Living as he does in Seaside Park, New Jersey, a small town on a slim barrier island with Barnegat Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, it’s no surprise that Bob Popovics is a die-hard saltwater fly-fisher. He specializes in casting from the surf for striped bass, bluefish, and false albacore as they prowl the ocean’s edge, ever in search of prey.
His knowledge of these fish and their habits has made him a master angler. His capacity to imagine new ways of making flies has made him one of most influential saltwater fly-tyers. Popovics’s book, Pop Fleyes: Bob Popovics’s Approach to Saltwater Fly Design, co-authored by Ed Jaworowski, revolutionized saltwater fly-fishing with a suite of patterns that employed new techniques and materials to produce lifelike imitations of the forage fish of the Atlantic coast. The Surf Candy, the Jiggy, the Bucktail Deceiver, the Ultra Shrimp, the Siliclone, the Bob’s Banger and many more were introduced to the world in Pop Fleyes, and countless anglers have tied them and used them to catch truly memorable fish in the 14 years since the book’s publication. No wonder Popovics’s friend Lefty Kreh has called him “the most innovative fly-tyer I have ever known.”
Popovics popularized the use of epoxy to give baitfish and shrimp patterns slim, glossy and durable bodies, and silicone to create flies that were light, translucent and flexible. His Hollow Fleye concept made it possible to produce very large flies that could still be cast easily with a fly rod. His patterns are well within the capabilities of the average fly-tyer, and have been adopted and adapted by streamer fly anglers for use in countless saltwater and freshwater applications.
Popovics has been called one of the great ambassadors of fly-fishing for his eagerness to share his knowledge with fellow anglers. This spirit was embodied in the open houses at his home on the Jersey shore, which played a role in the coming explosion of public interest in saltwater fly-fishing. Between 1986 and 1992, on Tuesday nights from January to May, Popovics opened his home to all who shared his passion for fly-fishing the surf to talk strategies and streamers in an atmosphere of camaraderie. Most were local anglers, but visitors from Maine to Maryland, Michigan to Pennsylvania travelled to attend. Among them were some of the biggest names in fly-fishing.
Today, Popovics is consistently one of the most popular presenters on the fly-fishing show circuit, and he continues his quest for ever more effective fly designs. He was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 1998, and sits on the advisory boards of many of the top names in the fly-fishing tackle industry. Popovics credits the enthusiastic support of the late Poul Jorgensen for giving the young fly-tyer a much-needed boost of confidence early in his career. The two men were good friends until Jorgensen’s passing in 2004.