Like usual, summer is "In like a lion" here in southern Ontario. As in the past, extreme heat and humidity has caused a great rise in water temperature in some of our favorite trout streams. There are two ways for ardent trout anglers to see this situation; Only fish the slightly more crowded rivers still cold enough OR turn your attention to warmwater species. I do both actually, but certainly see the latter option as no real compromise

When I was a kid, fishing for bass and various panfish with a spinning outfit was THE ultimate sport. It mattered little if it was an over-sized chub from the creek near our cottage, or a chunky smallmouth from the rock beds forty yards out in Georgian Bay. If it was in the water, it was game. I get that same feeling every time I string up my 9′ 4wt. rod and set out on a muggy morning for some panfish action.
I think we can all agree that catching panfish is not always difficult. They’re fearless, aggressive, abundant and will often hit pretty much anything that looks remotely edible. That is…the small ones will. As I discussed in a post titled "A Panfish Primer", big panfish are anything but pushovers. By big, I mean big and ugly, dark-colored solitary fish that lurk (and can stand their own) in largemouth bass territory. I can honestly say i’ve hooked more of these outstanding fish than I have big browns, but am working on both. The last one I landed had me believeing that; #1 I’d caught the largemouth of my life, and #2 Why on earth didn’t I bring the 7wt.? Now then, what flies to use? My favorite has to be the popper.
The construction of this fly is Jay Fullum’s method essentially. It is quick to tie, and very tough. Like any fly that uses epoxy, its smart to prepare a number of flies at once. With practice, you can epoxy up to 3 poppers before it starts to set-up. The body color is up to you, but i’ve found they show a preference for bright OR muted on any given day.

Tying The Balsa Popper Fly Pattern

Balsa Popper

Hook:Dry fly, 2x-3x long (size to suit)
Thread:Yellow 3/0
Body:1/4"x1/4" square balsa, larger if desired (craft/hobby stores)
Finish:5 Minute Epoxy-Painted with nail polish
Eyes:Painted (Vinyl Jig and Lure paint used here, nail polish or self adhesive eyes would be fine)
Tail:Yellow Grizzly Saddle feathers-4
Hackle:Yellow Grizzly Saddle feathers-2

Using some 220 grit sandpaper, round-over one edge of the balsa.

In the same manner, round over the two sides. These will be the top, and sides of the popper’s body.

Using a very fine saw (available at hobby stores) cut the sanded body from the length of the balsa.
Gently sand away any burrs that resulted from the shaping.

Start the thread near the eye and wind down approx. half the length of the hook shank. Position the balsa body and make several tight wraps, try not to cut into the balsa. Tie off. (back or front)

Take this opportunity to adjust the body location if required. Mix the 5 minute epoxy and brush over the wraps, covering all the wood.

When the epoxy starts to harden (approx. 4-6 minutes) brush on the the first coat of nail polish. Be sure that the epoxy is still a bit sticky when you do.

Create eyes by dipping the butt end of the epoxy brush into the white paint and simply press it onto the the poppers side.

Using a smaller implement (my bodkin here) create the center in the same manner. (let all the paint set for at least an hour, best if over night) Tie in your thread, wind back to the bend.

Select 2 pairs of saddle feathers, align the tips and position them so that they flare away from each other. Tie them in, adjust them if required.

Tie in 2 more saddle feathers.(hackle) Using either head cement or 5 minute epoxy, secure the thread wraps at these tie-in points.

Wind the first hackle forward, tie off. Repeat with the second. Use a bit of head cement to secure the tie-off point.

The finished fly

This pattern can be adjusted to suit your needs. I tie some as shown, others that have rubber legs and/or Krystal Flash. (added after step 9) It takes some effort to find nail polish in such gaudy colors, but keep an eye on sale bins, dollar stores and those that carry lines geared for kids.

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