Hook: Popper Hook #1/0-#6
Thread: MFC 6/0, White
Tail: Marabou and Grizzly Saddle or Neck feathers.
Body: White Crystal Antron Chenille
Hackle: Polar Chenille, Palmered Over the body
Collar: Marabou, wound Popsicle Style
Topping: Marabou, Olive, Grey or Blue tied in as a wing
Gills: Red Crystal Flash or Flashabou
Cheeks: 2 Pairs of Grizzly Neck or Saddle Hackles
Head: White Crystal Antron Chenille
Eyes: Fly Eyes Plus Dumbbell Eyes
Tying Note: Use a permanent marker to darken the dorsal area of the Crystal Antron Chenille head.
It was during a late night insomnia driven web search I stumbled across an interesting pattern created by American fly tyer Fox Statler. Mr. Statler used popper hooks as a foundation created a unique series of baitfish patterns featuring dumbbell eyes. His innovative approach to baitfish design planted a seed in my mind that got me thinking. By combining his thoughts and concepts with a favorite leech pattern the Popsicle Minnow came to life, a versatile pattern that can be tied in a variety of sizes and color schemes.
Dumbbell eyes have long been available to fly tiers for baitfish designs but in a world featuring complex epoxy designs some might forget to consider them as an option. Keep in mind, one of the best minnow patterns ever created, the Clouser Minnow, utilizes dumbbell eyes as a key component. Dumbbell eyes are available in a wide range of sizes and styles. As a guide use ¼ inch eyes on hook sizes 2 or larger, 7/32nd inch for size 4 and 3/16th for size 6. Fly tyers have a choice of unpainted, painted and nickel eyes. Many styles featured a variety of colored eyes while others allow tyers to place adhesive eyes within the dumbbell recesses. Dumbbell eyes provide weight and when placed at the front of the hook add a seductive jigging motion few predatory fish resist. There are times however when the weight of the dumbbell might work against the angler and for these situations consider aluminum Big Fly Eyes.
One of the challenges facing the fly tyer wishing to incorporate dumbbell eyes is proper eye placement. Many times the eyes end up placed too far forward making it difficult to create a balanced fly and complete a neat tie off. Having the good fortune to see Bob Clouser tie his signature minnows correct eye location is two full hook eye widths back from the hook eye. Taking advantage of the kink used to secure a popper bodies on hooks such as the Mustad CK52S dumbbell eyes are always perfectly placed. Dumbbell eyes on straight shank hooks always roll over as the heaviest part of the pattern is now on top, a phenomenon known as the keel effect. Tyers unaware of this trait end up with dark bellied minnows, opposite to what is common in nature and probably what was intended. Popper hooks eliminate this behavior as the dumbbell eyes ride even with the shank.
The first step in tying the Popsicle Minnow and most other dumbbell style patterns is binding the eyes in place. Begin by covering the forward portion of the hook with tying thread. Place the eyes in the saddle of the popper hook. Use figure eight wraps under and around the stem of the dumbbell, binding the eyes in place. With the eyes in place remove the hook from the vise and place it point up on a flat surface. Align the hook point vertically to center, adjust and seat the eyes. Once adjusted add super glue or epoxy, locking the eyes in place. This tuning process is critical and prevents the fly from rolling in the water.
Soft mobile materials such as rabbit fur, Icelandic Sheep, marabou and a host of synthetics come to life when coupled with the pitching action provided by dumbbell eyes. Of the many materials available marabou is a personal favorite. One of the drawbacks to marabou is its tendency to foul the hook, especially when wound as a hackle at the front of the hook, Popsicle style. Difficult to wind thick stemmed marabou plumes can be tamed using Marc Petitjean’s Magic Tool and a dubbing loop. Choosing a material to provide aid function such as Polar Chenille keeps the flowing marabou plumes in check. Polar Chenille provides a glistening inner shroud that protects the hook while complimenting the overall look and action of the fly. A recent newcomer, Tri Lobal Hackle also works well.
An optional component to the Popsicle Minnow and key on other baitfish designs such as Lefty’s Deceiver are feathers such a natural and dyed grizzly. The barring these feathers provide mimics the actual look of many baitfish and further aids the minnow silhouette these patterns are aiming to suggest. Both saddle and neck feathers work well, neck feathers have a stiffer stem and tend to hold their form better. Genetic capes provide narrower feathers while Asian capes are broader. For feather augmented tails align the feather tips on the thigh. Once aligned, gather the bunch and trim the butts to size the feathers all at once. Do not strip the fibers from the stems at the tie in point as the remaining fibers prevent the paired feathers from rolling. Tie the feathers just forward of the tail area. Divide the feathers into even clumps and secure backwards them into place along each side of the hook. An optional component, the Popsicle Minnow features feather tails and cheeks mixed with marabou.
1) Place a de-barbed Mustad CK52S popper hook into the jaws of the vise and cover the hook shank with tying thread. This example utilizes a size #2. Place a pair of dumbbell eyes into the kink of the hook shank using figure 8 wraps. Add a few drops of Superglue to the thread wraps securing the eyes for added security. Remember to tune the hook by placing it on its back and adjusting the eyes to ensure that the hook point is not off centre. Vary the eye sizes and colors to match the specific baitfish being suggested. For this pattern I used 7/32nds Fly Eyes Plus.
2) Tie in a clump of marabou for the tail. The finished tail should be at least shank length.
3) Tie in a pair of grizzly saddle or neck hackle feathers along each side of the tail. Do not strip the fibers from the feathers at the tie in point. Not stripping the fibers away from the tie in area stops the feathers from rolling around the hook shank. Once the feathers are in place add a few drops of superglue for added insurance.
4) Tie in a length of Crystal Antron Chenille at the base of the tail. Make one complete wrap around the hook shank and then tie off to hold in place. Do not remove the excess Crystal Antron Chenille.
5) Tie in the Polar Chenille directly in front of the Crystal Antron Chenille. Wind the Crystal Antron Chenille forward to form the body. Tie off the Crystal Antron Chenille just before the dumbbell eyes where the kink in the popper hook starts.
Palmer the Polar Chenille forward over the body in open wraps and tie off. Trim the excess Polar Chenille. Sweep the Polar Chenille fibers back and tie them into position.
7) Tie in a strung marabou plume at the front of the body and wind forward in close touching turns to the rear of the eyes. Tie off the excess marabou and trim the excess. Sweep the marabou fibers down and back to clear a path for the topping. Wind the tying thread back onto the body slightly holding the marabou in place.
8) Tie in the marabou topping directly on top of the body. The tips of the topping should extend back to at least the tips of the tail depending upon the baitfish being imitated.
9) Tie in a pair of grizzly saddle or neck feathers along each side of the marabou in the same manner as the tail, Superglue the tie in area for additional durability.
10) Tie in a clump of red Flashabou or Crystal Hair fibers as a beard to suggest the gills. Trim the beard even with the hook point.
11) Tie in a length of Crystal Antron Chenille directly behind the dumbbell eyes. Wind the Crystal Antron Chenille in an around the eyes. Tie off the Crystal Antron Chenille at the hook eye and remove the excess. Build a neat head whip finish and apply head cement. Use a permanent marker to darken the top portion of the head, olive is a personal favorite.