Lee Wulff is probably one of the most famous fly fishing personalities of our age and was responsible for developing many fly tying techniques.
He is probably most well known for being one of the first pioneers to start using animal hair in the tying of his dry flies. This changed the way we look at and design dry flies.
There are numerous Lee Wulff dry flies in the Wulff series, but the Royal Wulff is arguably the world’s most famous attractor dry fly. The Royal Wulff is a modification of the classic Royal Coachman.
Lee Wulff changed a few key elements from the royal coachman; he wanted a heavier body profile for more buoyancy and a buggier look.
The tail is key to the Royal Wulff as it is where most of the weight will be taken, and it will ensure the hook point to ride pointing down.
It Royal Wulff isn’t the easiest fly to tie but is great fun to try and very rewarding when you get it right. One of the most important factors to the fly is that you get the correct body profile ratio. Once you get that, you can whip them up in no time!
If you want to know more about the difference between a dry vs wet fly, see our post here.
WANT OUR BOOK? THE COMPLETE BEGINNER GUIDE TO FLY FISHING GEAR DOWNLOAD FREE NOW!
Tying a Royal Wulff Fly
- Place hook in vise and level thread base created.
- Tie in the wing and taper the body backward.
- Tie in the tail, about the length of the shank.
- Tie forward with one peacock herl
- Create a red middle body, then continue with the next peacock herl towards the wing.
- Tie in hackel and wrap forard.
- Wrap a solid thread head and whip finish.
- Go fishing!
Materials for Royal Wulff Fly
- Hook: Mouche Dry fly hook size 12-16
- Thread: Griffith Sheer 14/0 white ( red and black permanent Marker)
- Tail: whitish brown bucktail (white calf hair and moose body hair is also great)
- Body: Peacock herl
- Wing: White bucktail
- Hackle: Cookshill Hackle
How To Tie A Royal Wulff Fly Step-by-Step
Lock your hook in the vise, making sure it is secure and not too close to the tip of the jaws, as the hook may slip when you apply tension to it. I advocate using barbless hooks where possible to ease the removal and minimize the damage done to the fish.
Prepare the Royal Wulff fly by tying in a solid level thread base to work with. This is particularly important when you tie in the wing of the bucktail to prevent it from spinning on the hook shank.
For your Royal Wulff wing, cut around 30 bucktail hairs (calf body hair) and put them through the hair stacker. The length of the wing is quite important; I usually make them slightly longer than that of the hook shank and tie it in at the beginning of the first third of the hook. This style of wings is the main difference between the royal Wulff and the royal coachman fly. If you search the wings on the Coachman, you will see they are more of a feather fiber with more of a wet fly style shape.
Repeat the same process for the Royal Wulff tail. Using roughly 20 bucktail fibers, stack them and then tie them in about the length of the hook shank. Wrap forward, tie the tag ends to give the body some bulk.
Tie in a single peacock herl and run your tying thread to the middle of the shank.
Wrap the peacock herl forward and tie it off mid-shank. It is at this point that I color the tying thread in with a red marker to create the middle abdomen of the fly. Tie in the red body and secure the next peacock herl up until the wings begin. Wrap it forward and tie it off.
Select a piece of hackle with fibers the length of the hook gape and tie it in. Proceed to position your tying thread just behind the eye. Wrap the hackle forward to create a dense and even spread of fibers.
Tie off the hackle, and color the thread in with a black marker. Finish the fly by making a solid thread head and whip finish it. Apply head cement and allow to dry.
About The Royal Wulff
If you’re looking for a top dry fly for trout fishing, the Royal Wulff might be just the thing you’re after. Durable and eye-catching, the Royal Wulff is a great choice for fishing in fast-flowing waters where the fish don’t have too long to examine your fly.
It’s an attractor pattern, which means that it doesn’t accurately imitate a particular insect. You can use this versatile dry fly to imitate terrestrial insects, mayflies, and flying ants. Instead, it’s bright and easy to spot, making it perfect in choppy rivers.
The Royal Wulff is particularly productive when fly fishing for cutthroat and brook trout, who don’t tend to be fussy feeders. Tie this on, and you’ll consistently draw the trout out.
Although the Royal Wulff may not be as popular as it used to be, it’s still a reliable, effective pattern that should have a spot in your fly box.
The Origins of the Royal Wulff
The Royal Wulff was first designed by Lee Wulff, an eminent fly fisherman throughout the 20th century. The Royal Coachman was one of the most popular flies at the time, but Wulff found that it wasn’t tough enough to stand up to rough water conditions.
This inspired Wulff to create his own range of flies that were more durable and would last longer. He made several modifications to the Royal Coachman pattern to create the Royal Wulff.
Lee went on to develop several different dry flies, including the White Wulff, the Grey Wulff, and the Black Wulff, but the Royal Wulff was by far the most popular.
Wulff wanted to come up with dry flies with heavy hair wings, hackles, and tails so that they would have more buoyancy and stay afloat longer. He aimed to create durable dry flies that would attract trout, bass, and other fish in choppy, fast rivers.
Lee Wulff was a significant and influencing figure in the fly fishing world. He invented the first fly fishing vest and advocated for catch and release before it was a common practice.
Lee, now deceased, started the Royal Wulff Company and the Wulff School of Fly Fishing with his angler wife Joan almost 40 years ago. Both of these ventures are still in business today, with their son Doug Cummings, at the helm.
How to fish the Royal Wulff
The Royal Wulff dry fly is known as an attractor dry fly for trout. They are designed to do what their name suggests and ATTRACT. They are best fished in a non- hatch and can often bring trout up to opportunistically eat.
A single dry on a long, thin tippet is your best bet and should yield some great results. You can also add a dropper to the rig should you wish to cover two feeding zones.
The most important aspect of any dry fly fishing is to get ‘drag-free’ drifts. Concentrate on this, and the rest will flow.
The Wrap Up
The Royal Wulff is a classic dry fly that’s been popular for over 50 years. It’s ideal for fly fishing in turbulent water conditions, drawing the trout out with its flashy appearance, and catching you lots of fish!
Now you know all about fly tying this iconic pattern, have a go at fly tying your own flies, and take them with you on your next fly fishing trip! Don’t forget our tips on how to fish this classic pattern, and you’ll soon be reeling in fish after fish.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this complete guide to the Royal Wulff pattern. Check out some of our other articles and reviews on the best fly fishing products, including rods, reels, accessories, and flies. If you have any questions or suggestions for other topics you’d like to see, feel free to drop us a comment or an email!