Most fly fishers will agree that catching fish on top is just more fun, no matter what species you’re after. And when you’re casting in the salt for stripers, bluefish, redfish, or anything else that will come to the surface, “on top” usually means a popper. This is where fly tying and old-school C. Boyd Pfeiffer-style tackle craft come together. Constructing a popper body bears little resemblance to the feathers-on-a-hook processes of tying trout or salmon flies—I mean, how often have you needed a screwdriver at the vise?—but once you get the steps down, you can make poppers for everything from bluegills to bluefins.
In these two videos from Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions, you’ll learn how to build an elegant and durable popper body that will stay on the hook without rotating. All you’ll need are hooks, some pre-made bodies, craft foam, and glue. . . lots of glue. When you’re tying poppers, it’s best to take a production-line approach, building several bodies at once, since each will need time for the glue and epoxy to dry. The, it’s time to dress, paint, and finish them however you like.
Saltwater Popper (Part I: Body Construction)
Body: Wapsi “Perfect Popper” foam body, size 2/0.
Hook: Popper hook (Wapsi or Mustad), size 2/0.
Filler: White craft foam and 5-minute epoxy.
Tools: Flathead screwdriver, emery board, X-Acto knife.>
Now it’s time to finish the popper by attaching eyes, coloring the body, and adding a tail. The techniques Tim uses here will allow you to create an array of poppers in different color combinations to mimic the local baitfish or create different kinds of attractor patterns. Just watching this video, I came up with a half-dozen patterns and color combos that I’d like to add to my fly box. I’m sure that once you’ve got this system perfected, you can start adding even more elaborate patterns and multi-color schemes. At the end of the video, Tim warns that once you start experimenting with making poppers, you might not want to stop.
In order to finish the poppers, you’ll need a bunch of tools you may not already have sitting on your tying desk. Here’s a list:
- 6-inch square of closed-cell foam
- X-Acto knife
- painter’s tape
- burnishing tool
- Copic markers in various colors
- Copic Air Brush System Kit
- craft brushes.
You probably won’t create these one at a time, but will rather set up a production line that will result in a bunch of poppers. If so, investing some money in the Copic Air Brush System Kit ($66 on Amazon.com) is certainly worth it. Poppers work great for a number of saltwater species, as well as bass (large- and smallmouth) and pike. If you tie up a bunch, post pictures to our Facebook page so we can see how you did.
Saltwater Popper (Part II: Finishing)
Eyes: Prismatic Eyes.
Color: Copic Marker pens.
Coating: 5-minute epoxy.
Thread: White, 6/0 or 140-denier.
Tail: White and orange bucktail.