Saturday, 31 March 2012

Making popper/slider heads

The flies on my last post were made with these ready made poppers from Wapsi
(but loads of other brands have something similar).

It is a simple way to work, they have a nice shape, they are very durable (I don’t know what they’re made off, but they’re very hard, so a layer of epoxy is not necessary), and if you want, they come with hooks to match.

So, you warm your hook with a lighter (that’s how I do it), push the popper in place, fill the groove with epoxy or some UV stuff,


make a hole for your rubber legs (more on that matter later), paint the popper, and you’re ready to tie the rest.

But like all ready made products, they have their limitations (size, buoyancy), not to mention the fact that most fly-tiers like to make everything themselves (including me). So here we go…


I start with this piece of foam.
I bought this one in a fly shop (but loads of industrial foams work equally good) and cut out a square section, which I cut very roughly into shape.

And now comes an interesting trick I learned from the Grey Piker
(thanks again Philippe!).


I glue the foam onto a piece for my dremmel tool (this is a whetstone I only use for this purpose).
You can see that I’ve cut the foam only very roughly, which is no problem at all.


Just hold the foam against a piece of sandpaper and start your dremmel tool. I use two kinds of sandpaper, a ‘100’ for the rough shape and a ‘240’ to finish.


And the result is a nicely shaped popper (or slider) head.


Then I cut a groove with a scalpel.


If it’s a popper I want, I scour a cup with another dremmel tool. 


Next, I put some varnish or super glue on a hook, and put some rough thread on (this is sewing cotton).


Then I glue on the popper head (I reversed it here, because I wanted a slider instead, but it’s the same principle).

When dry, I fill the groove with epoxy or some UV stuff, and I’m ready to paint.

Now, you can actually paint the heads, or use markers, but the most interesting way I think is with a paintbrush set… 
but I don’t have that. So I use this aerosol.

One tip maybe: do it outside, you can’t believe what kind of a mess this stuff can make (not to mention the smell).


But, you have a nice,
quick result.

Since this foam is rather fragile (certainly when you take pike teeth into account),
it’s necessary to coat it with a layer of epoxy.
And at this point I like to add some glitter as well.


For the slider (red/white) I added some red and silver glitter to the epoxy. This works well when you want the same colour and amount of glitter equally around the head.


But with the popper (chartreuse/green), I wanted some green glitter on top of the head and gold on the bottom. So I just put some varnish on the place I want the glitter and scatter some on it. Once the varnish is dry, I put on an epoxy coating.


I also put on the eyes while the epoxy is still wet.

And once the epoxy is dry, I make the hole for my rubber legs.


There are several ways to make that hole, but heating up a bodkin or a needle and push it trough is the easiest and most popular.


Although I like to use this tool as well. This is boilie drill (for carp fishermen), which is basically a drill on a handle.

For once, I will not advise you to use a dremmel tool. With the speed of the rotation, the foam will melt, which leads to two possibilities. One, your drill gets stuck in this melted substance (then you can either break your popper head, or break your drill, and since I can be stubborn... I did both). Or two, you're able to push it trough but your drill ends up with a plastic coating (which is a real mess to clean).

And then of course I tie the rest of the fly…

The popper is about 13 cm and the slider about 18 cm long. They are both tied on
a Piketrek Eagle Claw Pike Fly hook, size 5/0.

If you have any questions or suggestions concerning this post (or others),
please don’t hesitate to send me a mail…


Stealth said...

Great tips. I always tie my tails before I put the bodies on, is it difficult to tie them your way?

dave lindsay said...

great post very interesting read and great idea

David Romanillos said...

Hello Stefaan, how are you?
I was working to much, but not in fly fishing..., I come back, and I see your poppers and I like it.

sandeep singh said...

I am Alisha Anderson.
I have found your site not so long ago, but try to read every new article as i see your
site as one of those interesting places online (it’s not such an usual case nowadays).
This week i had an interesting discussion about ( with my colleagues and i’m
going to write about it. Your site looks a perfect place for an article on this topic.
So if you would like that, it would be great if you could post it on your site.
And that’s absolutely free of cause.
Let me know here if you are interested.
Alisha Anderson

the lonsome piker said...

Stealth, thanks! I find it easier, you don’t have to work with glue and epoxy after you tied your collar (that can become quite a mess).

Dave, thanks a lot!

Hello David, I’m fine thank you!

Hello Alisha, thanks, but I don’t really understand what you mean, so I sent you a mail.

J and M Flies said...

Hey LP,

Great post. Some great tips in there. I make poppers using the Wapsi bodies. I have also made them using balsa wood. One thing about the Wapsi bodies that I have noticed is that most packages contain either not enough bodies or hooks or the bodies are cut wrong. They are easier and quicker to use though. Guess it depends on what the tyer is after. Again, great post.