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Tuesday, 09 December 2008 17:26

Pike fly fishing with Poppers

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I'm sure all of you who fly-fish for pike have at least one or two poppers in your ever expanding collection of flies. If not, I highly recommend you invest in a few or if possible make a couple. My fly box primarily consists of 80% surface lures from mid August to the end of September, especially the Popper. Now I'm not suggesting you follow my train of thought in any way, it's just my preferred line of attack during the autumn months.

I still remember the fist pike I caught using the popper like it was yesterday. I had bought a couple in the Netherlands in 98 and had taken them up to Scotland with high hopes of them being everything "Henk" the tackle shop owner had so vehemently promised they would be, and how right the old boy was! The sheer rush I received when I saw the water boil behind it as I stripped it across the surface has stayed with me to this day. I just don't get the same thrill while fishing with a Streamer, Bunny-wobblers or a Bomber under the surface. To visually watch my lure slowly creeping its way back towards me supersedes by far any other form of Pike fly-fishing. I also tend to concentrate a lot more during a session of popping as well. Coupled with the anticipation & frequent rushes of adrenaline that cause through my veins, I am literally quite drained at the end of the day.

Poppers themselves
Most fly tackle shops that have a Pike fly-fishing section now supply a range of ready made surface lures from Divers, Skipping bugs, Sliders, Wiggle bugs & off course Poppers. Many also carry a range of finished Popper heads which come in all manner of colours, materials and sizes. Unfortunately though I found that most Popper heads on the market were quite small in comparison with some of the 20cm streamers I had been using and found during a couple of seasons that I was only able to attract Pike in and around the 1kg - 2kg size bracket. This I have attributed to most of these popper heads being developed primarily for the American Bass angling market and not for us Pike fly-fishing enthusiasts.

Then Last year while trawling the net I came across a company called Edgewater fly-tying materials that had not one but two separate popper head products. The first being the Boiler Maker Popper Head. Loud poppers that get a big fishes attention! Super durable with a concaved face for good sound! And the Master Blaster Heads, large heads to attract big fish! now armed with larger popper heads I obviously needed a larger hook especially with a longer shank and this I found in the Mustad 3401 4/0 long shank hook. Unfortunately though this hook doesn't have a kinked shank and after just one or two tussles with a fish I was finding the head would come loose and spin around the shank. Since then I have now changed over to the 4/0 long shank Wapsi Popper Hooks and have found that the foam heads have lasted me several outings before either needing a repair or full overhaul. The Tail Another aspect I found a bit disappointing with Poppers bought from a tackle shop, is the length of the tails tied in behind the popper head. On average they range from between 50mm to 70mm and personally I feel this is too short. (Yet another attribute from the American Bass angling market). I have two specific designs which are now working well for me and catching bigger pike.

The first which I call "The grim reaper" gets given a black head. I then tie on top of the remaining section of visible hook shank a 5mm wide 80mm length of white rabbit tail and then on either side of it I tie a black feather so they curl outwards also around 80mm. This whole new popper has now given me a total length from tip to tail of around 135mm for not much extra weight. I always tie in some red hackle directly behind the head, just to finish it off. To say this popper has a wicked action through the water is an understatement. As you strip it forward the feathers pull in tight to the hook but as it stops they swing back outwards coupled with the wobble action from the strip of rabbit fur and the loud popping noise it gives off, I am getting an extremely active surface lure.

Weed guards
The old adage is," if you aren't fishing the structure's your not fishing for predators!" Poppers can be fished out in open water but your best results will come from stripping your Popper past visible & non-visible structures like reed beds, water lilies or even a submerged tree stump. This is why a weed guard is an absolute must when fishing structures .With all my Poppers I have a weed guard tied in. Don't use a thin monofilament here as it will more than likely snap within the first decent fight. I use a very thick mono (100lbs breaking strain). With heavy mono it not only lasts longer but helps prevents snagging up a lot less. I would also recommend giving it a decent loop from the back of the hook to the front. If tied in to close to the hook and the under body of the head It becomes hard to set the hook in the pikes mouth. This is also another reason for the wider loop.

Eyes
In the early development stages of these flies I used to apply eyes to the popper but found they would eventually disappear over the course of a days fishing, so I don't bother with them any more and to be truthful I personally don't think it makes any difference especially with surface poppers.

Another surface lure I must recommend are mouse imitation flies. I always dedicate an hour to using a few every time I'm out fishing. As soon as I arrive at the first patch of water lilies I slip one on and yes as I mentioned in my last column you are not going to get a lunker with this fly but to trick a pike (even a jack) into taking one is great sport.

Lastly, and I'm speaking from experience here, I have noticed that when stripping my popper back, most takes, if not all, occur while the popper is stationary. Every now and then you will notice a pike is interested by the wake it is leaving directly behind the fly, but most takes are from below and are literally quite violent Affairs..... SO STAY ALERT!

The Author: Simon Graham
Further Information: pikeflyfishingarticles.blogspot.com

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