Designed by Leland Miyawaki
Front Hook: 1xl Ring Eye Salt Water #6
Stinger Hook for Trout: Up Eye Octopus #6
Stinger Hook for Coho: Up Eye Octopus #2
Thread: 3/0, 140 Denier or GSP (Tyers choice of Color)
Wing 1: Two Grizzly (trout) or Pink Hackle (coho)
Wing 2: White Polar Bear or Icelandic Sheep
Top Wing: Light Olive Icelandic Sheep
Wing Flash: Flashabou, Silver Holographic and Crystal Flash, Mixed Colors
Topping: Peacock Herl
Head: Rainy's Pee-Wee Pop (Trout), Mini Me Pop (Coho)
Although working flies subsurface is arguably the most productive tactic for catching fish few can avoid the allure of taking fish using a dry fly. The dry fly has been the cornerstone presentation for river and stream trout since the dawn of fly fishing. This allure also transfers to other species and environments too, as Beach Popper originator Leland Miyawaki can attest.
Leland lives in Kent Washington. He has spent years pursuing Puget Sound cutthroat and coho on the fly. On numerous occasions Leland observed cutthroat and coho slashing at and through schools of terrified baitfish at the surface. This vision fueled Leland’s creative energy inspiring the development of his Beach Popper. When targeting searun cutthroat and coho salmon Leland now fishes his Beach Popper 99.9% of the time. As Leland says, “With a popper, you’ll always have something to do as you work it across the water and best of all you get to see the grabs!” As word spread of how well Leland’s Beach Popper performed it soon became a favorite of searun cutthroat and salmon fly fishers too, in both British Columbia and Washington state.
The business end of the Beach Popper consists of a #6 or #2 up-eye octopus hook connected to a 1 1/2 -2-inch loop of stiff 25 pound monofilament. A stiff mono loop ensures the trailing hook doesn’t tangle with the wing materials. Smaller cutthroat sized Beach Poppers feature smaller hooks and shorter loops while larger hooks and longer loops are best suited for coho.
As the six inch length of mono needed to form the trailing hook assembly retains memory for its time stored on a spool it can be finicky to work with. On a recent fishing trip, good friend Barry Stokes and I were discussing the virtues of Leland’s Beach Popper and the challenge of dealing with curved uncooperative mono. During our conservation Barry revealed how he controls his mono. Barry takes a common plastic drinking straw and stuffs it with as many individual lengths of mono as possible. He then drops the mono stuffed straw into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes and then sets it aside to cool. The boiling water removes any memory reshaping the strands into a package of straight, memory free, easy to work with mono.
To build the trailing hook assembly double a six inch length of mono. Push the doubled tag ends of the mono through the eye of an octopus hook from the rear. Pull the hook up through the mono loop and pull tight to lock it in place. Tie the trailing hook assembly at the midpoint of a short straight eye 1xl salt water hook so it extends back the required length and the octopus hook rides point up. Secure the trailing hook assembly forward. Don’t worry about the quality of the straight eye saltwater hook as the bend will be removed from the finished fly. With the trailing hook assembly tied in and the tying thread hanging just back from the hook eye, fold the tag ends of the mono back over the shank and secure them back to the initial tie in point. Trim the remaining tag ends and coat the thread wraps with superglue for added security. Don’t worry about the thread color as it won’t be visible on the finished fly. Just make sure the thread is stout. I favor super strong GXP.
The wing of the Beach Popper consists of two grizzly neck hackles, holographic silver Flashabou, mixed colors Crystal Flash and a white Icelandic sheep or polar bear wing topped with a sparse layer of olive Icelandic sheep and 2-3 strands of peacock herl. The two grizzly neck hackles do an excellent job suggesting the barred markings common to many small baitfish. It is important to stroke the two feathers together dull side to dull side so they flow together as one. The grizzly saddles should not be tied in so they splay away from each other.
