My way with poppers
Juan del Carmen is a renowned Spanish fly-fisherman and co-founder of Andalucian Flyfishing which arranges some of the best fishing experiences in Southern Spain. Juan has worked for Sportfish in England and given demonstrations at the CLA Game Fair. Juan, at present, is taking time out in Australia where he is developing his flyfishing techniques for species such as barramundi.
Black bass have done very well in Spain since their introduction back in the nineteen fifties. The proliferation of large reservoirs around much of the country has given the type of water in which they can flourish. These may be big waters but it doesn't mean to say that they are featureless. Most of them are formed in drowned valleys and as a result there is masses of structure for the bass fishermen to concentrate on. The bottom contours are often dramatic and there are frequently the remains of old buildings and walls to be seen not far beneath the surface. Woods were also drowned by the rising waters and on many reservoirs there are large areas of submerged forest - perfect for bass.
Of course, black bass are the same as those worldwide and can be caught on nymphs, lures and streamers but there's something eternally exciting about the bass that comes to the popper. And if conditions are even remotely favourable, this is a method I will use.
Believe me, poppers will be taken anywhere even over features areas of endless deep water but I tend to look for the normal sorts of places where there's plenty of structure. I also like to fish around the mouths of feeder streams and in the deep water along the dam. Poppers work well over shallower, rocky areas and, of course, near to any structure like boat stagings.
Poppers work best in warm, calm conditions, especially at dawn and dusk. They're not effective when the water temperature falls to sixty degrees Fahrenheit or less or if the surface is very rough indeed. Even I will replace my popper with a streamer if this is the case. I've found out that poppers work well at night when there's a big moon and little cloud cover. And fishing a popper may be the only way to put a fly to a bass hidden under mats of weed or lilies.
I like to vary the size of my popper all the time until I hit on the size and model right for the day. Sometimes the bass are crazy for poppers six inches long and other times you won't get a take longer than an inch and a half. The action of the popper counts and sometimes, too, the colour. Make sure the casting weight of your rod is up to the job at either extreme. I'm happy with a six-weight for small poppers but you'll probably need an eight-weight for the real monsters, especially when they get wet.
Think how you work your popper. On landing, let it settle and don't move it for thirty seconds or even more, especially over deep water. Straighten up any slack line until you're tight to the fly, then give it a sharp, six inch tug and leave the popper for up to thirty seconds again before repeating the process.
Keep your rod tip low to the water or even subsurface when you make that pull. This way, the popper pops enthusiastically without whipping across the surface, leaving it closer to the all-important structural zone.
Watch the popper carefully for signs of an emerging bass. When one is close don't always pop the flies as the fish often prefer to take it stationary. Only pop if the fish is undecided or turns away. If two or three of you are in a boat, cast the poppers side by side and retrieve closely in tandem. The double disturbance is a great bass attractor. If the bass are cautious, make the retrieval tug a twitch so the pop is reduced. Spooky fish can be scared of a loud pop.
Of course, in Spain it's not just bass that come up for poppers and trout are particularly susceptible to the method if they're in the water. Fishing poppers for trout is a good way to seek out a water. It helps you keep mobile and cover really large distances of shoreline. If trout are coming to look at a popper but not taking, then reduce the size…this, too, goes for bass.
This advice should get you started using poppers and should begin to get fish in the net for you. But the real thrust of my message is to get out there and do it. You'd never believe how effective the popper can be as well as being the most exciting fly in your box.
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