If you’re a fly-fishing enthusiast, you’re probably aware there’s another aspect to the sport that goes hand-in-hand with this popular piscatorial pursuit. Many fly anglers also make (tie) their own artificial flies. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you create something out of colorful bits and pieces of feather, fur, wool, and other natural or man-made materials, and then use it to catch a fish.
The winter months are the perfect time for this hobby, and it’s when most tyers try to fill the vacant compartments in their fly boxes. It’s wintertime here now, so I’ve started to tie some trout flies for the coming season. My stockpile of certain patterns has dwindled to the point where I need to do some serious replenishing. Otherwise, I may be forced to go with Plan B … to buy them. I prefer using flies I’ve tied myself, so I’m going to try and complete all the patterns I’ll need for the year. At least, that’s my Plan A.
Some people view fly-tying as an art form. If art can be defined as anything that takes skill and imagination to complete, then fly-tying can certainly be considered a form of art. Not only can you make something that can be used to entice a hungry trout or other gamefish, your creations can also be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Artificial fly patterns can be very interesting and beautiful to look at, regardless of how they’re presented, or the skill in which they were made. Whether they’re found in a rusty fly box tucked away in the pocket of a fishing vest, or mounted in a fancy shadow box hanging from one’s wall, they’re all wonderful pieces of art. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it doesn’t matter if they’re perfect examples, meticulously-tied by a professional, or imperfect examples, hastily-tied by a hobbyist.
Some flies are tied to catch angler’s eyes, while others are tied to catch fish. Both are nice, but I prefer the latter.
Final Thoughts – The SA Hopper
The SA Hopper is one of my favorite dry flies. It was developed in the mid-1990s by a friend, Roman Scharabun (1952-2005), of St. Albert, Alberta.
Roman was a school teacher by profession but was also an extremely innovative and talented fly-tyer who enjoyed designing new and improved fly patterns for southern Alberta’s trout streams. Among the patterns he is credited with are the R.S. Quad May series of mayfly imitations and the SA Hopper.
I fished with Roman on several occasions while his yet unnamed hopper pattern was still in its experimental stage. It worked incredibly well on the Crowsnest, Oldman, and Castle rivers, and their trout loved them. Initially, Roman had considered calling his new fly the Crowsnest Hopper. Upon discovering its effectiveness on all of the trout streams in this area, another fly-fisher friend of Roman’s, Bill Robertson, suggested the name SA (Southern Alberta) Hopper. The rest, as they say, is history.
Not only does the SA Hopper work as a grasshopper imitation, it can also imitate golden and Yellow Sally stoneflies. It’s a versatile fly to carry in your fly box and I wouldn’t be without it. In the event you tie flies yourself and would like to try making these, I have included the recipe at the bottom.
For more information about the SA Hopper, including a material list and photos, click the fly pattern title below. You will be able to view and download the pdf document for future reference.
Hook: Tiemco 200R, 2302, or equivalent, size 8-14
Thread: 6/0 – 8/0, fire orange
Tail: Red elk or deer hair
Abdomen: Yellow closed-cell foam (2mm thickness), cut into strip 1/2 – 2/3 width of hook gap. Leave a bit of foam, trimmed to a V-shape, extending over the back of the hook.
Ribbing: Brown hackle
Underwing: 4-6 strands of pearl Crystal Flash
Wing: Elk or deer hair
Thorax: Light to medium-olive synthetic dry-fly dubbing