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Fly Tying: Tube Popper Fly

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An avid fisherman, Youtube creator, and writer, hbng84 is also a devoted husband who, when tasked with DIY projects, delivers!

Tube Popper Fly

Tube Popper Fly

Tubes for a Popper Fishing Fly?

Tube fishing flies are tied using a plastic tube instead of the hook shank, then a fishing line is passed through the tube, and a hook is attached directly to the fishing line.

Advantages of Tube Fishing Flies

  • Hook size and style (this includes treble hooks) can be changed as desired using the same tube fishing fly pattern.
  • Tend to last longer than traditional fishing flies since tube fishing flies typically slide up the line and away from the fish's teeth.
  • Shorter hook shanks make tube fishing flies less prone to being thrown by the fish when fighting one.

With this in mind, would tubes work for a Popper Fishing Fly?


Tubes Work!

After some tinkering around with various balsa popper bodies and hook sizes, tubes work for a Popper Fishing Fly! For want of a name to call the fishing fly, simple seems best…the end result is the Tube Popper Fly.

Replacing the fur and feathers of a Tube Fishing Fly with a balsa popper body the Tube Popper Fly capitalizes on the Tube Fishing Fly's advantages! Recent fishing trips using a Tube Popper Fly, the following were noted:

  • Hook size can be changed while using the same popper body, allowing more flexibility to adjust to short striking fish. Moreover, if smaller fish (or larger fish) are the norm for a given outing, the hook size can be changed as well.
  • Since the hook and the popper body are not permanently attached, damage to the popper body is minimized when fighting a hooked fish.
  • The shorter hook shank provides a more solid hook set as well as the fish is less likely to gain leverage against the hook and is more likely to stay hooked! The key was finding the right size hook!

For more on tying a Tube Popper Fly, check out the sections below, and do give this pattern a try!

Note: The Tube Popper Fly is not a replacement for the traditional Popper Fishing Fly. Instead, it is another pattern in the fly box that can be called upon when needed.

Materials (less the hooks)

Materials (less the hooks)

Materials Needed

The following is the material list for the Tube Popper Fly:

  • ¾" x ¾" X 1½" to 2" Balsa Wood (width x height x length)
  • Pearl Flashabou
  • Fish Eyes of your choice
  • Plastic Tube Small (we used Size 6 Copper Wire and stripped the plastic cover)
  • Plastic Tube Large (we used Size 12 Copper Wire and stripped the plastic cover)
  • Hook with eye that will fit inside Large Plastic Tube (we used a Size 2 Wacky Worm Hook but suggest a Size 6 Treble Hook as a starting point)
  • Zap-A-Gap or Superglue
  • 5" Epoxy or Hard As Nails Polish
  • Colored Sharpie of your choice
Mini Balsa Wood Lathe

Mini Balsa Wood Lathe

Suggested Tools

Although shaping can be done by hand, we found the Mini Balsa Wood Lathe made for easier and more accurate shaping of the balsa wood popper bodies.

Also, other suggested tools include:

  • Xacto Miter Saw and Box for cutting the balsa wood to length
  • Small Dremel Bit for hollowing the popper body's front
  • Small Drill Bit for boring out the popper body where the tube will be inserted
  • Drying Wheel to slowly turn the popper body while the epoxy (or nail polish) dries

Note: These are suggested tools and can be readily substituted with other tools as needed.

Step 1: Cut the Balsa Wood

  • Cut the Balsa Wood to length. For the fishing fly in this article, the Balsa Wood was cut to 1½" in length.
  • This was based on the typical size of baitfish in a local pond frequented by the author.
  • Although not required, a Xacto Miter Box and Saw were used to cut the Balsa Wood. These can be readily substituted by other tools.

Step 2: Sand the Balsa Wood

  • Next, sand the Balsa Wood into the desired shape you would like.
  • For this article, a cone shape was decided upon and a Mini Balsa Wood Lathe was used to turn the wood down to its final shape.
  • Other suggested tools include a Dremel Tool, a small Hand Drill, or a Sanding Block. All can be used to shape and turn the Balsa Wood into its final shape.

Step 3: Bore the Center of the Tube

In Step 3, the Balsa Popper Body is bored through the body's center which will later serve to guide the Tube through the popper body.

  • Using a small Drill Bit, slowly drill through the wood from front to back.
  • Since the popper body is easily damaged at this point, it is strongly suggested to do this by hand.

Step 4: Hollow the Body's Front

Next, in Step 4, the Balsa Popper Body's front is hollowed out to make a concave surface.

