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Black Woolly Worm
Tied and Photographed by Peter Frailey, text by Gary Soucie

Like the basic black dress, the Black Woolly Worm is at home almost anywhere and is rarely a bad choice. (Just as chic women accessorize their "little black dresses" with colorful scarves, fancy belts, single-rope pearl necklaces, or gem-studded pins, so do fashion conscious fly tiers dress up their basic Black Woolly Worms with red tails, silver ribs, shiny bead heads, or other fish-attracting fillips.)

Materials List: Black Woolly Worm

    Hook: 2X- or 3X-long, standard to 2X-heavy wet-fly, sizes 2 to 16, say (6 to 1 2 being the sizes most often cited).

    Thread: Black, in a size appropriate to the hook: 8/0 for sizes smaller than 16, say, 3/0 for a size 4 or larger, 6/0 for most sizes.

    Tail: Red or grizzly hackle fibers or point(s), a quill slip, or a short tuft of red yarn; some tiers consider the tail optional in a standard Woolly Worm2

    Body: Black chenille—fine, medium, or large, to suit the hook.

    Hackle: Long grizzly hen hackle—neck or saddle, your choice — palmered the length of the body, with the dull underside of the feather facing forward and the barbs angled forward.

    Head: Tying thread, tied fairly large; cement, varnish, lacquer, fingernail polish, or other protective coating is optional.

Tying Instructions: Black Woolly Worm

    In the photo sequence that follows, the body color has been changed to make the tying steps more easily visible.

    1. Tie on behind the eye of the hook and lay the tail material—if used—along the top of the shank and wrap the thread down to the bend, binding the tail material to the shank to form a smooth underbody.

    2. Strip one end of the chenille by pinching and pulling the fuzzy stuff away with the nails of your thumb and forefinger, exposing about 1/4 inch of the string core.

    3. Tie in the stripped end of the chenille at the bend, with the rest of the chenille hanging back behind the rear of the hook.

    4. Prepare the hackle feather by stroking most of the barbs perpendicular to the hackle's center stem, then trim the feather square at its tip, leaving a small triangle.

    5. Trap the aft-facing hackle feather (its dull, concave side facing up) by its triangular tip to the top of the hook at the rear of the shank, just ahead of the tied-in body material. Wrap the thread back up the shank in neat, close spirals, forming a thread base that will keep materials from slipping around on the slippery steel shank.

    6. Holding the hackle up and out of the way, take one wrap of chenille behind the hackle.

    7. Wrap the chenille forward in close spirals, each abutting the preceding wrap without overlapping it. Just behind the eye, tie off the chenille and clip the excess. Be sure to leave enough room between the chenille and the hook eye to tie off the hackle and build a head in step 8.

    8. Wind the hackle forward in evenly spaced, close, open spirals. Wrap with the shiny, convex side of the feather toward the rear, if you want most of the hackle barbs to angle forward. (Seven turns are traditional, but Charlie Brooks liked to use just five turns for a sparser look. When in doubt, opt for the fewer number of turns.) When you reach the front of the body, secure the hackle with three or four tight wraps, and clip the excess feather. It's a good idea to anchor the hackle with a half hitch or two before clipping the excess. Build a neat, smooth, rather large head (larger than for most trout flies) with the tying thread. Whip-finish or use three half hitches. Clip the excess thread and - if you wish, it's not altogether necessary - apply a drop of head cement ("lacquer") to the thread. Once the head cement has dried, go out and catch a fish! ~ Peter Frailey

Credits: Excerpt from Woolly Wisdom, By Gary Soucie, published by Frank Amato Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 82112, Portland Oregon 97282; Phone: 503-653-8108

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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