Fixed-Line Fly Fishing Kebari & Fly Tying Techniques

Back to Basics: The Overhand Worm

Article by Chris Stewart

What could be more basic than a worm on a hook?

This being a website dedicated to fixed line FLY fishing, I can’t write about the back-to-childhood simple pleasure of fishing with a worm on a hook, but I can write about the next best thing.

The Overhand Worm is a fly I developed (that may be overstating it a bit – once you see the fly you may think “developed” elevates it beyond its due) specifically for worm fishermen who found themselves through no fault of their own on a fly-fishing-only stream. It is absolutely the simplest fly you can tie. So simple in fact that a worm fisherman who has never tied a fly in his life, and has no tools beyond a pair of nippers, can tie it streamside in a minute or two. Being an experienced fly dresser may shave a few seconds off that time.

There may be anglers who do not consider it, or any other worm imitation, to be a fly. New York State, where I live, defines a fly as “a hook with no more than two points dressed with feathers, hair, thread, tinsel or any similar material to which no additional hooks, spinners, spoons or similar devices have been added.” I think chenille qualifies as “similar material.” Nowhere in the definition is the requirement that a “fly” must imitate an insect with wings. State regs rule! It’s a fly.

When I showed it to Morgan Lyle, author of the book Simple Flies, he pronounced it subversive. High praise! When I not only showed it but also demonstrated its effectiveness to George Roberts Jr, author of Master the Cast and A Fly Fisher’s Guide to Saltwater Naturals and their Imitations, he said something to the effect that he kind of wished it didn’t work as well as it did.

Step by Step fly tying instructions never count preparing the materials to be a step. Following that convention, this unconventional fly can be tied in three steps.

  1. Tie a loose overhand knot in a length of pink chenille (previously cut to about 1 1/4“).
  2. Insert the hook into the overhand knot.
  3. Tighten the knot.

I’ve used several different hooks, but have settled on the size 12 C’ultiva SBL-35 (what I call the Wide Eyed Hooks) or size 14 Gamakatsu R10-B. Both are barbless, hold fish well, and will often come out by themselves after you get the fish into the net.

I usually fish the Overhand Worm with a split shot 6-8” above the fly. Depending on current and depth, you might want anything from a #10 shot for relatively slow, shallow water up to a couple BB shot for deep water with fast current, where you want the Overhand Worm to get down immediately.

You can use any tenkara, seiryu or keiryu rod you may have. If using a tenkara line, keep the end of the hi-vis or furled line above the water’s surface. Because the depth of the stream can vary considerably from spot to spot, consider using a white sighter, which can be partially submerged without scaring the fish. That way you won’t have to continually change your tippet length.

If the water is more than a couple feet deep, or if the depth varies considerably, you will do better with a longer keiryu rod and a keiryu line – very light, clear line constructed with tippet material, using knots of keiryu marker yarn for strike detection. The keiryu marker knots can be moved up or down the line easily so you can keep them just above the surface and the Overhand Worm just above the bottom. When using a keiryu line, you must use a split shot because the line itself has essentially no weight.

If fishing with kids (and by the way, the kids could tie the Overhand Worms themselves), you could substitute a small float for the keiryu marker yarn. It is easier for a kid to watch a float than to keep the marker knots or end of the tenkara line just above the surface.

And if that is starting to sound suspiciously like a cane pole, a bobber and a worm, welcome to back-to-childhood simple pleasure.

Or stay grumpy. Your choice.


Chris Stewart, (aka) the TenkaraBum, grew up in Colorado and is currently based in NYC. He is the owner, CEO, & shipping clerk of TenkaraBum LLC. He usually can’t be found because he’s wearing camo.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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1 comment

  1. “wished it didn’t work as well as it did”. Ha! That right there is worth the price of a pocket full of chenille worms! Fly snobs revolt!

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