Search for the Perfect Popping Bug – Lefty’s Popping Bug
Today we pay tribute to one of the best popper patterns ever developed – Lefty’s Popping Bug. Any fly designed and refined by Lefty Kreh deserves the attention of all fly fisherman, but this fly pattern does not enjoy the notoriety of many of Kreh’s other patterns such as the Deceiver, the Half & Half, and others.
Lefty Kreh is the most respected name in fishing. He is considered the greatest fly fisherman of all time. (This is not because he’s some loudmouth with a TV show and gonzo sponsors trying to make money off any Tom-Dick & Harry who’s got a boat and an attitude.)
Just the opposite.
Bernard “Lefty” Kreh started out as a dirt poor kid in Maryland who started fishing smallmouth on his home waters. He worked his way into a writer and columnist and has fished everywhere. His approach has always been that of a educator. His books and videos are full of more practical and little known tips and tactics than any writer anywhere. He’s also a super cool guy with the perfect mix of humor to temper his seemingly limitless knowledge in a number of subjects.
He moved to Florida in the mid 1960’s and met a number of the big name saltwater fly fisherman. He literally wrote the book on saltwater called “Fly Fishing in Salt Water“. If you have not read Lefty’s books, you are not a complete fly fisherman. If you were to read only one, this would be it regardless if you ever saltwater fly fish or not. (Beware! Once you read this book, you’ll be so stoked to try saltwater, you’re IRA may see some premature withdrawals).
Among other books, he wrote a library of around twenty mini-tomes (c. 1992) on various aspects of fly fishing called “Lefty’s Little Library of Fly Fishing“. The entire set now goes for around $450 bucks, if you can find it. This is without question the most complete collection of fly fishing information contained anywhere and presented in bite-sized portions that are easily digestible – always leaving you to want for more. The information is as timeless as any sporting instruction ever done.
Lefty created the Lefty’s Popping Bug for both saltwater and freshwater. The fusiform popper bodies come in Large (1 1/8″ x 1/2″) for saltwater and larger freshwater gamefish, Medium (7/8′ x 3/8″) perfect for bass, and Small (1/2″ x 1/4″) for panfish and trout.
Lefty’s Popping Bug shares the traits of other great popper designs. These critical traits are:
- Light weight and easy to cast
- Extremely bouyant
- Simple to tie
- Flat bottom on the ventral or underside
- Large hook gap
- Plenty of hook length behind the body
- Angled front face provides a gentle pop when stripped
- Easy to pick up off the water, with little disturbance
- Fly lays angled on the water with the back (hook-end) slightly lower.
- Stiff tail material that will not foul around the hook shank
- Sparse dressing materials.
If the poppers you are currently using popper bodies that do not contain some or all or these traits, consider getting some popper bodies and creating your own, more effective poppers.
Most Common Popper Problems
Without question the biggest problems surround the popper hook gap. Many body shapes actually militate against a solid hook-up. I have used conical-shaped poppers where the bottom portion of the body extends below the hook eye, cutting down on the hook gap and making it tough for the fish to bite and solidly get hooked. See the fly to the right to see the other problem – the hook shank is too short.
Lefty’s Popping Bug Design
When Lefty Kreh designed his popper, he did it by incorporating all of the elements covered above. The fly is lightweight with plenty of hook behind and below to offer a great hook set. The angled front face provides for a mid-level pop, but is also very easy to wrest from the water surface without making a commotion – so common with cupped or concave faced poppers.
The body is longer than most designs requiring an elongated 3XL or more commonly a 4XL hook shank. This ensures there’s plenty of room aft and below for the fish to solidly bite. The heavier hooks used also make the fly tilt back in the water with the back (hook end) riding lower in the water than the front. This makes it even easier for fish to suck in the popper since they are always coming from below.
Scant Tail Material
This is one of my pet peeves. Marabou and other light bulky tail material always foul around the hook shank, causing major issues with any popper. I avoid marabou and other soft materials for my tails. I stick with bucktail, squirrel tail and synthetics like Super Hair and other stout materials. Flash when used, should also be relatively stiff such as Krystal Flash instead of the softer Flashabou.
While some will argue that marabou (and the like) add action to a popper, remember it is the “pop” that is providing most of the attention getting. Rubber legs can be added to add extra action to a popper body if you want to impart extra action at rest. Most rubber legs maintain there shape and will not foul the hook if you’re often looking for subtle popper action.
Other Superior Popper Body Designs
There are other body styles you can employ with similar traits. If you want a body that is shorter and will house a light wire hook in a shorter length, consider the blockhead popper. These light foam bodies may not be the prettiest in your flybox, but they will be the deadliest. The shorter body allows for a shorter light wire hook (in freshwater). They share the flat bottom, but the front face is more blunt than the Lefty’s. You will get more of a “pop” from the blockheads. They ride flat on the surface and sport the much needed flat bottom to optimize the hook gap and fish hooking potential.
Not all flies or fly fisherman are created equal. You can level the playing field somewhat by incorporating flies in your arsenal that are at once practical and effective. Why fight using flies that you are constantly untangling from the hook shank?
The more time your fly is in the water, moving the way you want it to, the more fish you will hook. Lefty’s Popping Bug is engineered with the critical elements to elevate it above most other popper patterns and put more fish on the end of your line.