Surface Poppers: Without a doubt, these are everyone’s favorites!
Nothing beats the visual excitement of a fish exploding on the surface. At other times poppers will quietly disappear in a small dimple. Either way the visible aspect of fishing the poppers makes it the top tactic when fish are “lookin’ up”. There are largely three classes of poppers.
- Deer hair poppers are famous for their lifelike action, beautiful construction, and feel when taken by the fish.
- Hard bodies in two face contours (flat and cupped), are a mainstay for a number of reasons. Hard bodied poppers are generally balsa wood, cork, or hard plastics. If you look around your home or work, you’ll see a lot of potential materials you can use for making your own poppers, including wine corks – both real and the new synthetics.
- Poly foam poppers have taken over the forefront as the material of choice for making surface poppers, divers, and sliders. Why? They are light, easy to throw, and won’t get soggy and sink – like deer hair bugs.
Popper Creation: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The key to popper bodies is to make sure the hook extends well beyond the rear of the body like the fly on the left. If you shop for poppers and note they appear to be tied on a short shaft hook, look elsewhere. This is a bad design sold all over the place. Pay careful attention to this.
The popper on the right here is the typical culprit. You will repeatedly miss fish on these short-shanked, narrow gapped hooks where the hook undercuts the popper body.
Beware of poppers with excessive tail material splayed behind the butt of the body. Such designs are difficult to throw and, in conjunction with heavy bulky tails, make the rear of the fly ride up. Many soft type tail material, like marabou, also foul around the hook shank – which is a pain. Don’t be afraid to throw in a long pencil-type popper, just in case. These do imitate injured baitfish and are dynamite in saltwater as well.
Popper Head Shape
- Flat faced head – Some believe the flat faced popper is the best all around choice in the way it displaces water with light action and floats forever.
- Cupped faced head – This is the fly you’ll see in every bait shop and discount store in the North America. Some feel they push too much water. But the work very well and, with rubber legs sticking out the sides, are simply too much for bass to refuse.
- Bullet head - The Bullet-Head is another versatile popper to carry that is the happy medium between a flat faced and a slider. They can be moved very subtly making little water disturbance or shucked hard to create a ruckus! Most bullet heads I’ve used are pulled-back deer hair and are often a hopper imitation.
These take special time and effort to learn to tie. You can buy some awesome patterns online. Hair poppers can imitate prey perfectly such as the popular mouse and frog patterns. Other patterns push water and imitate other surface dwelling creatures. They work and imitate smallmouth food very well.
The negative on hair poppers? They waterlog relatively quickly and require drying or changing.
Anyone with a good way to fish a hair popper hard for more than ten minutes, without it sinking, let me know. Yes, one can treat the finished hair popper with laquer spray and other waterproofing agents. These flies then become quite hard and lose the natural action for which they were created. If I must make a hair popper that stiff, I prefer to simply go to wood or plastics.
Soft or Hard Poly or Foam Poppers – Closed cell hard foam poppers are taking the fly fishing world by storm. Softer and lighter than wood or hard plastic, these are easier to cast, move water, and catch big fish. They are also easy to tie, once you get them cut to shape. Check here for tying information.