What Does A Copper John Fly Imitate?

What Does A Copper John Fly Imitate?

Developed by John Barr in the early nineties, the Copper John fly has steadily increased in popularity to become a renowned and standard issue fly for anglers all over the world. Catching everything from meaty 10 pound Brown Trout to hungry  Bass; the versatility, simplicity, and fishability of this now-iconic fly is hard to contend against.

The Classic Copper John Fly (credit: Charlies Flybox Inc)

What Does A Copper John Fly Imitate?

So what does this funky little fly imitate? Well, the real magic is that the Copper John Fly is not meant to imitate any one thing in particular. This means it has potential to imitate a wide variety of insects! This fly was not developed to mimic any one specific species of insect. Unlike other flies like a hopper pattern or damselfly adult pattern.

Instead, this fly can be tied and fished in multiple ways to imitate a multitude of aquatic insects that trout feed on. From Mayflies to Backswimmers, this pattern has the ability to imitate multiple species of insect. Maybe because of this, fish find the copper john fly nearly irresistible.

Tied in the appropriate size and color, you can modify or cater this fly to suggest a wide variety of trout food.

What Makes The Copper John Fly So Effective?

Similar to other iconic fly patterns, there are a few key characteristics of this nymph pattern that make it deadly effective on fish such as trout. The prominent gold bead, trim profile, eye-catching flash, and undulating hackles are just a few of the major key features.

What really makes this fly stand out, is the weight of the fly. With the body being formed of wrapped copper wire, it allows the fly to quickly sink to depth while still maintaining a slim profile. Getting a nymph to the depth of where the fish are holding can be key to success.

Additionally, the inherent weight of the fly gives it the ability to roll and bounce down river in a very natural appearing fashion. Whereas a nymph weighted down with a split shot will move in a less natural fashion.

Copper John Fishing Techniques

Fishing techniques for the deadly Copper John can be as varied as the prey-base which it imitates. Generally, normal nymph fishing techniques should be applied. Consider dead drifting in a stream or even below a strike indicator.

One of my personal favorite nymph rigs is the “hopper-dropper” setup. I simply attach 12-18 inches of tippet to the shank of a foam hopper and fish a nymph such as the Copper John below it. The Copper John can even be fished in stillwater with a slow retrieve to imitate hatching bugs or backswimmers. Larger sizes can even imitate larger nymphs such as stoneflies.

Final Thoughts

At this point, a Copper John should be as much of a fly box staple as a Parachute Adams or Hare’s Ear nymph. Consider a selection of Copper Johns in varying sizes, hook shapes, and colors such as these.

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About the Author

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure. I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!