How To Tie A Copper John Fly? Step-By-Step Guide

As you scan the water’s surface, you notice trout lazily rising to feed on insects. It’s the perfect moment to unleash the secret weapon in every fly angler’s arsenal—the Copper John fly. But wait, do you know how to tie this highly effective nymph pattern? Don’t worry! I’ve got you covered.

Tying a Copper John fly is a rewarding experience for fly anglers. Start by adding lead wire for weight, then secure brown goose biots as the tail. Wrap copper wire for the abdomen and add flash with mylar tinsel. Build up the thorax with peacock herl and attach Partridge feathers for legs. Finish with UV resin or epoxy for durability.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll take you on a journey through the art of tying and fishing the Copper John fly, from the step-by-step instructions on tying a Copper John nymph to exploring color variations and sharing expert fishing techniques. So, stick till the end!

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Unveiling the Copper John Fly

The Copper John fly is a true gem in the world of fly fishing. Its unique characteristics and features make it highly effective in enticing fish and achieving success on the water. Let’s dive deeper into what sets this fly apart and why it’s a favorite among anglers worldwide.

Impeccable Imitation: What does the Copper John fly imitate?

When it comes to imitating aquatic insects, the Copper John fly reigns supreme. Specifically, it mimics the nymph stage of various insects, including mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies. With its shiny copper body, the fly replicates the color and shine of the natural nymphs found in rivers and streams. This uncanny resemblance triggers the predatory instincts of fish, making them strike with gusto.

Versatility for Various Fish Species:

The Copper John fly’s versatility knows no bounds. It has proven effective for targeting a wide range of fish species, including trout, bass, panfish, and even carp. The fly’s ability to imitate different nymphs attracts these fish, making it a go-to choice for anglers in diverse fishing environments.

Weighted Design for Nymphing Success:

One of the key factors contributing to the Copper John fly’s effectiveness is its weighted design. The addition of lead wraps or a bead-head helps the fly sink quickly, allowing anglers to target fish at different water depths.

This feature is especially advantageous when nymphing—the technique of presenting flies beneath the water’s surface. The Copper John’s fast-sinking capability ensures it reaches the desired depth swiftly, increasing the chances of enticing strikes from hungry fish.

Irresistible Profile and Attraction:

The Copper John’s distinctive appearance and shine create an irresistible profile underwater. The fly’s copper-colored body, often combined with flash materials for added allure, catches the attention of fish, even in murky or fast-flowing water. Additionally, the fly’s realistic segmentation and prominent thorax create a visually appealing silhouette that entices fish to strike.

The Copper John fly’s effectiveness in fly fishing can be attributed to its impeccable imitation of nymphs, versatility in attracting various fish species, and weighted design for nymphing success.

With its ability to sink quickly, entice strikes, and trigger the predatory instincts of fish. This fly is a must-have in every angler’s fly box.

Must-Have Materials for Tying a Copper John

Having the correct materials and tools is essential when tying your own Copper John flies. Below is a thorough list of what you’ll need to get started, as well as some variants and reputable sources to help you locate the things you’ll need:


You’ll need a standard nymph hook in sizes ranging from 12 to 18, depending on your preference and the size of insects in your local waters. Look for high-quality hooks from reputable brands such as Tiemco, Daiichi, or Mustad. These can be found at your local fly shop or online retailers such as Orvis or FlyFishFood.


Copper or brass beads are typically used for the Copper John fly to add weight and attract attention. Select beads that match the size of your hook. Bead colors can vary, so feel free to experiment with metallic shades like Copper, brass, or even black nickel.

Check out retailers like J. Stockard Fly Fishing or Feather-Craft for a wide range of bead options.


For tying the Copper John, use a thread color that complements the fly’s overall appearance. Black or brown threads in sizes 6/0 or 8/0 are commonly used. High-quality threads from brands like Danville or UTC are reliable choices.


The Copper John’s tail is formed using brown goose biots. These biots have a natural curve that imitates the legs of aquatic insects. Look for brown goose biots from reputable brands like Hareline Dubbin or Wapsi. These can be found at many fly shops or online retailers such as TroutLegend or Flymart.


The abdomen of the Copper John is created using copper wire. Opt for medium to heavy copper wire to provide the necessary weight and durability. Brands like UTC or Wapsi offer reliable copper wire options.


Mylar tinsel is used to add flash and attract fish to the Copper John. Look for mylar tinsel in various colors, such as gold, silver, or pearl, to create different effects. Hareline Dubbin and Wapsi are trusted brands that offer a wide range of mylar tinsel options.


Peacock herl is commonly used for the thorax of the Copper John. It adds a natural iridescent quality that imitates the bodies of many aquatic insects. Look for high-quality peacock herl from brands like Spirit River or Wapsi.


Partridge feathers are used to create the legs of the Copper John. They provide a lifelike appearance and movement in the water. Look for Partridge feathers from reputable brands like Nature’s Spirit or Whiting Farms.

