Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fly Tying Series #2 - Woolie Worm

This is installment number 2 of the fly tying series.  My goal is to bring a new fly each week through the winter.  Remember, the flies I tie are intended to be chewed upon by fish, drug through lakes and streams and sometimes hung in trees.  They are not intended to be seen in a shadow box or in a person's pretty fly collection.

This week's fly is the woolie worm.  There are about as many variations of this fly as there are people who fish it.  My woolie worms are fairly traditional in appearance, if not materials.

This fly can be tied weighted or unweighted.  Weight can be a bead head, chain eyes, lead wrap, pretty much anything that adds weight to the hook to get it deeper.  I fish this fly unweighted a lot and find the SLOW sink rate is irresistible to bluegill.

While I've caught crappie, bass, bluegill, a couple large brown trout and a chub or two, I see this as primarily a bluegill fly.  I've probably caught 20 bluegill to one of any other type of fish I've ever brought to hand with this fly.

I like it unweighted.  Cast to likely cover for bluegill - edges of moss banks, edges of weed beds, around boat docks, brush stick ups, or any other structure that will hold bluegill.  If the water is less than 5-6' deep,  I like to fish the unweighted version.  I just let the fly sink for 10 seconds or so and then bring it back using a very (did I mention VERY) slow retrieve.  If you don't get a strike in the first, oh, I don't know, let's say 10 feet of retrieve, bring it back and cast again..

The overwhelming majority of my strikes on this fly happen while it's sinking or within the first couple feet of the retrieve.

I don't think this fly really looks like anything specific they eat, but it kind of resembles a lot of things they eat.  It may look like a caterpillar, it may look like a leach, it may just be so darn ugly they want to get it out of the water.  Whatever the reason, there are some days the bluegill seem to fight among themselves to be the first in line to eat this fly.  Then there are other days when it does not work.

I frequently use this fly as an exploring pattern.  If I'm just poking around looking for where the fish are holding, this fly is one of the "go to" patterns.  Also, if I'm just in the mood for not working too hard and taking it easy.  Because this fly is fished so slowly, there's not a lot of casting or frantic activity involved.

The next time you have a warm sunny evening, a pond with a bunch of hungry bluegill and an hour or two on your hands, give this fly a try.  I think you'll be glad you did.

Streamer / wet fly hook size 6 -10
Thread - your choice for color, I usually use black.
Tail: red yarn (can be formed in a loop or just a length of yarn)
Body: Yarn or Chenille in your choice of colors
Hackle: I usually use a hen neck hackle, but pheasant, grouse, partridge, any soft hackle will work.
Weight - Optional, lead wire (or lead free wife), bead head, chain eyes, etc.

After a good thread base, tie in a short loop of red yarn. (this is optional, but I kind of like the little red tail).

Next, tie in your body and hackle.  In this case, I'm using a yellowish brown yarn.  It's the same color I use for under bodies of hopper patterns.  I tie the hen hackle in by the tips about even with the hook barb. (Tip, if you mash the barbs down, there is enough of a bump to help hold the fish but it still comes out easily and it will come out of you much easier when you snag your ear or back of your neck).

After tying in the body and hackle material, take your thread back up to a point just behind the hook eye. 

Quick Tip: when taking the thread back up to the hook eye, be careful not to crowd the eye.  You're going to be tying off the body and hackle up there and finishing everything off.  You don't want the finished materials blocking off the hook eye.

I didn't take pictures of the steps of wrapping the yarn up the hook shank because there's nothing really special there.  Just wrap it up with touching turns.  You can double it up if you want a thicker body, but with the hackle, it's not really needed.

Tie it off with 3 or 4 good tight wraps.

Next, palmer (fancy word for wrap) the hackle up the body.  Take a look at the next photo.  I don't wrap them too close or too far apart.  It's a "feel" thing but if you look at the photo, you'll see how I do it.

Tie everything off with a few more wraps, whip finish and if you wish, put a couple drops of head cement, let dry and go fishing.  This fly will catch fish.

Next are a couple photos of one with a few lead wire wraps for weight and tied with chenille instead of yarn, just to show a variation.

The next installment is going to be the soft hackle worm.  I'm sure there is some official name for this fly and there's probably some guy in a fishing Mecca that invented it.  I'm not claiming any originality for this fly but  the soft hackle chenille worm does catch fish.

I'll get it up on the bog sometime next week.  Thanks for looking and if anyone has suggestions for flies you'd like to see, drop off a comment.  If it's within my skills or I can find a decent pattern, I'll give it a try.

Here's a photo of the finished product:

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