Summertime means many things in Northern Michigan. One of our favorite things is spending a sunny day throwing big hopper patterns to trout. Some anglers get a little lazy after all the hatches of spring and skip over getting set up correctly for fishing foam.
Get Set Up Right:
Too many times we've seen folks come into the shop looking to head out and they're simply not equiped for success. Unless you're fishing a seriously small stream a standard 9ft 5-weight rod is probably the tool you should be reaching for this time of year. You'll want to match this up with a weight-forward fly line that can handle a big fly or even two. If we get to choose, it will definately be a line that is overweighted to help throw these air-resistant flies. From RIO the Gold, Perception, and Grand are all great. From SA we fish the Infinity and MPX a good deal.
Now that you've got your rod and line picked out we can get to the truly important part of hopper fishing: the leader. As I mentioned previously, these flies tend to be bushy and air-resistant. Because of that, you're going to want a fairly stout leader. My personal favorite is a 3X (base) leader that I can build off of. Some days I'll add a 4X tippet and throw small Chubby Chernobyls to small brook trout and others I'll keep the 3X and throw a humorously large fly looking for greedy browns. Leave the 5X at home unless you plan on tying droppers.
Beyond The Dead Drift:
If I've learned anything from my summer fishing in Northern Michigan, it's that you need to be a flexible angler willing to adapt and try new things. I know the fly fishing world has forever preached dead-drift presentations and maybe we're impatient but you should not fear the twitch. Adding motion to your hoppers (and other terrestrials) can be deadly. Will splatting, twitching, and skating your flies work in every situation? Of course not, but it is another tool in your box when fish are not responding otherwise.
Again, maybe we're lazy but have you thought about fishing your hopper patterns downstream? This is another "tool" concept that isn't going to work everytime but can be effective in the right situation. I've always found fishing hoppers down into a pocket directly upstream of some overhanging brush to be much easier than throwing the perfect curve cast and mending hard for a short three second drift. You will have to work on feeding line downstream at the right speed and managing all that extra slack but give it a try...you might like it!