17th March

Grasshoppers do catch trout

Brendan Connolly

Most people remember trying to catch grasshoppers during their childhood. As adults we generally don’t bother with this – unless you’re an angler that is.

Towards the end of the summer, anglers can be seen stalking through grassland zeroing in on singing grasshoppers – suddenly jumping forward, hands outstretched, diving on their quarry. But grasshoppers are strong jumpers, and often escape.

A common green grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus) resplendent with bright purple and green colouration. Photo Brendan Connolly

A common green grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus) resplendent with bright purple and green colouration. Photo Brendan Connolly

Traditionally, September is the month to use grasshoppers for trout-fishing. There are artificial wet-fly patterns that imitate the grasshopper, which can also be dapped using a long rod (approx. 2-13ft) with a single hook at the end of the line and three feet of dapping floss about 4-5ft above the end of the line to catch the wind. As grasshoppers are large insects, the hook size should not be too small; numbers 10 or 12 are useful.

Grasshoppers are successfully dapped on many Irish lakes, Lough Mask in Co Mayo being one. With its mysterious deep sections and shallow rocks, Lough Mask offers many nooks and crannies that harbour trout.

Ideal conditions
A group of anglers set out armed with dapping and fly rods. A southerly breeze and an overcast sky, without rain, were almost perfect weather conditions for fishing.

One boat started a drift alongside a series of shallows where two of the anglers were dapping and the third was casting a wet-fly. Within ten minutes a fine trout came up to the wet-fly, creating a big swirl on the water surface. The angler lifted his fly-rod, but did not hook the fish. But this was a good sign for the rest of the day’s fishing; big trout were obviously close to the surface.

Keeping a sharp eye out for dangerous rocks, the anglers enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Lough Mask. Suddenly, one of them who was dapping thought he saw a slight disturbance in the waves around his line.

Not having seen any rise, he wasn’t sure whether to strike or not. He concentrated on the floss and after a few seconds the floss gradually moved down towards the water and below the surface. He struck – and contacted a hard fighting fish!

Battle begins
First the trout plunged straight down and stayed solidly close to the bottom. Then it came up but ran from the boat. The angler then managed to lead the fish around to the stern of the boat where he could play the fish.

The trout again surged away with the line zipping from the reel. Slowly reeling in, the angler prepared to net the fish, but again it turned and ran. This strong fish was showing no signs of giving up.

Once more the fish slowly came towards the boat, only to swirl at the surface and make another run. The angler knew that as long as he kept up the pressure, the fish would eventually tire. Again the fish surfaced but this time slid into the waiting net. While it was a fine trout of about 1.5lb, the angler expected it to be bigger given the fight it had given. 

Continuing on the same drift the third angler had a nice rise to the dap but this fish also disappeared below the surface. Yet another trout rose, only to bite off part of the grasshopper, leaving the rest on the hook.

Time out
During lunch on an island, the anglers compared their catches. Some had caught smaller fish which they returned; however but a fine trout of 3.68lb had also been caught.

After lunch, drifting on the outside of an island, one angler had a good rise; he hooked the trout and played it out behind the boat. It was a fine trout of 1.25lb.
Shortly afterwards the same angler saw his line straighten and slowly disappear below the surface; similar to the morning, he saw no swirl at the surface. The angler struck and felt the solid pull of another trout. This trout did not take as long as the first one to come to the net. Surprisingly it was 2.5 lb – a good pound heavier than the first one despite not being as strong a fighter.

Comparing catches at the end of the day, everyone had caught fish but some were less than 13 inches and were returned. One of the other anglers however had caught a trout of 3.69lb in the same area where the first had been caught.

A fine pair of fish, separated by just 0.01lb!

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