Last month we looked at a saltwater style surface fly and this month we are going to tie a freshwater surface pattern, but with a difference. The pipe smoking, tweed coat wearing brigade would definitely snub their nose at this one and insist that it isn’t a fly, however, in my books if it’s tied onto a fly hook and cast off a fly rod then it is a fly.
Surface fishing is an exciting way to solicit a strike or two and the Prop-A-Hopper certainly does that, particularly on bass and saratoga. This pattern is a refinement of a previous pattern I started tying about ten years ago, which had actually slipped to the back of my mind until I spotted one in the bottom of an old tackle box a few weeks ago. I got a burst of inspiration and the new Prop-A-Hopper was born.
Now a surface fly can be used at any time and will often produce strikes when other methods do not. It can actually catalyse fish to a reactive state where they cannot resist hitting the fly.
I have had the best result with the Prop-A-Hopper at the extremities of the day, dawn and dusk, when the dull conditions see species such as bass, saratoga and barramundi actively feeding, sometimes in water so shallow that their backs protrude as they forage for food. These are exciting periods of the day for surface action.
The stealth of an electric motor or paddle can get you very close to the quarry without spooking them. The explosive strikes during the twilight periods are actions that promote fishing memories. Whilst the final result of a capture is desired, the strike is more memorable.
Try casting and working the Prop-A-Hopper and other surface flies around areas that provide cover, such as lily pads, weed beds, overhanging grass, snag piles and submerged vegetation, and you are well on your way to achieving a hook up.
The correct way to work fizzers is no different to that of any other fly as there isn’t only one correct way. You need to change and vary the retrieve on any given day to see what works in that scenario. The desired retrieve that solicits the strike can be different for various species and even at different times of the day.
My basic retrieve that then becomes the groundwork for fine-tuning on any given day is as follows.
Allow the fly to land and wait a few seconds while the shock waves on the water virtually disappear. Give the fly one short strip, of no more then 10cm, and again let the ringlets disperse. Next give two short strips with a pause between and again wait. Now do a very slow single strip that sees the fly gently fizzing across the surface for almost a metre. Let the fly rest before going back to the single strip again to repeat the sequence.
This technique covers most of the options in working this fly in the one retrieve. If you are noticing rises or strikes from fish on any particular stage of the retrieve then concentrate more on that type of retrieve.
But just when you think you have it all worked out, the fish will probably change their mind as to what interests them. Therefore don’t get stuck on just doing one style of retrieve all day. If things go quiet then change it again until some interest is shown.
The materials used in this fly are fairly basic although tying this fly is a little different to anything we have done before.
The mini propellers are available at most suppliers of quality fly tying materials and come in several sizes. I have used the large size for this fly due to the fact that the hole in the middle of the propeller will just fit over the barb of the hook. You can usually enlarge the hole in the middle of the prop with a sharp object as they are made of soft aluminium.
For the body I have used Evasote 3mm high-density foam, which is a little firmer than the 2mm medium density foam, although that can be used if it is all you have at your disposal. The various types and colours of both the hackle and the chenille can be altered to suit. This fly can be tied in an array of colours with good results on a host of saltwater and freshwater species.
The Mustad C52S BLN I have used for this fly is a stinger patterned hook that suits freshwater species due to its small barb, large gape and short point. The low-profile barb also assists in you being able to thread the propeller onto the hook shank. If you wanted to use a stainless O’Shaughnessy patterned hook on a Prop-A-Hopper destined for saltwater use, you will probably have to flatten the barb or file it down to get the propeller onto the hook shank.
(1) Whilst holding the hook in your hand, push the propeller over the point and barb of the hook and onto the shank. Next do the same with a small bead. Now secure the hook into the jaws of the vice and attach your thread with a jamb knot (or similar) onto the shank approximately opposite to the hook point.
Tie in six to eight strands of Krystal flash at this point and whip finish, but do not trim away the remaining thread.
(2) Using this same tie in point, attach the end of your chenille and also the base section of a saltwater grade hackle. Next palmer (wrap) the thread forward along the hook shank, making several wraps of thread just behind the bead.
(3) Palmer the chenille along the hook shank and tie it off with the thread just behind the bead. Next, palmer the hackle over the chenille with each wrap a few millimetres from the last, and again tie it off just behind the bead. Whip finish at this point, leaving the remaining thread attached.
(4) Cut a section of Evasote similar in shape and size to that shown. The proportions are not greatly that important but the entire shape will roughly be one and a half times as long as the entire hook. The picture shows roughly the positioning of the Evasote for tying the next stage.
(5) Position the Evasote across the back of the hook shank. Fold it over the hook shank evenly and tie it down just behind the bead with several firm wraps of thread, but make sure that the propeller still spins freely. If it is not free, push the Evasote back slightly until it is. Wrap tightly until the Evasote is secure at this point and whip finish, but do not cut away the remaining thread. Add a little Flexcement.
(6) Fold down the top flap of Evasote and secure it as shown, approximately in the middle. Bring the thread to this position from under the fly so that it is barely visible and make sure you part the hackle fibres at this position, eliminating the chance of distorting them or tying down with the thread wraps. Again whip-finish and add a little head cement to the thread.
(7) Advance the thread back once more, be careful not to interfere with the hackle fibres, and tie the bottom layer of Evasote roughly at the spot coinciding with the end of the top layer. Whip finish, cut away the remaining thread and add a little Flexcement to the tie off point to make the fly more durable.
The Prop-A-Hopper is now completed and ready to add some fizz to your flyfishing.
|HOOK:||Mustad C52S BLN 1/0|
|THREAD:||Flat-waxed nylon – black|
|PROPELLER:||Wapsi large gold|
|BEAD:||Any small one|
|FLASH:||Krystal Flash – olive brown|
|LEGS:||Saltwater Saddle Hackle – brown grizzly|
|BELLY:||Estaz Chenille – brown|
|BODY:||Evasote 3mm medium-density brown|