Remember to explore different variations of the Copper John by experimenting with bead colors, wire thicknesses, and tail and thorax materials. This will allow you to tailor the fly to match the specific insects found in your local waters.

Step-by-Step Tying Instructions for the Copper John Fly

The Copper John fly is a highly effective nymph pattern developed by John Barr. Its weighted design allows it to sink quickly, making it perfect for fast-flowing streams. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through tying your own Copper John fly, which can be fished effectively in various water types. Let’s get started!

Recheck the All The Materials Needed:

Before proceeding to the tying instruction, take a look again that you have the following materials:

• Hook: Standard nymph hook (sizes 12-18)
• Bead: Copper or brass bead (matching the hook size)
• Thread: Black or brown (6/0 or 8/0)
• Tail: Brown goose biots
• Abdomen: Copper wire (medium to heavy)
• Flash: Mylar tinsel
• Thorax: Peacock herl
• Legs: Partridge feather
• UV resin or epoxy (optional)

Step 1: Adding Weight

To give your Copper, John fly the necessary weight, start by adding lead wire. Position the lead wire near the hook bend and secure it in place with a few thread wraps. Make sure the lead wire extends about halfway up the shank.

Step 2: Creating the Tail

Take two brown goose biots and position them on opposite sides of the hook shank, curving away from each other. Align the tips by sliding your fingers up and down the biots until they’re even in length. Hold the biots in place and make a couple of thread wraps to secure them. Cut off any excess material so that the biots butt up against the lead wire.

Step 3: Forming the Abdomen

Using copper wire, start wrapping it around the shank right behind the bead. Begin with a few tight wraps to secure the wire, then wrap it forward until you reach the two-thirds point of the hook shank.

The wire should be wrapped evenly with touching wraps. Once you reach the desired point, secure the wire with a few wraps with thread on either side and either cut or helicopter it off.

Step 4: Adding Flash with Mylar Tinsel

Take a piece of mylar tinsel and position it on top of the hook shank, extending beyond the tail. Secure it with a few thread wraps, making sure the tinsel butts up close to the bead. Fold the excess tinsel back and wrap your thread over both ends to cover them.

Step-by-Step Tying Instructions for the Copper John Fly | Honest Fishers

Step 5: Building the Thorax with Peacock Herl

Tie in a couple of pieces of peacock herl with their tips butted up against the bead. Leave your thread behind the bead. Twist the peacock herl strands together a couple of times so they stay aligned.

Begin wrapping the herl around the shank, building up the thorax. Take your time and create a smooth, tapered body. Once you’re satisfied, tie off the herl immediately behind the bead, making sure to place wraps on either side to lock it in place. Cut off the excess herl close to the bead.

Step 6: Creating Legs with Partridge Feather

Prepare a single Partridge feather by pulling back most of the fibers and cutting the stem so the remaining fibers form a V-shape. Pull about 8 to 10 fibers forward into their natural position and strip off everything behind that point.

Position the feather in front of the bead so the fibers lie down on either side of the fly. Measure them to be just longer than the thorax and secure them with a couple of thread wraps. Make any necessary adjustments to ensure the legs are even, then cut off the excess feather, leaving little stubs remaining.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

Pull the mylar tinsel and Partridge feather back so they lie flat against the fly. Trim them off close to the bead, leaving little stubs remaining. Use your thread to finish in the same spot, and then cut it free.

At this point, you can choose to apply a coat of epoxy or UV resin over the wing case and thorax to add durability and a glossy finish. Make sure to cover the butts of the Partridge feather and mylar tinsel, as well as the copper wire. Allow the resin to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

You’ve successfully tied your own Copper John fly. This versatile nymph pattern, with its weighted design and attractive features, is sure to attract the attention of fish in a variety of water types.

Fishing Techniques for Copper John Flies

As you have successfully tied your first Copper John fly, now you should learn some fishing techniques for success. Employing the right techniques can significantly enhance your chances of success.

In this section, we’ll explore different strategies and presentation techniques and tackle considerations to maximize the effectiveness of the Copper John fly.

Nymphing Strategies for Copper John Flies:

Nymphing is the primary method for fishing the Copper John fly, as it imitates the sub-surface nymph stage of insects. To effectively fish a Copper John nymph, consider the following techniques:

Dead Drift: The most common approach is to present the fly with a dead drift, mimicking the natural movement of nymphs in the water. Cast slightly upstream and allow the fly to drift naturally downstream, following the current. Keep a close eye on your fly line for any subtle movements or pauses indicating a potential strike.

Indicator Nymphing: Using a strike indicator, such as a small foam or yarn indicator, allows you to detect strikes more easily. Adjust the depth at which your Copper John is fishing by adding or removing weight above the fly.

High-Stick Nymphing: This technique involves extending your rod high above the water, minimizing drag, and keeping the fly in the target zone for a longer duration. Maintain direct contact with the fly line to detect any subtle strikes.

