Category Archives: Favorite Patterns

The Moose Knuckle routinely attends fly tying courses with commercial tiers. The patters we learn will be featured from time to time on this blog along with links to the original pattern creators. If the team is traveling around and notices a previously unknown to us pattern we will feature it. Here you will see updates of new patterns, hot flys and all the info you need to land a hog.

Foam Bass Popper

Designed by MKFF

Note: We did not invent this pattern; it has been pieced together from various popper and ocean shrimp patterns I have seen over the years. It is unique enough that we will claim credit to the Bass Popper version being fished in Warren and Sussex County, NJ.


  • Umpqua U301 SZ4
  • Ultra Thread FL. Fire Orange 210
  • Yellow Bucktail
  • Green Bucktail
  • Krystal Flash Olive
  • 3MM Yellow Foam
  • 1MM Orange Foam
  • Estaz Opalescent White
  • Red or Orange Hackle
  • Zap A Gap
  • 1/8 Flat Eyes
  • Essie 825 Hip-Anema

Step 1 – Creating the Tail:

During May and June Bass begin to feed upon top water poppers. For a Trout fisherman this is equivalent to the hopper season, when huge Trout gobble ungainly foam hoppers whole. The bucket mouths will emerge from below to grab a popper at such speed you will see an underwater wake racing towards your popper. The tail creates life like action to mimic an amphibian racing across the surface of the water.

Step 1A:

Start the thread.
Step 1A – Start the thread.

Start the thread right before the hook bend; cover a small area with the thread to create a base for the tail.

Step 1B:

Step 1B - Tie in Yellow Bucktail.
Step 1B – Tie in Yellow Bucktail.

Select the Yellow Bucktail, cut a pinch of hair fibers (around 25), and tie in on top of the base you created in the previous step. The tail should be 1 and ½ times the length of the hook shank.

Step 1 C:

Step 1C - Tie in Crystal Flash
Step 1C – Tie in Crystal Flash

Select four pieces of Crystal Flash, place along the tail on one side of the hook shank, loop the strands around the top of the shank and run along the other side of the hook shank. Trim to match the length of the tail, be careful not to cut the bucktail.

Step 1 D:

Step 1D - Tie in Green Bucktail.
Step 1D – Tie in Green Bucktail.

Select the Green Bucktail, cut a pinch of hair fibers (around 25), and tie in on top of the Yellow Bucktail. Align to the existing tail length. Remember to always cut the butt end of the fibers off at a 45-degree angle; this makes it easier to cover with thread.

Step 1 E:

Tie in four more pieces of Crystal Flash in manner similar to my description in Step 1 C.

Step 2 – Building the Body

The concept for the body on this fly comes from a shrimp popper pattern Captain Daniel Andrews handed Brenton on our guided trip while staying at Sanibel Island. The shrimp in the bay will hop along the surface of the water especially to avoid predators. This is the same popping sound that entices Bass to strike.

Step 2 A (prepping the foam):

Step 2A - Prep the foam.
Step 2A – Prep the foam.

First you need to pre-cut a piece if yellow foam, then the orange foam. Yellow serves as the belly, orange as an indicator for your ability to detect a strike while floating on the water surface. Yellow foam should be 1-½ inches long by ½ inch wide. The orange foam should be trimmed to ¾ inch long and ½ inch wide. Now your foam is ready for attachment to the body.

Step 2 B (Tying in the body components):

Step 2B - Build a tie in area.
Step 2B – Build a tie in area.

Prepare the tie in area by wrapping thread over the butt ends of the Bucktail, work up and down the tail mound a few times to make an even though sloping surface.

Step 2 C (Tying in the body components):

Step 2C - Add the yellow foam.
Step 2C – Add the yellow foam.

Pick up your piece of yellow foam; hold the piece on top of the shank, and slide the foam down so only a small portion is on covering the base area you just created. Begin to tie the foam in tightly over the tail mound of thread, to tie on, pinch the foam around the shank making it create a U shape. This action will ease getting your initial wraps in place.  Tie in and cover evenly, leave a tiny area at the back of the mound without thread so you will be able to roll the foam over in later steps.

Step 2 D (Tying in the body components):

Step 2D - Attach the Estaz.
Step 2D – Attach the Estaz.

Now take the Estaz and cut an eight-inch piece. Tie this piece in on at the tail end of the mount we just created with the foam. Cover the butt piece completely. Now wrap a base layer of thread forward to one hook eye from the hook eye. This prevents slippage and allows you to evenly wrap the estaz forward up the shank. Once you have wrapped the Estaz up the shank, tie off and cut excess one hook eye’s distance from the hook eye.

Step 2D2 - Wrap the thread up the shank.
Step 2D2 – Wrap the thread up the shank.
Step 2D3 - Twist the Estaz up the shank to create a body.
Step 2D3 – Twist the Estaz up the shank to create a body.

