Red Trout Flies

Red Trout Flies

I’ve been doing a lot of Tenkara Fly Fishing this summer and I’ve made a point of exploring the small mountain streams I come across on my backpacking trips and peakbagging hikes. As a self-taught angler, I’m always experimenting and trying new things because that’s my preferred way to learn and master new skills.

Caught with a Squirmy Wormy
Caught with a Squirmy Wormy

One of my breakthroughs this summer has been the use of red-colored flies, including the Squirmy Wormy and an adaption of the Ausable Wulf, with the materials I have on hand. They’re both really simple to tie too.

I tie the Squirmy on a size 12 barbless hook while I tie the Ausable on a size 14 or 16. While most trout will hit a Squirmy, smaller fish are harder to hook with it because the body extends well beyond the hook and their mouths aren’t big enough to guarantee a good hook set. Whereas the Ausable is a much more compact fly so more hits become takes.

I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to try these two red flies this summer, although I can credit a few influences.

  • Many years ago, I bought a pink yarn-based worm fly tying kit from Chris Stewart of I never had much success with those flies, but they predisposed me to the idea of using worms for Tenkara Fishing. Chris doesn’t sell fly tying kits anymore, but he has a bunch of newer articles on using live worms as bait, as well as, the Squirmy Wormy.
  • Jason Klass at TenkaraTalk has an article about tying Simple Yarn Tenkara Flies with Jaimeson’s Sheltland Spindrift Yarn. He also mentions that trout see the color red, the best. I bought several different colored rolls and started tying flies with the red paprika color.
  • A SectionHiker reader left a comment on my website in 2015 about a successful day of fishing in the White Mountains with the Ausable Bomber. This motivated me to learn more about the fly and start tying it.

Squirmy Wormy

I tie my Squirmy Wormies with a Fulling Mill FM5050 dry fly hook #12, red tying thread, and Hareline Caster’s Squirmito Squiggly Worm Material. You have to be a little careful to avoid cutting the Squirmito with your thread when tying it with a pinch wrap  I also tie it with a bead sometimes or red hobby wire, to get it to sink. When fish strike this fly but spit it out or fail to get hooked, they’re probably too small to take a #12 hook. When that happens, I often switch to the Ausable in a smaller size.

Here’s a good video that illustrates the process of tying the Squirmy Wormy, along with a technique that can be used to avoid cutting the worm material, although I find it a bit cumbersome and unnecessary.

Ausable Wulf

My Ausable Wulf is a cross between Jason’s Cheap Date Kebari and an Ausable Wulff (also called a Bomber) adapted with the materials I have at hand including red thread, ringneck pheasant tail fibers, Jameson’s Shetland Spindrift Paprika yarn, and grizzly hackle. I tie these on Fulling Mill’s 5050 Ultimate Dry Black Nickle Hooks in sizes #14 and #16. The yarn can become cumbersome on a #16, so I often just use the red thread to create a body instead. The trout don’t seem to notice the difference.

Ausable Wulf Adaption
Ausable Wulf Adaption

This fly will float on the surface or just below it and tends to draw immediate strikes when it hits the water or floats above a stationary trout. I haven’t really found a need to weigh it down for deeper water, because the mountain streams I fish are usually only a few feet deep.

If you haven’t tried red trout flies, give these a whirl. They’re great on a Tenkara rod, but I suspect they’ll produce with a more conventional rod-based setup as well.

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 8500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 3000 articles as the founder of, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip has hiked all 650+ trails in the White Mountains twice and has completed 9 rounds of the 48 peaks on the White Mountains 4000 footer list with over 510 summits in all four seasons. He is also the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click here to subscribe to the SectionHiker newsletter.
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  1. I purchased a Tenkara rod back in the spring and was able to give Tenkara a try. I enjoy the simplistic nature of the sport. I did catch a fish but the point was just to get out and do it. I will see if I can find a red fly and give it a try.

  2. My most successful days in the Whites have been on flies that have some amount of red on them.

  3. The worm pattern looks like a variant of the San Yarn Worm, which is typically tied with red vernille or a micro-chenille. I haven’t used the squirmy material, but vernille might be a bit more durable and just as lively in the water. You might also be able to tie the vernille on a smaller hook for headwater brookies. The original Ausable Wulff is a great, multi-purpose fly and your version is a neat tie.

    • I was hoping to hear from you! I am finally getting reasonably proficient at the Tenkara thing and have had many great outings this summer. I’ll check out this vernille stuff. Never heard of it before.

  4. Thanks Phil! Heading to the smokies in two weeks for some back country small stream trout fishing. Will definitely try some red dries as well as a small tuft if red paracord I tied onto a hook! Oh, and my San Juan worm, of course.

  5. I guess you meant chris Stewart. I got into Tenkara because of reading I thoroughly enjoy the reviews you have and have made several purchases over the years because of them.
    As far as red, I’ve had great luck with red ants and red squirmys this year also. Trout in north Georgia and panfish further south..
    again, great newsletter!

  6. You might want to check out the He has a travel suv YouTube channel as well as a tenkara fly fishing channel. I haven’t checked out his yarns yet but had us very particular about what he sells I know.

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