Here it is The Copper John. I have been asked to demonstrate this fly by more people in the past few years than nearly any other, and with good reason. While not a complicated fly by any means, this pattern is somewhat involved and has a lot of parts. There is simply a whole lot going on in a Copper John, but with planning and practice, it’s really pretty simple.
One of the reasons that the Copper John works so well is its heavily weighted underbody and bead head. I go so far as to tie all of mine with tungsten beads and lead wire! The wire overbody adds segmentation, flash, weight and durability, and the epoxy coated Thinskin flashback is bullet proof.
This fly was originally designed by my good friend and UBER Fly Designer John Barr as a heavily weighted dropper pattern to drag down a smaller fly fished in tandem. It turns out the fish love the Copper for what it is and eat it as readily as the dropper. This is one of, if not THE, most popular flies in the country right now and is an integral part of John’s Hopper/Copper/Dropper System.
The H/C/D System consists of the BC Hopper (a large, foam bodied hopper, designed by John and myself that floats incredibly well and is highly visible) tied to the end of a 6-71/2 foot, 3X leader. About four feet of 4X fluorocarbon is tied to the bend of the hopper on one end with an appropriately sized Copper John tied to the other end. Tie another twelve to eighteen inches of 5X fluorocarbon to the bend of the Copper and attach your favorite hatch matching nymph pattern to the terminal end. Some good choices include Barr Emergers, Jujubee Midges, Jujubaetis, Barr’s Graphic Caddis Pupae and many other small patterns. The idea is that all portions of your normal nymph rig are represented but are also all viable options for a bite. The Hopper acts as an indicator and attractor, the Copper as a split shot and the Dropper as your fly. Rather than having only one or two flies in the water at a time, this system allows you to cover all depths at the same time with a viable pattern. I believe that fishing a combination of flies like this attracts fish to the flies better than fishing any of the patterns alone. I’ve had many times when a fish busts the hopper and I set the hook a little late but find that the fish had taken one of the nymphs on his way up. One fly gets their attention, the other reaches out and grabs ’em!
I admit the rig does sound cumbersome to cast, but as long as it is built with the above leader system it casts like a breeze. Be sure to keep an open loop and follow through with the cast.
Check out the directions and tie up some Coppers for your box. Give the Hopper/Copper/Dropper system a try this year and see if you don’t become a believer too!