Skip's Woolly Wing Wonder

Skip's Woolly Wing Wonder
The Woolly Wing (in several variations) imitates stoneflies and caddis adults. Its wool wing remains highly buoyant even after several fish have slimed it. Carol Ann Morris Photo

More to wool than scratchy sweaters and subsurface sculpins

TYING STEPS (CLICK HERE)

It's natural to assume that wool is absorbent. As a tying material, it's virtually always used for subsurface sculpin imitations. The kinky wool, bound around a hook shank in bunches, flares out so that when trimmed it simulates a sculpin's broad head. And it looks and performs well in this capacity, too.

So assuming that wool is absorbent is quite reasonablebut it's wrong. Wool is, in fact, stubbornly buoyant. Just because you can make something sink doesn't mean it wants to. Wool and yarn strike indicators, for instance, float exceedingly well with a dab of silicone floatant.

I learned how buoyant wool can be about 25 years ago, when I tied a bass streamer with a tightly packed wool body and couldn't get the thing to sink after 20 minutes of splatting it onto the water, and squeezing the air out of it underwater. It was supposed to sink. Don't ask me why I blew off this revelation for a couple of decades. I guess I just didn't think it through.

I finally did get around to experimenting with wool's buoyancy, though, and eventually came up with the Woolly Wing, which some of my friends also call the Woolly Wonder. I use it to imitate caddis and stonefly adults, varying the size of the hook and the colors to match the naturals hatching on the water.


From a trout's view, caddis and stonefly adults look similar. Both species have stout bodies and distinct profiles on the water, wings that come together over the back and show along the edges and past the rear of the abdomen, and six legs radiating out from the sides of the thorax. Eyeing their prey from below, trout can't see that stonefly wings lie flat while caddis wings cup over the body. And stonefly tails (which caddis don't have) are wisps of minor consequence.


Underwater Windows


I use a Woolly Wing during caddis (#12-18) and stonefly activity (#6-10) on my home waters such as Washington's Yakima River. After catching a lot of trout, the fly just keeps on floating.

The Woolly Wing's plump body, and the way it presses down into the underwater world of the troutwhere they can see it coming from far offoffers an advantage over big, high-standing dry flies like the Improved Sofa Pillow. Although larger, these flies often have a smaller footprint, and may drift by unnoticed and untouched.


I have created a series of variations to imitate specific insects, but I never hesitate to simply fish a Woolly Wing as a stout, attractor dry fly or as a buoyant lead fly for a dry/dropper rig. I've had excellent fishing with big (#4-6) Woolly Wings when no adult insects of any kind were around, perhaps because the trout mistook it for a grasshopper or other terrestrial.

The wool I useand I can't say I've noticed any significant difference in the looks or the buoyancy from one brand to the nextis marketed as Sculpin Wool or Lamb's Wool from Wapsi, Hareline Dubbin, and others. I prefer fairly thick, coarse wool for my Woolly Wing.


Skip Morris is the author of ten books on fly fishing and tying. His latest is Trout Flies for Rivers (Stackpole Books, 2009).

TYING STEPS (CLICK HERE)

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Bass

How to Catch Smallmouth Bass on Topwater Flies

Dave Karczynski and Tim Landwehr

Modern methods for catching smallmouths on topwater flies.

Fly Tying

Fly Tying Chip's Monster Magic Fly

Dwayne 'Chip' Cromarty - January 15, 2016

Chip's Monster Magic. Designed in Saskatchewan's pike paradise - works anywhere.

Industry

Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat

Fly Fisherman Online Staff - June 27, 2019

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Bank Sipper

Jim McLennan catches a big Red Deer River brown trout rising in 10 inches of water.

Anti-Invasive Species Boots

Editor Ross Purnell joins K.C. Walsh of Simms to talk about a new rubber compound material that was specially designed to outperform and replace the use of felt boots in effort to combat the spread of invasive species.

Basic Fly Casting

When learning to fly fish, casting is the first thing to master. Lean what to do, and not do, to successfully make a short fly cast.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

United States

American River California

MIchael Wier - March 23, 2017

American River California

Worldwide

5 Best Trout Fishing Spots in the World

Ross Purnell, Editor

Fly-Fisherman Editor Ross Purnell shares his top five best trout fishing destinations in the...

Flies

The 15 Best Carp Flies

Jay Zimmerman - September 27, 2016

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are are eating to select the best carp...

See More Stories

More Fly Tying

Fly Tying

The Mother of all Stoneflies

Charlie Craven - August 12, 2016

Learn to tie "The Mother of all Stoneflies" here

Fly Tying

Tying the Predator Scandi

Charlie Craven - February 22, 2018

Here's the step-by-step process on how to tie the Predator Scandi fly.

Fly Tying

Zonker Fly

Charlie Craven - January 22, 2016

Fly Tying the Zonker Fly step-by-steps and video.

See More Fly Tying

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×