How to Tie Bob Popovics’s Surf Candy

Producer: Tim Flagler

This is an updated version of Bob Popovics’s Surf Candy. It’s just one of a slew of incredible patterns Bob has come up with over the years. His book Pop Fleyes has step-by-step instructions for many of them, including the Surf Candy. As I said, here, I’m going to tie an updated version of it, that uses some modern materials and is actually easier to tie.

Although not essential, a rotary vise can be very helpful when tying Surf Candies, particularly when it comes to applying different resins.

For a hook, I’m going to use a Mustad size 1/0, 2X heavy, 2X short tarpon hook. I like to use vice jaws that are specifically made for holding large hooks. A shallow groove in the jaws ensures the oversized hook won’t budge while tying.

You can use heavy white thread if you like, but I prefer monofilament as it will become almost transparent after a coat of resin is applied. Get your thread started on the hook shank behind the eye and take a dozen or so wraps rearward before snipping off the excess tag. Position your tying thread about an eye-length back from the eye.

Many different synthetic fibers can be used to form the body of the fly but here I’m going to use stuff called Candy Crush. It’s easy to work with, has great texture and a really nice shimmer. I’m going to go with the olive for the fly’s back and white clear for the belly.

I snip a couple dozen white, clear fibers free from the hank then find their midpoint. Place the midpoint on top of the hook shank, over your tying thread and take wraps to secure it. Pull the forward-pointing fibers down and take thread wraps to secure them to the underside of the hook shank. Make sure all the fibers are bound down really well.

Snip another couple dozen of the olive fibers free and once again, locate the midpoint of the fibers and place them on top of the hook shank. This time however, fold the forward-pointing fibers back over top of the fly and bind them down to the top of the shank. Pull the lower fibers evenly around either side of the hook and sweep them rearward until they look about like this.

Fleye Foils are adhesive-backed and really make a Surf Candy look good. They’re available in several different sizes. To match this short shanked 1/0 hook, I’m going to use a medium. A bodkin works well for first removing then placing the foils. Put the foil on your tying table, or here, a sticky pad with the adhesive side facing up.

To create the lateral line on the fly, snip a single strand of large pearl Flashabou free from the hank. Locate the strand’s midpoint and snip it to create two equal lengths. Stash one of the segments away for safekeeping then pick up the other and adhere it to the Fleye Foil like so. Lay the foil against the near side of the hook so the little tab at the front extends right to the back edge of the hook eye. Take wraps of tying thread to bind it down. You should be able to move the foil around a bit to get it correctly oriented down the fibers. Repeat the procedure for the mirror image foil for the other side of the fly.

Pick up the remaining Flashabou segment and secure it to the foil in the same manner as you did before. You can then repeat the tie-in procedure on the opposite side of the hook. Check to make sure the foils are relatively even and all the fibers are swept back. Pick up your whip finish tool and use it to produce a 5 or 6 turn whip finish, seat the knot well then snip your tying thread free.

Back in the day, different types of 2-part epoxy were used to finish the bodies of Surf Candies. These were great but needed to be mixed and took a fairly significant amount of time to cure to a solid state. This meant, that to keep the resin from sagging and dripping, the fly needed to be placed on a drying wheel.

UV cure resins make finishing the fly much easier. Here I’m going to start with a thick formula to establish the basic structure of the fly. Begin by pulling and collecting the fibers rearward. Apply an ample amount of the resin between the foils, on top of the fly. This doesn’t have to look good, it’s just to get things started. Pick up your UV torch and give the area an ample shot of UV light to cure the resin. You can then rotate the fly over and repeat the procedure on the underside. Again, all you’re really doing here is giving everything a little bit of stiffness and structure. If you have it, a thinner formula of UV cure resin works well for filling in the remainder of the fly’s body. Run the resin over both sides as well as the top and bottom. Keep rotating the fly so the resin doesn’t sag and drip. A bodkin also works here for spreading the thinner resin around in an even coat. On the sides of the fly, try to coat the area between the two points of the Fleye Foil, kind of on a diagonal. Every so often, if things are looking good, give the resin a shot of UV light to cure it. It’s better to do a couple of lighter coats rather than one big thick one. If there are any low or dry spots, you can simply go back and fill them in. Make sure to give the area an ample shot of UV light before moving on.

You could stop right there and call your Surf Candy done, if you like. But I prefer to apply an additional coat, this time of ultra-thin UV cure resin to just kind of smooth everything out. The Solarez Bone Dry I’m using here has a nice little brush that can be used instead of a bodkin. Once you have the body of the fly looking good, give everything a really thorough bath of UV light to make sure all the resin is cured and tack-free.

To trim the fly’s tail, I find it much easier to flip the fly around in my tying vise so the tail points in the opposite direction. Begin by snipping the Flashabou lateral lines off so they’re equal in length then use your scissors to trim a somewhat staggered natural-looking tail. This looks much better than simply cutting the fibers off square.

And that’s a more modern version of Bob Popovics’s classic Surf Candy. It’s a remarkably realistic and effective fly, and works especially well for albies and bonito.