Salty Popper
  |  First Published: November 2008

For any angler who has experienced the thrill of a smashing surface strike, topwater fishing holds unique memories. And for fly fishers the experience is no less rewarding.

Whether it be bass on a still summer’s night, a barramundi in a northern estuary or trevally on some tropical coral bommie, seeing the take as the fish engulfs the offering creates special memories in any anglers heart. Whilst this month’s pattern has the moniker of Salty Popper, it is equally at home on a host of impoundments and billabong inhabitants.

It’s no secret to any seasoned surface fishing aficionado that surface lures are not only a knee-trembling way to fish but also a very effective way. However, many assume that using surface presentations is only for those times when the fish are biting their heads off and you are looking for a different way to catch them. Perhaps anglers just need more confidence in surface fishing to keep them trying during those quieter times when the quarry are not being cooperative.

There is no denying that the action and surface disturbance of such presentations can be the catalyst required to trigger inactive fish into striking. Using surface presentations can actually turn those quiet days into ones to fondly remember. With so many positives for this form of fishing it is hard to imagine why it is not partaken of more regularly.


Whilst saltwater poppers in this form are no new addition to the many flies of the world, some of the materials I have used in this pattern have only recently become known to me.

From Tiewell, one of Australia’s leading suppliers of quality fly tying materials, the material used to cover the body is Cyber Tube, a fantastic woven tubing material made from monofilament and flat Mylar tinsel. It has a high degree of elongation and can therefore be pulled taut over popper heads to provide a very exciting finish. It is also ideally used solo to make airhead poppers, which I will probably do in a future column. It comes in a couple of sizes and several colours but I have used the Superfat silver for this pattern.

Another relatively new material is the Krystal Flash in UV grey-ghost colouration. There are several UV colours in the Krystal Flash range and all give that lit up baitfish look when added to your pattern. Popper bodies can be shaped from foams such as Evasote, duralon and hypalon, however for ease of use I have opted for one of the many pre-formed Styrofoam heads that are readily available at most decent tackle outlets that stock fly tying materials. These usually come with the correct kink-shank hook to fit. Mustad make a kink-shank popper hook in several sizes if you only have popper heads at your disposal.


Poppers, like most fly patterns, can be worked in an array of ways. The retrieve that will work best is generally dictated by the location being fished, the species targeted and the mood of the fish. For species such as trevally and queenfish, a faster retrieve is often the best option, whilst for billabong and impoundment barra you will generally find two short, hard strips and a pause will solicit plenty of strikes.

Tailor can also be particular fond of this pattern at times. I often find that long strips with a pause between will work exceptionally well. There are plenty of variables and it pays to experiment on any given day to see what the fish find most appealing.


(1) Place the hook in the groove on the under belly of the popper as shown. Press the hook into the foam hard so that the kink in the shank of the hook makes an impression on the foam in the bottom of the groove. Remove the hook and use a pointed object, such as the tip of your scissors, to increase the size of the groove until the kink in the hook shank sits snuggly in it and the rest of the hook shank rests in the bottom of the groove.

Mix some 5-minute araldite and glue the hook into the foam popper head as shown. If the hook is a relatively loose fit in your popper head, lay a bed of thread along the hook shank until it is a snug fit and then glue.

(2) Attach the thread to the hook shank at the back of the popper head. Cut a section of Kinky Fibre that is roughly as long as the hook shank. Tie it in at the rear of the popper head as shown. Whip-finish it twice, but do not cut away the remaining thread. This is a situation where being able to whip finish by hand is important as a whip finishing tool will not work in this situation. Add a little Flexcement to the bind.

(3) Place the Cyber Tube over the popper head as shown. Put a zippy tie over the Cyber Tube at the front of the popper head and tighten it, as shown. Pull the tube to the rear so it stretches taut over the popper head. Part the fibres of the Cyber Tube so that the thread can again hang vertical as it was before you added the tube.

(4) Wrap the thread around the tube and hook shank to secure the Cyber Tubing tightly over the popper head. Cut off the excess tubing in front of the zippy tie. Whip-finish the thread again but do not cut away the remainder. Add Soft Dip to the entire popper head, covering all the Cyber Tube between the tie-off point to the front of the head. Ensure to put a little over the tie off point of the thread to make the fly more durable.

(5) When the Soft Dip is touch dry, add a self-adhesive eye to each side of the popper head. Add another light coat of Soft Dip over the last.

(6) When the Soft Dip on the entire popper body is dry, cut away the excess Cyber Tube flush in front of the head with your scissors or a sharp blade. Trim the excess Cyber Tubing at the rear of the fly also, just behind the tie-off point. Be careful not to cut the Kinky Fibre whilst doing this.

Cut some UV Krystal Flash, one and a half times as long as the popper head, and tie in so that it’s evenly spaced around the entire Kinky Fibre. Whip finish and cut away the remaining thread. Add a little Flexcement or Soft Dip to seal off the thread at this point.

Your Salty Popper is now ready to provide you with some knee-shaking surface strikes.



BODY:Wapsi saltwater popper body with hooks 2/0
THREAD:Mono fine
ADHESIVE:Devcon 5-minute
TAIL:Kinky-fibre white
OVERBODY:Cyber Tube- Superfat Silver
FLASH:Krystal flash- UV grey ghost
EYE:Self-adhesive silver 4mm
EXTRAS:zippy-tie small

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