John Barr's Copper John

 ~By: Lance Dean | January 12, 2015

Copper Johns

y introduction to the Copper John came one morning while fishing at Pyramid Lake in Nevada.  The water numbed my toes and the fish ignored everything I threw at them.  Of the long line of fly fisherman fishing along the shore only a couple fly fisherman were catching anything.  One of them happened to be fishing next to my Dad and I.  As a fisherman, I am not used to being out fished by anyone but my Dad and every once in a while my brother.  Usually it is me or the group I am fishing with that is asking what we are using for fishing success.  So, asking the fly fisherman next to us what fly he was using was something I was not used to.  After swallowing my pride, I asked him what he was using and he told me that he was using a fly called the Copper John.  

Copper John
When he passed the flies over to me I was immediately attracted to the Copper John’s wire abdomen.  The biot tail reminded me of the very effective Prince Nymph.  I love peacock herl on flies and the Copper John's use of peacock herl creates a full thorax that compliments the shine of the copper wire body with a bit of shimmer. The epoxy/UV glue covered wing case gives the Copper John extra “fly” appeal.

After I tied the Copper John on my leader and strategically placed an indicator above it, I threw the fly and waited.  It didn’t take long for the indicator to drop and scream “FISH ON!”  Now there were four fly fisherman catching trout near the shore of Pyramid Lake instead of two and the credit can be given to the Copper John.

Copper JohnSince then, the Copper John has been my go to nymph pattern. I have caught more fish on the Copper John than on any other fly I have fished.  My favorite flavors of the Copper John are copper, red, chartreuse, and black. As a twist and to give the fish something a bit different when they are tired of seeing the same flies thrown over and over to them, I will sometimes put on a Copper John that is UV.  For the UV Copper John or Hot Spot Copper John I use any type of thread that has UV in it like Fl. orange, hot pink, or chartreuse throughout the fly.  This not only gives the fly a hot spot behind the bead of the fly, it also allows the UV thread to show through the wraps of ultra wire abdomen making this fly "POP".  
Copper John
The Copper John in all of its versions is such a productive pattern.  In fact, it is one of my go to patterns when fishing any conditions.

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Note: I created two versions of the video tutorial.  One is fast with no sound, the other is longer but more detailed.

Materials List: 

Copper John

TMC 5262 - size 10-18
Copper – sized for hook
Lead Wire – sized for hook
UTC 70 - Black
Goose Biots- any color
Ultra Wire – any color
Thin Skin – Black, Tinsel – Large Pearl or Silver, Epoxy or UV Glue
Peacock Herl
Hen Back – Mottled Brown or Black

Detailed Video Tutorial:


Quick Video Tutorial:



1. String bead on the hook and secure hook into the vise.
2. Wrap thirteen turns of lead wire on hook and break off tag ends.

  3. Push the lead wire into the opening of the bead.

  4. Start your thread behind the lead wire and wrap it around the hook tapering it to the bend of the hook.

  5. Cut two goose biots and face them so that the curve away from each other.

  6. Secure the biots onto the hook shank at the bend of the hook. One biot should lie along each side of the hook shank. 

  7. If the previous step was done correctly, your biots should look similar to this.  Notice the “X” the biots make.

  8. Wrap thread around the hook and biots to where the lead starts. Cut the butt ends of the biots from the hook.

  9. Tie in the Ultra Wire ending with your thread at about the eighty percent point of the hook. 

  10. Tightly wrap the ultra wire around the hook shank so the wraps touch each other.  When you have the wire to the thread, wrap the ultra wire with a few tight turns of thread.

  11. Pulling the thread pretty tightly twist the tag end of the ultra wire until it falls away from the hook.

  12. Bring your thread back to the seventy percent point of the hook and tie in your tinsel.  The tinsel should be laying centered along the top of the hook.

  13. Cut a piece of Thin Skin that is about as wide as the hook gap.

  14. Tie the Thin Skin on the hook the same way you did the tinsel.  It should be centered along the top of the hook.

  15. Tie in three to five peacock herls at about the sixty percent point of the hook.

  16. Wrap the thread to the bead followed by the peacock herls.  Then tie off the peacock herls with a few turns of thread and cut the tag ends of the peacock herls.

  17. Prepare an India Hen Neck feather by pulling it off the skin ant cutting the stem about a half inch from the tip of the feather.

  18. Lay the feather along the top of the hook so the the stem is centered over the top of the hook and the feather fibers point toward the bend of the hook.  Secure the feather so that the fibers lay along the sides of the fly.  Then carefully pull the tag end of the feather until  the fiber tips reach tip of the hook point.

  19. Pull the This Skin over the top of the fly being careful to keep the Thin Skin centered along the top of the fly. tie off the Thin Skin with a few tight turns of thread.

  20. Do the same thing with the tinsel as you did with the Thin Skin.

  21. Cut the tag ends of the tinsel and thin skin.  Whip finish the fly.

  22. Using either five minute epoxy or a UV cure glue over the entire wing case with glue and let dry.  The glue should cover the top of a few wraps of Ultra Wire, the wing case and a small part of the bead.

  Top view of completed fly.

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