Who doesn’t love popping for bass on a small farm pond? Those same techniques transfer to a host of different species in warm and coldwater as well as fresh and saltwater.
Yes, poppers can be used with almost any type of fish that will come to the surface to feed. Smaller poppers are often the favorite of trout and Arctic grayling in cold water, and bluegills and bass in warm water. They are definitely also on the list as a pike favorite.
Anglers who learn to “pop” a fly on the surface water and make it emit a noise, will find cooperative fish almost everywhere. Most popper anglers recommend that you do short, quick strips of the fly across the surface, letting it dip into the water every few seconds to rest before doing another strip. Both the disturbance and the popping noise attract the fish.
Poppers are considered flies because they have a single hook. Many fall into that category because they are made with clipped deer hair of a variety of different colors from black to yellow to white, much as a muddler would be. Other designs utilize a plastic pre-formed body decorated with rubber legs or marabou plumes.
Poppers can be used in both cold and warm water. Try skittering them across the surface of an Alaskan river with an intermittent pop to make things interesting. Two or more fish can usually be seen pursuing these great little top-sides flies, no matter what you might be fishing for.
Lake trout are another of my favorites to fish using poppers in fresh water. They perform in much the same way as smaller fish when pursuing popping poppers. When you master the technique of popping against the top of a wave, you can drive some fish crazy with interest. I can almost hear them hollering “Gimme that.”
The deer-hair mice that many people use for pike fishing can be fished exactly like a popper on the surface. Plastic body poppers also attract pike. Although I like to see the fish stalking my wet flies, I can’t ignore the fun that poppers can engender. Keep in mind that pike grab small ducks and frogs right off the top of the water, so they are usually looking up.
Don’t forget about saltwater fishing with poppers too. The largest rooster fish that I ever caught (in the 40 lb range) absolutely crashed down on a large, white foam popper with a white tail decorated with multicolored Flashabou.
I especially like poppers tied on a #6 or #8 or even a #10 hook, but I do always take larger flies along, just in case some of the bigger fish are extra hungry. There is no take more exciting than when a fish takes a big fly off the surface. Next time you are out on the water try adding a little pop to your fishing.