Skip to content


Advanced Techniques: How to Fish a Copper John Fly

Fly fishing, an age-old sport beloved for its artistry and challenge, offers both the thrill of the catch and the tranquillity of nature. As the sport's popularity grows, the tactics and gear used have also evolved, expanding the arsenal of anglers with an ever-growing variety of flies.

One such lure that has taken the world of fly fishing by storm is the Copper John fly. Its reputation is built on its effectiveness and versatility, attributes that are invaluable to anglers seeking to hone their skills and bring their game to the next level.

Understanding how to fish a Copper John fly is an indispensable skill in the modern angler's repertoire. A cornerstone of nymph fishing, it is renowned for its ability to attract an array of fish species.

This article will delve into the advanced techniques of fishing this illustrious fly, providing an in-depth look at how you can enhance your fly fishing experience by mastering the art of the Copper John.

Introduction to the Copper John Fly

John Barr, a luminary in the fly fishing world, is the mastermind behind the Copper John fly. His design has emerged as a vital component in many fly boxes, prized for its unique weighted construction featuring a metallic abdomen and bead head. This weight allows the Copper John to sink rapidly into deeper waters, a trait not many other flies possess.

Moreover, its flashiness is not just for show. It successfully mimics the natural glimmer of aquatic nymphs, luring in trout and other species with its irresistible shine. So, let's explore how to make the most of this innovative fly.

What does a Copper John Imitate?

The Copper John fly is a nymph imitation, designed to mimic a range of aquatic insects in their larval stage, which form a significant part of a fish's diet. While it doesn't replicate a specific insect species, its metallic, segmented body and bead head suggest a variety of mayflies, stoneflies, and even caddis larvae.

The shimmer of the Copper John under the water is particularly enticing to fish. It simulates the natural sheen of many nymphs, especially those about to transition into their adult stage. The array of available colours allows you to adjust your presentation to match the prevalent nymphs in your fishing location, further enhancing its imitative properties.

Understanding the lifecycle of aquatic insects and observing the insects present in your fishing area can help you choose the most effective Copper John colour and fishing technique. Observational skills are key in fly fishing, and the more attuned you are to the habits and preferences of the fish you're targeting, the more successful you'll be.

Why is the Copper John Nymph Popular?

The Copper John Nymph has earned its place as a beloved favourite among fly anglers worldwide. But what exactly makes this artificial fly so popular?

Firstly, the Copper John’s design is undeniably appealing, both to fish and fishermen. Its flashy, segmented abdomen and bead head not only offer an attractive profile to the fish but also provide the weight necessary for the fly to sink quickly, reaching those deeper dwelling fish with ease. The variety of colours available adds to its versatility, allowing anglers to adapt to different fishing environments and conditions.

Secondly, the Copper John’s universal effectiveness sets it apart. Its ability to imitate a broad range of aquatic nymphs makes it an incredibly versatile tool in an angler’s fly box. Whether you’re fishing clear mountain streams, wide rivers, or small stillwaters, the Copper John often proves to be an effective choice.

Furthermore, the Copper John is a fly that's relatively easy to fish, even though mastering it might require some time and practice. Its weight allows for easier nymphing, it can be used effectively in a variety of rigging setups, and it's responsive to different retrieval speeds. These factors contribute to the Copper John’s popularity, especially among beginners who are still learning the nuances of fly fishing.

Finally, the Copper John's success has been repeatedly proven on the water. Since its creation by John Barr, countless anglers have shared their success stories when using this fly. The Copper John has earned its reputation through real-world effectiveness, consistently delivering results across different waters and conditions. It’s this reliability that has solidified the Copper John's position as a go-to fly in many angler's boxes.

What are the Techniques for Fishing a Copper John Fly?

Learning to fish a Copper John fly efficiently and effectively goes beyond basic casting. It involves a deep understanding of the fly's design, its behaviour in the water, and the conditions in which you are fishing.

Here are some advanced techniques to help you get the most out of this spectacular fly.

Understand the Water Depth

The Copper John's unique design shines in deeper waters, where lighter flies may not reach.

The first step in fishing this fly is to familiarise yourself with the depth of your fishing spot. Cast your line and let the Copper John sink, reaching the depths where trout are often found lurking.

Experiment with different depths, observing fish behaviour and adjusting your technique until you find that sweet spot.

Master the Dead Drift

Mastering the 'dead drift' is vital when fishing a Copper John fly. This technique mimics the natural drift of aquatic insects in the water.

Cast upstream and allow your fly to drift downstream naturally with the current. It's crucial to keep the line slack to ensure the fly's movement appears natural and is unimpeded by drag, which could deter fish.

Use the Indicator Nymphing Technique

Indicator nymphing is another key technique when fishing a Copper John. This method involves attaching a bobber-like indicator to your leader, helping you monitor the fly's activity under the water.

When the indicator suddenly jerks or moves, it typically indicates a fish strike, prompting you to set the hook.

Experiment with Different Retrieval Speeds

Different fish respond to different retrieval speeds. Don't be afraid to experiment with your Copper John, adjusting the speed of your retrieve based on the species you're targeting.

Some fish may be enticed by a quick, erratic retrieval, while others may be more interested in a slow, methodical approach.

Fine-tuning Your Copper John Fly Fishing Techniques

While understanding these fundamental techniques is crucial, it's also essential to fine-tune your approach based on specific conditions.

Adapt to Water Clarity

The clarity of the water can dramatically impact the effectiveness of a Copper John fly. In clear water, where fish have a good view of their surroundings, they might be more discerning and wary of flashy flies. In this case, a smaller, less reflective Copper John could be more effective.

Conversely, in murkier waters, a larger and brighter fly can help attract attention and entice fish to bite.

Choose the Right Fly Colour

Copper John Flies in copper, red, olive and black

Copper John flies come in a variety of colours, including copper, red, olive, and black. The colour of your fly can make the difference between a successful fishing expedition and a disappointing day at the water. A useful tip is to match the colour of your fly to the natural insects found in your fishing location.

Seasonal Adjustments

The time of year can also affect how you should fish your Copper John. During colder months, when fish metabolism slows down, fishing your Copper John slower and deeper may yield better results. In warmer months, fishing faster and higher in the water column can entice more active fish.

Using a Dropper Rig with a Copper John Fly

One advanced technique to enhance your success rate when fishing a Copper John is using a dropper rig. This rigging method involves attaching a second, typically smaller and lighter, fly to the bend or eye of the Copper John. The result is a tandem fly setup that can mimic a variety of natural scenarios and increase your chances of attracting a bite.

The Copper John serves as the anchor of this setup, diving deep into the water due to its weight. The second fly, often an emerger or dry fly, then remains higher in the water column, creating a visually appealing spread for the fish. Experiment with different combinations of flies in your dropper rig to see which pairings are the most effective.

Remember to adjust your casting technique to accommodate the added weight and complexity of the rig. Practice makes perfect, and with time, you'll get a feel for casting and controlling the dropper rig.

Master the Art of Copper John Fly Fishing

The Copper John fly is an invaluable tool in the angler's kit, but understanding how to fish it effectively requires a blend of patience, observation, and a willingness to experiment. From mastering the dead drift to adapting your strategy based on water clarity and seasonal changes, these advanced techniques can significantly elevate your fly fishing prowess.

At Orvis, our mission is to provide you with superior fly fishing equipment and the knowledge to make your angling experiences unforgettable. Remember, practice is key to mastering these techniques. So grab your gear, select your Copper John flies, and head out to the water. Here's to the art of the catch, and to the many rewarding experiences that await you on your fly fishing journey.

Older Post
Newer Post
Close (esc)


Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Added to cart