Fishing The Popper
The popper is perhaps the fly fishers most reliable fly for consistently taking smallmouth bass on the
South Branch River. Like any other fly, one must master the technique of fishing the popper in order
to guarantee success under all river conditions.
Poppers can be used anytime that
smallmouth are feeding on or near the
surface. This does not mean that they are
only feeding in this area, but likely to
recognize surface action. Usually this
occurs when the water temperature reaches
the 60 degree mark in the spring and lasts
until leaf fall or the water temperature falls
below 60 degrees in the fall. For the South
Branch a good rule of thumb is from May
through September. I mention leaf fall in
that I have noticed that when leaves are on
the water in early fall, the smallmouth
seem to shy away from surface activity
even though the water temperature may be
above 60-degrees.
A good rod for popper fishing is a 9 ft. 8 weight (particularly if wading) or even a 6 weight, but nothing
smaller at least for the South Branch-the reason being distance. It takes a little heavier rod to cast an
air resistant popper longer distances with ease. A weight forward floating line should be used with a
9ft. 2X leader. I have found that in clear water at least a foot of fluorocarbon tippit makes a positive
Popper colors, at times, seem to have no affect on success and at other times it does. I like white and
also chartreuse. Red, black, yellow and a combination of each will work at times. Something that I
want on all my poppers are rubber legs both from the sides and at the tail.
All these things being taken into
consideration, the success of fishing the
popper is a direct result of placement and
action. I fish the popper across stream to
the end of the downstream swing. When I
cast across, as soon as the popper hits the
water, I give a twitch. This doesn't give the
fish a chance to get a good look, but instead
it strikes instinctively to something landing
on the surface. Keep the rod tip low and
sometimes on the water. Point the rod tip
at the point where the line enters the water
and give a small strip with the line hand to
create a pop. Continue to follow the line
with the rod tip as it moves downstream
and insert a popping action. You will develop
your own rhythm for popping. Poppers are like all other flies; you must spend time on the water to
learn where the smallmouth will be and how to catch them. This is why we fish. One thing that I will
guarantee, there is no other fly that will catch river smallmouth as consistently as the POPPER!
Photographs By: Carl D. DeFazio