The Balloon Hopper

My go to dry fly pattern in just about every spot with water in Arizona. This pattern is a mix between a balloon style caddis and a foam grasshopper pattern. It is by no means my original, it is just one that I have been slowly tweaking to work best for me in the spots I like to fish, skinny waters.

It may be a caddis mixed with a grass hopper, but it looks like just about any floating bug in Arizona’s small creeks. Whatever the mix is, it seems to do as good a job fooling trout as it is an indicator on the hopper dropper set up. Best of all the fly can float all day with minimal help! It has worked for me in high alpine streams in Colorado and tiny trickles of water in the Arizona desert. Hopefully this post can help you make a few or inspire some other variations to make it your own!

Sorry some of the pictures are so dark, I was having a heck of a time trying to get the right lighting and eventually just settled and decided a little dark would have to do! In the future I’m looking to try out some new lighting schemes!


  • Hook: Size 8-16 dry fly hooks, wider gap is better!
  • Tail: Deer hair or pheasant tail, 5-10 strands
  • Body: Dubbing, buggy and natural colors (brown, gray, green)
  • Foam: Thin width foam, brown, yellow, green and tan are my favorites
  • Legs: Any color, dark or bright
  • Hackle: Brown or grizzly dry fly hackle to match hook size
  • Wing: Deer hair
  • Underwing: silver or green flash
  • Indicator Post: Brightly colored foam or rubberleg

Step one of any fly is one I can always do, attach the thread. After that is where things get trickier!

Attach a small group of deer hairs to the tail of the fly, about a hook shank long. Next, add dubbing to your thread.
Wrap dubbing approximately 2/3’s of the way up the hook body.
Cut a small piece of foam with a taper at one side, about 2/3’s the length of the hook.
Tie the foam on to the front of the hook facing away from the body of the fly.
Add rubber legs at the end of the dubbing body, I don’t worry too much about keeping them even at this stage, I can trim the sides down later.
Secure the dry fly hackle in front of the dubbing body and over the legs
Add a pinch of deer hair about a hook length long and secure with 5 or 6 wraps. If you want to add flash to the wing you can add some flashabou to the deer hair. Wrap the hackle forward to the foam and secure it there.
Trim the top side of the hackle even with the dubbing body and flip foam towards the back of the hook. Secure with 2 or 3 firm thread wraps.
Add a small piece of foam for an indicator post if desired and secure with 2-3 wraps. Whip finish 4-5 times and add a small drop of head cement.
Fish eye view of the finished fly

Part of what makes this pattern so effective is the multitude of color combinations it can be tied in. Some creeks the difference between one or two fish and ten is switching the legs from yellow to orange. Hope you have some fun making a few of these flies and fooling a few fish!

Another, in my favorite color combination, brown and orange!


Tiny AZ Brookie on the Balloon Hopper
Desert dwelling AZ brown, indicator post made out of an orange rubberleg
High alpine rainbow in the Weminuche

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