The Copper John is a fly to be reckoned with

By V. Paul Reynolds

Nothing in the outdoors quite compares with catching wild brook trout on a small dry fly. For me, sight fishing – seeing the fish feeding on the surface and trying to place a #16 Adams softly on a ‘target rise form’ – is an exciting challenge that never wears thin. The trouble is that conditions for fishing dries on top are not always right. Sometimes there is no hatch, or the wind makes casting difficult to impossible. When conditions don’t cooperate, the angler has two choices: give it up or get the artificials under water and fish “wet.”

The most effective underwater fly fishing lashup for trout that I have found is a big fluffy indicator fly on top with a nymph dropper fly hanging below the surface. If you have never tied on a dropper you simply tie a foot or so of tippet to the bend in the hook of the indicator fly with an improved clinch knot and then tie the nymph to the other end.

What to use for a nymph? The choices are many, but there are some favorites. The Copper John nymph is the rage these days, and is purported to be the most used nymph artificial in North America. This little beauty was concocted by John Barr from Boulder, Colorado in 1993. The Copper John features a tungsten bead head and the body is wrapped with copper wire. It is a fast sinker and is exceptionally visible to fish, even in murky water.

If the Copper John doesn’t do the job, there are a number of other highly popular nymph patterns that should have a place in your fly box.

My good friend and fishing companion, Tom Fuller from Belchertown, Mass, a national outdoor writer and encyclopedic fly fisher, has made a study of underwater trout flies. In fact, he has bared his soul and his savvy in a wonderful book “Underwater Flies for Trout.” To help give us dry fly purists a running start, Fuller lists his “core collection” of most effective subsurface mayflies. They are:

1. Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear.

According to Fuller, the “utility of this fly lies in its “buginess.” He advises you to carry an assortment in sizes 8-14. He believes that this fly imitates a Quill Gordon, a March Brown and a Green Drake. This nymph pattern is also deadly when fished unweighted just under the surface as an emerger.

2. Hendrickson

Fuller says that this second in his choices of core patterns imitates a Black Quill, Mahogany Dun  and Sulphur Dun.

3. His third choice he calls the “generic.”

This can be simply a smaller nymph in sizes 18-24 that has an olive brown body and  black wing cases. Examples of these would be a Pheasant Tail Nymph, an Olive Brown Nymph, a Trico Nymph, etc. In Fuller’s book, which is available through Ragged Mountain Press in Camden, he covers just about all  aspects of pursuing trout with underwater flies. It is one of the most substantive and well organized fly fishing books I’ve yet to read.

If you’re getting impatient waiting for warm weather and the hatches that follow, you might want to get serious about fishing “wet.” Or, as Fuller puts it, “Isn’t it about time you learned how to fish between hatches?”

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.sportingjournal.com.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.