The wing offers two material choices, white Icelandic sheep or polar bear. Polar bear can be difficult to obtain and is a banned material in many countries worldwide. Icelandic sheep has marabou like properties but is more durable. When using Icelandic sheep for the wing Leland doubles the slender clump he trimmed from the hide butt to tip. Once doubled, Leland cuts the clump at the doubled end forming two clumps. He then strokes and twists the tip end, opposite to the cut doubled end, into a neat taper. Tie in, the now single tapered blended, clump at the midpoint of the shank and secure ii forward to form the wing. Blend and taper the sparse olive topping using the same technique. Leland’s twist and taper winging process works well, getting the most out of a section of Icelandic sheep.
When building the wing it is important to confine the materials to the front half of the hook. Remember, the rear portion of the hook will be removed once the fly is complete. The thread covered wing butts serve as a foundation, helping to hold the Beach Popper’s unique foam head in place.
The signature head of the Beach Popper consists of a Rainy’s Pee Wee Pop or Mini Me Pop foam head. The smaller Pee Wee Pop works best for cutthroat sized poppers while the larger Mini Me Pop is best suited for salmon poppers. As the foam head is designed to slide over a bare shank the popper hole may have to be reamed from the concave side using scissors points. After reaming the popper hole with a few twists of the scissors tip make a test fit. Be careful not to over ream the hole.
Push the popper head over the hook eye and onto the shank over the wing butts so the concave end faces the rear of the hook. It is important to have head in the right position so the Beach Popper behaves properly. The rear angle of the concave end must slope down and away from the hook eye so the long side of the popper head is positioned along the underside of the hook.
As the narrow end of the popper head faces forward, Leland freely admits that the Beach Popper is actually a slider. Semantics aside, Leland Miyawaki’s Beach Popper is magic on cutthroat, coho salmon or any predatory fish with an appetite and disposition for slashing bait at the surface, in either freshwater or salt.
1) Double a 6" section of 25lb. stiff monofilament. Insert the tag ends of the mono through the back of the eye. Drop the loop down over the hook bend. Pull the mono loop forward until it tightens behind the hook eye.
2) Place a 1xl #6 salt water into the vise. Cover the front half of the hook with tying thread. Tie in the mono trailer hook assembly onto the shank, trailer hook point up, at the midpoint. Secure the mono forward to the hook eye. Bend the two tag ends back over themselves and tie down. Cover the thread wraps with brushable superglue for added security. The stinger hook assembly should trail back 1-1/2 to 2 inches past the initial tie in point depending on the size of fly. Use shorter trailers for cutthroat versions and longer trailers for poppers intended for salmon.
3) Select two neck hackles. Align the feathers by the tips dull side to dull side and stroke them together. Tie in the prepared neck hackles at near the hook eye so the tips extend about 1/4" past the stinger hook.
4) Tie in four strands of holographic silver Flashabou followed by four strands of mixed colors Crystal Flash. Stagger cut the ends of the Crystal Flash so they are all different lengths. The finished Flashabou and Crystal Flash should extend just past the tips of the hackle feather wings.
5) Tie in the white polar bear or Icelandic sheep wing just in front of the hackle tip wings. The finished wing should be the same length as the hackle tip wings.
6) Top the white wing with a small amount of olive Icelandic Sheep. Tie in two or three strands of Peacock Herl to forming the topping. Whip finish and remove the tying thread.
7) Add a drop of head cement or superglue to the thread wraps. Gently slide the concave end of the popper head over the material until the hook eye peeks through. The rear hole in the popper may need to be reamed out using the scissors tip to fit over the wing materials. When you slide the popper over the wing materials make sure the narrow end faces forward. Make sure the angled edge of the concave end of the popper head runs away from front on the bottom of the fly. With the popper head in place, remove the fly from the vice. Using a pair of stout side cutters, remove the hook bend and point. Be careful not to cut the tying thread or any of the wing materials.