Forget the crappy TV series – if you fly fish in the salt you probably owe the innovation that came out of the Jersey Shore and more specifically, Bob Popovics, a debt of gratitude. Because, along with other salty luminaries like Lefty Kreh, Bob Clouser and Flip Pallot, few have had such an impact on saltwater fly fishing and fly tying as he has. Brent Flack-Davison sat down with him at Shady Rest his restaurant in Bayville, New Jersey to chat fishing, PTSD and fly tying, surf candies, hollow fleyes, roses and pizza. Here’s an excerpt from his issue 18 interview.
What were you trying to achieve with the surf candy?
I was tired of running after fish, of bullshit flies and I wanted to catch more. I would be fishing in the surf because I don’t have 4-wheel drive. I’ve got my waders on and here comes a school of blue fish. Then there’s chaos, something wrong. I bring in my line, the fly is a mess, the thread is all gone. Meanwhile the fish just keep going all the way down the beach. By the time I re-rig I have to run after them. I’m thinking, ‘I’m tired, this is bullshit’.
I came back and was sitting having a talk with the guy at the tackle store, and I told him, “Hey listen, it’s a pain in the arse you know”, and he said, “Well, that’s fly fishing for blue fish”. And I said, ”I don’t know man, there’s got to be a better way, there’s got to be something better that can last”. It was then that I happened to have some epoxy on my table, because when we used to make my poppers, we used to use epoxy glue to set the hook inside the cork. Mark Sosun made a fly with epoxy called the Blockbuster, which was a serious tie and the shank was nothing but thread covered with either varnish or epoxy. I liked that. I was looking in Ken Bays’ book. I thought if I put epoxy from the eye of the hook all the way back to the bend, it was not bad. That’s the way I left it. Wavy bucktail, epoxy, no eyes, no paint, nothing, and they worked. Then I thought, ‘Take it back a little further and it will stop any fouling’. So I took it back about an eighth of an inch past the bend off the hook. Now I had the perfect fly. Nobody liked it because it was uglier than hell, but I caught blue fish after blue fish after blue fish. That’s how the surf candy came about. It was designed for durability, but then it evolved into where, now with the foils, it has a more realistic look. Once they started to look better, guys started to use them, but the beginning ones were so ugly. Still, they caught fish. A buddy fished one. He came to me and said, “You know you’ve got a winner here. I’ve just got 30 fish on that”.
Read the full interview in issue 18 below.