Josh and I (especially Josh) take some level of pride in being able to find cheaper alternatives for fly tying tools and materials. Hence this article, our inaugural post in the “Frugal Fly Tier” series. We’ll bring some more tips for you cheapskates out there in the future.
Josh once told me about making popper heads out of cheapo foam flip flops. Afterward, I did a little research on the ‘net and figured out how others did it. So, this certainly isn’t some brilliant idea of mine, but hopefully I can demonstrate how to do it in case you want to do it yourself.
These poppers are rounded, not square-ish ones that some folks cut out of foam blocks.
- Cheap foam flip-flop sandals
- Spray adhesive (Like 3M general, for example)
- Sandpaper (one coarse and one fine grit)
- Hollow punch set
- Razor blade
- Rotary tool (like a Dremel)
- Finishing nail (size) OR foam shaping bit for your rotary tool (ideal)
How to make the popper heads
Watch the video. For real. Who reads anymore, anyway? (Just kidding. Please keep reading our blog.)
Tip 1: Finding cheap flip flops
As I write this, we’re approaching April, so it’s prime time to get some flip-flops. Don’t go to your local retail store and buy them, though. You’ll almost certainly overpay. If you have a dollar store nearby, go there. Every spring/summer, our local dollar store seems to carry a variety of foam sandals and you can stock up on enough foam to make a ton of poppers for just a few bucks each.
Tip 2: Finding a hollow punch set
I’m assuming you can figure out the other tools on your own by watching the video, but it might not be obvious where you can get them. Just go on eBay (or Amazon, or whatever) and search for “Hollow punch set.” I got mine on eBay for just a few bucks.
If you get a cheap set like me, chances are that you’ll need to sharpen the punches for optimal performance. You can use your rotary tool with a sharpening bit to do this.
ALERT: You’ll want some safety glasses while sharpening, because sparks will fly.
Tip 3: Popper head size
One mistake I made early on was that I wasn’t making enough small poppers. I’ll write an article about it at some point, but sometimes for big fish, you’ll need to go smaller with your fly instead of bigger. For example, I was using a small size 10 popper that looked like something you might use for panfish when I caught the biggest largemouth bass of my fishing career.