Thursday, June 17, 2010

In Praise of Walt’s Worm

The flies landed just upstream of the massive boulder in the middle of the river and the current pushed it to the inside edge of the boulder. The leader paused in its downstream drift, I raised the rod and the line went tight as the chunky brown trout rushed upstream with a Walt’s Worm stuck in his mouth.

There are few flies as easy to tie as the Walt’s Worm. Wrap some lead on a 2X nymph hook. Dub some rabbit’s fur and wind forward, adding bulk as you head to the hook eye. Its sheer simplicity should make it very popular, but in the wacky, upside down world of fly fishing (where big numbers equal small flies etc.) the easier the fly is to tie the more doubt it generates with the angler – particularly the fly-tying angler. If fly fishing could be that easy, the thinking goes, then why would we go through all of the frustration of blending 3 different kinds of dubbing to get just the right shade of olive on those BWOs? Or why tie a psycho nymph with six different elements and precision when wrapping some bland tan fur on a hook will do?

That fish would eat such a simple piece of fur reminds us that the elaborate lengths we fly fishers go to in pursuit of our passion – the breathable waders, the high-tech graphite fly rods, fluorocarbon tippets – isn’t always necessary. That fly fishing can be so darn complicated tells us more about the anglers, than the trout.

As Eric Stroup reminds us in his outstanding book Common-Sense Fly Fishing, we would all be well served to keep simplicity in mind as we wade into the stream. Eric notes that the creator of Walt’s Worm – Central PA angler Walt Young -- apologizes for its simplicity when he shows others how to tie the pattern. “I’m sorry folks, I wish I could make it more complicated than this.” Indeed, if he did it would be a bigger seller in fly shops across the Northeast.

I’ve read about Walt’s Worm for years now but generally scoffed at the notion that it could outfish a more elaborate nymph. But after reading Eric’s book and benefiting from several of his simple tips, I decided to tie up a few and add them to the box. After all, they’re so easy to tie that even I couldn’t screw them up.

After a day of meetings in Youngstown on Wednesday, I headed east to fish Neshannock Creek. The river water had warmed after several days in the low 80s, but steady rains kept the current flowing strong and the water cool in the deep runs. I had hooked a few rainbows in a run on a hare’s ear nymph, but the fishing was slow. Not wanting to add split shot, I decided to add a size 12 Walt’s Worm to add some extra weight to the rig before heading downstream to fish the giant boulder.

From Steel Pursuit

The brown trout hit on the first cast and in the next 30 minutes a half dozen trout – rainbows and browns – inhaled the Walt’s Worm while ignoring the fancier flies on the line. As it is with many things in life, simpler is better. And there are few flies simpler -- or more effective -- than Walt's Worm.

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