July 3rd, 2006

By Jolly Jonnie, You've Got To Use Vorms!
By Neil M. Travis, Montana

Depending upon the weather, during the last few days of June and into the month of July, on trout streams in the eastern parts of our country a worm-hatch of sorts takes place. This hatch of worms does not originate in the stream, but comes from the trees adjacent to it, and as such is basically a terrestrial hatch. During my years of fishing on Michigan's Au Sable River we called this the 'greenie-worm hatch.'

These greenie worms live in a variety of trees that grow along the stream banks, but the one that seemed to produce the most green worms are the scrub oaks. In the jack pine barrens in Lower Michigan these scrubby oaks are not common, but they are plentiful enough to occasionally provide a fishable hatch of these worms.

I have used the word 'hatch' in its broadest form since technically these worms are not hatching. The process that makes them available to fish, specifically trout, is a migratory urge; sort of the grass is greener idea. Weather would occasionally play a part in depositing the worms into the watery world of the trout, but most of the greenie-worm fishing resulted from this urge to roam on the worm's part.

An occasional worm falling onto the water is not sufficient to produce a fishable hatch, but greenie worms seemed to develop a mass exodus mentality during the early days of summer. If the infestation of these worms is heavy a savvy angler may enjoy several days of successful angling under or near the streamside trees that are producing the worms.

When the urge to move strikes the worms they spin a line of fine silken thread, and using this tread they lower themselves down to the ground. Unlike spiders, these worms can only go down they cannot climb back up. Once they start down they are committed, and if their descent takes them into the water they then become subject to the whims of the currents like any other terrestrial. However, the silken thread is quite strong, and it's not uncommon to find the worms bouncing along on the surface of the stream still clinging to their silken line. It is this phenomenon that can elicit some of the most remarkable fishing opportunities.

Greenie worm imitations are not particularly difficult to tie, nor are they a thing of artistic beauty. Favorite greenie worm imitations were usually nothing more than deer hair dyed green. Innovative tyers would spin the hair and clip it short, but those of us that were lazier would simply tie in the tips of the hair at the bend of the hook, pull the hair forward, and lash it down. Either way you ended up with a long-shanked hook covered with green hair. Like the worms they imitated such imitations floated right in the surface film.

The trick to fishing greenie worms is first to find a stretch of stream where the worms are spinning down to the water in sufficient numbers to attract the attention of the resident trout. Once located the angler should position himself either upstream or up and across from where the worms are hitting the water. From either location the angler may cast his imitation on a slack line down to the feeding fish. If the worms and the trout are plentiful an angler may be able to spend several hours during the heat of the day fishing to rising trout.

One summer on the Au Sable the greenie worms were especially plentiful, and along the South Branch there was one particular stretch that had several stands of scrub oaks growing right along the banks. The water under these trees was relatively deep and shady, thus providing a perfect setup for worms and trout to meet.

One of my angling buddies was of Norwegian extraction, and upon learning about the greenie worm explosion we set off for a day of angling. When we arrived the greenie worms were exiting the trees in record numbers, and the trout were already lining up for the feast. A slight downstream wind was swinging the worms downward at an angle, and many of the worms were just lightly bouncing on the surface. This was resulting in explosive rises as the trout were slashing at the bouncing worms as they hung helpless at the ends of their silken tethers. So intent were the trout on the bouncing worms that they were completely ignoring the worms that fell into the water and were drifting downstream. We quickly lengthened our leaders and positioned ourselves so that we could skip our imitations on the surface of the water just like the naturals. This involved a technique much like 'high-stick nymphing' where all of the line is held up off the water and only the leader and the fly are actually in the current.

In order to achieve a natural action it was necessary to use a fairly light tippet, and this resulted in many break-offs on the strike since many of the fish were of substantial size. The action was furious, and often both of us would be playing a fish at the same time.

During the course of our fishing we did not notice another angler approaching from downstream. I don't know how long he watched us but finally he approached and called out to my partner.

"What are you using?" he asked.

Without missing a casting stroke my Norwegian friend replied, "By jolly Jonnie you've got to use vorms!" ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana

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