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September is hopper season on many trout rivers throughout the country. There’s nothing quite like a slow, deliberate rise… when that fish inspects, follows, and (hopefully) inhales that bobbing T-Bone. Some of my favorite patterns are big, gaudy foam bugs. Artificials, no doubt, but are they “flies” in the truest sense? We’ve talked a bit about this before, but since it is the foam hopper season, I think the topic is worth a revisit.

I remember one episode years ago, having hooked a single large rainbow after working all day on the Railroad Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork… that night I ran into legendary fly tier Rene Harrop in the A-Bar in Last Chance, and I had a big foam bug stuck in the bill of my cap. “Indian Jewelry,” is how he described it.

Now nobody who has fished with me has ever called me a purist. Maybe “old school” when they see the tattered waxcloth vest I sometimes wear… and Joe Cermele has rightly pointed out my distaste for using egg flies (especially beads). Not a foul in my mind, but not my gig. San Juan worms get it done… but not my cup of tea…

Still, I just can’t bring myself to joining the fur-and-feathers only crowd. As I’ve said before, a spoon fly is not a spoon fly. It’s a spoon you happen to be throwing with a fly rod. A “Gummy Minnow” isn’t a fly. It’s a soft plastic, that looks like a baitfish, which you just might happen to throw with a fly rod. You might as well throw a rubber worm and call that a fly too.

So maybe I’m a hypocrite. For me, right now, it’s often “throw foam or go home.” I think a foam Chernobyl Ant is not only a fly, it’s a damn fine fly I’ll gladly use without any remorse or reflection whatsoever.

But where do we draw the line? (Other than scenting flies!)