Where Have All the Hippie Stompers Gone?
Need another fly pattern for your bulging box of favorites?
After repeatedly overhearing a pair of guide pals, and then my wife, Jean, conspiratorially discussing this thing, well, I had to see the Hippie Stomper for myself.
The name alone sends me into hysterics every time that I hear it. Unfortunately, when I followed directions to the whereabouts of this popular fly at a once prime Hippie Stomper dispensary, Orvis-Jackson, the marked fly space was empty.
“Where did all the Hippie Stompers go?” I quizzed a patient staffer.
“Orvis doesn’t call it that anymore,” I was informed.
With all but that one empty bin exception, Stomper nomenclature had delicately morphed into what the Vermont gang calls a Holo Humpy.
Fortunately the original Stomper is living large on the Umpqua Feather Merchants roster (Umpqua.com) along with its colorful originator Andrew Grillos’ stack of other zany trout trickery such as the Hamburgler, Foam Dome, Pool Toy, Escape Artist, Bob Barker and the Bob Gnarly.
After some effort I tracked the talented Grillos, 32, to Bozeman, Montana, where he gladly explained all I sought to know about himself and Hippie Stomper chronology.
Originally from the Denver area, Grillos knew early that fly-fishing was going to be his life direction. He attended Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado, and soon became a devotee of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Fly-tying and trout fishing were Andrew’s passions so it wasn’t long before he was working for Bill Dvorak’s river expeditions during the late 1980s.
And that’s where this week’s fly story begins.
“The Hippie Stomper’s name is sort of a homage to my friend and guiding mentor, Chris Mortimer,” Grillos said. “Mort spent over 20 years guiding in the Gunnison Gorge and has hands-down more experience in the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon than anyone. Currently he operates the only Gunnison boat rental and logistical support company on the river, Gunnison River Pro. Renting Mortimer equipment is the best way to explore and or fish that great canyon,” Grillos said.
“The fly name comes from a hilarious conversation that I witnessed between Mort and his clients during day one of one of our three-day Gunny Gorge floats. Our clients typically had a bit more free time to fish on their own due to the nature of guiding multiday, wilderness float trips. As guides, we were camp hosts, cooks, whitewater oarsmen, as well as fishing guides. Every day the clients were typically sent off to fish on their own for a few hours while we dealt with camp tasks,” he said.
“Mort’s anglers were beginners and kind of sensitive city types from California or something. They were curious about what to do when they caught a fish if he wasn’t there to help them land it. Mort liked to have fun with his anglers and, being a good old Wyoming boy from Casper, he had all sorts of funny things he’d say to people to keep the mood light and fun in his boat.
“Mort’s ‘advice’ on proper catch and release technique was something to the effect of, ‘Ah, well, I just drag my fish up into the sand, give ’em the old hippie stomp (stomps ground), yank the hook out and kick ’em back in the water’ (makes an exaggerated kicking motion, sending sand into the river).
“The clients were absolutely wide-eyed and a little confused as he said it completely deadpan, while looking them right in the eye. After a moment of quiet confusion he chuckled, and they realized he was just kidding, and then he explained how to actually release a trout.”
Grillos’s story of the Hippie Stomper’s history has me laughing whenever the fly and its name come up. He said the pattern is really a foam-aided reinvention of a deer or elk hair Humpy made as durable and user-friendly as possible.
“My aim was a size 12 to 16 fly that floated well and was extra visible for older guys to follow,” he said.
Grillos asked if Scott Sanchez, manager of JD High Country Outfitters on Town Square, was still involved with Jackson Hole fishing. “In the mid 1990s reading Scott’s article about his foam caddis inspired me a lot. His fly-tying suggestions are always very helpful.” Grillos’ appreciation of Sanchez’s witty creativity became even more evident when he the outlined his fly tying and guiding experiences. He’s operated in Colorado, Argentina, New Zealand and Chile and spent four years tuning anadromous fishing skills in the Pacific Northwest. Travel and guiding details are available on his AndrewGrillosFlyFishing.com site.
A 2007-08 job at the El Patagon Lodge in southern Chile presented an opportunity to test fly durability.
“The fish were big but weren’t exactly super selective so I tied up everything from foam hot dogs and pizza slices to little Mr. Bills, just to see what I could get away with.”
Sounds very Sanchez-like, doesn’t it? Additional Hippie Stomper fine tuning also occurred in Chile. Today the pattern has grown into Grillos’ best selling contract fly creation.
“After the Idylwilde Flies wholesale ship sank, I moved on to doing patterns for Umpqua,” Grillos said, admitting that switching companies was another chance for him to grow as a fly designer.
The Hippie Stomper is offered in underbody colors of black, lime, red, blue and purple and mostly in hook sizes from 12 to 16. Informants report red, blue and purple are favs with local Stomper supporters. During recently wretched river conditions, watching a fatty cutthroat slurp a small red Stomper was a convincing act.
This summer while living in Bozeman, Grillos has been enjoying excellent testing with light pink underbody colors and also a Royal Wulff-type look, both of which will appear in spring 2016 when Stomper stocks expand across the board to include size 8s and 10s. Such blatant exposure to guide friends’ pet patterns probably won’t be appreciated, but with the Jackson Hole One Fly Event upcoming, alerting discriminating fly-seekers to yet another possibility seems a timely gift.
Remembering this fly name Hippie Stomper shouldn’t be a problem, either.
The text of this article was originally published in the Jackson Hole News & Guide.