Silver season is fast approaching (ahem, we may or may not have already seen a few) and we’re currently experiencing the height of our mind-boggling run of chum salmon on our home river at Alaska West. That can only mean one thing.. It’s popper season!
We love tossing surface patterns for our ridiculous runs of chum, pink, and silver salmon and today Alaska West guide, Cole Cook, shares the details on how to tie one of his favorites.
Cole Cook’s ‘Big Poppa’ – Tying Instructions
The Big Poppa first originated from the difficulty of finding a commercial popper with a trailer hook suitable for big salmon. Most commercially available salmon poppers and/or ‘wogs’ (often tied on traditional salmon style hooks) can result in tongue hooked fish which can lead to bleeding or further injury during hook removal, both of which can be detrimental to the well being of a released fish. A trailer hook on the other hand allows the hook to slide across the mouth as you strip-set, improving the chances of landing in a much more desired purchase point such as the corner of the mouth.
Tied with larger (6mm) foam that’s simple to work with, the Big Poppa makes for a quick and easy popper pattern that silver salmon can’t resist, but is also much easier to cast than most commercially available poppers. A long bunny tail rigged with a trailer hook helps to drape subsurface for an effective “wiggle” factor while also reducing short strikes as well.
- Shank: Aqua Flies Round Eye Shank, 26mm.
- Thread: Ultra Thread UTC 140 Denier, Black.
- Trailer Loop: Powerpro Braid, 50 lb.
- Trailer Hook: Aqua Flies AquaTalon Swing Hook, Size 2.
- Tail: Rabbit Zonker Strip, Fuchsia.
- Body: Fuchsia Rabbit, Tied in a Dubbing Loop.
- Legs: Crazy Legs, Salmon Pink/Hot Pink.
- Head: Hareline 6 mm Fly Foam, White.
Step 1: Secure an up-eye shank into your vise and cover with a layer of thread wraps.
Step 2: Catch in a loop of braid (50 lb. PowerPro was used here) and cover with thread to the 2/3rd point of the shank. Double the braid back over itself for added strength and attach a stinger hook of choice by passing the loop through the eye and up over the bend of the hook, but don’t pull tight.
Step 3: Insert the tip of a bunny strip through the braided loop before pulling the hook and braid tight. This will fix the hook at the back of the tail while also making for easy hook changes. Be sure to pick out any fibers that may have become trapped between the hide and the braid. For more clarification, check out our post on this technique by clicking right here.
Step 4: Tie down the front end of the bunny tail at the back of the shank and trim the excess.
Step 5: Create a dubbing loop approximately 5 inches long and insert a strip of bunny (hide first). Trim the bunny along the hide so that only hair fibers remain in the dubbing loop and spin into a brush as shown.
Step 6: Wrap the bunny in touching turns 2/3rds up the shank, stroking fibers toward the back of the fly on each wrap, and tie off.
Step 7: Add a pair of pink rubber legs on each side of the fly. To do this, tie in one strand and fold over itself on each side of shank. This not only uses less materials for the same effect, but also makes for a more durable fly.
Step 8: Prepare the popper head by cutting a small square of 6mm foam (left). Next, cut two 45 degree angles into the center of foam which will face towards the rear of the fly. Finally, cut small 2mm slits on each side of the popper to allow a point for your thread to seat (right).
Step 9: Trim the front of the foam at a 45 degree angle to create a smooth taper at the front of the fly.
Step 10: Tie in the foam head to the top of the shank with 6-8 thread wraps, gradually applying more and more pressure on each wrap. Be sure to wrap over the slits made in the foam as this will help keep the foam from rolling around the shank.
Step 11: Once you’ve seated your foam head thoroughly, create another dubbing loop of rabbit as before and make one wrap around the middle of the foam (on top of the original tie-in point). Then, tuck the thread under the front of the foam and create a small head at the front of the fly.
Step 12: Tie off the head of the fly with a whip finish, use a touch of head cement or super glue to seal your thread wraps and base of the popper, and get poppin’!
G D Beckett says
Thanks for the recipe! I’m heading to Sitka this coming August. I see no reason that this popper wouldn’t work there, right? Fish are fish most everywhere I go. I have tied some with EVS foam dowels, but they are harder to shape than your method, so I’ll be giving it a go. We’ll be targeting these guys on the inner water stream mouths, along with Dollys and whatever else may be lurking.
Merry Christmas and thanks again!
Park City UT