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Ed Shenk's The Letort Hopper
Gene Macri

Ed Shenk's Letort Hopper: Flies, Techniques and Methods by Gene Macri at 

The Letort Hopper is one of the deadliest flies ever invented yet I see few fly anglers ever using it even on spring creeks.  Why?  I don't really know to tell you the truth!  Some of it I believe is because most fly anglers lack a serious understanding of trout behavior and perhaps think that the newer patterns are better.  The pattern is relatively easy to tie and cheap to buy yet when fly fisherman ask me what I've been catching them on they seem surprised by what I show them.

I started using the fly seriously in the late 60's and I met Eddie as Charlie Fox called him somewhereEd Shenk The Legendary Fly Fisher of the Letort by Gene Macri at around the early 70's.  It was one of the deadliest flies on streams like Falling Spring, Big Spring, The Letort, and the Breeches.  One of the things I have noticed with the fly anglers is that they usually only have one size of the fly, sometimes two.  The real secret is that it is just as deadly if not more so on freestone streams!

Here's the pattern size I carry of the Letort Hopper: 8-16.  You want a range of very large to very small flies.  The reason for this is probably why most fly anglers don't use this pattern.  This fly imitates or suggests a lot of different insects both terrestrial and aquatic in a stream on any given day. Depending on the color of deer hair used such as a darker shade these flies in the smaller version are great patterns for small tannish caddis!  Yep I know that's heresy but look at that profile this fly shows! (Photo shows Ed Shenk Fishing the Breeches)

Wild Brown taken on Ed Shenk's Letort Hopper by Gene Macri at

I use the large flies on bigger water and when I want to really stir up a commotion.  The smaller flies in 12 -16 range can be bounced on a spring creek without spooking fish and are indeed deadly once you understand how to fish them.  First make sure you keep most of the line off the water on smaller streams and spring creeks.  You want a leader of 9 to 10 feet tapered depending on the fly size.  If you are using large patterns of the Hopper don't go under 4x, that's right because if you hook a big trout you won't land them. Furthermore, big trout will sometimes literally jump on top of these flies and roll over the leader.  You won't spook these fish with a heavy leader. For smaller Hoppers I like 5x or occassionally 6x.  You should have at least 25 to 40 inches of tippet.  Short tippets will snap especially on a large trou that is very close to you.

You can fish the Letort Hopper in a variety of ways, however, the size of the fly and water conditions sometimes dictate the method and technique used.  Rather than make this harder than it is here a list of size and methods that I often use.  Put it in your memory banks and use it:

  • Size 8-10 I often bounce these large flies on the sides of the stream or riffles.  These will bring large trout out on days they usually won't move.  Give the fly a a series of jerks on the surface to make a commotion and watch for the wake of the fish following the fly!  You can do the same technique with smaller Letort Hopper when the stream is really low such as in freestone streams but for the biggest trout use the larger flies.
  • Size 12-14 I fish these flies in a variety of ways including spot casting to fish that I see rising or feeding undewater.  These flies are large enough to get the trout's attention without spooking them. If the trout won't move add a bit ot twitching by raising the rod and skittering and manipuating the fly on the surface.
  • Size 16 I sometimes just litteraly fish this little hopper as a dry fly.  I fish upstream and let it float downstream on a long tippet. I bounce it carefully in every pocket, back eddy or riffle.  This method will take trout on streams where the fish supposedly don't rise in the middle of the day.
  • On spring creeks I uses the small flies as fished above but also just bounce them across the surface over weed and cressbeds and occassionally a trout will come out of no where to nail the fly.
  • You can also tie small nymph or midge dropper of the tail end of these hopper (use a large one) to fish small flies and the hopper acts as a strike indicator and depth regualtor.  You also have the added bonus of a big trout coming up and grabbng the hopper.

These are just few of the ways the Letort Hopper has proven successful for me over the years.  It's a neglected fly and we haven't even mentioned what it was really designed imitation of hoppers on spring creeks.  Yes it works well when the flies are on the water especially in late August through October.  Ed Shenk's Letort Hopper is a killer pattern.  If fished properly in the right size and with the right method it's a killer in the bag of tricks of every fly fisherman.

(You may use these articles. You can store them. You can read them. You may not change, republish, sell or redistribute these articles in anyway for any monetary gain. You may not add them to your collection and sell them etc. These articles are copyrighted and we will strictly enforce the copyright.)

©2012 E. Macri


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