Q Here on Massachusetts’ North Shore, the striper fishing is superb. It usually requires using a 300- to 350-grain sinking line and making casts of 60 to 80 feet. When I encounter a surface blitz of stripers or blues, however, I switch to poppers on a floating or intermediate line. But I’m having difficulty getting the big poppers out 60 feet or farther. Is the problem the rod, leader or technique?
You’ll find several solutions to this exasperating problem. First, use leaders no longer than 7 feet; if the fish are really working, cut it to 5 feet. Also, avoid using poppers that are heavy and therefore difficult to cast. The head of the popper makes all the commotion, so try building poppers from Ethafoam (a very light closed-cell foam) that have a large head but a body that tapers rapidly toward the rear. Also, heavy hooks are tough to cast, so use the more expensive, lighter-wire hooks. Don’t wind a lot of hackle around the shank; instead, use a minimum of bucktail or similar material tied so that it extends out the back. This makes a full-bodied fly that will interest the fish. This combination of material, Ethafoam and light hooks will make lots of noise and still cast a long distance. Fish will destroy this popper more quickly than a hard-bodied version, but they’re easy enough to make.
Another answer is to cast the poppers on your 300-grain sinking line with at least an 8-foot leader. As soon as the popper hits the water, begin retrieving. So long as you retrieve constantly, the line will stay on the surface and work your popper.