San Juan Worm

UNI Products Fly Tiers Corner

Simple but effective!

November 2022

With the advent of November, the delayed harvest waters throughout the southern states are now open for business. These streams and rivers are freshly stocked with large numbers of rainbow, brown and brook trout, all of which can be described as not particularly “stream wise.” So, let’s look at a fly pattern that quite often proves the undoing of those novice feeders.

The San Juan Worm. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

It would be very hard to create a more basic, and simple to tie fly than the San Juan Worm. Perhaps that is one reason it is lumped with egg patterns and Y2Ks in being referred to as a “junk fly.” Junk or not, under certain circumstances, it is a pattern that consistently produces fish. When conditions are right, trout find it hard to resist.

The San Juan Worm first appeared around the year 1970, and as might be expected, its origins can be traced back to the San Juan River. That flow originates in Colorado cuts across northwest New Mexico, then into Utah before emptying into Lake Powell on the Colorado River. However, the portion of the river that spawned this fly is the tailwater downstream of New Mexico’s Navajo Reservoir.

The original ties were red, and were good imitations of the blood worms that are prevalent in the San Juan River. As the fame of the fly grew, its use spread throughout the country. Upon arrival in the southeast, it proved a good match to our red wigglers, and can fool bluegill and redbreast sunfish, as well as trout.

A delayed-harvest rainbow that fell for a San Juan Worm. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

As alluded to in the open lines, the San Juan Worm works particularly well in our delayed harvest waters. But, changing colors to purple, pink, orange and blue doesn’t seem to put the fish off either.

Additionally, these worm patterns can be deadly on any of our trout streams just after a summer rain shower that adds a bit of dingy water to the flow.

Tying the San Juan Worm simply entails lashing a length of red chenille (or other color) to a long-shank hook. A bead can be added behind the hook eye or at the midpoint of the hook shank to provide some weight and get the worm down in the water column when fishing fast flows.

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