Tying The Royal Wulff

UNI Products Fly Tiers Corner

An except from the book

A Structured Course In Fly Tying.

July 2023

by Steve Hudson

Developed by Lee Wulff, the Royal Wulff is considered by many to be one of the ultimate attractor patterns. An attractor is a fly that works on multiple levels to attract the attention of fish, and with its multifaceted profile and composition it certainly presents a lot at one time. What does it imitate? As tied here, the Royal Wulff suggests not only a variety of mayflies but also terrestrials and probably other things too. That’s the beauty of attractor flies. Multiple materials provide multiple opportunities to appeal to fish through color, texture, and profile, and that may be part of what’s happening here with this fly. But whatever is going on in the mind of the fish, there is no doubt that fish go for Royal Wulffs – often with wild enthusiasm.

The Royal Wulff. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

Anglers go for them too. The Royal Wulff is a fly that floats well and that is relatively easy to see, even on fast or broken water. Its bright hair wing makes it easy to see, and its thick hackle helps to keep it floating high and dry. And – as several have noted – the Royal Wulff is definitely a cool-looking fly.

Fly fishers like that too! The most intriguing thing about the Royal Wulff may well be that it has a body made from two different materials – peacock herl (which form the body’s rear and front segments) and red floss (which form the middle body segment). Multiple materials provide multiple opportunities to appeal to fish through color, texture, and profile, and that may be
part of what’s happening here with this fly.

The process of tying dry fly bodies with multiple materials is definitely a bit more complicated than is forming a body from a single material such as dubbed thread, and it is a process that many tyers would put in the “advanced” category.

When we tie this fly, in addition to working with amulti-material body, we’ll also try a different sequence for creating the wing and tail. We will tie in the tail first and then add the wing second. That will allow you to experience this sequence and see if you prefer it. Remember that in most cases it does not matter whether you tie in the tail or the wing first, as long as you form a smooth underbody without bumps or gaps and as long as the wings are properly angled and positioned.

Material choices

When tying the Royal Wulff, you will need to select and use several different materials. Here are some things to consider as you pick the materials you’ll need to tie this exceptionally useful fly.


The wing of a Royal Wulff is traditionally made from calf tail hair or calf body hair. If you decide to go with calf tail hair, as many tyersdo, be sure that the hair you choose to use is not excessively curly.Straighter hair will tend to yield a better looking wing.

Peacock Herl For Rear And Front Body Segments

Choose herl strands that are not damaged (so they won’t break) and that have plenty of
good fibers. The iridescence and bugginess provided by quality herl go a long way to-
ward making this fly as effective as it can be.


There are many kinds of floss available to tyers today. Rayon floss is readily available
and works very well. To use this material, cut a short length (six inches will do it) and tie it in, then wrap the length by hand without any need for a bobbin.

Note that floss may be single-strand or multi-strand, with a “strand” of floss being made up of myriad fibers. Multi-strand floss usually consists of three or four strands twisted loosely together. On small flies, you may only need a single strand to form the central body; if that’s the case, use single-strandfloss or separate a piece of multi-strand floss into individual strands.

There’s another type of floss that you may find too. It’s a stretchy floss (often called “super floss”) which does a great job of forming floss bodies on flies. As you stretch this material, its diameter gets smaller; that makes it good for tying floss bodies on small flies. But that same stretchiness that makes it such a versatile material can also make it hard to tie in. Be sure to anchor it securely if you choose to use it.

How critical is the floss color on this fly? Although red is the traditional color used on this fly, try other colors too. You’ll sometimes see this fly tied with yellow or orange floss. Chartreuse is another favorite of many fly fishers and is worth trying on your favorite streams too.


One key to a high-floating Royal Wulff is the use of good hackle. Use the best hackle available, and wrap it densely. You want a lush hackle collar that will provide maximum flotation to keep the fly riding high in fast water.

Tying considerations

One of the most interesting things about tying this fly stems from the multi-material structure of its body. You’ll start by tying in the tail and wing; you’ll then tie in the first body material (several strands of pea- cock herl) and form the first (rear) body segment.

But once that first peacock herl segment is formed, you do not trim away the leftover herl, Instead, you leave it intact and wrap the red floss body segment overthe herl strands.

Then, after tying off and trimming the floss, you’ll continue wrapping the peacock her1 strands to form the front body segment.

Would it be possible to tie off and trim the peacock herl after the first (rear) body segment is formed? Sure. But it is much simpler simply to leave the herl untrimmed after the first segment and wrap the floss over the herl strands. Think of it as “tying down” those her! strands in preparation for forming the second herl segment – only you’re tying them down with red floss and, in the process, forming a key part of the
fly’s body.

Illustration by Steve Hudson.

Fishing The Royal Wulff

The Royal Wulff is a go-to fly when fishing faster water. It floats well and is easy to see, thanks to its white wing and thick contrasting hackle collar. Because it floats so well, it’s a favorite topfly in dry-and-dropper rigs. It can be particularly effective when fished very close to overhanging vegetation.

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