How to Tie the Drop Bead Walt’s Worm
This is a pretty simple and standard Walt’s Worm. What sets it apart is that it’s tied using an off-set or drop bead.
Here I’m using an 1/8” tungsten one in gold. The bead is asymmetrical and has a small hole in front and a larger countersunk hole in back. I’m going to pair it with a size 14 Fulling Mill 5115 Grub hook. I’m really fond of nicely curved, short-shanked hooks like this. And when used in conjunction with a drop bead, they suspend in the water like so, while the same hook tied with a standard bead orients more vertically. Flies tied with drop beads tend to orient similar to flies tied on jig hooks with slotted tungsten beads, and certainly at a greater angle than a fly tied on a J hook with a more standard bead.
To create a Drop Bead Walt’s Worm, begin by inserting the point of the hook into the small hole of the bead. Then work the bead up the hook shank to behind the eye. Get the assembly firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise. The bead will naturally want to hang down.
.02 lead-free wire is used to add some additional weight and to help stabilize the bead on the hook. While holding the spool in your right hand, get hold of the bitter end with the fingertips of your left. Start taking touching wraps forward with the wire. After 4 or 5 turns, helicopter the wire to break it off close. Separate the wire from the bead to expose a short length of bare hook shank. Apply a small drop of super glue, here Fly Tyer’s Z-Ment, to the hook shank, between the wire and the bead. Then rotate the bead to the top of the hook and quickly shove the wire wraps forward to pin it in that orientation against the back edge of the hook eye. You can then tuck that pesky tail end of wire in without all the wraps simply spinning around the hook shank.
For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of UTC 70 Denier in tan. The color closely matches that of the natural rabbit fur dubbing used to create the body of the fly. Get your thread started on the hook shank behind the wire and, after taking a few wraps rearward, then back up to the wire, snip off the excess tag. Continue taking thread wraps to further anchor the wire behind the bead. End with your tying thread at the back edge of the wire wraps.
Small, gold Ultra wire is used to rib and segment the fly. A 10” length is enough to tie a few flies. Butt one end of the wire against the wire wraps on the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it almost as far down into the bend of the hook as your vise jaws allow. Then return your thread back up to the wire wraps.
As I said before, the body of the fly is created using natural rabbit fur dubbing. For this size 14 fly, pluck a fairly ample clump free from the packet. Pull small amounts of the dubbing from the clump, doing your best to orient the fibers parallel to your tying thread in the process. Leave the bottom end of the fibers untwisted around your tying thread to allow the next pinch to be woven in with the previous. Continue this process to create a dubbing noodle that’s about 2 1/2” in length. Start taking wraps with the noodle around the hook shank so the dubbing begins at the rearmost thread wraps. Keep taking touching wraps forward, up the hook shank, with the dubbing noodle, hopefully ending with bare tying thread at the back edge of the bead. If you have any extra-long or wayward fibers now’s the time to trim them off.
Get hold of the gold wire and start making open spiral wraps with it over top of the dubbed body, 5 or 6 turns usually looks pretty good. At the back edge of the bead use wraps of tying thread to firmly anchor the wire then helicopter to break it off close.
Pick up your whip finish tool and use it to do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish behind the bead then snip or cut your tying thread free. On thread collars like this, it’s really important to add a drop of head cement or here, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, over top of them so there’s no chance of them coming unraveled. Flies like this are bottom-bouncers and tend to take a lot of abuse.
Although not essential for this pattern, I like to use an ultra-high tech dubbing brush to rough up the underside of the fly, then the sides and back. I’ll first trim the back and sides off close then trim any overly-long fibers on the underside.
In the end, the fly should look something like this. Walt’s Worm in this form could be a caddis, a sow bug, cranefly larva, or any number of aquatic macro invertebrates trout like to eat. The drop bead really does an incredible job of angling the hook so the fly rides hook point up and is thus less likely to get snagged on the bottom. It’s kind of remarkable how the same fly tied with different hooks and beads can ride in such different orientations.