The anatomy of a popper part 2: Tail material selection.

Poppers, be they bass or panfish, are the staple pattern in many fly fishers boxes. They are also the most misunderstood patterns on the market. You can actually manipulate not only the profile of a popper but the noise it makes with the material you choose for the tail.

A dense tail material can make your fly ride nose up. This makes the “pop” louder and more obnoxious, which is perfect for feeding bass. Natural furs are dense but the right furs add a lot of action to a stationary fly. Plus the naturally translucent tips give the fly more of a minnow appearance. The down side to fur is that it tends to hold water and water is weight. They also make the fly set lower in the water as a whole. The upside to natural fur is durability. A properly tired in tail will last you through way more strikes than the more standard marabou.

The above is an image of Finnish Raccoon fur. I use this on most of my Double Barrel poppers from Flymen Fishing Company. These popper heads are ideal for natural fur tails as they are extremely buoyant and have a larger profile in the water. Note: When tying this material you have to be cognizant of tail length as long tails will foul on the hook during our cast. When I need longer tails I use a mono loop to keep fouling to a minimum.

My double barrel poppers tend to be larger and I like a low profile in the water. Finnish Raccoon is nearly always my tail material of choice.

Finnish Raccoon can be a challenge to find and it is expensive. I buy in bulk because its one of those materials worth its weight in gold.

Craft fur is a synthetic substitute for natural furs. Its readily available about anywhere from fly shops to craft shops, comes in just about any color you can dream up, and it’s very reasonably priced.

I don’t care for it on poppers for a couple reasons. First it does not have the uniform and translucent tips that natural furs have. Second is it has a tendency to just hang behind a fly in a straight bunch. This is perfect for certain saltwater or carp patterns, but is not an attribute to a fly that 90% of the time will get eaten while its setting still. Now there have been times when craft fur under a natural fur tail has been the ticket. Large pike plies are a great example of that. Again if you choose to use craft fur tail length is paramount. A long tail will require a mono loop to prevent fouling.

Marabou is the most common or most traditional of popper tail materials. In the early days this was the standard material for most top water patterns. The two main advantages of marabou are density, in short tails, and undulation in the water. Marabou is so pliable that you can get a better tail on shorter patterns. Its harder to get that bulk with natural fur without having to large of a tie off point on the hook. Marabou also has great action even when a fly is stationary.

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