The Polar Popper
Designed by Kelly Davison
Hook: Daiichi 2546,#6-#8
Thread: White, Gel Spun
Trailing Hook: #6-#8, Up Eye Octopus
Hook Loop: 30lb FireLine or FireLine Ice or Similar Braid
Wing: White Polar Bear Hair, Bucktail or Synthetic Substitute
Belly: White Polar Bear Hair, Bucktail or Synthetic Substitute
Lateral Line: Pearlescent Krinkle Mirror Flash or Flashabou
Head: Natural White Deer Belly Hair, Spun and Clipped
Eyes: Stick On
Kelly Davison, owner of Sea Run Fly & Tackle, is perhaps best known for his Ice Cream Cone chironomid pupa pattern, a design concept that revolutionized how we, as fly tyers, imitate chironomid pupa. Kelly’s unique use of a white bead has had far reaching appeal, well outside the province of B.C. Kelly is not just a stillwater fly fisher, he also has a passion for other species on the fly including cutthroat, tarpon, steelhead and Pacific salmon.
When it comes to open ocean coho, Kelly enjoys taking these aggressive predators on top water flies. One, if not perhaps his favorite patterns, is a variation of a Clint Derlago design Kelly christened the Polar Popper. Originally tied in multiple colors Kelly now prefers an all-white color scheme feeling it provides the same view no matter how the fly lands on the water. Kelly recommends using a brisk aggressive strip retrieve. Propelled in this manner, takes to his Polar Popper are heart stopping.
The Polar Popper uses the same hook shank and trailing loop common to Intruder patterns. Kelly begins with a straight eye 2XL salt water hook for the foundation. Once the fly is complete the bend and point of the hook is removed. For the trailing hook loop Kelly prefers 30LB FireLline or white FireLine Ice. You can use thinner 20LB braid but Kelly finds it tends to wear out after a few coho mauling’s. Thinner diameter braid is fine for smaller fish.
Loop length is critical. The loop must be long enough to facilitate efficient hook swaps of the #4 or #6 octopus style hooks Kelly recommends using. But not long enough to hook deep into the throat, an often fatal experience for the fish. The finished loop should be no more than twice the shank length of the foundation hook.
To form the loop, take a 4-5 inch length of FireLine and double it end to end. Take the doubled FireLine and secure it at the mid-point of the shank using a series of firm thread wraps. Take the tag ends and feed them through the hook eye. Depending on the hook size feeding the tag ends through the eye can be challenging. Kelly uses a loop of stiff monofilament or a bobbin threader to pull the tag ends down through the loop. Once the tag ends are through the hook eye tuck them under the shank and finish securing the braid along the front half of the shank. Trim and cover the waste ends of the braid. Coating the thread wraps with super glue is always a good idea for additional strength and security.
Kelly prefers the natural translucency of polar bear hair for the wing. Other suitable wing materials include bucktail, craft fur and the myriad of synthetic hairs available today. Calf tail or marabou can also be used on smaller sized Polar Poppers. The wing or wings completely envelope and shroud the hook shank and trailing loop. Tied in at the midpoint of the hook so the tips extend just past the FireLine loop, the wing can be tied in all at once and massaged around the shank or in two separate wing and belly clumps. Once the wing is in place, lash a sparse application of Krinkle Mirror Flash or Flashabou down the sides to add the finishing touch to the rear half of the fly.
The signature bullet head of the Polar Popper consists of spun and clipped natural deer belly hair. Deer belly hair is naturally white and due to its spongy texture is easy to spin or flare. Due to the FireLine loop lashed top and bottom on the shank spinning hair can be tricky. I prefer to flare the hair.
Flaring deer hair is simple. As with spun hair, remove the short hair fibers and under fur from a pencil diameter clump of deer belly hair. Trim the tips from the prepared hair stack. Stab the short clump back over the hook eye to the base of the wing so it encompasses the shank. For right handed tyers, hold the hair in place with your right thumb and forefinger. Place two firm controlled wraps around the deer hair. On the third wrap increase the thread pressure so it flares and binds the hair. Do not allow the deer hair to spin. Add additional securing wraps. Repeat this process until the popper’s head is complete. Two stacks of deer belly hair are all it typically takes. Remember to pack the hair tight to ensure maximum buoyancy. Once the deer belly hair head is flared and in place trim it to a bullet shape. There should be no deer hair fibers flowing back into the wings. Be careful when trimming around the wing base. Don’t accidently remove part of the wing or the flash materials down the sides.
All that remains is to super glue a set of tape eyes on either side of the head. I prefer gel type super glue for securing my eyes as its viscous nature provides a good foundation to affix the eyes. Once the eyes are dry a thin coating of UV Knot Sense, UV Clear Fly Fish or similar product provides additional protection. If you are tying on location and the fishing is fast and furious eyes become optional.
The Polar Popper is a simple tie. It does a wonderful job suggesting a crippled baitfish struggling at the surface. It is a versatile pattern that also works for other species besides coho salmon. Tie smaller versions. Cutthroat, other trout species and bass enjoy munching Polar Poppers too.
1) Cover the front half of the shank with tying thread. Double the ends together of a short 4-5 inch length of 30lb FireLine or FireLine Ice. Using a half dozen firm thread wraps secure the doubled FireLine loop on top of the shank so it extends no more than twice the shank length behind the hook. Slide a short loop of stiff mono or a bobbin threader through the hook eye. Slide the tag ends of the FireLine through the mono loop or bobbin threader. Pull the tag ends of the FireLine down through the hook eye using the bobbin threader or mono loop. Fold the tag ends along the underside of the shank. Continue securing the FireLine in place and trim the excess. Coat the finished wraps with brushable super glue for added security.
2) Tie in the wing material on top of the hook shank. The tips of the wing material, polar bear in this example should extend past the end of the FireLine loop.
3) Tie in the belly material. The tips of the belly material should reach back the same distance as the wing.
4) Tie in two strands of Krinkle Mirror Flash or similar substitute down each side of the fly.
5) Trim a pencil sized clump of natural white deer belly hair from the hide. Remove the soft under fur and shorter fibers. Remove the tips of the belly hair. Stab the prepared belly hair over the hook eye and back to the base of the wing and belly so it completely envelops the hook shank. Take two loose but controlled wraps of tying thread around the hair. Tighten the thread on the third wrap so it flares at the same time let go of the deer hair. Add a few additional wraps to further flare and secure the deer belly hair in place.
6) Prepare a second clump of deer hair in the same fashion as the first. Stab the prepared deer hair over the hook eye so it envelops the shank. As with the first deer hair stack, take two loose but controlled wraps of tying thread around the hair. Tighten the thread on the third wrap so it flares at the same time let go of the deer hair. Add a few additional wraps to further secure the deer belly hair in place.
7) Form a need head, whip finish and remove the tying thread. Trim the deer hair head to a bullet shape. There should be no deer hair trailing back over the wing and belly materials. Be careful when trimming the head not to remove any of the wing, belly hair or Krinkle Mirror Flash.
8) Affix a stick on eye to each side of the head using gel type super glue. Once the super glue has dried, coat both eyes with a thin coat of Loon UV Fly Finish for added durability. Cure the UV Fly Finish using the appropriate UV light. Using a pair of side cutters remove the hook bend and point. Push the FireLine loop through the eye of an octopus style hook. Pull the hook through the FireLine loop to lock it in place. The hook should ride point up so it so the belly and wing hair mask its presence.