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Fly Tying: Thoughts on Tying Charlie Craven’s and John Barr’s BC Hopper

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BC Hopper 1I’ve been working through the BC Hopper instructions that are in John Barr’s book Barr Flies. You can also find the instructions here on Charlie’s Fly Box site. Here are a few thoughts, referenced to the step numbers on the site.

  • First of all, the BC Hopper takes a little time to tie, but it isn’t as hard as it might look. I particularly expected spinning the deer hair at the front to be touchy, but it isn’t as bad as I thought.
  • (Step 2) You can actually get by with a strip about 3″ long (cut across a standard 3×5 inch foam sheet), but you’ll have to be careful where you pierce the foam when you attach it to the hook. If you look down to step 17, you’ll see that you need about 3/4 inch of strip on the bottom and a bit more on the top for the cut to work right. For a #4 hook, this means that 3″ is almost perfect, but you won’t have much left and you’ll have to be careful that you don’t get your fingers with the razor blade.
  • (Step 11) Oh geez, use a kicker. A CA (cyanoacrylic) glue is like superglue (Zap a Gap is made by the same folks that brought us Super Glue). A kicker makes a CA glue cure in about 10 seconds or less. So here’s how I do  step 11: Spread the Zap a Gap along the upper surface of the foam, then fold the strip back over and press together to distribute the glue to both surfaces. Separate the halves and spray (I use a spray kicker), then press them together quickly. If you want the nice curved belly that is shown in the picture on Charlie’s Fly Box, pull the back of the strip up slightly as the glue cures. You have to be quick, you’ve only got seconds to get it in place. Hold and count ten (or so) to let it set.
  • (Step 21) Note that this step calls for 3″ lengths of leg. At step 28, you’re going to cut off the front of the leg even with the first segment of the hopper body. This means that you’ll be throwing away about 1″ of the 3″ you cut. I cut these shorter than 3″. Also, I had some older rubber legs that I was working with to learn the pattern. I found that they were coming untied no matter how tight a pulled them. By putting a dab of Super Glue on the knot before pulling it tight (and I mean a dab), I stopped this problem. If you use the glue, separate the two strands you’re going to remove before it dries.
  • (Step 25) When I read this step the first time, I thought it was odd that you tied the first leg on at the front segment, then started the second leg at the second segment. It works better this way, though, because (a) the first leg is secured before you mess with the second, and (b) you need the thread at the first segment for the next step in the tie.
  • (Step 38) If you’re right handed, take the tips of the deer hair from the stacker with your RIGHT hand (this leaves the tips pointed in the right direction.
  • (Step 39) Notice here how nice and straight the cut of the deer hair is. You need a good straight cut for the rest of this tie to work well.
  • (Step 40) Make sure your deer hair is positioned like this with the end of the butts IN FRONT of the body. It will spin OK even if you overlap it, but when you try to push it back over the body, the butts will get in your way.
  • (Step 45) A Bic pen tube is too small for me. I used a McAlister’s straw segment (McDonalds or Arby’s will work) like I use for tying with McFlyfoam. With larger hooks, the top tube of my small hair stacker seems to work perfectly. The tube has to fit over the deer hair and the front of the body (note that the deer hair will act like a shoe horn to compress the foam some.
  • As I mentioned before, it is easier than it sounds.

Hopefully I’ll get around to doing some pictures or a video of this soon.

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