There are few things better in fly fishing than explosive topwater takes on a popper. Poppers are some of my favorite flies for warm water fishing when the conditions are right. Recently, I have been busy fly tying, filling the holes left behind by a season of fishing. One interesting thing I noticed was a significant gap in the neat rows of poppers in one of my fly boxes. I started the season with six frog-colored poppers, and only one remained. Thinking back over the last year’s fishing, I recalled how successful this fly had been. I remembered how I lost each of the missing poppers. Most were lost to toothy pickerel who rudely ran off with them. One was given to a good sized bass who ran into a submerged tree and broke me off, and the last one was lost to a branch, one low enough to snag the popper on an errant cast but high enough to prevent me reaching it after I snapped it off.
The popper in question was built on a Surface Seducer Double Barrel body in size small. This popper is made on a size six hook, small enough to take large bluegills and large enough to attract the attention of bass and pickerel. It is a perfect example of what Skip Morris calls a bass-bluegill lap fly. If you're looking for a popper small enough to be taken by just about any panfish you can get the same body in an extra small size, built on a number eight hook.
I enjoy tying with these popper bodies by the Flymen Fishing Company. They make life easy by showing you the hook size to use right on the packaging. It takes all the guesswork out of it. These popper bodies have a recessed area for adding eyes, and you will also find the proper eye size listed on the package as well. If you don’t have the hooks or eyes in your material inventory, you can pick them up from Flymen as well. Their hooks are designed to work correctly with their popper bodies, and I love the look of their adhesive backed Dragon Eyes. Another neat feature of these poppers is that they can be reversed on the hook shank to create a more subtle slider pattern.
A white body is used to create the fly pictured above, and you color it with permanent markers. To give it the glossy appearance I gave it a thin coat of Solarez Flexible UV Resin. If you're going to do this yourself, prepare your bodies before you tie on any hackle or tailing material. While you may be able to color the body on a fully dressed popper, your sure to make a mess of things if you try and work with the UV resin that way.
When building a popper with one of these bodies, there are a few things to consider. First off, you need to use a kinked shank hook to ensure the finished popper does not rotate on the hook shank. To get the hook into the popper, you first need to make a hole with a bodkin or large needle. Just be sure to take care when pushing the needle through the foam. You need to ensure it goes through straight or you will end up with a lopsided popper. I find that a standard bodkin does not make a large enough hole to push the hook through easily, so I have started using a more substantial sailmakers needle. If you're going to add a custom paint job, you can do it while you have the popper stuck on your needle or bodkin. I sometimes use an airbrush system designed to work with permanent markers to add detail and color to the bodies. Take the needle and stick it in a block of foam to hold the popper. If I am going to color them by hand with a marker, I usually mount the body on a hook and place the hook in my fly tying vise to hold things steady while I work.
Once you push the hook through the body, slide it back towards the bend and add a couple of layers of thread to the kinked area of the hook shank. Put a drop of super glue or zap-a-gap on the thread covered area and push the body forward. On larger poppers I have started using Gorilla Glue instead of super glue. Gorilla Glue expands as it dries filling any gaps. Just remember to moisten the thread wraps with a little water before applying the thin layer of glue as the adhesive is water activated. With Gorilla Glue you also need to let the bodies dry for a few hours before handling them. One final note, be sure to give your self some room at the hook eye for threading the fly on your tippet. A common mistake is to push the fly too far forward which will make it difficult to tie onto your leader later.
If you like legs on you poppers, you can add them by threading them on a needle or a specialized leg puller and push them through the soft foam body. For tailing material, you can use a variety of materials to get the exact appearance you are looking for. If you are looking for ideas, visit Flymen Fishing Company’s webpage. They have some cool looking poppers tied by Steve Yewchuck shown on their popper page. If you don’t have the time or desire to customize them, they come in a variety of colors so you can use them as is, right from the package.
As my fly tying continues throughout the winter months, I will share more of my popper designs with you. With pre-made popper bodies, it is easy to create a popper that looks like it was professionally tied, even if your all thumbs behind the vise.
Pattern Recipe: Double Barrel Panfish Frog Popper
Hook: Flyman Fishing Company Surface Seducer Popper Hook size 6 (most kinked shank popper hooks should work, but I find some are a little long for this size popper body)
Thread: 140 or 210 denier UTC
Body: Surface Seducer Double Barrel Popper body size small, color white. Body is tinted with permanent markers and coated with Solarez Flexible UV Resin. Note: A flexible resin is essential, hard resins will chip off when the soft foam body flexes. If you want a matte finish on your popper eliminate the resin entirely.
Eyes: 3mm Stick on eyes. Here I am using the 3mm Dragon Eyes from Flyman Fishing Company
Tail: Chartreuse marabou and several strands of chartreuse flash material
Hackle: Chartreuse saddle hackle