One of the most exciting areas in fly design is the development of next-generation topwater flies to enable the modern fly fishing angler to successfully target and land a growing variety of freshwater and saltwater gamefish across the globe.
To support this trend, in 2016 we announced our intention to create a full range of modern innovative foam fly tying materials under the new Surface Seducer® product line. This resulted in the introduction of the first few products including the popular Double Barrel™ popper & slider body, a general-purpose foam body that fly tyers are successfully using to create a wide variety of different foam flies.
The Double Barrel has proven to be effective on everything from bass in the United States to golden dorado in Argentina. Photo: W. Andy Snedden.
As we continue to build out the Surface Seducer family, the next foam products we introduce will become more specialized, enabling anglers to tie flies that may have a specific swimming action for imitating a certain species or for fishing under certain fishing situations and locations.
Enter the Howitzer.
Our newest addition to the Surface Seducer line is the Howitzer™ baitfish popper head. I’d like to share my thought process and design objectives behind this new material.
Fish actively feeding on the surface are typically targeting a food source that is available to them in that geographic area at that specific time of year. This food source can often widely vary, and in order to increase your chances of success your foam fly should “match the hatch” as closely as possible in terms of appearance, size, color, and swimming action.
An example many anglers can relate to is bass fishing, where during parts of the season when bass are actively targeting minnows and other small schooling baitfish, your baitfish popper is usually white in color, legless and has a straighter, longer tail.
However, during the times when bass are keyed in on large insects such as dragonflies, cicadas, or other bugs, (or perhaps an innocent frog that is taking a swim) you'll likely be using a typical Bass Bug popper with lots of rubber legs, a shorter splayed tail, and in a variety of colors to match the prevailing food source at the time.
In summary, like trout fishing you stand a better chance of being successful if your selection of foam flies can “match the hatch."
Big fish love to eat small fish! Therefore, the concept behind the Howitzer design was to create a popper head that enables you to tie an articulated popper that better imitates a small minnow or a schooling baitfish that is sipping or “busting” (splashing) at the surface of the water as they often do (right before they get eaten).
To achieve the realistic profile and swimming action of a baitfish, the Howitzer is designed with a recess at the back of the head so an articulated Game Changer-style minnow body and tail (tied using a combination of one or more Articulated Shanks or Fish-Spines daisy chained together) can be embedded seamlessly into the back of the head.
As a result, in the "resting" position (during the pause between pops), the Howitzer head remains on the surface, but the articulated body of the minnow hangs downward in the water (roughly at a 45-degree angle) and continues wiggling enticingly in a lifelike way. This can be seen by predatory fish from a much longer distance than if it were just on the surface.
The combination of sound (popping), realistic body movement, and an irresistible profile offers predatory fish a hard-to-pass-up opportunity for a meal! In the right conditions, “it’s ridiculous!” (to use a favorite phrase of my teenage son).
Key tying principles.
When designing your own Howitzer articulated popper, there a few design principles to consider.
You will find the Howitzer head will pop as loud and as effortlessly as a Double Barrel popper.
However, it is designed so the front cup (mouth) of the head is in the optimum position to go “boom!” when it's tilted upward at a 45-degree angle in the resting position. This angle is achieved by the weight of the body/tail (one or more articulated shanks and/or hooks) pulling the back of the head downward.
You can get creative and tie your Howitzer articulated baitfish popper using different head + hook + shank configurations. The weight of the metal shanks (and sometimes rear hook) is what causes the body and tail to hang down in the water.
1. Single front hook + Articulated Shanks.
The Howitzer head is mounted on a hook and an articulated body and tail is connected off the hook.
2. Articulated Shanks + single rear hook.
The Howitzer head is mounted on an Articulated Shank and an articulated body and tail with a hook is connected off the Articulated Shank.
3. Front hook + Articulated Shanks + rear hook.
The Howitzer head is mounted on the primary (bigger) hook and an articulated body and tail with a smaller stinger hook is connected off the primary hook.
Mounting the Howitzer on a hook or Articulated Shank.
The position of hook or shank inside the Howitzer head is important.
At the front of the head, the eye of your hook or shank should be positioned in the lower half of the cup (between the middle and bottom lip of the mouth), in a similar way you'd mount Double Barrel popper head.
At the back of the head, the hook or shank should be positioned in the center of the recess so the articulated minnow body and tail can be seamlessly embedded into the center of the head.
I've found this to be the best position for most cases; however, feel free to experiment and change it up according to your own designs as always!
The Howitzer enables you to add some exciting new baitfish popper options to your existing arsenal of foam flies. I look forward to seeing your own creations and lots of big fish photos!
Have fun out there!
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About Martin Bawden:
Martin is the founder of Flymen Fishing Company and the head product designer. When not on the water “field testing,” he can be found tying at fly fishing events. Articles on his innovative fly tying products and fly patterns have appeared in various fly fishing publications.