Hoppin’ & Poppin’ – Tying Flies

February 4, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson


An Olive Stimulator

An Olive Stimulator

The exciting thing about tying flies and fly fishing is trying out new patterns. Questioning whether a fly looks edible, how, when and where it should be fished and more are part of figuring out the grand puzzle.

The trial for every tied fly comes in two phases; first, the selection and assembly of a pattern during the winter, and the final phase coming in spring with the application in of the fly to a given aquatic environment.

As I tie, I see white bass in August schooling up around the over-sized olive stimulator in the vise and a spring smallmouth bass exploding on one of the new fire-tiger poppers I have assembled. Even if neither situation happens, turning out the flies is half the fun. What follows are a few new patterns I’ve tied up, using foam, feathers and fur, in anticipation for the upcoming season.

Hop to it

After multiple readings of the Summer 2006 issue of Trout Magazine, particularly Dave Whitlock’s article on grasshoppers and the patterns he uses to imitate them, I began experimenting with various hopper recipes.

A Foam Hopper for panfish and bass

A Foam Hopper for panfish and bass

One pattern that caught my eye was a foam hopper by the late Al Campbell, a well known figure in the fly fishing community of the Black Hills of South Dakota. This pattern is easy to tie, made of just a few simple materials. Some closed-cell foam, a little dubbing, deer hair and a set of legs is basically all this fly consists of. What results is a fly that looks so good it could compete with the real thing for the attention of bluegill and bass.

Another all-around lifelike fly, is the Olive Stimulator. This fly is ornate, wrapped in two different colors of hackle and dubbing, and adorned with elk hair fibers. Needless to say, the dry fly hackle and the hollow deer hair make certain this bug will float on top of the surface until a hungry fish slurps it down. The Stimulator is generally placed under the broad spectrum of flies labeled as attractors, but it is widely used to imitate stoneflies, which are large brightly-colored summer bugs found throughout the country. In greens and yellows, it makes a fair hopper imitation as well. It also reminds me of the big Hexagenia mayflies that are seen on the Sheyenne River in July and August.

Pop star

In sticking with the variety of flies that bass and bluegill might bust on a calm surface, I tied up a few foam bucktail poppers. Going more on instinct than with a pattern, I locked a streamer hook in my vise, placed the foam popper head on the hook and thought “what next?” The joy of the hobby of fly tying comes from the creativity and the experimentation with different patterns and materials.

I tied in several strands of dyed bucktail in orange, chartreuse and black to match the popper head along with a mid-section of krystal flash for some attraction. The lure itself looks deadly for bass, so I tied up some smaller ones for aggressive panfish as well. The simple things in life, are oftentimes the best. These easy flies should be no different.

In my mind’s eye, they are frayed and chewed over by the mouths of the many dozens of fish I have landed with them. Whether or not they will work when the line hits the water is a question I will answer soon…in our outdoors.


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