How to Fish a San Juan Worm Like a Pro

The San Juan Worm is a highly controversial organism among fly fishing enthusiasts because some factions consider it a fly while others don’t. Many fly fishers deride the idea of using the worm because it does not have the features and characteristics of an insect. However, some people view the San Juan Worm as a highly contentious fly because it bears the term ‘worm.’ In this guide, we share expert tips on how to fish a San Juan worm for a great fly fishing expedition.

Flyfishers mainly catch the dead worm drift on river bottoms. It is a quintessential aquatic earthworm that is approximately two inches long. Fly fishers usually imitate the organism by tying a piece of chenille to a scud hook.

How to Fish a San Juan Worm Like a Pro

Essentially, the San Juan Worm is highly effective in catching various fish species, including trout. The worm provides a fat protein bite for trout that necessitates little exertion to swallow. Trout do not have to vigorously pursue the organism because their waterlogged nature renders them motionless.

The worms ordinarily drift in river currents, particularly after a rainstorm, and deliver a stable diet for trout. For fly anglers, the worm constitutes a fantastic springtime bait. As such, you should consider fishing it the Czech style to liven up your spring season fishing expedition in the pristine trout waters of the northwest. 

The San Juan pattern owes its origins to a fly fisher who regularly fished on New Mexico’s San Juan River. It is worth noting that the river has an abundance of red bloodworms, and fly fishers developed the pattern to mimic them. The relatively high waters of the fast-flowing river often prompt the organisms to crawl out of the riverbed. Most fly fishers consider the worm a must-have for their fly fishing expeditions. 

Techniques for Fishing With a San Juan Worm 

You can fish San Juan Worms by employing the techniques employed on other nymph patterns. The three most common methods used to fish the worms include creating a dry dropper rig, a euro nymph rig, or a single nymph rig. San Juan worm patterns are challenging to get to river bottoms because of their relatively small size. In essence, droppers and slip shots play a pivotal role in solving this problem. 

As a novice fly fisher, the first technique you are likely to learn involves creating a single rig. The method entails tying a single San Juan pattern onto a tipper. As you gain more experience, another method you are likely to adopt is a double nymph rig. Notably, double nymph rigs or tandem rigs are highly effective methods of fishing a San Juan Worm. Creating a double rig entails connecting two worms with one tippet piece. 

Artificial San Juan Worms
Artificial San Juan Worms

Employing a tandem rig allows you to catch more trout at a go, but the technique also has its drawbacks. For example, the rig may be harder to cast and more prone to tangling. The steps below highlight the process of tying a tandem rig. 

Step One

The first step involves tying the leader to the fly line. You want the leader to sink when fly fishing with San Juan worms. In essence, you can use fluoro to achieve this goal. The ideal leader for fishing a San Juan worm should be approximately 7 to 9 feet long. 

If you possess a pre-made knotless leader, attaching it to the fly line can be pretty simple since the leader features a tied loop. All you need to do is create a loop-to-loop link, and you are all set. However, if the leader does not have a pre-fabricated loop, you should tie a loop knot and make a loop-to-loop link. 

Step Two 

The second step involves adding a tippet piece to the leader. It is noteworthy that the tippet section should be approximately 2 feet long and have a smaller radius than the radius of the leader. A fluoro tippet is ideal in this case because of its sinking properties. Essentially, you should use a barrel knot to attach the tippet piece to the barrel leader. When connecting the tippet section, ensure that you trim the ends of the tags since they can tangle during casting. 

Step Three

The step entails choosing and tying the top fly. Notably, the top fly in fly fishing jargon refers to the fly that first goes on the tandem rig. In principle, you should select a heavier San Juan Worm as your top fly. Having a heavier top fly is advantageous because it makes casting simpler. Also, a heavier top fly allows it to sink deeper and reach the depth where the fish congregate and feed. Lastly, attach the worm to the tippet using a clinch knot. Remember to trim the end of the tags to ensure they do not tangle during casting. 

Step Four

This step entails tying the second worm on another tippet section to create an elaborate tandem rig. Ideally, the second tippet piece should have the same material, length, and size as the first one. At this stage, you should fuse the tippet sections by employing a clinch knot to tie the second tippet piece on the top fly’s hook bend. 

Creating a perfect tandem rig can be an intricate undertaking. As a result, you should use your finger to slide the line onto the top fly’s hook bend before tightening the knot. After that, you should trim the ends of the tag and ensure that the clinch knot is well fastened. Lastly, it would be best to tie the smaller worm you have selected onto the second tippet piece with a clinch knot before trimming the ends of the tags. 

Step Five

Step five involves adding weight to the rig if necessary. Note that the worms need to reach the depth where the trout feed and assemble to have a successful fishing expedition. On most occasions, the top fly has sufficient weight to sink to an ideal depth. However, it is worth noting that there are certain circumstances where your rig requires extra weight. One such occasion is a fast-moving river with a high water level. Typical items that you can use to increase the rig’s weight include putties and split shots. 

Step Six

The last step entails adding an indicator to the rig setup. The indicator allows you to notice when a trout or other target fish species are hooked on the rig. Ideally, it would be best to always place the indicator approximately 6 feet from the end of a 9-foot leader. The rationale for putting the leader in that position is that it gives the two worms adequate room to descend into the area where trout tend to gather and feed. Also, the positioning of the indicator ensures that there is no lag between the time the trout bites the hook and the time the indicator notifies you of the incident. 

Trout caught with a San Juan Worm
Trout caught with a San Juan Worm

How to Create a Dry Dropper Rig

A dry dropper rig is another technique you can employ to fish a San Juan Worm. The method uses a dry fly that often drifts on the water surface and a heavier San Juan Worm that can sink to your desired depth. Listed below are the steps involved in creating a dry dropper rig. 

Step One

The first step entails adding a second tippet section to the piece already connected to the leader. Principally, the second tipper piece should be approximately 2-feet long to give enough room to sink to a suitable depth. Ideally, you should use a surgeon’s knot to link the two tipper pieces. Next, you should ensure that you leave a 6-inch long tag end. After that, use a clinch knot to tie the dry fly onto the 6-inch long tag end. Essentially, this measure enables the fly to drift freely on the water surface. 

Step Two

This step entails adding a heavier San Juan Worm onto the second tipper section you added in the first step. It would be best to use a clinch knot to tie the worm on the second tipper section. Ensure that the worm sinks to the depth where you reckon that trout are concentrated. You can use a split shot to increase the rig’s weight if it does not sink to your desired depth following the initial cast. 

Where Can I buy San Juan Worms? 

You can buy San Juan Worms in multiple fly shops spread across the United States. In addition, to fly shops, you can purchase worms in large store chains and even on e-commerce websites. The worms come in different sizes, shapes, and colors, allowing you to select the worm that best suits your needs. When visiting a fly shop or a large store chain, it is not out of the ordinary to find that San Juan Worms have run out. It does not hurt to prepare yourself for such an eventuality. 


Wrap Up

Fly fishing using San Juan Worms gives you a high chance of success on your fishing expedition. Moreover, employing fly fishing techniques such as the tandem rig increases the probability of catching fish after every cast. Therefore, you should take it upon yourself to learn how to create the different types of rigs that will boost your chances of catching more fish on your fly fishing missions. 

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