By Sam Larson
What is the most popular fly sold in the U.S.? If you answered the Copper John then you are right in line with both anecdotal reference and casual internet searches. But to be honest, I’ve never cared for it. It’s one of those flies that shows up in every starter pack of standard patterns, right alongside a Hare’s Ear, a Pheasant Tail, and an Adams with grizzly hackle tip wings.Those flies just kick around my fly box until I move them out to make room for more Elk Hair Caddis and Sakasa Kebari flies.
But this year? It’s been one of the best, most effective flies that I can get on a line. While the small ‘bows of South Boulder Creek were content to rise to an elk hair emerger, the big boys, browns and rainbows alike, waited until I drifted a Copper John down their feeding lane. Why now? Am I fishing it with more conviction? Smarter men than I will have to debate this one. It’s working for me this year, despite my best attempts to ignore it.
I tie mine slightly off the normal pattern, but not in any particularly revolutionary way. I prefer my Copper Johns on a scud hook, usually a size 16. I use dark biot for the tails, traditional copper wire, peacock herl, and include a starling soft hackle behind the bead head for added enticement.