Tie the Flexi-Worm
Peter Gathercole ties a simple but deadly earlyseason stillwater pattern
AFLY’S action is often a major factor in its success, a fact well illustrated by patterns that incorporate flexible legs. Probably the most widely-used pattern of this type on UK stillwaters is Peter Appleby’s Apps’ Worm. It can be tied in a variety of colours from red and amber to pink and orange. It also works well in sombre hues, especially when the water is very clear. Olive can be deadly in these conditions though black and brown both make good change colours if the fish are proving finicky. As far as I recall the original Apps’ Worm has four legs – two at each end of the hook; but the number of legs used can be varied. I’ve seen a number of versions with six or even eight legs – the latter offering the fish a real mouthful. Conversely, the effect may be toned down to two strands – one at either end. The latter version is effective when fish have been repeatedly targeted with bulky versions or indeed other large flies.
It’s all in the kick!
The great thing about rubber legs is that they impart an incredible action into almost any fly, even when the retrieve is negligible. Flexible strands come in a variety of forms. The original type is natural rubber legs, which are still available in black and white and also in orange and yellow. Though they work well enough, when it comes to catching fish, natural rubber simply doesn’t last as long as other materials and will perish over time. More than once when finding an old rubberlegged pattern in the corner of a box and thinking of giving it a try, I’ve been disappointed to have the rubber legs disintegrate. Today though, flexible legs are available in a wide range of colours, diameters and finishes, most of which are manufactured from manmade products and are therefore much longer lasting than the original type. When it comes to tying the Apps’ Worm or the Flexi-Worm, the most popular material is strands of Lycra, or Spandex if you are American, marketed under names such as Super Stretch Floss, Flexi-Floss and Spanflex. While they’re all the same material they do vary in texture and profile, some being smooth and square, others more round and crinkly. When using flexible strands as legs, tie them so they stick out in different directions. In this configuration, they impart movement whichever direction the fly is moving. With most retrieves the fly tends to rise on the pull then sink on the next pull. Even a steady figure-of-eight retrieve produces a small upand-down movement so on the lift the front legs will be pushed back by water pressure – the reverse happening as the fly sinks. Also keep the legs nice and long. Even very soft materials such as Super Stretch Floss will become less flexible the shorter they are. Often the legs on this style of fly can be 1.5 inches long which does look a lot but the trout seem attracted to this great pulsing concoction.
Patterns such as the Apps’ Worm or the Flexi-Worm can be tied either un-weighted or with a little lead wire or metal bead added to the hook shank. The hook itself is normally a heavy wire model, either a long shank or a standard wet fly hook. The body can be formed from varied materials. Small plastic beads are popular as they add translucency – the downside is that they can be tricky to apply and also require a barbless hook
“When using flexible strands, tie them so they stick out in different directions.”
– a barb prevents small beads passing over the hook point. While the Flexi-Worm can be fished slowly or with short strips to make those legs really pulse, it also works well as a stalking bug. All but the most lethargic of trout find it hard to refuse a Flexi-Worm when placed on their nose, though whether it takes out of aggression or hunger only the fish knows. As a stalking bug, it needs to be weighted to reach the fish’s level quickly and even if a fish is sitting still, the weight prevents the fly from being lifted too high when twitched with the rod tip. Here a brass or even a tungsten bead comes in handy. This bead may be either one of the standard metallic colours – that’s gold, silver or copper. Alternatively, there are now plenty of coloured beads offered including fluorescent colours. These can be used either to contrast with the fly’s colour or to complement it, which is the option I’ve chosen here with a 3.2mm pink metallic bead and pink Flexi-Floss. When using a bead, the first step is to thread two strands of Flexi-Floss through its centre. First pass a loop of nylon or thick thread through the bead. Next, pass the end of the floss through the loop until it reaches its mid-point then draw them both back through the bead. If they do stick as they’re being drawn through, don’t keep pulling as this may damage the soft Lycra strands. Instead, stretch them a little to make them thinner and they’ll pass through with no problem. Thread the bead over the hook point and remember the bead’s small hole goes on first. The larger hole – which forms a recess in the back of the bead – will be to the rear. The bead may be pushed up to the eye or fixed toward the middle of the shank so that the fly sinks on an even keel, rather than head first. Here the bead is going to be positioned halfway along the shank. So, draw the floss strands back clear of the eye and run on the tying thread. Apart from the bead, the fly’s body is formed from fluorescent pink tying thread or alternatively GloBrite floss of the same colour. Unless you’re using a stout, 140 denier thread, floss is the better option as fewer turns are required to build up the body. Whether you’re using thread or floss, it’s essential to use a bobbin holder and – in the case of the floss – it should be one with a wide bore. Either way, the bobbin holder is vital as it prevents fingers from damaging the light-coloured thread. Position the bead at the hook’s midpoint then run the thread back from the eye to the bead’s front. Check the lengths of the Flexi-Floss strands, if necessary adjusting them so that all four are the same. Apply a couple of thread turns over the FlexiFloss at the front then stretch the strands over the eye and fix them in place with close thread turns. Add further smooth thread layers to build the front half of the body finishing at the eye. Make two turns under the two forward pointing floss strands, cast off with a whip finish then reattach the thread at the rear of the bead. As this type of fly can have more than four legs, now is the time to add any additional ones. To do so, take another strand of pink Flexi-Floss or a contrasting colour and make a single, open overhand knot at its midpoint. Pass the knot over the bead, draw tight at its rear before forming the rest of the fly. Stretch the rear pointing strands a little then fix them to the shank with close thread turns. Then, using the thread, or the Glo-Brite floss, apply smooth layers to build the rear half of the body. That done, cast off the thread with a whip finish. Check the leg lengths so they’re of even length and not too long. If they are, they can be trimmed with scissors, always remembering not to stretch the strands as they’re cut. Then coat both body sections with clear varnish or a UV cure resin.
3.2mm metallic red beads.