Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wulffs

A handful of Wulffs; Grey, White and Royal

It seems as if there are more varieties of Wulffs than a fly fisherman could shake a stick at, however, it all started with the Grey Wulff. Tied to imitate the Isonychia mayfly, fly fishing and tying legend Lee Wulff realized how valuable this fly could be for Atlantic salmon fishing. The Grey, White and Royal Wulffs are the grandparents of the Wulff family of flies. Of all of the Wulffs in use for salmon fishing, it seems as if the White Wulff has best stood the test of time. Believe it or not, Lee Wulff used a 1/0 White Wulff that he nicknamed "the seagull". I have no idea where one would find hackle large enough to tie such a fly!

Below are the instructions for tying the Wulff series of flies, given by the man himself. The instructions were originally published in the United Fly Tyers of Boston, MA Bulletin (issue #68). Give it a try sometime. It is a bit different than the modern method and is quite a challenge!

The original Wulff series, tied by Lee Wulff


“In tying a Wulff dry fly I still prefer to use bucktail, the original material, although calfʼs tail is somewhat easier to use since it doesnʼt take the extra time to match up the hair ends and and is just about as effective. Tying them in my fingers, my first step is to pick up the hook and start the dinging [attaching thread to hook] with a piece of thread long enough to tie the fly. For these flies the thread should be fairly strong as it takes a firm pressure and a small wall of thread around the base of the wings to hold them in position.


I hold the eye of the hook between the nails of thumb and first finger of the left hand, doing the winding of the thread with my right. When the shank is wound I can either hold the thread in place by pressure between thumb and finger below the eye of the fly, or take a couple of half-hitches to hold the thread in place.

Next I cover the wrapped shank with lacquer. I like to feel that the flies I tie will stay together for catching a lot of fish and so want the solid body permanence lacquer gives as well as the security against twisting. I use unwaxed thread as waxing prevents the lacquer from penetrating into the thread. The tail is cut to length and wrapped to the shank. I like a good thick tail to hold up the heavy end of the hook and having the bucktail run the length of the shank [1X long hooks preferred] starts building up the body as well as making the tail more secure.


Again the thread is clamped between the left thumb and finger, or the head of the fly may be put between my lips to keep the thread from unwinding while I pick up the Angora wool, or roll rabbitʼs fur around the thread to make the body. Normally, I use wool as itʼs easier to handle and, seemingly, just as acceptable to the fish. I wind the body from head to tail and back again, shaping it into a natural insect form, and winding over it with thread near the head.


The fly at this stage is either held between the lips or the thread is given two half-hitches to hold it while I cut the bucktail for the wings. I cut it long and then pull out the longer hairs and reset them until all
the natural ends are approximately even and the hair is matched up. Then itʼs cut to length which is about 1/8 inch longer than the wings should normally be.


The hair is placed, facing forward, at the right place at the head of the body. It is wrapped tightly with several turns of the thread about 1/8 of an inch or less behind the winding. Then the hairs are lifted and thread is wound in front of the vertical hair until it stands upright and can be split by winding around the shank and a figure eight or two. The butt ends of the hair, protruding behind the first windings, tend to give a natural humpbacked look when the fly is finished.


Next, two saddle hackles are set in with two winds of thread. They face forward, on top of the hook, their bare butts fitting in between the rising wings. The fly, in all this tying, is still held between the nails of the left thumb and forefinger. A big drop or two of lacquer is then put on the base of the wings to penetrate well and set everything up when it dries. While it is still wet the two hackles are wound. The first wind is through the top between the wings, then two or three winds behind the wings and a wind back through between the wings. The tip is gripped between finger and thumb to hold it until ready to tie off. The second hackle is wound entirely in front of the wings and its tip secured along with that of the first hackle. Now the final wind or two at the head, three half-hitches to secure things, and a drop of lacquer goes at the head and the place where the tail joins the body to make everything secure.” 


-Lee Wulff


Tidal Pool grilse taken on a #6 White Wulff





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