San Juan Worm


Some people consider this a controversial fly, mostly because it has the word "worm" in its name. Don Bryant, a Westfly user who has fished New Mexico's San Juan River for 25 years, says of this fly: "The nymph pattern was first developed on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam in NW New Mexico to imitate the river's large population of aquatic worms. They are generally one inch to two inches long and live in the riverbed itself. They turn up in great numbers if you seine the bottom by turning over rocks or stirring up the muck with your wader boot. They look very much like earthworms or miniature night crawlers (some even having the distinctive worm collar. They come in a variety of mostly neutral colors. The trout feed on them extensively and find flamboyant colors an added attraction. The trout definitely take the SJW fly pattern to be exactly what it is designed to represent, the worms of the San Juan River.

Traditional  Beaded SJW
Photographs by Earl Schenberg


TMC 300, Size 10 or 12
To match the body
Ultra Chenille

Tying Instructions

  1. Mount the hook in the vise and lay a base of thread to the bend.
  2. Tie on the Ultra Chenille at the bend and bring the thread forward
  3. Pull the chenille forward and tie it off.
  4. Whip finish and add head cement.
  5. With a cigarette lighter, slightly burn each end of the chenille.  The flame will cause the chenille to come to a point.


Variations: Red, Natural Brown, Pinks, Florescent colors of red, orange and pink.  You can weight the fly by wrapping it with wire or adding a bead before tying on the chenille.

Fox Stadler's article about tying and fishing the San Juan Worm.

Fishing Techniques

Dead drift near the bottom with the indicator or tight line presentations.  Bright colors are good during periods of high water.