  • The concave surface results in the fish enticing gurgling/popping sound when the Tube Popper Fly is retrieved in short "jerks" of the line!
  • Using a small Dremel Bit (see photo above), begin hollowing out the popper body's front face.
  • Hollow out the front face until a 1/8" deep concave depression is formed.
  • Note: It is also strongly suggested to do this by hand for the same reasons noted in the previous step. A slight slip of the bit could result in damage and lost work!

Step 5: Cut Tubes to Length

In Step 5, the Tubes are cut to length, and then glued in place using Zap-A-Gap:

  • Since Copper Wire was used in place of Plastic Tubes used for Tube Fishing Flies, the wires are stripped and the copper removed.
  • Next, cut the Tubes to length. The Small Tube will run the length of the popper body and extend out the back approximately 1/8". The Large Tube is cut to 1/4". (Note: ¼" was added to the Small Tube and extended out the front; this was used later to hold the popper body in the fly tying vise).
  • Then, coat the Small Tube with Zap-A-Gap and insert it into the popper body. Be sure the Small Tube extends out the back.
  • With the Small Tube in place, glue to Large Tube to the Small Tube that extends out the back using Zap-A-Gap.
  • Be sure to keep the Small Tube clear of glue. If necessary, insert a piece of monofilament line into the Small Tube to ensure the tube remains clear.

Note: Copper Wire was used for the Tubes as Plastic Tubes were not available at the time. In "working with what I had", Copper Wire was readily available. However, it is strongly suggested to use traditional Plastic Tubes or the Plastic Tubes from Q-Tips as a more economical alternative.

Step 6: Prepare for Painting

Step 6 prepares the Balsa Popper Body for painting and final finishing, specifically:

  • Using a colored Sharpie, "paint" the popper body.
  • Then, apply the Fish Eyes; use Super Glue to hold them in place,
  • And then, following the directions on the Epoxy container, mix the epoxy and apply a coat to the popper body.
  • If nail polish is used, apply it and let dry between coats. Use about three coats of nail polish.
  • If you have a Drying Wheel, set the popper body on the wheel and let it dry. Else, slowly turn the popper body by hand until the epoxy sets.

Note: The Small Tube was cut a ¼" longer than required; the extra ¼" section was extended out the front of the popper body to be used as a holding point when secured to the Fly Tying Vise. Another means of doing this is to use a toothpick inserted in the Small Tube from the front.

Step 7: Apply the Flashabou and Hackle

In Step 7, the final step, the Flashabou and Hackle are applied:

  • First, secure the popper body in the vise as shown in the sidebar. If an extra ¼" was not added to the Small Tube, insert a toothpick into the Small Tube from the front of the popper body, and then secure it to the vise.
  • Next, form a tail using the Pearl Flashabou and secure it to the Large Tube. Cut the tail so it is slightly shorter than half the popper body's length.
  • Then, secure the Grizzly Hackle to the end of the Large Tube, use a Palmer Wrap to work the hackle forward, and stop just short of the popper body.
  • Finally, work the tying thread through the hackle and toward the popper body, stop just short of the popper body, and use several wraps to secure the hackle.
  • Finish the Tube Popper Fly using a whip finish knot, cut the thread, apply head cement to the wraps, and let dry.

Once the head cement is dry, the Tube Popper Fly is ready to fish!

Note: Do check out the pictures of finished Tube Popper Flies below as well as the Suggested Fishing Tips section for more on fishing with them!

Suggested Fishing Tips

When fishing a Tube Popper Fly, here are a few suggestions:

  • After casting the Tube Popper Fly, let the fishing fly sit undisturbed. As a general rule, don't retrieve it until you see the rings that formed when the fishing fly landed on the water dissipate. (If at night, count to ten before retrieving).
  • When retrieving the fishing fly, start using two long pulls on the fly line to simulate an injured baitfish thrashing on the surface or a grasshopper struggling in the water. Pause for a 2–6 count delay, and then retrieve again.
  • If Bass are actively chasing baitfish, then try using short pulls on the fly line and forego the pause. Oftentimes, you will see the Bass trailing behind the fishing fly!
  • If you are missing hook sets, change the size or type of hook you are using. As a rule of thumb, a size 6 treble hook is a good starting point when fishing for Bass.

Good Luck and Good Fishing!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Andrii Kirsanov on September 13, 2018:


hbng84 (author) on May 27, 2014:

Do give this one a try next chance to get; has worked out well in our area!

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