Fly Patterns - Ken Hanley's Pygmy Hopper

                  Ken Hanley's Pygmy Hopper



I had planned on featuring the October Caddis emerger pattern for October. Instead I decided to write about my friend Ken Hanley’s Pygmy Hopper. I first saw Ken tie this beauty a couple of years ago at one of the fly fishing shows. He gave me one and I’ve kept it ever since. Ken, Andy Guibord and I recently did some Smallmouth Bass fishing on the North Fork of the American River just above Clementine Lake, and at Yankee Jim’s bridge. Ken was using his hopper, and gave me one to try. The action of the fly is excellent: it floats in or just under the surface film (as a real hopper would), and the “kicker” legs move enticingly. Andy caught the nicest fish of the day on a Pygmy Hopper, and I landed a few small fish most of which took the hopper. The fishing was slow, but we had a great time trying different approaches and flies.

The Pygmy Hopper is relatively simple to tie, and has no exotic materials. So crank out a few of these and enter your best in the monthly contest at the November meeting. I’ll be tying the hopper at the October meeting, so if you have any questions you can resolve them there. Also, to see color pictures of each step of the tying instructions, visit Granite Bay Flycasters’ web site and click on “Fly Tyer’s Corner” on the home page.

Tying Instructions

1. Smash the hook barb unless you are using a barbless hook. Cover the front 2/3 of the hook with the red superfloss or silk to form a “tag.” Cover the wraps with a coat of Flexament.


2. Cut three pieces of antron yarn (one strand each color) from the spools. The strands should be about 6” long. Even them up and “furl” them, following the instructions set out in the March, 2005 Fly Tyer’s Corner Leader article. You can find it on the following page from on the Granite Bay Flycasters web site:


3. Tie in the furled abdomen at the midpoint of the shank and wrap forward to about the 1/3 point on the shank. Place some Flexament on the tie-in area. Don’t trim the butts of the antron yet, as they will become the over-wing.

4. Using a long (6”) piece of the leg material, double it over and tie it in on top of the furled antron so that it forms the kicker legs, which stick out to the rear of the fly. The tie-in point should be at the same midway point on the shank as you used to tie in the antron. They should be pulled down to the sides of the hook and aligned in that manner. Don’t trim them yet

5. Cut, clean and stack a small bunch of deer hair. Trim the butts so that the bunch is around 1/2” long. Tie it in on top of the tied-in antron; don’t allow it to slide around to the bottom of the hook; it should just splay out over the top of the hook. Place a drop of Flexament on the wraps.


6. To form the over-wing, pull the antron butts back over so they face the rear, and tie them down on top of the deer hair; trim the antron to the length of the deer hair or a tad shorter. It helps to comb out the butts before undertaking this step. Tie down the over-wing and apply a drop of Flexament.


7. Tie in a set of front legs at the 1/3 point on the shank, so that there are two “legs” on each side of the hook. They will be in an “X” configuration; take the front-facing legs and pull them back, securing them in that position so that all 4 of the front legs are facing rearward along the sides of the shank.


8. Tie in a piece of foam cut to about 3/8” in width. Before doing so, trim the end to be tied in to a “V” shape. With the point of the V facing rearward and the rest of the strip sticking out over the eye of the hook, tie the foam in securely keeping it on top of the hook and wrapping over it right to the eye of the hook. Apply a drop of Flexament.




9. Dub a nice full thorax over the top of the tied-in foam. Pull the foam over the top of the thorax, tie it down at the rear of the thorax, and trim it so that you leave a stub about 1/8” long. Trim the front legs to about a 1” length, and the kicker legs to about a 1 ½” length.




10. Whip finish at the point where you tied down the pulled-over foam, and apply a drop of superglue to the thread wraps on the underside of the fly. You can use permanent markers to vary the color of the foam; a nice “camo” look seems to work well.




Tying Tips

1. When working with foam it is helpful to use a nylon thread to avoid cutting the foam when tying it down. Just before tying it down, twirl the bobbin clockwise; this results in a flat thread surface.

2. It also helps to grab the foam just behind the tie-in point and squeeze it together; you will get a better tie-in and avoid cutting the foam.


Fish the Pygmy Hopper for trout, smallies, black bass, and panfish.  Remember that trout look for hoppers at the edges of the stream, and not out in the middle.




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