Super Fly — The Story of a Squirmy Wormy

by | May 30, 2021 | 8 comments

In the spring of 2012, the Troutbitten guys were scouring the local craft stores for a child’s toy made of rubber. Joanne Fabrics and Michael’s Crafts carried a leggy pink thing that could fit in the palm of your hand, but the toy was hard to find. And for reasons unknown, they appeared in craft stores almost exclusively. Some of the Troutbitten guys felt a little strange entering this mostly-female domain. But I was an old hat, as I’d been buying furs, feathers and foams for at least a decade by then — just trying to save a few bucks while purchasing fly tying materials in bulk.

Now, the inventory for these toys surely wasn’t geared toward fly tyers (nothing in a craft store is, I suppose). But I’ll bet that, one time, an obsessed fly fisher went to get glass beads or wire ribbing at Michael’s. And when he walked past those rubber toys, he had an epiphany that birthed the next super fly.

Now THAT would look good on a hook . . .

Once fly fishing takes over a good part of your life, these moments are a frequent occurrence. You start to see things around you for how they might be repurposed as fishing gear. And to those with an open mind and a creative itch, strange things start to seem like they belong on a fishing hook.

Each creature had about a hundred tentacles — wiggly, jiggly things of just the right diameter to fairly represent an aquatic worm. The toys usually had a happy face, some ears and tail. But of course none of that mattered. Give me the legs!  What mattered most was color, and in all my searching I never found more than four of the pink ones. (Yes, of course we tried every other available color, but nothing fooled fish like pink.)

The last of the original creatures. Maybe about thirty legs. That’s all that remains.

Those child’s toys were the seeds for the Squirmy Wormy craze. And I’d read on a small internet forum that guys were tying wiggly tentacles on a hook for an improved San Juan Worm. Pink was the hot color, they said. And I was all in. At the time, one of my best junk flies was an IPW. The Infamous Pink Worm was an underground pattern from Pennsylvania angler, Fred Bridges. And that hot pink vernille worm with an orange ball for the heart had led me into some amazing days on the water. So, believing that I could do even better by substituting something wiggly for the stiffer vernille was an easy sell. I was then and still am always looking for the next super fly.

#neverforget The Fred Bridges IPW. Still a killer.

What’s a super fly? It’s the kind of fly pattern that changes everything for a while. I’m a dyed in the wool believer that presentation is ninety percent of the game out there. Good drifts catch good fish and good numbers of them too. But occasionally (rarely) something comes along that makes trout go a little crazy. Why? Who the hell knows. But it trips some trigger in trout that makes them move further and eat more than they do for just about anything else. Sometimes it’s a seasonal thing. (The right egg can be a super fly in the winter.) But real super flies are consistent and excellent producers any time of the year.

The Mop is the last super fly that most of us have seen. Like the Squirmy, it quickly gained popularity because trout just eat it. (And because the internet sheds secrets like an Australian Shepherd sheds fur.) Trout that have never seen a Mop can seem pretty stupid for it.

River.  Aussie. Wet and happy.

In my life there’ve been only four of these super flies. And no, I’m not telling you about the other two. My buddy, Trevor, might be on to one that he calls Trick or Treat. But don’t ask him about it, because he’s smart enough not to share it with you. Trouble is, the super powers of super flies fade once a trout has seen them a few times. The fly might still produce consistently above average, but the real super powers are gone once mass popularity takes over.

So the Troutbitten guys bought every pink legged creature they could find. Because who knew how long they might be available? Those were good instincts, and in fact, we haven’t seen them around for many years. Of course, you can buy Squirmy Wormy material in every fly shop across the country these days. But that’s exactly the problem. And in truth, I’d gladly pay triple for the old-school creature toy. I liked the material better. It was tougher. And the fly’s radical success formed a confidence in me that never quite carried over to the standard stuff from Hareline, Wapsi or otherwise. It’s just not the same. Close. But, nope — not the same.

Our first couple years of fishing the original Squirmy was flat out amazing. (It was a super fly.) It caught wild trout, stocked trout, picky trout, high or low water trout, brook, brown, rainbow trout and smallmouth bass. It was our go to fly. We didn’t wait for muddy water or rain to tie it on. And we didn’t wait for other flies to fail. We went right to the super fly. Why not? None of us had any hang ups about fishing junk flies. In fact, I’ve always thought of myself as a junk fly junkie. I fish what trout eat. And if they want a pink worm, I’ll take that dance.

Photo by Bill Dell

And dance, they did. The Squirm boosted our catch rate and sometimes doubled it. I’ve always enjoyed fishing flies like that. With a hot fly, you stop second guessing things. It narrows fishing down to just you and the trout. The terms of the fly are already decided, and it’s up to you to present it well. Oh, make no mistake, there aren’t many freebies with a super fly — not around here, anyway. Wild trout especially demand a great drift. But they might move a little further or seem a little hungrier for a good drift on the best fly. However, if you’re fishing club water, heavily stocked streams or some other setup, it’s a different story. Start throwing Squirmies or other junk flies in water where trout are stocked and fed as pets, and things can get a little silly. But for us, the wild trout of our wild rivers provide endless fair sport — a good super fly just removes the eternal question of fly choice.

