Copper John - Step-by-Step
Thanks for being patient with this one; unfortunately, there are some things going on in my life right now that need attention and that have nothing to do with fly fishing.
The Copper John is one of the best known nymphs in the world today. It’s a proven fish-getter and give me a #16-18 in red and I’m a very happy camper on any stream. I love this fly dropped off a dry or all by itself on a dead drift. However you fish it, it gets the fishes’ attention!
This fly comes to us from John Barr; one of the most prominent contemporary fly developers/tyers; known for his creative, practical patterns and for their effectiveness in catching fish. Here’s a link if you’d like to see how he tyes it:
Tying the Original Copper John | MidCurrent
This pattern, like most others, is tyed nowadays in a variety of different ways. Below is the one that I use most often.
1. Put a bead on the hook; narrow hole facing the eye. I’m using a Daiichi 1710 2xl nymph hook; #12 and a 3/32” gold tungsten bead.
2. Next, add some weight to the fly to get it down in to the water column quickly (very convenient if you’re fishing swiftwaters and you want to by nymphing close to the bottom). I use 10-15 turns of .010 lead on a #12 hook. This step is optional and you’ll have an easier time getting a smooth underbody later on if you leave it out.
3. Thread the hook, starting just behind the rear of the lead; or just behind the bead if you’re not using added weight. Take it back to where you want to tie in the tail. I use the midpoint between the hook tip and the barb, as a guide on most nymphs.
4. Tie in the biot tail. I’m using brown goose biots. You can tie them in individually or both at the same time; depending on what works best for you. You want the convex faces of each biot facing the hook, so that they splay apart under tension from the thread.
5. Wind your thread forward over the biot waste ends, to help you form a tapered body, as you move back up the hook towards the lead or the bead. Cut off the waste ends so that they taper into either the back of the lead or the bead. Then, tie in the medium copper wire and wind it back to the point where you tied in the biot tail.
6. Next, spend some time forming the body taper that you want using your tying thread. Remember, the wire will be the same diameter all the way up the hook, so if you want to add shape to the body, you need to do it with the underbody thread. As I said earlier, if you don’t use weight, it will be easier to get a nice smooth underbody.
7. Wind the copper wire up the body. Keep the wraps butt up against each other, as much as possible. Tie off the wire just behind the bead. Some people will take the wire all the way to the back of the bead, I take it to where I think I’m going to start building the thorax, so that I can keep the bulk down in that area.
8. Next, tie in a strip of synthetic wing case material and wind it back to the end of where you want to build the thorax. I’m using black Thin Skin, which I like because it’s translucent, a lot of other materials can be used as well. Make the strip about 1 hook gap in width.
[Note: a lot of people will tie in a strip or two of pearl Flashabou before tying in the wing case strip, but I don’t use it, because I don’t think it’s really visible once the epoxy is on the case. But if you want to tie the pattern as it was developed, then tie in the Flashabou before the wing case strip.]
9. Wind the thread forward to just behind the bead and tie in 3-4 pieces of peacock herl. Wind them back to the back of the thorax, wind the thread forward, twist the herl pieces into a rope and wind the herl rope forward to the back of the bead, then tie it off.
10. Next, tie in two bunches of Hungarian Partridge barbs; one on each side of the hook, to form the legs. I don’t pay too much attention to the orientation of the legs at this point, because you can always pull them down and the wing case will do that for you anyway.
11. Pull the Thin Skin forward over the herl and tie it off just behind the back of the bead. If you tied in Flashabou before the wing case strip, then pull it forward next; right down the middle of the wing case, and tie it off.
12. Complete the tying with a whip finish or a series of half hitches.
13. Mix up a small amount of 5 minute epoxy. I use Z-Poxy; it’s easy to use and works well for small batches. Apply the epoxy to the top of the wing case; extending it down the body just a little bit and over the back of the bead. What I try to get here is a smooth, continuous line of epoxy that joins the body with the head. But you can finish this off in many ways and some people don’t both with the epoxy step at all.
And that’s it; the Copper John pattern.
I know that Kelly already has her CJ pattern all tied up!
So, let’s what you others have tyed up and I’ll get us back on schedule for the last pattern; the Prince Nymph, by the end of this week.