Adventures in Fly Tying... July 2006
The Crackleback Wooly Worm
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Photography and Video Production by Jim Stuard
Click for larger image.
lure collectors will recognize the word "crackleback" because of its use
in conjunction with the color patterns of many of the classic Dowagiac
artificials. Some fly fishers may recognize the Crackleback as a
popular dry fly pattern, attributed to Ed Story of Feathercraft fly shop
in St. Louis. I believe I first saw this name associated with this
pattern in a book by Dave Whitlock. One thing is certain, I've had
this pattern as a regular citizen of my fly box for at least twenty-five
years. As a boy growing up in Massachusetts a wooly worm in
yellow or green with a peacock herl back was de rigueur for sunfish and
times when this fly is a magic elixir for bluegill. From the
moment the water temperatures reach seventy-degrees until the humid days
of late July this is my most productive subsurface pattern for panfish.
Through August and into early September I have my best luck on the
deep-holding gills using classic northwest-style chironomid
presentations. For the first three months of the season this is
the "go to" fly for me, though.
I prefer a
heavy wire hook over lead weighting with this fly. This includes
using bead-heads. A slow sink rate helps this fly work its magic.
I always tie the Crackleback with an oversize dry-fly quality hackle.
The large barbs help keep the fly weedless and the stiff nature of the
hackle pushes a good wake in the water. It's my opinion that this
combination of sonic presence and high contrast that makes the
Crackleback easier for predators to find. For an even more
effective presentation, fish this fly behind the smallest silver
Hildebrandt in-line spinner and hold on! The combination makes
a great trolling pattern, too!
Hook Mustad C53S, size 6 to 12
Thread Black or yellow 6/0, 140 denier
Tail red or claret hackle fibers - also try
Body Yellow, primrose, ginger or cream dubbing or
Peacock herl, four to six depending on the size of the fly
Ribbing Small copper wire, for a lighter fly
use black size A thread
Hackle dry fly quality neck or saddle,
grizzly or barred ginger
1. Mount the
hook in the vice and attache the tying thread. Wrap a smooth
underbody to the point where the tail will be tied in, then wrap
back to the midpoint. Tie in the tail material and wrap back
to the bend. with this fly I like to stagger the tie-in points
to get a curved back appearance.
2. Tie in a
length of small copper wire to be used as a rib.
3. Select a neck or
saddle hackle. Try to find a quality hackle with barbs about
1.5 times the hook gape at the widest point. Tie the hackle
feather in by the tip and stroke the barbs back from the hackle
4. Tie on four to six
peacock herls, depending on the size of the fly you are tying.
Tie the herls on in front of the other materials, continuing to
build a humped back underbody. Wrap back to the tail tie-in
5. Dub a thick body.
You can use carded wool, rabbit or squirrel. Small
chenille or wool yarn works very well also. Pull over the peacock
herls, but don't pull them tight. Leave a bit of play in the
herls so they don't snap when they get wet.
6. Palmer the hackle
forward in six or seven wraps. Some tiers prefer to make the wraps
denser at the head/thorax of the fly rather than making them equally
spaced. Experiment and see what works for you!
7. Counter-wrap the copper wire to
re-enforce the peacock and hackle quills. Break off the copper
wire after tying it down at the head to get a good, smooth finish.
8. Wrap a thread head, whip finish and
cement. The Crackleback is ready to fish!