The copper john came into vogue as a hot fly perhaps 15 – 20 years ago, and I jumped on the bandwagon and tied a batch at that time. They proved to be quite effective, and I can remember some hot fishing in the pocket water of the Eagle River with a copper john being the primary target of some nice brown trout. I attached the copper john to a yellow Letort hopper using a three foot dropper, and the fish gobbled the shiny nymph like candy.
Aside from the flash of a copper john and a generally fishy look, they are also appealing because of their rapid sink rate particularly when used as a dropper in a dry/dropper arrangement. I tie some of my copper johns with lead wire wrapped behind the bead, and when combined with the copper wire abdomen and the bead, this fly sinks quickly upon entering the stream. The flash of the wire abdomen, the bead, the peacock herl thorax and the flash on the wing case make this fly difficult for trout to miss.
For some reason I’ve strayed from using the copper john in recent years and consequently I have not needed to replenish my supply. As I prepared for my trip to Argentina; however, I realized that I was down to nine relics from the copper john heyday so I decided to replenish my stock. I dug through my fly pattern binder and found the John Barr materials list and tying instructions and quickly got in the groove of producing a fresh supply. After generating ten brand new copper nymphs I found four more in need of refurbishment. I was able to salvage the copper wire abdomen and reconstructed the thorax, legs and wing case on these unraveling flies. I feel comfortable with my 2014 supply now, and I plan to test the effectiveness of this solid standby particularly early in the season.