John Barr could not have realized the stir this pattern would create throughout the fly fishing and tying world. Originated in 1996, the Copper John steadily gained popularity and creditability among fly anglers all over the world. In 2001, this nymph pattern became the best selling fly in the Umpqua catalog of flies joining the likes of other classic nymph patterns such as the Hare’s Ear and Prince Nymph.
The popularity of the Copper John is not due simply to its good looks but rather its uncanny ability to catch fish. Like other legendary fly patterns this nymph has a few key features that make it appetizing to fish. The large gold bead, slim profile, flash and breathing hackle are just a few of these features; but the real strength for this fly comes from its weight. The compact design and special materials used in construction allow this fly to sink quickly to the level of the fish. The extensive copper body is what adds the significant weight to the fly helping it rapidly descend to where the big fish lay. This unique style of weighting a fly also allows the fly to roll across the river bottom in a natural fashion as compared to a fly weighted down with a split shot attached to the leader.
The Copper John overall is a relatively good imitation for many types of mayfly nymphs, but in general the Copper John can imitate just about any of the aquatic insects you will come across if tied with the appropriate color of wire.
As far as the tying steps are concerned the Copper John is a little more laborious of a tie than most nymph patterns simply due to the different types of materials used and the addition of a separate epoxy step. Set aside a few hours this weekend to tie of a few Copper Johns, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with their results out on the water.
Tie this fly in sizes 10-20.
Start this fly by sliding the gold bead over the hook eye, small bored out hole first then place the hook into the vise securely. Place a few wraps of lead free weight behind the bead and then proceed to slide it up into the large bored out space in the back of the bead. Attach the thread to the hook shank and cover the lead weight with thread. At the rear of the fly, just above the hook barb tie in and separate a pair of black goose biots.
Tie in 4 inch section of copper wire to the body of the fly and cover it with thread until you reach the point above the barb. Wrap the copper wire up the length of the hook shank until you reach the lead free weight you included earlier. Extending over the copper body tie in three strands of holographic flashabou. For the thorax of this fly tie in three to four strands of peacock herl and twist in into a nice bushy rope. Wrap this herl rope up the remaining length of the body until you reach the bead head.
Onto each side of the fly tie in four to five strands of peacock herl and then pull the flashabou forward over the peacock body of the fly. Whip finish the thread and cement the head.
Mix up a small batch of 5 minute epoxy and apply it over the flashabou stands on the back of the fly. Let the epoxy run up on to the bead slightly locking everything in place. Place the fly onto your epoxy drier and allow it to dry thoroughly.