The Royal Wulff Dry Fly

The Royal Coachman is an American pattern that is the gaudy cousin of the British Coachman. When the Coachman wet fly crossed the Atlantic Theodore Gordon adapted it to a dry fly.

 The Royal Wulff Dry Fly pattern

WULFF DRY FLY PATTERNS. Hook size 10 12 14 - $US each

WD4 Royal Wulff Dry Fly Hook Size 10   - Quantity: 
WD4 Royal Wulff Dry Fly Hook Size 12   - Quantity: 
WD4 Royal Wulff Dry Fly Hook Size 14   - Quantity: 

In 1876 John Hailey, a professional fly-dresser living in New York, added the red silk band to create the distinctive feature of all Royal patterns. He had been asked to tie some extra strong Coachmen Dry flies. He tied a band of red silk in the middle to prevent the peacock bodies from fraying out. He had also added a tail of barred wood duck feathers. His dry fly has spawned a whole range of variants including streamers and hairwings. Mr L.C.Orvis gave it it's name whilst discussing with others what it should be called. He said "Oh, that is easy enough: call it the Royal Coachman. It is so finely dressed". Although the wings may vary, all have the same red central body section, butted either end with peacock herl. It often works when nothing else will. 

The Royal coachman is an excellent general purpose up-winged dry fly that can be used to represent many other large winged insects as well as may flies. It is an ideal wasp, hornet or bee pattern. Treat with floatant and fish it on the surface. Try the occasional retrieve over the surface for a short distance or else twitch it to represent a struggling terrestrial insect like a wasp or bee trapped in the surface film.

Lee Wulff did not create the Royal Wulff. He created the Gray and White Wulff during his stay in the Adirondacks during the 1929. Q L Quackenbush, one of the early members of the Beaverkill Trout Club above Lew Beach in NY state, is credited with designing the Royal Coachman hair wing dry fly. He liked the the fanwinged Royal Coachman but found the wings too flimsy and fragile. He asked tyer Reuben Cross of Neversink, New York to dress a Royal Coachman with a more robust wing. Reuben asked his suppliers to send him suitable material that was stiff, white and kinky. They sent him Impala tails that were ideal for the task. It was originally given the name of the Quack Coachman by members of the Beverkill Trout Club. It looked very similar to the more popular Wulff dry flies and gradually became known as the Royal Wulff.

Night Fishing with the Royal Wulff
On a late summer’s evening whilst fishing a hatch of Green Drake mayflies I got caught in a thunder storm. I waited out the storm in the shelter of a rock overhang. It went on for longer than normal which meant that the light levels on this stretch of river with woodland on both banks, was decreasing rapidly. I could not see my Green Drake mayfly patterns so rather than calling it a day and going home I ties on a Royal Wulff dryfly. The runoff from the rain had started to colour the water and the increased volume had made the water surface rough.

I could see the white wings of the Royal Wulff as it bobbed in the shade of the far bank. I cast to a rising fish and it took the first time. I was stunned. I landed a beautifully marked brown trout of about 1lb with bright red spots on its adipose fin. After I returned that pretty little fish to the river, I dried my fly and cast once more across the swiftly flowing water. I could see the white winged fly bob on the riffle beneath an overhanging oak tree and then with a splash, it was taken. I could not believe my luck. It was if the lightning storm had supercharged the trout’s appetite or had made them careless. The rod was nearly jerked out on my hand as the trout sped for the deeper water in the centre of the river. It put up a strong fight but I eventually landed a 3lb beauty.

Lee Wulff's Dry Flies
The Wulff series of fly patterns were developed by Lee Wulff. It presents a bushy, high floating fly, that remains visible into the evening twilight, and rides well in rough water. Every modern fly angler should have one or more of Lee Wulff's innovations. He designed and sold the first fly fishing vests, championed reeling with the left hand on fly reels (so the rod was in the stronger right hand), invented the first palming spool fly reels, introduced the fly-O casting practice rigs, popularized the "riffling hitch" for salmon fishing and designed the popular triangle taper lines. However, Lee Wulff's best-known innovations were in his flies.

Wulff patterns were the first flies to use hair for fly wings and tails. Almost all dry flies available in the winter of 1929/30 were, according to Wulff, anemic and too delicate, which he ascribed to their British tradition. The reason for very slim flies was that if a fly was too bulky the feather materials did not have the buoyancy to hold it up. A very popular pattern, for example, was the Fanwing Coachman that not only twisted the leader but also sunk at the tail due to the golden pheasant tail fibers used. Wulff also noted that dry flies with wings and tails of feathers get slimed up and are not very durable. To Wulff, the solution was obvious use bucktail (deerhair) for tails and wings. The mobility and buoyancy of elk and deer hair has made it a favorite North American fly tying material.

