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Popper Experiments

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

I did some popper experiments last summer. I have been making my own poppers for a long time. I got a set of punches a year ago and have been using them to make different size circles of the closed cell foam sheets that can be purchased at many stores. This way I can make the colors and sizes that I want to use.

I cut the circles out by using the punch against a board. I cut out several circles of each color of foam that I am going to use and then go back to glue them. I use rubber cement to keep them together. This has worked well for me and the popper does not come apart. They stay softer than using super glue. I use one of the cheap artists paint brushes to spread the rubber cement on the foam. I do it on the sides of the two disks that are going to be put together. I let it dry for a little while, until it gets tacky and then put the two pieces together. When I have a bunch of these done, I then put them under a board that I have and put some weight on it. The next time I add one more disc to each stack that I want to have five disks on. If I want six disks then I put another disc of foam on each of the two that had I glued together before. For a 5-disk popper I then put a stack of two and a stack of three foam disks together. For a 6-disk popper it is two stacks of three put together. I have found by doing this that I can keep the edges of the foam circles pretty even. This does take a little more time, but it is easier than sanding.

I took out poppers that I made this way and poppers that I cut one size larger and then sanded down, with a Dremel tool, to the same size. These sanded poppers were very smooth. I would cast out two poppers about four to five feet apart. Each time the poppers were the same color combination and the same size. I would also alternate which side I cast the smooth popper on with the side of the rougher popper.

From my very rough notes of last summer I cannot tell a difference in the number of fish that I caught on each. I caught as many fish on the poppers that I left the edges slightly uneven as the poppers that were sanded smooth. I have these in sizes for panfish and for bass. The numbers just don't show a difference.

To take it a step farther, for someone who is obsessive compulsive at times to see what may work, I also used cylinders of foam that had to be cut to length. I made poppers from these that were smooth. I also took some that I used various Dremel tools to score different patterns of grooves around the foam. This would make them like the disks of foam that were not even.

The number of fish that I caught on these different poppers was very nearly the same for each type. These were the size to catch panfish on, even though I did get a fair number of bass to hit them.

My take from this is that we may worry too much about having the popper look perfect. It might be that with the edges a little uneven that the popper looks like it has been hurt or damaged and thus is more vulnerable that a popper than is smooth. The meniscus that these make when you put them in a glass of water and look at them from the bottom is different from the meniscus made by a smooth popper.

I got on to doing this after I got the book Tying Flies the Paraloop Way. This book has pictures of flies taken underwater to show the differences in the way they sat on the water and in the meniscus that was formed. My setup might not be as pretty or elaborate but I can see differences when I look through the bottom of that clear glass. For example, take a normal Adams and a Parachute Adams and put them in the glass as the same time. I think you will be able to see a difference in the way they set on the water.

Each time I tie a new pattern I try it this way just to see how it sets on the water and looks to my non-fish eyes. It does help you decide if you want to make any changes and after a while if the meniscus looks like the ones formed by other patterns that work for you.

Something else that I have done behind poppers is to tie a dropper fly about 12 to 24 inches behind it. I use Pheasant Tail Nymphs, midges, and other flies in the size 16 to 20 range. I find that many times I will catch fish on the dropper when they will not hit the popper but will come up to look at it. Fairly often after a fish hits the dropper and with it jerking the popper around, another fish will hit the popper.

Let me know if you agree or think that I am nuts.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick ziegeria@grm.net

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