Presentation Techniques and Retrieve Variations:

To entice fish with a Copper John fly, it’s crucial to present it in a lifelike manner. Consider the following presentation techniques and retrieve variations:

  • Drift and Pause: As the Copper John drifts downstream, introduce intermittent pauses to imitate the natural behavior of nymphs. These pauses simulate moments when nymphs become dislodged or lose their footing, attracting the attention of nearby fish.
  • Swing and Twitch: After the drift, allow the fly to swing towards the end of the drift and give it a gentle twitch. This action can imitate an emerging nymph or trigger a reactionary strike from a curious fish.
  • Strip and Pause: If fishing the Copper John as part of a dry-dropper rig or in a streamer-like fashion, use short, quick strips followed by pauses to create an erratic motion. This retrieve mimics the movement of a distressed nymph or fleeing prey.

Tackle Considerations:

Choosing the appropriate tackle for fishing the Copper John fly is vital for optimal performance. Consider the following factors:

  • Line Selection: For nymphing with Copper John flies, a weight-forward floating line or a specialized nymphing line is commonly used. These lines facilitate accurate casts and control of the fly line for precise drifts.
  • Leader Length: Opt for a longer leader, typically between 9 to 12 feet, to ensure a natural drift and minimize the chance of spooking fish. A longer leader also aids in keeping the fly line farther from the target zone, reducing the risk of detection.
  • Tippet Size: Use a tippet size appropriate for the fish species and water conditions. In general, a tippet ranging from 4X to 6X works well with Copper John Flies. Thinner tippets provide a more natural presentation but may compromise strength.

By implementing these fishing techniques, presentation strategies, and tackle considerations, you’ll be well-equipped to maximize the effectiveness of the Copper John fly. Remember to adapt your approach based on the specific fishing conditions and be observant of fish behavior.

Exploring Color Variations

Color is important in fly choosing since it has a large impact on fish response. I’ve covered the significance of color and how it pertains to Copper John flies in this section.

I’ve also discussed popular and effective colors, the green Copper John fly design, and how to experiment with color variants for personalized fishing situations.

The Significance of Color in Fly Selection:

Color is an essential consideration when choosing flies because it can attract or deter fish. Different fish species have varying color preferences based on their natural forage and environmental factors.

The right color can imitate specific insect species or trigger an aggressive response from fish. Factors such as water clarity, light conditions, and fish behavior also influence color selection.

Popular and Effective Colors for Copper John Flies:

Copper John flies available in a range of colors, but some have proven to be consistently effective:

  • Copper: The classic copper color mimics the natural appearance of mayfly nymphs and caddis larvae. It is a versatile color that works well in various water conditions.
  • Red: Red is another popular color for Copper John flies. It can imitate bloodworms, midge larvae or attract attention with its vibrant hue.
  • Black: Black Copper John flies excel in low-light conditions or when imitating dark-colored nymphs such as stoneflies. They create a contrasting silhouette against the water, making them highly visible to fish.
  • Green: The green Copper John fly pattern, also known as the Green Machine, has gained popularity for its effectiveness. The green color imitates caddis larvae and stands out in heavily vegetated areas.
Exploring Color Variations | Honest Fishers

The Green Copper John Fly Pattern:

The green Copper John fly pattern offers distinct advantages in certain fishing scenarios:

  • Caddis Imitation: The green color closely resembles the body color of caddis larvae, a significant food source for trout and other fish species. By imitating this natural prey, the green Copper John can trigger aggressive strikes.
  • Vegetation Camouflage: In waters with abundant aquatic vegetation, the green Copper John blends well with the surroundings, making it less conspicuous to wary fish. It allows for more natural presentations without alarming the fish.
  • Low-Light Conditions: The green color stands out in low-light conditions, making it highly visible to fish even in challenging lighting situations.

When to use the green Copper John fly pattern depends on the presence of caddis larvae and the specific fishing conditions. It is particularly effective during caddis hatches or when caddis larvae are active in the water.

Experimenting with Color Variations:

While certain colors have proven effective, don’t be afraid to experiment with color variations to match specific fishing conditions:

  • Water Clarity: In clear water, consider using more natural colors that closely mimic the local aquatic insects. In murky or stained water, brighter or contrasting colors can help the fly stand out and attract attention.
  • Light Conditions: Adjust the color intensity based on the prevailing light conditions. In bright sunlight, lighter colors may be more visible, while darker colors can be advantageous in low-light or overcast conditions.
  • Fish Response: Observe how fish respond to different colors. If they show a strong preference for a particular color, adjust your fly selection accordingly.

Customizing Copper John flies by incorporating color variations can give you an edge in enticing fish under specific conditions. Pay attention to the natural forage in the water and adapt your fly selection accordingly.


Tying your own Copper, John flies opens up a world of possibilities in fly fishing. With the right materials and tools, you can create effective patterns that imitate the natural insects found in your local waters.

We hope this step-by-step guide has been helpful in getting you started on your fly-tying journey. For more engaging content and updates, don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.