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Flies That Are Dressed for Success

by Joe Cornwall


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The Woolly Worm is often lost in the shadow of the relative new-comer, the Woolly Bugger.  The latter first came to light during the Summer of Love in the waters of Pennsylvania.  But the former, its been around.  Flies which looked surprisingly like the Woolly Worm of today were described in The Complete Angler in 1676.  If you take the basic form of a palmered feather spiral-wrapped along a tubular body then you see that many, and maybe most, of our best patterns are related.  They are all the same idea but some are dressed for success.


Gary Soucie tackled a much larger topic than I first thought.  My initial reaction was curiosity; how could anyone possibly find enough worthwhile material to fill a book about Wooly Worms and Woolly Buggers?  In Woolly Wisdom (ISBN 1-57188-351-7) Soucie has managed this formidable task.  Really what he has done is to look at this sport through new lenses; looking at a family of fly styles and their relationship to the sport rather than at a segment that starts with the fish.  Horizontal versus vertical, if you wish. 


The subtitle How to Tie and Fish Woolly Worms, Woolly Buggers, and Their Fish-catching Kin describes the content accurately.  Soucie supplies outstanding step-by-step instruction, richly illustrated with photo sequences by Jim Schollmeyer and Peter Frailey.  Material, proportion, weight and tying tips are all explored.  A sense of historical perspective is carried through the work and the patterns roughly serve to mark the myriad forks in the road of fly pattern evolution.  From the Ashy of the nineteenth century to the Conehead Rubber Bugger minted just months ago, Soucie has managed to present with a lively spirit what in coarser hands might have become a dull slice of arcane trivia.  Reading this book will make you want to tie and fish the flies, and you wont have a shortage of inspiration!


There are 400 patterns pictured and described in this 232 page book.  Photo and print quality is superb.  The book is broken into roughly two halves, with a foreword by the ubiquitous Lefty Kreh.  Some of the patterns you may recognize, others will most certainly be new.  I found several patterns that will be in my fly boxes next spring.  A bass fisherman by nature, I was instantly smitten with the Max Von Dem Borne, for example.


The Max Von dem Borne is both the name of a person and the name of the fly.  Soucie writes [Von dem Borne is] the German author of the seminal books Illustrirtes Handbuch der Angelfischerei (Illustrated Handbook of Angling, 1875) and Teichweirtschaft (Pondkeeping, 1894), who was instrumental in introducing rainbow trout and both large- and smallmouth bass to Germany and other parts of Europe.  The contemporary popularity of bass fishing on both continents has its roots in the pioneering work of Von dem Borne and the American James A. Henshall.


This pattern looks every bit the part of the bass fly, and I expect the smallmouth bass will validate that opinion.  Soucie gives the pattern, as tied by R. G. Balogh, as this:


Hook Streamer or salmon/steelhead, sizes 4  to 12

Tag 1 Scarlet floss, tied in at the bend and extending toward the eye

Tag 2 Flat gold tinsel, tied in at the bend, atop the floss tie-in, extending rearward and wrapped first, over both tags tie-in wraps

Tail Golden pheasant crest, tied so that it curves upward, as in Atlantic salmon flies

Butt Peacock herl

Body In two sections; rear 2/3, yellow wool or dubbing; front 1/3, pink fur, dubbed and picked out

Rib Gold tinsel

Palmer hackle Yellow-dyed saddle


I see the tag as nothing more than an excuse to use a red hook and save a step.  Pink and yellow are both strong strike triggers, especially in the springtime.  With its bit of sparkle and sonic signature courtesy of the forward facing hackle, this is one fly that presents itself as a mouthful.  Ill bet is a fine attractor fly when the striped shiners are in their spawning colors!  I tied a few in a size 6.  They look too good to not perform.


At the other end of the spectrum Soucie gives us the Standing Yabby.  Says Soucie, I found this Richard Carter estuarine pattern on the Fishnet web site (www.fishnet.com.au).  I think it could, with perhaps a tweak here and there, stand in for shrimp, mole crabs, and other coastal crustaceans in our waters.  A woolly worm or woolly bugger is not the first pattern that comes to my mind when someone mentions salt water.  Certainly its not a pattern I think of as highly imitative.  I am wrong on both counts.  Perhaps the Woollies should be associated with sea trout as quickly as they are with brown trout.  After all, the Standing Yabby isnt the only ocean fly featured in Woolly Wisdom.  There are several more included that were created expressly for the salty environment.


I am enthusiastic about this book.  It is thoroughly researched, well written and packaged with a professional polish.  Id like to see more like it published.  The back cover of Woolly Wisdom mentions that Gary is researching and collecting patterns and flies for a new book on Muddler Minnows and other mostly Muddler flies.   Please put me on the waiting list for that one, too.  And in case the publisher is looking for more topic ideas, how about Blondes and Deceivers?

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