Step 2 E (Tying in the body components):

Step 2E - Roll the foam over the shank.
Step 2E – Roll the foam over the shank.

Now pinch the overhanging piece of foam between your thumb and forefinger. Flip it up, over the tie in point towards the hook eye where the thread is hanging. In the same manner that you secured it to the shank in Step 3 B, secure it at the front tie in point. Try not to crowd the hook eye, as there are additional components that need to be added.

Step 3 – The Head

I like to give the fly a lifelike appearance, closely modeling it after a live amphibian that the bass are seeing in the pond or lake you are fishing. Does this really matter? The jury is still out on that; Bass strike mainly for the sound and movement. Its similar to the Trout fly concept of size first, shape of flies next and then color last. Adding the lifelike features helps me as an angler to visualize a strike. That being said, you can build a Bass popper out of a 1-inch PVC pipe filled with BBs with a treble hook attached. Bass are not going to give you an award for the most life like fly. As opposed to Trout, Bass are consumed with a fear of missing their next meal.

Step 3 A:

Step 3A - Build the beard.
Step 3A – Build the beard.

Flip the popper upside down in the vice, being careful as to not allow your handy work to unwind. Pinch 10 to 15 fibers in your thumb and forefinger. Tie in at the front point where we pinched the foam in. Optimally you will create a fanned out beard for the popper. Once you have secured, trim the excess butt end fiber crowding the hook eye.

Step 3 B:

Step 3B - Secure the orange indicator foam.
Step 3B – Secure the orange indicator foam.

Now we will secure the orange indicator foam. This foam serves two purposes first as an indicator and secondly a surface for water to flip up against and make the popping or splashing to woo the Bass. Align the front of the foam with the front of the yellow foam, the yellow foam will stick out (trimmed later). Pinch and wrap in through the same band as they yellow foam. Use Zap a Gap to glue the orange foam’s shank end against the yellow foam. Do not glue the front end of the foam.

Step 3 C:

Step 3C - Trim the foam.
Step 3C – Trim the foam.

Trim the front foam, what we will refer to as the “mouth” equal to each other.

Step 4 – Finishing Touches

Now that the primary components of making the popper look life like are complete we can move onto the finishing touches.

Step 4 A:

Step 4A - Whip finish.
Step 4A – Whip finish.

Whip finish the fly by lifting up the foam and completing the four wraps right behind the eye of the hook.

Step 4 B:

Step 4B - Attach eyes.
Step 4B – Attach eyes.

Take two flat eyes and gently stick them to the top of the orange foam.

Step 4 C:

Step 4C - Paint the mouth.
Step 4C – Paint the mouth.

Use the Essie nail polish. Paint a mouth between the yellow and orange foam. This resembles one of Fred Arbogast’s Hula Poppers or a frog with its mouth wide open.

How to Fish A Popper

Bass aggressively attack poppers, they fear missing a tasty morsel of food. Try to limit false casting of these large flies, two to three false casts should be enough force to fire them out there. Use the double- hauling technique to give the cast more power.

Look for dark spots in the water and breaks in the weeds, don’t line the fish, instead, cast in a way that allows you to pull along the edge of the coloration changes.

The popper will land with a hard splash; let it sit for a minute until the ripples are gone. Then begin retrieving with two-inch jerk strips.  Between every strip, allow the ripples to dissipate. If a Bass is coming at it, don’t stop stripping maintain the same retrieve speed. If she wants it, she will get it!

If you are unable to entice any strikes or interest attempt a different retrieve. For example, sometimes the Bass will attack a continuous slow retrieve. The key is to experiment and figure out where the Bass are hiding.

Completed Foam Bass Popper
Completed Foam Bass Popper

Proof that it works!

Norm’s Crystal Schminnow

Part 1: Sanibel Island Diaries

Mark Beardmore introduced us (MKFF) to Sanibel Island in 2012 for his thirtieth birthday celebrations. These days, the twenties are merely an extension of your teen years with money and more alcohol. As opposed to the twenty-first birthday, the thirtieth is the true adult milestone. That being said, we are gearing up to fish and party island style at the end of April.

Norm Zeigler has popularized Fly Fishing for Snook with his ground breaking book, “Snook on a Fly: Tackle, Tactics, and Tips for Catching the Great Saltwater Gamefish.” The Schminnow is his own creation, developed to mimic the small silvery white baitfish, that live off of the beautiful subtropical beaches of Sanibel Island.

Snook can be sight fished off of the beach while in season; this requires an “ocean style” delicate presentation. Using a heavier fly like the Clouser will splash and risk spooking your prey. The Schminnow will catch the sunlight and float high in the water, enticing predator fish to attack!


  1. Mustad Signature S71SZ-34007
  2. White Danville Flat Wax Nylon
  3. Black Mono Eyes – Medium
  4. Estaz Opalescent White
  5. White Marabou

The fly is relatively simple to tie and finishes strong out on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is a general attractor pattern, not mimicking any specific baitfish and necessary in any Fly Fisherman’s arsenal. Norm designated it the Schminnow to indicate the pattern is part shrimp and part minnow. Another variation of this fly is with dumbbell eyes, the weight allows it to pursue species that live deeper in the water column.

