Effective Flies

Craig ties the Squirmy Worm.

For some time, I’ve been unsure about featuring this fly. Throughout flyfishing history, there’s been debate about the appropriateness of different techniques and flies. Patterns such as the Alexander, Butcher, Glo Bug, Blob, Booby and Chernobyl Ant have all been considered inappropriate by some anglers at some time. Even today, there are beats on the River Test which only permit upstream dry fly fishing.

For many anglers, the connection to the history and customs of our sport brings great pleasure. Interestingly, many non-trout flyfishers seem to embrace new techniques and materials quicker. The Crease, Gummy Minnow and various foam bugs immediately come to mind.

As many readers would be aware, I’m heavily involved in competition flyfishing and this has a significant influence on the flies and techniques I use. Competition anglers are constantly looking for new materials and flies which can give them an edge. In competition, there is little room for sentimentality in fly selection. Results guide the successful angler’s fly choices. Add to this the other criteria I apply to selecting flies for this column – they’re functional and not overly complicated – and I decided I had to feature the Squirmy.

At the end of last season, I was fishing with my regular fishing buddy Jim and his son Simon, on the Goulburn River near Thornton. The Goulburn had been fishing well, however crowds of anglers spin fishing and walking all over the river were causing the angling experience to be less than enjoyable. The lack of consideration some anglers were showing to others, was disappointing. We decided to move to the Rubicon River even though the fishing reports hadn’t been good and the river was running high and discoloured. At least we would have more river to ourselves. On inspection, the river looked perfect for the Squirmy Worm: flowing hard with visibility down to about 30cm. Over the next hour and a half, I caught seven trout – browns and rainbows – up to 2½lb, all within 20 metres of the main road bridge. I gave a Squirmy to Simon and he was also successful on another stretch nearby.

The main downside to the Squirmy is I don’t find it a particularly enjoyable fly to tie. The material is difficult to manipulate and takes a little getting used to. It does not respond well to being tied down firmly and at times seems to have a mind of its own. Nevertheless, this is a fly you should have in your box.

Fishing Tips
As our rivers open this spring, many will be running high and discoloured: perfect conditions to fish the Squirmy. I tie them with 3.5 and 4mm beads, which I select to match the speed of water and depth.

I prefer to fish the Squirmy on the point, French-nymph style, combined with a bright-tagged nymph on the dropper. The Squirmy can also be fished under a large, buoyant dry fly; or used unweighted to fish for tailers in flooded river backwaters and lake margins.

And don’t assume the Squirmy is only suitable for dirty water. I’ve caught many fish in clear water, working the fly through deep runs and even swinging it across riffles.

Hook – Hanak H 450 BL Jig hook size 14.
Thread – Pink 6/0
Bead – 4 or 3.5mm metallic pink slotted tungsten. (Colour to match the colour of Squirmy Worm.)
Tail and body – Pink Squirmy Worm.*
Collar – Pink No 19 Hends MicroFlash dubbing. (Colour to match Squirmy Worm.)

(*The Squirmy material is available in a wide range of colours which all work. However, pink is my favourite, followed by orange.)

Tying Technique
1. Thread the tungsten bead on to the jig hook and lash on thread. Wax your thread and tightly dub on some dubbing. The addition of dubbing at this stage thickens the thread, preventing it from cutting through the Squirmy material.
2. Start tying in the Squirmy material with firm wraps, not too tight. Begin at the bead and work down to the bend of the hook, then return to the bead again. Allow 25mm of Squirmy for a tail and have the remaining Squirmy material extending out over the front of the hook.
3. Firmly, not tightly, wind the Squirmy material from the front to the rear of the hook shank and return to the front of the hook, just behind the bead. Endeavor to get a smooth body, with the tail sticking straight out from the hook shank, not wrapping around the hook. This will require practice.
4. Whip in and cut off the Squirmy material.
5. Then put in a small, tightly-dubbed collar of MicroFlash dubbing behind the bead to finish the fly.

There are many different methods of tying the Squirmy worm and I would encourage you to experiment with them. I know the Squirmy will offend some traditionalists. Mine are relegated to their own small box: this way they cause less offence than might occur if stored beside traditional Hares Ears or PTNs! However, I can guarantee the Squirmy Worms will get plenty of successful swims this season, especially if the rivers are running high and coloured.