Woolly Worm (imitation)

Woolly Worm
Artificial fly

Yellow and Grizzly Woolly Worm tied in its classic form
Type Wet fly, nymph
Imitates large aquatic nymphs of stoneflies, dragonflies, damselflies or hellgrammites
Creator Unknown, popularized by Don Martinez (1950s)
Created 1920s
Variations Tied with various body, tail and hackle colors, weighted and unweighted
Typical sizes 6-12
Thread Black 6/0
Tail Short red yarn
Body Chenille in black, yellow or green
Ribbing Gold wire (optional)
Hackle Grizzly neck or saddle
Head Black thread
Primary use Trout, Bass, Panfish
Pattern references Woolly Wisdom (2005), Soucie[1]

The Woolly Worm is an artificial fly commonly categorized as a wet fly or nymph and is fished under the water surface. It is a popular pattern for freshwater game fish and was a very popular fly in the 1950s1970s in the west. Charles Brooks in Nymph Fishing for Larger Trout recommends the Woolly Worm as a general purpose nymph pattern in most western trout waters in any fly box. Woolly Worms are typically fished in streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes for trout, bass, and panfish. Today, Woolly Worms are tied in a variety of styles and colors to imitate a large aquatic nymphs such as stoneflies, dragonflies, damselflies or hellgrammites.


The original Woolly Worm pattern is said to have originated in the Ozarks as a bass fly. Its real popularity however came when Don Martinez, a West Yellowstone, Montana fly tier commercialized the pattern in the 1950s.[1]


The Woolly Worm, depending the specific material used and how it is fished can be assumed to resemble large nymphs, more specifically stoneflies, dragonflies, damselflies, riffle beetle larvae or hellgrammites.[1][2][3][4]


The original Woolly Worm fly was constructed without a tail, but the contemporary pattern has a yarn tail or hackle fiber tail. The body is a chenille or fur body with a hackle palmered from the tail to the head of the fly. The underbody may be weighted with lead wire. The popular colors are yellow, olives, browns, blacks. The most common hackle used is grizzly.

Variations and Sizes

Woolly Worm flies are typically tied on number 4 to 10 3X long hooks. Variations include Woolly Worms weighted with lead underbodies or brass or tungsten beads.

Woolly Worm Gallery
Black and Brown Beadhead Woolly Worm 
Black Woolly Worm with a red hackle tail 
Grizzly and Olive Woolly Worm 


Soucie, Gary (2006). Woolly Wisdom. Portland, Oregon: Frank Amato Publications. ISBN 1-57188-352-5. 


  1. 1 2 3 Soucie, Gary (2006). Woolly Wisdom. Portland, Oregon: Frank Amato Publications. pp. 10–11. ISBN 1-57188-352-5.
  2. Cordes, Ron; Kaufmann, Randall (1984). Lake Fishing With A Fly. Portland, Oregon: Frank Amato Publications. pp. 92–93. ISBN 0936608269.
  3. Stewart, Dick; Allen, Farrow (1992). Flies for Bass and Panfish. Inervale, NH: Northland Press Inc. p. 58. ISBN 0-936644-10-9.
  4. Murray, Harry (1989). Fly Fishing For Smallmouth Bass. New York: Nick Lyons Books. pp. 141, 155, 160. ISBN 0-941130-85-1.
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