (5)
The Madison River is arguably one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of southwest Montana, if not the entire world! It’s certainly the most talked over, written up and frequented ... morein the state of Montana – which is considered by some the capital of fly fishing. Anglers will find plenty of great access sites to wade or float along the Madison’s banks and reservoirs (including Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake). Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, and more abound in this majestic fishing stream.

//

The Madison begins its course almost twenty miles into Yellowstone National Park. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hebgen Dam releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintains relatively low water levels and provides wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
Trips
$
525
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
On its way to the Missouri Headwaters, the Jefferson River passes through an assorted landscape. At the town of Twin Bridges, Montana the Ruby River, Beaverhead River and Big Hole ... moreRiver converge to form the Jefferson. In its early stages the river advances past hay fields, large stands of cottonwood and agricultural landscapes. As the river reaches the town of Cardwell, the Jefferson is then flanked by large canyon walls, home to Lewis and Clark Caverns. Downstream of the canyon the river again proceeds through farm and ranchland laced with cottonwood trees until joining the Madison and Gallatin rivers. Though fishing on the Jefferson can be less consistent than on some of our other rivers, it can certainly make up for it with some very special moments. When the Jefferson is good, it can be great!
$
365
-
$
495
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
Destination:
Spend the day fishing for huge rainbows and big browns on the famous Madison River, a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream. With more than 2000 fish per mile, the Madison River offers challenging ... moreand fun fishing for novice to seasoned angler.
$
575
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
Destination:
Just a short drive from Ennis, Montana, the Jefferson river is one you should not miss! We offer full day float fishing trips with lunch and flies provided. 
Outfitters
Centrally located in Ennis, Montana near many blue ribbon rivers, T Lazy B Ranch is a full-service fishing lodge for people looking for an authentic montana fishing experience. ... more

Our full-service fishing guest ranch offers meals, lodging, and guide service with other activies for family members. With over 40 years of guiding experience, we offer guided float trips on the Madison River, Jefferson River, and Yellowstone River, as well as private fishing on Jack Creek, a creek that runs through the ranch.

T Lazy B Ranch History
Founded in the late 1800's, the T Lazy B Ranch was one of the first ranches homesteaded in the Madison Valley. For years it was a working ranch for sheep and cattle. In the mid-thirties, a lodge and three log cabins were added for guests and the ranch took on another dimension.

Authentic Lodging Experience

Our rustic and cozy cabins are located in an alpine setting on Jack Creek. If you have four or more in your group you will have exclusive use of the ranch. Each cabin sleeps two to four people with a maximum of eight guests. There is a modern, spacious bathhouse within easy walking distance of the cabins. Delicious home-style meals are served in our lodge at fishermen’s hours. Lunches are prepared for your day on the river. After dinner, you may want to relax around the fireplace and discuss plans for the next day.
Type:
Fishing
19 comments
Yeah, I could see how adding some hackle might be a good thing but I tend to like hackleless dries for their durability. I tied up a couple of the tan and the only addition I made was to add some white calf tail over the elk hair for an indicator and they look pretty good.
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I find myself wondering if an extra turn of hackle wouldn't improve it. But it's pretty good now.
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So I see now. Hmm, don't know how I could have missed it.
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They're listed in his shop under "flies."
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Ran across this from a google search and it looks like they're not on AZ's site anymore. Protecting a killer pattern or just another fly that didn't stand the test of time? Regardless I think I'll have to tie up a few and find out for myself.
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[...] Looks like there is going to be some serious pockets of hoppers across the west this summer. I like thinking that those dark red spots in AZ are right over the Rim creeks. Make sure to stock your fly box with a fistful of Mini-Hoppers (aka the “ultimate small stream dry fly”) [...]
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[...] sheer tonnage of grass and insect life living around the stream, I wasn’t surprised when the Arizona Mini-Hopper worked slightly better (OK, it’s hard to know for sure) than anything else I [...]
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Thanks for posting this! You can mark me down as another with the "Jeebus that'll KILL on my local river. Why didn't I think of that?" response. I may try it with a krystal flash wing though.
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[...] started the day throwing the vaunted new Mini-Hopper, which accounted for four trout (and several other [...]
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[...] Underground where he gave a great review of the mini-hopper as a possible candidate for “the ultimate small stream fly.” Ever since I stumbled into fly fishing, I have been reading Chandler’s thoughts and [...]
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I'm always messin' with flies sometimes for the good sometimes...well not so much. What I've done to that peacock and black mini hopper was add a black CDC puff under the black deer hair. Looks really good time will tell, week and a half to go.
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Hmmmmmm, peacock... hmmmmm...
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Just tied a bunch with peacock body and black wing and foam used green/black sili legs. I'll be taking them up into the Rockies in a couple of weeks and I just know they're going to produce some nice Grayling,whitefish and rainbows.
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Plus, given that our hackle supply is now finding its way into hair salons everywhere, a hackle-less fly that floats nice isn't a bad thing to have...
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Interesting I think I'd have to tweak the color a bit for my fish but I'm going to tie a few up.... various colors of parachutes, wullfs and elk hairs make up most of my small water aresenal but you're 100% those little brookies can render a fly unfloatable pdq
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I dunno -- the two patterns are pretty dissimilar. The Clodhopper in the video is a foam-body fly, and this is basically a caddis style dry with a foam head/overwing. I suspect they fill pretty much exactly the same niche, but the Mini-hopper seems a little trimmer.
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I've been fishing those (or a hopper that looks very, very similiar) for several years. I found it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8f66jZOcKRQ
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I concur these mini's rock! Those mini's fool fish during the spring caddis hatch, work just as well on high country cutthroats. Win-win, Ben better get a fly contract goin at this rate! mike
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I can attest to those flies effectiveness. ben came up w/ a real winner here. pretty fortunate to call him a friend. it's a great fly.
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