King of the River

Tying the Royal Wulff Cripple. 

When I think of summer fishing in Montana, my mind immediately drifts toward thoughts of trout gently sipping dry flies from the surface of a slow-moving riffle. I don’t know which fly I’d pick if I had to pick just one to fish for the rest of my life, but the Royal Wulff Cripple would be in the running for sure. Rowan Nyman, a longtime Montana fly-fishing guide, designed the Royal Wulff Cripple; it’s a modification of the ever-popular Royal Wulff, but because it is tied in the cripple style, the body sits low on the surface film. The take-home message is that this fly catches fish, and in my opinion it does so much better than the original Royal Wulff. Here’s how to tie it.

Hook: Standard dry, #12-20
Thread: 8/0 or 70-denier black
Tail: Brown zelon
Body: Peacock Herl and red floss or Uni-Stretch
Wing: White poly yarn
Hackle: Brown 

Start the fly by attaching the thread midway down the shank of the hook and capturing a small strand of brown zelon. Wrap the thread back over the zelon to the point just above the hook barb. Trim the zelon to form a shuck that is at least 1/2 to a full length of the shank.

Attach 2-3 strands of peacock herl at the point just above the barb of the hook and wrap peacock herl to just above the hook point. Tie off peacock herl, but don’t trim. Attach a strand of red floss at this point and advance thread forward over peacock herl so that there is space enough to create the floss portion of the body that is equal in width to the existing peacock herl. Once floss section is complete, trim excess floss and wrap another section of peacock herl that is equal in width to the first. When finished there should be about 1/3 of bare hook shank left for the wing and hackle.

Attach a healthy strand of white poly yarn on top of the hook so that the wing angles forward and extends about a shank-length beyond the hook eye. The rear end of the poly should be trimmed short to form a small tuft. Build a smooth section of thread that extends from the peacock to about a hook-eye length behind the eye. Attach your dry-fly hackle and wrap so that there is no thread visible between the peacock and hook eye. Whip finish and add head cement if desired.

Royal Wulff Cripple

Jimmy Armijo-Grover is the general manager of Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and has been obsessed with fly tying and fly fishing since the age of 10.