Northern BC Copper John

The Copper John fly is the brainchild of John Barr, well-known fly designer for Umpqua merchants. The first time I saw this fly in an issue of Fly Fisherman I immediately realized its potential. This fly has a number of attributes that makes it a successful nymph imitation -it is uncomplicated in design and it sinks fast, making it ideal for faster moving water. 

The fast sinking is due to the tungsten bead head, the lead wire in the thorax and the use of copper wire instead of lighter weight materials such as dubbing for the abdomen. This fly also has a smooth surface allowing it to sink faster.

The NC BC Copper John has a few modifications to suit my own needs. In the original design a straight shank hook is used. I changed this to a curved hook. A curved hook will drift point upwards when weighted and tied to tippet with a non-slip loop knot. The main advantage of a hook point riding upwards is that you will have fewer bottom snags and therefore losing fewer flies. I also changed the materials for the legs. The original design calls for Hungarian Partridge feathers for legs, I switched to goose biots as I believe that this will also allow the fly to sink faster as they cut through the water and provide less resistance. I also use metal tinsel for the shellback instead of Thinskin or Scud back and I do not add epoxy.

This fly has been very effective for both rainbow trout and mountain whitefish in rivers like the Crooked, Stellako and Blackwater. It is most effective when dead drifted using either long line or short line nymphing methods. I typically tie this fly on size 10 to 16 hooks in a variety of colours.


Hook: #10-16 Tiemco 2487 or equivalent

Thread: 6/0 black

Weight: Tungsten bead and lead wire to match size of the hook

Tail: Two dark brown goose biots

Abdomen: Medium wine coloured copper wire, use size small wire for flies tied onto size 12-16 hooks

Thorax: three strands of peacock herl

Shellback: gold tinsel

Legs: Two dark brown goose biots