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Copper John Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: Copper John
2X-heavy, 2X-long nymph or streamer hook, sizes 10-20.
Gold Cyclops bead, size to match hook.
.015 lead wire.
Black, 8/0 or 70 denier.
Brown goose biots.
Copper Ultra Wire, brassie-size.
Wingcase (top):
Pearl Flashabou, saltwater-size.
Wingcase (bottom):
Strip of black Thin Skin, slightly narrower than the width of the hook gap.
Peacock herl.
Speckled brown hen hackle.
5-minute epoxy.
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Video Transcript:

The Copper John, developed by John Barr in the mid 90's, has become a remarkably popular pattern and with good reason. It sinks like a stone and, although it doesn't look like any aquatic insect in particular, it represents many in general. If you're put off by the sheer number of materials, as I initially was, don't be. Once you get rolling it's a fairly easy fly to tie.

For the hook, something 2X heavy and 2X long is the way to go. Here, a Lightning Strike SN1 in a size 14. To match the hook size, I'm going to use a 7/64ths inch gold Cyclops bead.

Thread the bead on the hook, small hole first, and get it situated in your vise. 15/1000th's lead free wire is used to add weight and stabilize the bead. I've found 11 or 12 wraps shoved up into the bead provides a real solid foundation for the rest of the fly.

I like black UTC 70 for the thread. It will only be exposed just behind the bead. Start your thread immediately behind the wire wraps and go all the way back to the hook bend.

For the tail of the fly, snip two brown goose biots from the stem and orient them so their tips splay outward and are aligned. Measure them to get a tail one hook shank in length. Then transfer the measurement to your other hand. While pinching the biots together tightly, take two loose wraps. Rotate them towards you slightly and then take another wrap, allowing the thread torque to move the biots into the correct position. Maintain the pinch through a few more wraps to insure they won't move once you let go. This is about what the tail should look like. Snip the biots off just behind the wire wraps and then use your thread to begin building an underbody for the fly.

Pull a length of copper wire from the spool, here Brassie sized Ultra wire. Don't short yourself, use at least 6 inches to start, preferably eight. Butt one end of the copper wire against the lead wraps. Take wraps of tying thread all the way back to the tail. Now continue building a tapered underbody with your thread. With this done, start making adjacent turns of copper wire up the hook shank over the underbody. Do your best to keep the wraps touching. Once you reach the 3/4 point on the hook shank, use your tying thread to secure the copper wire. Using the nozzle of your bobbin as a stabilizer, helicopter the wire off close.

Start building the wing case with a strand of pearl flashabou. I'm not sure of the exact size here, but it's the larger saltwater stuff. Get the strand tied in behind the bead so it's directly on top of the hook shank. For the next layer of the wing case, Thin Skin works really well. Pull the backing off to expose the shiny side. You're going to want this side facing downward when you tie it in. Again, the idea is to keep the strip on top of the hook.

For the thorax, select a single strand of peacock herl. You may notice, a peacock herl has two sides, one more distinctly iridescent green than the other. Tie in the herl so the iridescent side is closest to you. With it tied in this way, when you begin wrapping, these iridescent fibers will be the ones that stand out, resulting in a fuller, better looking thorax. Snip the remainder of the herl off close to the bead.

For the legs of the fly, speckled brown hen hackle works well. Select a feather with even tips and nice speckling. Strip some of the lower fibers back to isolate the tip, and then use fine point scissors to snip out just the very end of the feather. You should be left with something that looks about like this. Lay the feather on top of the hook with the cupped side facing down. Don't worry too much about leg length just yet. Pull the Thin Skin over the top and then take two loose wraps of thread to hold it in place. What this does is allows you to pull the stem of the hen feather until the legs extend rearward to about the hook point.

There are many other ways to tie in the legs but this method results in even sets of legs resembling the swept back wings of a jet. Basically, I think they just kinda look cool this way.

Next, pull the flashabou over and secure it with two wraps of thread. You can then pull the whole mess vertical and snip it off close, being careful not to cut your thread while doing so. You'll probably need to do a little clean up work as well. Don't worry if the cut-off wing case looks a little nasty, the final layer of epoxy will cover up a multitude of sins.

Finally, give the fly a good whip finish and snip or cut your tying thread free. To finish the wing case, I'm going to use Z-Poxy 5 minute epoxy. Mix the two parts equally and well. Here I have enough for at least a dozen flies. Take a small amount and apply it to the top of the wing case starting back on the copper wraps and working forward to the top of the bead. As you can see, the epoxy neatly covers that raggedy cut-off edge. Five minute epoxy is rather viscous stuff, and for the Copper John, seems to slump just the right amount during the curing process.

And there you go, a finished Copper John. Now that wasn't so bad was it?