Posts Tagged ‘woolly worm


Throwback Pattern: Woolly Worm

woolly worm-red tail-SwittersB


Woolly Worm: Serviceable Beginner’s Pattern to Tie/Fish

Whether it is Woolly or Wooly, the Worm’s turn appears to have passed for the ubiquitous Woolly Bugger. From a beginning fly tier’s perspective this is a simple, but effective pattern to tie. I suggest staying with the original chenille or some of the newer sparkle chenilles. The pattern can have the ‘hot butt’ red tag (or other hot colors) but you can go for a natural hackle barbs/fibers tail as well. Short of a few panfish, carp or lake fly fishers, you will seldom encounter this pattern any more.


I would suggest, beyond the hot colors style, to tie up the pattern in black, brown, green and yellow with black, brown or grizzly palmered hackle. Natural colors on size 6-12 hooks with a 2xl-3xl shanks. The fly can be more than an ‘attractor pattern’ as it is so frequently referred to these days. You will notice the patterns above do not have the bead head. They could, of course, or have weighted wire wrapped around the shank. You can forgo the weight and use a weighted fly line to sink the fly into the appropriate zone.

Whether the Woolly Worm was inspired by the frequently seen Butterfly Caterpillars or not, it is a fuzzy morsel to be used for all manner of fuzzy, enticing morsels.

Whether Dragon, Damsel, Hellgramite, Stonefly, large Caddis Pupa, Caterpillar or ‘attractor’ the pattern can be mixed and matched with natural to hot colors, slender or chunky, weighted or unweighted the pattern is simple to tie and versatile in its applications.


Fly Tying: Basic Pattern Progression (Woolly Worm to Woolly Bugger and more)

This post is about the beginner recognizing the pretty obvious progression of a pattern of tying, but also, a strong reminder that these basic patterns would and do take an enormous amount of freshwater fish. We often hasten our tying experience toward more complicated patterns (hence they must be more worthy) and leave behind simple patterns, that are fish magnets. The above pattern is representative of such a pattern. It could be tied from a size 2 to a size 18 and take countless fish. Body and hackle colors could be mixed and matched. You will note that there is no tail. The Woolly Worm is often seen with a red tail of red hackle fibers/barbs or a tuft of red synthetic yarn. The red tail is traditional, but a more subtle color  could be used.

The below pattern is a thicker view of a Woolly Worm with the tail.


You notice the fly is thicker with the chenille body and the prominent red tag tail of yarn. The tail is theorized to be an attractor. The body of this Woolly Worm is similar to that seen in recent years for the fly shop Woolly Bugger…

Woolly Bugger SwittersB

The late Ed Story of Missouri, tied the Crackleback pattern, akin to a miniature Woolly Worm, which he fished top to bottom and touted as his primary fly via his Feather Craft enterprise.

Crackleback ~ Byron Haugh (Tier) Han Weilenmann (Photography)

I hope you can see the simplistic beauty of this basic tying premise and not hasten away from it. Large and small, top to bottom, the basic bones of these patterns must not disappear from your fly box. A basic technique in all of them is palmering the hackle, usually rear to front. The hackle is tied in by the tip and wound forward, incrementally spaced out, over the abdomen/thorax area and tied off at the head. How you tie the hackle onto the shank determines whether the hackles angle forward or as most often backwards. Above in the Crackleback, the feather was tied in with the underside of the hackle facing forward; this caused the hackle barbs to angle forward. Usually the feather is tied in with the top or shiny side of the hackle facing forward; causing the hackle barbs to angle backwards. All of these patterns will be affected by the degree of stiffness in the hackle used.


Woolly Worm’s Resurrection

Woolly Worm

Woolly Worm

Do you recall a time of no fly shops, or at least not many? You would walk into a hardware store, that decided to carry fishing supplies. Mostly spinning gear and trolling rigs, Pautzke’s Eggs, sinkers and snelled hooks were on the wall. An assortment of pliers, a refrigerator with worms, and gizmo’s to hook your catch onto before headed home for the fish fry. Also, there was a very small spot at the end of a counter made of  plastic or wood that had twelve small bins, with half empty. In the used portions were flies. Big Royal Coachman; a yellow body leadwing coachman, some other effort at a dry fly, and eventually you would eye the Woolly Worm…usually a yellow chenille body, a palmered grizzly or light dun hackle and the bright red tail. That bright red tail was the attractor more often than not for the fingers plucking the fly from the bin and the trout or perch grabbing the fly tethered to a gawdawful heavy line.

Over time, fly shops grew into prominence and the fly fisher did not enter the True Value store anymore unless looking for mantels for the lantern or Coleman Fuel. And, without noticing, the Woolly Worm gave way to the ubiquitous Woolly Bugger. The undulating Marabou tail out performed  the glowing red hackle fibered or yarn tail. Well, there is no doubt the Woolly Worm in all its variations is one awesome fly. However, I am intending to start an exploratory endeavor this next year with the Woolly Worm. Yes, I will have the yellow body and red tail for old time’s sake. But, I am going to use some of the newer sparkle chenilles and a few dubbed bodies. I am going to experiment with different colored tail colors, using some of the hot colored steelhead feathers. Sans marabou, it will be the same as a Woolly Bugger, but I want to pay homage to that clunky size 10 fly from the hardware store and let it push the leech pattern aside for a bit and see if it can suggest the dragon, damsel, hellgramite and cased caddis.  


  Woolly Worm Model

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