Step 1:

Place the Mustad size 2 in the vice.
Place the Mustad size 2 in the vice.

Place the hook in your vice. Attach the thread behind the hook eye; try not to crowd the eye. Build a smooth base as you wrap down the hook shank. I stop just at the barn in order to tie in the White Marabou tail.

Start the thread and evenly wrap back to the barb.
Start the thread and evenly wrap back to the barb.

Step 2:

Tie in the Marabou tail, use four or five wraps of thread, and leave about ¼ inch more than a hook shank’s length of tail. In a later step we will clip the tail. The clipping of the tail to length allows the life like breathing and flexing, during strip retrieve, which truly appears as a wounded baitfish to Snook.

Tie in the White Marabou tail.
Tie in the White Marabou tail.

Step 3:

Clip off the excess Marabou stem forward on the hook shank, at an angle, allowing you to evenly wrap it down with thread. Now wrap back to the barb, tie in the tag end of a five-inch length of Estaz. Wrap your thread forward to the tie in point behind the hook eye.

Clip of excess Marabou stem, tie in Estaz, wrap thread forward.
Clip of excess Marabou stem, tie in Estaz, wrap thread forward.

Step 4:

Create a small thread bump about an eye’s length behind your tie in point. Attach the mono eyes with a series of cross wraps, circle wrap under the eyes in order to stabilize the structure. Add a few turns in front and back for good measure; check that the eyes are stable before moving onto the next step.

Cross wrap in the eyes.
Cross wrap in the eyes.

Step 5:

Evenly wrap the Estaz around the shank, creating body, until you stop just behind the eyes. Tie off the Estaz and cut off excess. Whip finish in front of the eyes.

Wrap Estaz evenly forward, tie down running end.
Wrap Estaz evenly forward, tie down running end.

Step 6:

Using a good pair of scissors, grasp the excess Marabou (over a shank length) in your hand and trim off the excess.

Before Clipping
Before Clipping
Norm's Crystal Schminnow
Norm’s Crystal Schminnow

Look for more of our Sanibel Island Diaries series.

Part 2 – Double Haul

Part 3 – Dock Lighting for Snook


A very simple fly to tie, the Brassie is a requisite in your arsenal for opening day fishing exploits. Tied in the small size I demonstrate here (sz 20), it imitates a midge. You can adjust the pattern to mimic a Caddis Larva as well. The Brassie is effective due to the copper wire weighting down the fly to where the fish are feeding on its own. Further, this is my favorite dropper as it stays down but will not pull the lead fly down.


  1. Mustad – Nymph Sproat – Size 20
  2. Black Ultra Thread 70
  3. Copper Ultra Wire
  4. Black Rabbit Dubbing
Step 1 - Size 20 Hook
Step 1 – Size 20 Hook

Carefully place your hook in the vise. You can de barb the hook at this point. I do not go through the hassle for such a small hook, any bit of hold you can maintain on the Trout’s jaw is worth it.

Step 2 - Base Layer
Step 2 – Base Layer

Start your thread an eye width’s behind the eye. Careful not to crowd in this step as you will need to dub and whip finish later. Work the thread down the shaft to the hook bend and then back to your starting point. This creates a base layer and prevents the copper wire from slipping later.

Step 3 - Tie in wire
Step 3 – Tie in wire

Now we tie in the wire. I like to start with the wire partially perpendicular, underneath the hook eye and wedge it in there good with a few turns. Then pull back the tag end under the wrappings you just created, this will make a nice, clean starting point.

Step 4 - Cover the Wire
Step 4 – Cover the Wire

Wrap your thread down the shaft and back up to your tie in point. This creates a firm base with which we wind the wire up the shaft back to the tie in point.

Step 5 - Wind wire
Step 5 – Wind wire

Wind the wire in tight wraps back up to just before the tie in point. Make four twists of thread over the tag end of the wire. Helicopter the tag end off and locate your dubbing.

Step 6 - Apply Dubbing
Step 6 – Apply Dubbing

Apply as small amount of dubbing to the thread and twist. Do not apply too much,  this is after all a size 20 hook. You can always add more dubbing later, it is more difficult to remove once applied. Some tiers will change the color of the dubbing, a red head looks neat.

Step 7 - Whip Finish
Step 7 – Whip Finish

Finish dubbing and whip finish in front of the dubbing. If you spaced your tie in part properly, there will be room to get in four turns. Be careful and do not mash your dubbing.


Opening day in New Jersey is next weekend. I plan on deploying this pattern in my nymph rig outs first thing in the morning. The Brassie is both easy to tie and highly effective at any time of the year. When fish are not taking the nymphs you are presenting, it generally means they are too big. Downsize, get the fly down deep and try again!