by Nathan Wight, Durham ME, J. Stockard Pro Tyer

Again this year we called on the talents of the J. Stockard Pro Tyer Team to create an eye-catching image for our catalog cover. Check out Nate Wight’s turn on the traditional Copper John. Nate, who owns North Woods Fly Co., is a 4th generation Maine guide and a tyer with 30+ years’ experience.

In 1993 John Barr began to develop a nymph that we know today as the Copper John. Although the Copper John does not imitate any given species of insect, it has proven itself to be a fish catching fly here in the United States and around the world. There have been many variations of the fly over time, but all are based on the same copper wire body.

A couple of years ago I started tying this double wire jig hook variation. One of the many advantages to this style is that you can change up wire colors. For example, use small black wire with brassy copper wire to achieve a slightly darker fly without losing all the original copper flair.

Materials List:

Hook: Wide Gap hook in Size 14. You can adjust the size of the hook and bead to suit your own preferences
Bead: 2.8 Slotted tungsten in Gold.
Thread: 30D black Gel Spun.
Tail: Brown dyed Duck wing Biots.
Body: Small and Brassie sized copper wire.
Abdomen: Peacock Black Ice Dub.
Collar: Dun colored Hare’s Mask.

Tying Instructions:

Start by placing a tungsten bead on your favorite wide gap jig hook then secure it firmly in your vise.

Lay down a base of thread starting behind the bead and working it back to the beginning of the bend of the hook. I prefer using 30D gel spun because of its strength and its ability to lay flat on the hook shank.

Select two Biots from a brown dyed Duck Quill. Bind them onto the hook making their length about the same as the shank of the hook. Be sure the natural curve of the Biot turns the tips outward. Return your thread to behind the bead.

For this fly I used small and brassie sized wire. Bind the wire down on the opposite side of the hook to where you tied the tails and return your thread to behind the bead. Be sure to use good touching wraps of thread; this will help with tighter wire wraps.

Next, wind both wires simultaneously towards the bead. Another little trick for nice tight wraps is to use your thumbnail to push the wires back against your previous wraps. When you get behind the bead, tie off both wires and either clip or twist the remaining off.

To create the thorax, apply a small dubbing noodle of peacock black ice dub and wrap it tight to the back of the bead. You only need two to three turns of dubbing.

For the collar of this fly I used Dun colored Hares mask. It doesn’t take much to make a buggy collar; a small pinch is all that’s needed. I apply the Hares mask to the fly by utilizing the split thread method. The benefits of using gel spun is that you can easily split your thread with either a bodkin or thread splitting tool by simple spinning your bobbin counterclockwise until it flattens out. By doing this method you save space over using a traditional dubbing loop. Once you’ve applied your hares mask collar, apply glue and whip finish.


  1. Thanks for the different spin on the copper John!
    I’m always looking for different patterns to tie here in Wisconsin. Early season opens January 1st !!!

  2. Fish Catching Machine. This is the one shines when all else fails, the days when the guides up the stream with their client are getting skunked and you’re laughing as you land your 5th rainbow in an hour right in front of them. Later the guide sees you at the restaurant bar and asks what you were using and you laugh again. True Story.

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