A Fly to Tie and Try for July by Les Lockey 2024
Loch Reports

A Fly to Tie and Try for July by Les Lockey 2024

Fly of the Month – July by Les Lockey

The Cooper Bug – Dry Fly / Emerger (Jack Cooper)

Hook:    Kamasan B170, size 10 to 16.

Thread: Roman Moser Powersilk, 10/0, Olive, or colour to match hatching insect.

Tail, Shellback & Head: Cow Elk or White Tail Coastal deer hair.

Body:  Orkney Peach Seal’s fur, or colour to match hatching insect.


Photo 1. Secure the hook in the vice and starting at the eye, wind on a bed of thread to just before the hook bend and remove the waste thread.

Photo 2. Cut a small bunch of  Elk hair from the hide, remove any broken fibres and underfur before inserting the hair, tips first, into a hair stacker. Tap the stacker a few times on the bench to align the tips and carefully separate the two parts of the stacker to reveal the aligned tips.

Photo 3. Carefully remove the aligned hair from the stacker and with the tips as a tail, tie in the elk hair on top of the shank and make a couple of locking turns in front of the elk hair.

Photo 4. Dub some seal’s fur on to the thread and wind the dubbing noodle up the shank to form a slightly tapered body.

Photo 5. Keeping the elk hair fibres straight and under light tension, form a shellback by gently pulling the fibres over the top of the dubbed body then tie them down at the head.

Photo 6. Lift up the elk hair and make a couple of locking thread turns in front of the elk hair. Tidy the head with a few turns of thread, apply some varnish to the thread and whip finish through it, then remove the thread.

Photo 7. To complete the fly, trim off the excess elk hair leaving a short stub protruding over the eye.

Tying Tips

  • This fly was created by Jack Cooper from New England, in the 1930s, and was so successful that he tried to have the pattern patented, but thankfully this was rejected. The pattern itself is arguably a method of tying, rather than an exact pattern, since hook size, body colour, and indeed the body material itself, can all be changed to match a variety of insects ranging from hatching buzzers to emerging sedges.
  • With 17 sub species of White Tail deer and 8 sub species of Mule deer, plus Caribou and Moose, most commercially available deer hair for fly tying comes from America, although in the UK, Roe and Red deer, can be added to that list. However, when it comes to Elk hair the picture is rather confusing, since hair marketed as Elk hair is not from Elk at all but comes from a larger American relation of the Red deer called a Wapiti. In addition, here in the UK and Europe, the animal we know as Elk, is actually called Moose in the USA.
  • Ideally, the best hair to use for this pattern is early season cow elk, but such a specific hair can be difficult to source in the UK, although we are beginning to see a much wider selection of deer hair on offer from specialist companies like Hareline and Nature Spirit.
  • Cut away the bunch of hair from as close to the skin as possible. This makes cutting successive bunches much more straightforward.
  • Before stacking the hair, take the bunch of fibres and hold the tips between finger and thumb then twist it slightly to spread the fibres, then pull away any broken fibres and remove the fine underfur, either by hand, or with the aid of a fine nit comb, which is my preferred option. It is important to remove as much of the underfur as possible, otherwise the hair will not stack or align properly. Interestingly, the quantity of underfur present in deer hair depends on when the animal was culled, with early season hair having the least and late season the most.
  • In terms of quantity, once stacked and lightly compressed, the bunch of hair should be slightly thicker than the lead in a pencil.
  • When tying in the elk hair tail, I hold the tips tightly between fore finger and thumb and make a lightly tensioned turn of thread around just the hair at a point as close to my thumb as possible, before making a second turn of thread around the hair and the hook shank at the same point. This helps to limit the amount of flair in the tail and allows a precise tie in point for the bunch of hair.
  • Orkney peach is a vibrant peachy orange colour with shades of yellow and reddish pink mixed in, but it is rarely available commercially, so I mix my own using fluorescent seal’s fur in orange, yellow and red roughly in the ratio 40:40:20. I use a coffee grinder to achieve a well-integrated blend, but it is easy enough to do by hand for small quantities.
  • Don’t be shy with the dubbing for the body. The body should be thick enough to allow the elk hair to sit on top of it without falling down around the sides.
  • Fine chenille, pheasant tail fibres, peacock herl, CDC and a host of other dubbing materials can all be used for the body, depending on your preference and the insect being imitated.
  • For added protection, coat the Elk hair shellback with a fine layer of UV resin and cure with a torch.
  • To aid floatation, liberally apply Mucilin dry fly silicone to the fly and allow it to dry overnight before transferring to your fly box.


Fishing notes

  • This is a great summer searching pattern, with the knack of bringing fish up to the surface, especially during hot weather, and when fished as a team in different colours and sizes, it is an excellent way of hedging your bets when you are not sure what the fish are feeding on.
  • The pattern can be fished throughout the season, to reflect whatever insects are on the water at any given time, be that midges, olives, sedges, or even beetles. Simply change the size of hook and the colour of the body to match the hatch.
  • When the weather is hot and calm, I tend to fish this pattern as a single dry fly on a floating line with a tapered leader, but at other times, I fish the fly on the dropper, often with a foam beetle or a CDC shuttlecock pattern on the point.
  • I always coat the pattern with Mucilin liquid silicone and allow it to dry overnight to aid floatation, but after the fly has caught, I rub a small amount of Gink into the tail and head fibres to restore its floatability.
  • This is perhaps not the most durable pattern, but it is very effective, so it pays to have your fly box well stocked with a good mix of colours and sizes.