The first Wulff flies were tied to imitate the Isonychia (Gray Drake) and Green Drake hatches in the Catskills area of North East America. Wulff first fished these patterns with his regular fishing companion, Dan Bailey, who was then a science teacher in Brooklyn. In those early trials with these new patterns, Lee's was not disappointed. He found that the fish seemed to prefer the bulkier flies that "looked more" like the naturals than the more anemic patterns that were then popular. With respect to durability, the hairwing flies also excelled. Wulff reports he caught 51 trout on one Gray Wulff fly in an early outing, needing only to "grease up the fly for every 5-6 fish". The first patterns included the Gray Wulff, White Wulff and Royal Wulff. The Grey Wulff can be used to imitate any dark mayfly the trout are feeding on but when Lee Wulff was reportedly asked what the Royal Wulff was imitating he supposedly said, "Strawberry shortcake, something great big and juicy floating down to a large trout." It is an attractor pattern that is easily seen and high floating. It is a sweet little dessert that predatory fish find irresistible.

Later several other Wulff patterns, including the Grizzly Wulff, Black Wulff, Brown Wulff and Blonde Wulff were developed. Lee Wulff stated that these flies were a general kind of fly, not a particular pattern. When you first use Wulff flies treat with floatant and fish on the surface. Leave the fly to drift with the current. Occasionally accelerate it gently over short distances of a yard (meter) or more, or else twitch it to represent a struggling insect trapped in the surface film. They were first used in Britain in the 1950's but they saw very little service in Ireland until after 1990.

I mainly fish in the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. The Eucumbene River is my main destination. The most useful fly for us in the Eucumbene River is the Royal Wulff in a size 12. It floats well and the boys can see it easily and it works! The trout in the Eucumbene don't seem to be very fussy eaters and there doesn't seem to be big hatches of particular insects that makes them selective. In mid summer we do get good numbers of grasshoppers and the Royal Wulff seems to work as a grasshopper patters as well. I suspect its success is because it is a good sized meaty chunk that will bring a fish up through a meter or so of fast water as the energy it appears to contain is more than the fish expends in coming to the surface. This is perfect for novices as we fish the fast water where presentation is less important and even if there is no obvious fish activity we still have a good chance of bringing one up.

I fish many Northumbrian reservoirs. They all have a definite peat stain to them and this reduces visibility. I find that the most effective patterns in these conditions are large patterns made with bright coloured materials like the Royal Wulff. The colour and the fly’s disturbing properties I find are extremely effective and out fish flies like a Klinkhammer, parachute or standard mayfly dry fly pattern. - Jack Elwine

I like to walk the river, so by the end of May when the water has started to drop, the sea trout will start their spawning run. It is always a bit of a crap-shoot as far hitting the run, but when you do - look out. We have a long weekend in mid May (third Monday of the month) called Victoria Day, celebrating the Queen’s birthday. We would typically go fishing on that weekend, but always feel we were a couple of weeks early for the sea trout run. Now we delay the trip tip late May and the fishing has improved immensely. There are 8 pounders out here, with most being in the 2 Lb range. On stretches of calmer water, I do love a dry fly. Royal Wulff is my favourite, usually dead drifting, and when a trout rises, I love to drop the fly a few feet above the rise and watch for the take. It is a thing of beauty! I typically use small flies, size 12 or so, but last year started to tie on size 8 or 6 flies with success. I like an 8’ 4wt rod and reel. I have a new 4/5 four-piece Bloke that will be christened this spring. I will definitely be sharing the spinner technique with the guys this spring, and I have a couple of spots in mind that should be perfect for the technique you described. - Stephen Herc, Eastern Canada.

On the Ongarue river in New Zealand I use a Royal Wulff almost to exclusion of all other flies. (If you want to see more about these rivers visit the website - By Doug Stevens

The Royal Wulff. After the fly lands on the water, I let it rest for about 3 seconds and then twitch the line so that it moves about an inch or so. I let it rest and repeat twice. Seems to work pretty well. Mark Ebel, Elliston, VA 24087, USA

Size 18 Royal Wulff for high mountain lakes makes for incredible memories! Tom Yokom, Idaho, USA

I use wulff's in hook size 14-16 in seams. They works well when the river is in shadows in summer. I've had best results on Little Naches, Bumping and Rattlesnake River. Nearby streams in eastern WA state. Royals seem to work best. Gary Reynolds, Yakima, Washington, USA

I fish in New Brunswick Canada. I caught a fine Brookie on a Royal Wulff. - John Glass

 The Royal Wulff Dry Fly pattern
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