By Tedy Gordon, SFBCA member
The fly fishing world can be made very confusing by the wide variety of flies available, particularly for the beginner. Fly patterns can be dry, streamers, nymphs, imitators, attractors and who knows what else. Since I still fall in the beginner category, I will not even attempt to explain fly pattern typology and the theory on how they work, but what I do want, is to share a fly pattern with you: the Copper John.
Invented by John Barr, the Copper John is a fly pattern that does not really imitate a specific insect and maybe because of that, fish find it simply irresistible. I was introduced to this fly pattern by Jurgen Brech, a member of the Scarborough Fly and Baitcasting Association and our “fly tying master”. I tie my own varieties of the Copper John using different materials: for t the tail goose biots, duck feathers or pheasant tail fibers. For the body, peacock herl, squirrel or Antron dubbing. For the legs, mallard feathers, deer hair or pheasant tail fibers. Copper wire is used consistently for the abdomen, and this is natural coloured wire that I have recovered from old motors. I also try to give the fly’s abdomen a bit of a taper and add some lead wire around the thorax for weight if necessary. For hook types I normally use nymph hooks, but scud hooks work perfectly as well. It is also a good idea to tie different sizes, from size 4 to 14. If you want this fly to sink, you will have to add some weight. How much extra weight you need to add depends on whether or not you are using a plastic or metal bead for the head. Flies where I use a plastic bead will require lead wire, but when I use a metal or glass bead there is no need for extra weight.
The Copper John is a nymph, so basic nymphing techniques are enough to fish it successfully. I prefer to drift it in fast runs and ripples, where the current gives the fly enough action to attract fish. I also find that it works well in clear water as it does in murky, although I am under the impression that I have caught more fish on the Copper John during brighter days. You could be surprised when prospecting for trout, to find that other fish will take your Copper John as well. Rainbow trout, Bass, Chubs and Salmon have taken this fly for me.
Whatever your preference or the conditions, next time you go fishing give the Copper John a try. You will be pleasantly surprised. You can read John Barr’s article on his Copper John here: http://midcurrent.com/flies/tying-the-original-copper-john/