Fishing the squirmy wormy fly

Love it or hate it, the squirmy wormy fly pattern is a proven fish catcher on stillwater trout fisheries. It works for grayling too! Here are some tips on fishing the squirmy wormy fly and three easy squirmy wormy patterns to tie.

Fishing the squirmy wormy fly
© HM Fly Fishing
Fishing the squirmy wormy fly
Picture copyright © HM Fly Fishing
Fishing the squirmy wormy fly
Fly fishing tips Estimated reading time 5 - 8 minutes

What is a squirmy wormy?

The squirmy wormy is a fly pattern that originated in the USA and is based on a relatively new material consisting of an incredibly stretchy rubbery substance.

The material is thick, weighty, available in a wide range of colours and wiggles extremely enticingly. You'll struggle to find a worm imitation anywhere near as lifelike or effective as the squirmy.

Some people think it crosses the line between fly and lure, but it's really just a clinically obese Apps bloodworm. On the right day, it's a really effective pattern to try. 

How do you fish the squirmy wormy?

The squirmy wormy was originally used on rivers in the US for brown and rainbow trout. It's just as deadly over here, and it's said to be an extremely effective pattern for river grayling, especially in pink and red, whether the water is coloured or clear. It's great for bigger perch and roach too. 

Cast it upstream and retrieve the line as the worm trundles back towards you in the current and you'll probably hook up sooner or later. In rivers, I find it works best with a bead to help the material sink a bit better, which also seems to improve the action slightly.

In stillwaters the squirmy can be fished like a lure - cast it out, let it sink to the bottom and pull it back in small twitches to get the legs moving.

Alternatively you can, perish the thought, fish it beneath a bung. Under the bung you can either leave it bobbing around in the wind or retrieve it with jerky twitches.

It's a good pattern for chucking into the margins and under trees and has accounted for a number of good fish for George and I, including some stunning browns and rainbows to near double figures. 

Are they resilient?

Nope. Not only do trout often rip the ends off, but squirmies can also disintegrate during casting, so don't be too vigorous when you cast and be prepared to end up with a box of paraplegic worms at the end of your trip.

Are they easy to tie?

The squirmy wormy isn't a complicated pattern to tie, but the squirmy wormy material isn't the friendliest of materials to attach to a hook.

Firstly, you'll need an extra pair of hands as it's hard to control while attaching it to the hook. After attaching the material, I usually get a little helper to hold the worm body out of the way while I lay down thread wraps to hold it all in place. You could use a materials clip instead, though.

Secondly, you need to take care when tying the material in because thread, especially thin thread, can cut through it like wire through a cheese. Some people favour flattening the silk or even using floss or thick wire to hold it in place without cutting through the worm body.

Keep varnish and superglue well away from squirmy wormy body material as they can melt it.

Should I have a tail at either end?

My most successful squirmy wormy pattern has a tail at each end (at the beginning of the session, at least). The length of the tail needs to be reasonably long otherwise the worm won't wiggle quite so well. Too short and there won't be enough weight to get the tail wiggling.

Some of the commercially tied squirmy wormies only use a tail at one end. I'm sure they'd work equally well, but the full length worm versions seem to give me more confidence.

Should I use a bead?

I think the squirmy wormy sinks too slowly without a bead. The material can be on the buoyant side, so the presence of a bead half way along the body can help get the fly to the right depth faster.

There's a cunning trick to attaching the bead when you tie a squirmy wormy. First, you slide on your bead, then attach a length of worm body to the eye end of the hook.

Once that's in place, slide the bead up to the worm body then tie in the second length of worm body below the bead.

There will be a gap that you'll want to cover up - so we generally dub this with Hends UV Ice Dubbing in a matching colour.

What colour works best?

Dark chocolate brown, or earthworm brown as it's known, has been by far the most effective colour - probably because it's matching the hatch, so to speak. However, red and pink work well too.

However, it may not be the colour that matters, since George tied some squirmy wormies in glow in the dark blue which caught several big rainbows during the summer months! His technique was to use an indicator, suspend the worm 30cm beneath and flick it under some bushes. Often it only took a couple of twitches to get a pull.

Three squirmy wormy patterns to tie

Hywel Morgan's Pink squirmy wormy fly

Hywel Morgan's version just uses squirmy wormy body material and matching pink thread so it's a really quick and easy pattern to tie, which is just as well given the lack of resilience.

Dave Downie's squirmy wormy fly

Dave Downie ties his squirmy wormy almost exactly the same as me. He uses the same approach to tying, placing the head end on first, attaching the bead, then the tail and then dubbing the body in a matching colour.

Tactical Fly Fisher's squirmy wormy fly

This version from Tactical Fly Fisher is a kind of cross between Hywel's and Dave's. It uses a bead but uses wraps of worm body material instead of dubbing. Slightly different, but still dead easy to tie.

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