How to Tie a Copper John: Step-by-Step Guide for Fly Fishing Enthusiasts

The copper john is probably one of the most popular modern-day fly creations. First thought out by John Barr in 1993, he only started to fish the pattern with great confidence from about 1996.

The latest and updated version of the copper john made use of a 2x heavy hook and minute epoxy on the wingcase. The 2x is a simple double-length hook shank this gives the body a great profile. The fly usually uses a gold bead and has thorax peacock herl legs ending just behind the bead.

The versatility of the pattern is evident in its design and can be used for many different species. Wrapped lead wire on the hook under the thorax, gives the fly extra weight to get down to feeding columns faster.

Copper John Fly Tying

  1. Slide bead onto the hook.
  2. Place in a vice.
  3. Add 3-4 lead wire wraps. Secure the lead wraps with thread.
  4. Tie in the goose biots.
  5. Tie in copper wire and wrap forward.
  6. Secure the wire and tie in the pheasant tail and peacock herl.
  7. Wrap peacock herl forward to form the thorax.
  8. Pull over and tie off the wing case.
  9. Color the thread black, create the collar, and whip finish off.
  10. Epoxy the wing case.
Copper John
Recommended Resellers:

Copper John Fly Tying Materials

  • Hook: Mouche 8426 #12-16, or 2x length hook.
  • Bead: Brass gold bead 2mm
  • Thread: 70 denier, white.
  • Tail: Brown goose biots, dark brown.
  • Abdomen: Ultra wire, body wire, copper, or dark brown.
  • Thorax: Peacock herls or pearl flashabou.
  • Wingcase: Pheasant tail fibers or partridge feathers.
  • Wingcase Bubble: Solarez epoxy.

How to Tie a Copper John Fly Step-by-Step

How to Tie A Copper John step 1
How to Tie A Copper John step 2

Slide your bead on the hook.

Lock your hook in the vise, making sure it is secure and not too close to the tip of the jaws, as the hook may slip when you apply tension to it. I advocate using barbless hooks where possible to ease the removal and minimize the damage done to the fish.

If you want to add more weight, you can make a few lead wraps around the shank after you have slipped the bead onto the hook ending behind the bead. Start with a solid level thread base to work with.

Run the tying thread up and down the shank creating a slight underbody taper from behind the bead back to the tail. This is a good habit to do in fly tying, ensuring the body has the correct taper.

How to Tie A Copper John step 3

Tie in the 2 brown goose biots, making sure they cross over each other as seen in the above picture. Once they are tied in place secure them with a few more tight wrappings. Make sure they come off the side of the hook with butt ends protruding.

How to Tie A Copper John step 4

Trim off the butt ends of the biots and create a body taper on the hook shank from the head, back to the bend of the hook. This is an important step.

How to Tie A Copper John step 5

Tie in the Ultra copper wire and wrap it forward, taking care to make the wraps even. Once you have the line continue wrapping the wire forward ending on top of the hook. A strand of pearl can also be added at this stage if required.

How to Tie A Copper John step 6

Tie off and cut the wire, allowing enough space for the thorax and wing case to be tied in. Take your time here to examine the wire wrapping as you want them to be as symmetrical as possible and have a lovely taper to them. You can always rewrap until it’s perfect if needed.

How to Tie A Copper John step 7

At the front end tie in the partridge feather or pheasant feather, tips first followed by the 2 peacock herl strands. Make sure the pheasant tips are extended by 4mm as they will be pulled back and become the extra legs. This is a tricky part but they do give the fly extra bugginess.

How to Tie A Copper John step 8

Take the peacock herl strands and wrap, twist them up to form one strand. Wrap forward until behind the bead, tie off and trim.

How to Tie A Copper John step 9

Pull the pheasant fibers forward and lock them in position with the thread. Pull the point fibers back, down and secure them with 2 more thread wraps. Trim the pheasant feather excess and finish off the fly by making a decent collar. It is here where you can cover the thread black with a marker.

How to Tie A Copper John step 10
Copper John Step 11

Tie off the fly by whip finish, apply some epoxy to the wingcase and thread, set with the UV torch. The epoxy finish gives the fly an emerger style attraction as well which can prove to be very deadly.

Copper John

How to fish the copper john

There isn’t a way you cant fish the copper john, to be honest. The traditional way would be to single nymph the run with as little drag as possible. The more modern approach would be to dry-dropper the copper john or Euro nymph it.

Whichever way you choose to fish it, it is a very effective pattern, and it’s worth tying a few different weights and sizes. You never know what you will need to throw in the mix.

Photo of author

Kyle Knight

I’m a South African based fly fisherman who has been fly fishing and tying for the past 20 years. I enjoy targeting numerous fresh water species ranging from trout, carp and bass as well as our estuary species Grunter, Garrick and Kob. I have a funny thing that I can only use flies I have tied myself to catch fish.

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