The Real Rag Worm
A wiggling tandem
A bit about worms
There are many different rag worms, clam worms, mussel worms, "brushworms", annelids, nereids - many names for the same group of worms and in many cases the same species.
One of the most important in Scandinavia is Nereis diversicolor, which can be found in many colors as the name indicates.
The nereids are long worms living most of their adult life in the bottom of the sea, unavailable as a food source for most fish. Each year in the early spring - sometimes as early as February, but mostly in March and April - they emerge and form big schools, where they secure the next generation. Many anglers will say that the first full moon in April will lure out the worms.
They are not only important to the trout as well to us when making rag "wormlings".
Current and storms may move the sand flats, where the worms are hidden and they will no longer be burried safely. The fish feast on them from beneath and the sea gulls from above - the gulls being a good indicator of the presence of freely swimming worms.
The nereids are a big mouthful and worth swimming for, so they are often found in the stomach of nice fish. The fish may even become selective or "blind" to other food items when the rag worms are present in endless numbers. The only thing that works then is a rag worm imitation.
The Real Boerstenworm
Several Scandinavian fly tiers have created rag worm imitations, but one of my favorites is The Real Rag Worm tied by Claus Eriksen in 1996.
After a tying course Claus went fishing with Davy Wotton. Claus tells the story:
"When we arrived, plenty of rag worms were wiggling and swimming around. Mr. Wotton smiled and asked if I had any flies looking like such a creature. So I opened my fly box and showed Davy the imitation - "Yeah, that looks like a real boerstenworm", he said. That is how it was named. And suitingly so since "boersteorm" translates directly into "brush worm" or "rag worm" in English.
It is the result after many ideas and variants. The current version is effective and not too complicated to tie. The bead and the soft connection between the two hooks make the fly go up and down in an irresistible, life-like manner.
Coloring with a waterproof pen makes the fly look camouflaged and reflecting the light in different colors and tones. This to some extend compensates for the synthetic and unnatural appearance of the cactus chenille.
When I asked Claus to send a picture of a trout taken on the worm, he send me the one to the right. That fish is huge by any standard, and a worthy proof of the worm's effectiveness:
"The fish took the fly one early morning in March. I was fishing a small reef of mussels. It suddenly exploded very close to where I was standing..."
Fishing at night
A smaller, black version is very effective when it is dark. The folded Magic Head makes it streak just below the surface. Claus has had so much success with this setup, that it has now replaced the old and famous Black Cigar.
The night version does not have a bead on the front hook.
The long and soft fly has a tendency to catch itself in the cast, but adding a weed guard to the front hook reduces this phenomenon up to ten times. The number of casts with a curled fly will go from one for every ten casts to one in a hundred.
The Angel Hair in the tail is not a must, but it gives a nice reflection in the soft marabou. Do not add too much, but only a few fibers.
I am sure that the movement and size of the fly will appeal to many fish: pike, perch, sea bass, stripers and many more, but you are the one to do the testing.