Welcome to Beginning Fly Tying

Part Nineteen

Royal Wulff

An Introduction to Fly Tying:

Royal Wulff

By Al Campbell

I doubt Lee Wulff knew how popular his Wulff series of flies would become when he tied his first one. I'd bet his thoughts were focused on a fly that would float like a cork in fast water, rather than popularity or fame.

The Wulff series of flies definitely float well in fast water. They are all popular, but none is as popular as the Royal Wulff. In fact, I would label the Royal Wulff as one of the most popular fast water flies of all time, and rightfully so. This fly catches fish in fast water when other flies are ignored.

Another feature that adds to the popularity of the Royal Wulff is the white wings that are easy for fishermen to see when other flies would disappear in the flow. As age starts to creep up on you, you appreciate any fly that's easy to see. Heck, I was grateful for visible flies even when I was in my teens. I'm just more grateful for them now than I was back then.

If you want a fly that will catch fishermen, create a pretty fly. The Royal Wulff is a pretty fly. If that pretty fly catches a lot of fish, it will be a big hit. The Royal Wulff catches a lot of fish, so it's a big hit. However, the Royal Wulff doesn't catch more fish than the other Wulff patterns, but because it is pretty, it catches a lot more fishermen. That makes this one very popular fly.

As we learn how to tie the Royal Wulff, we will venture into the world of hair wings. Hair wings are the most durable wings you can put on a fly. They are a little more difficult to tie than the post wings you use in a thorax fly, but not too difficult to master. If you are tying for yourself, you can use a post wing rather than splitting the wings, but it's always nice to learn how to do it right.

One of the secrets to a nice looking hair wing is using fairly straight hair. Many hair wings are tied from calf tails. If you are selecting a calf tail for wing material, look carefully to choose the one with the straightest hair. Many calf tails have curly hair that doesn't work too well as wing material. A better source for white hair that's easier to use than calf tail is calf body hair. This hair is fairly straight, but has the same qualities as calf tail hair when you use it for wings.

Calf Hair

If you can find a source for white goat body hair, you will have the straightest hair of all for wings. So far I haven't found many steady sources for white goat hair, although. Hunter's Angling Supplies does offer kid goat in white and assorted colors. They are also a source for Anglers Choice products (a sponsor for this series). If you contact them, mention that you learned about them here.

The traditional Royal Wulff pattern includes red floss as part of the body. I've found Anglers Choice Super Floss to be far superior to regular four strand floss. This super floss stretches and won't fray like regular floss will. It's also color fast and won't bleed or fade in your fly box. I always substitute super floss whenever I can because of its superior qualities.

Super Floss

This is another "western" pattern that uses a fairly heavy hackle. It's important to use high quality hackle if you want a fly that floats right. When possible, saddle hackle is preferred to neck hackle for western flies, but sometimes size dictates that you use a neck hackle. Any hackle you use should be of the best quality you can afford.

List of materials: Royal Wulff

  • Hook: Standard dry fly; Mustad 94840, Tiemco 100, Eagle Claw L059, Daiichi 1180. Size 10 - 22.

    Mustad 94840

  • Thread: 6/0 to 10/0 Gudebrod or equivalent, color to match body or black.

  • Body: Angler's Choice red super floss and peacock herl.

  • Tail: Moose body hair.

  • Wing: White calf tail, calf body hair, goat hair or synthetic hair.

  • Hackle: Quality brown neck or saddle hackle, webby parts removed and 1/16" of the remaining stem stripped of barbules.

    Tying steps:

  • 1. Create a moose body hair tail like you did last week when tying the Adams.

  • 2. Select a fairly large bunch of white hair and comb out the short hairs and fuzz. When you only have long hairs left, drop them tip first in a hair stacker and even the tips of the hair. Then measure the wing for length (a little more than 1 1/2 times the hook gap) and tie down with a few loose wraps of thread.

  • 3. Gently pull the wing back and wrap the thread tightly in front of the base of the wing.

  • 4. Continue wrapping the thread in front of the wing until it stands upright. A single wrap of thread around the base of the wing will keep it bunched together. Trim the extra hair extending over the back of the fly and tie it down.

  • 5. Split the hair wing evenly and make about six "figure 8" wraps of thread through the middle of the wing. Figure 8 wraps are made by wrapping the thread first forward through the wing, then around the hook, then back through the wing.

  • 6. If you keep the thread tension even, they will separate the wing into two fuzzy wings.

  • 7. Make several gentle wraps of thread around the base of each wing to define the wings. You don't need a killer grip with the wraps, in fact, if the thread pops off the wing, you're using too much thread tension. Once you have the wings separated and defined properly, position them back on top of the hook by hand, and apply a drop of head cement to the base of the wings to secure them in place.

  • 8. Select two or three strands of peacock herl and tie them to the hook.

  • 9. Wrap the herl to form a clump of herl just in front of the tail then tie the herl down to the hook. Don't trim the herl yet, just tie it down to the hook.

  • 10. Tie in a single strand of red super floss.

  • 11. Wrap a short thick body of super floss in front of the peacock herl. Tie off and trim the floss.

  • 12. Wrap another clump of herl in front of the floss, keeping it about the same size and thickness as the first clump of herl. Tie off the herl and trim.

  • 13. Tie in a prepared brown hackle in front of the herl and behind the wing.

  • 14. Wrap the hackle forward to form a thick, even hackle on your fly. Tie off and trim.

  • 15. Create an even head, whip finish and cement. Your finished fly should look like this.

    Finished Royal Wulff

  • 16. This is a front view of the fly showing the visible separations of the wings. Notice how the wings are the same length as the hackle? This is the right length for the wings, although some tyers make the wings a little longer than the hackle.

    Front View

    Hair wings take a bit of practice to get them exactly right. Spend some quality time perfecting your hair wings by tying a few dozen Royal Wulffs this week. Your time won't be wasted. If you're like me, you'll probably lose half of them to a tree anyway. Just be sure to lose the ones that don't look as good as the others.

    If they don't look exactly perfect (your goal) the fish won't mind. If the proportions are so out of balance that the fly tips over on its eye or wing, the fish will mind, so work on proportions and balance.

    See ya next week. ~ Al Campbell

    Be sure to read Al's Product Review on Mustad Hooks in Product Review!

    Beginning Fly Tying Archives

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