All of it lasted a couple of glorious years — three at most. And by then, everyone and his brother carried a Squirmy box. That was pretty much the end of the Squirmy as the go-to super fly. The sheen had worn off. That certain magic was gone. I guess trout got used to the wiggle. They’d seen the jiggle and stopped falling head over heels for it.

The IPW style Squirm up front, and the more standard, beaded version in the back.

The Squirm remains in my box, as it does for all of that original Troutbitten crew and just about every nymph angler across the country. But most have moved on, in search of the next super fly. We’ve tied the Squirm in a dozen different ways, adding beads and colored threads. But my favorite is still the Fred Bridges IPW look with that pink rubber wand tied over the top. It gets more looks for me, fished with split shot, than the beaded version that everyone else fishes.

There’s something to be said for showing a trout what they’ve never seen before. But it also needs to look familiar enough to trigger the feed. A Squirmy does that still, if not at the alarming rate that it used to around here.

In dark bars and seedy internet gatherings, I keep my ear to the ground for rumors of the next super fly. Because those who find one can’t keep a secret for long. And I want to be in on the next fly from the ground up again. I want long months of virgin trout that lust for something original yet familiar, the right mix of bold but non-threatening, curiously edible and irresistible. I want to fish another super fly.

Fish hard, friends.

 

** Donate ** If you enjoy this article, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 700+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Waiting On Luck

Waiting On Luck

With the river at its peak, Dad and I spent a drizzly day with no one in sight at any hour, early or late. Alone together against the odds, we landed the occasional fish purely by accident. Yes, we targeted the backwaters. Sure, we fished deer hair sculpins, worm patterns and chartreuse things. But such are the measures suggested by those who peddle wishful thinking more than experience. Nothing was consistent in those roiling waters.

Regardless, Dad and I fished. And we hoped. We were waiting on luck . . .

Fishing With Kids — The Independence Marker

Fishing With Kids — The Independence Marker

At thirteen years old, he has enough experience with the woods and water that I don’t think twice about dropping him off to fish for the evening, awaiting his call when he’s either fished out or it’s getting dark. When I pick him up, he’s full of excitement and stories, or he is calm and peaceful in a way that I don’t often see him. I let him be, in those times, and allow the experience for him to soak in, as he processes a return to the world after a long outing. Leaving the water to rejoin life is sometimes a hard turn.

Kids soak in the rhythms of nature. And later in life, maybe around twelve years old, that base of experience pays off . . .

May We Have the Hook Dimensions, Please?

May We Have the Hook Dimensions, Please?

So, if there will be no industry standard on sizing and strength for hooks (and there won’t be), can we at least have the dimensions for each hook that we’re sold? Give us the measurements: hook length, wire diameter, gap width. Why is this so hard?

. . . Given the proliferation of hook brands — many of high quality — this seems the only logical thing to do. Give your buyer the information. Tell them what they are buying. This is the information age, friends! Yes, we can handle this!

Following Through

Following Through

This morning should have been like any other. Kill the alarm and hate life for the first five minutes as my body begrudgingly catches up to the will of ambition. Coffee helps. So does the routine, because the inevitability of repetition and pattern seems certain. It cannot be challenged. So, no, you cannot go back to bed. Go fishing . . .

I’ll Meet You Upstream . . .

I’ll Meet You Upstream . . .

I was in that stage of learning where I’d read more than I could put to use, while Rich had already fished more than he could ever find the words to tell.

. . . Somewhat stunned by the beauty of it all, I fell silent and let time creep along, until the slow motion whitewater of the falls mixed with the endless emerald shades reflecting in the softwater glides. An impenetrable canopy above stood guard against the angle of the sun and disguised the true time of day. This timeless valley was either day or night — with the details of everything in between insignificant . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

8 Comments

  1. the artificial worms work but what them work better is,put a small garden worm on the hook, or put the articial worms in a can of worms for a few hours.

    Reply
  2. Fred showed me the IPW many years ago and indeed it was a game changer. It simply made trout insane. They HAD to eat it. It was funny to watch. And exactly as you suggest its charm lessened over a several year period. I still carry them….mostly out of respect for Fred and his willingness to help a fellow ffr. He custom blended a march brown nymph dub that was stellar but thats another story….I still have some and treasure it as well.

    Fred told me that he would use a split shot about 6” from the IPW and then “park it” in front of the large hatchery bows in Boiling Springs iirc..and the stair down began….it would dance gently in the current, held lightly in place by the shot…and was only a matter of time. Ive duplicated his efforts with success.

    But regarding wild fish…when summer thunderstorms color the water….wild browns go crazy for this fly to this day.

    Reply
  3. In dark bars and seedy internet gatherings, I keep my ear to the ground for rumors of the next super fly……… nicely turned phrase

    Reply
    • Ditto. Reminds me to keep my mouth shut regarding fly choice

      Reply
  4. Dom,

    Tell me, how is the fishing in the dark side. LOL

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest