I must confess that I knew nothing of the Royal Wulff before going to live in New Zealand and discovering for myself what a versatile fly it is. It seems that in New Zealand fly patterns are strongly influenced by successful patterns from the States and among the best known are the “Wulff” variants originating from Lee Wullf. Strangely enough the Royal Wulff itself is not one of his own flies and the credit for its creation goes instead to a guy called QL Quackenbush (what a great name!) and it was he who made a hair wing version of the Royal Coachman and this was originally given the name of Quack Coachman (another great name!)

This fly was first given a swim in New York by members of the Beaverkill Trout Club and it has since travelled the world and become very famous.


For my money the Royal Wulff is a great choice when you are scratching your head and wondering what the hell to use. If there is no rise in evidence it will often draw a fish up to the surface and I must admit to having used it in New Zealand when the trout were taking mayflies because my mayfly pattern was hard to see in the dying light of the evening. I´m sure a purist would have been appalled but the trout seemed perfectly happy with it.

Some time ago when my book was taking shape (sorry, another shameless plug!) I thought that we might illustrate it with some photos of flies discussed in the text. In the end this didn´t happen and we used just watercolour paintings as illustrations. I did however manage to receive some lovely flies tied up by the Mataura fishing guide David Murray-Orr and these included his tying of a Royal Wulff.

I include here a little of what I wrote about the fly and this, in turn is followed by some images of David´s  tying.

“Most Onslow fishermen use artificial lures but the fish take the fly well too and it is often worth prospecting with a Royal Wulff, even when there seems to be nothing moving to flies at the surface. This fly, like the Adams, is one of the most successful of the many patterns used in New Zealand which originated in the US and, it seems to me at least, that the dominant influence on New Zealand flyfishing has been American rather than European. With its slim waist and buxom proportions, there is something seductively feminine in the silhouette of this fly. A woman with curves like would certainly have a lot of drinks bought for her but what it is that attracts the trout to this fly is more difficult to say. The Royal Wulff, like many of the very best flies, seems to suggest a lot of insects rather than closely imitate one in particular. It could be taken, at a push, for a mayfly perhaps, or maybe even a sedge, or one of several terrestrials blown onto the water by the wind. Being broadly suggestive may make a fly popular with fish but it can have the opposite effect on fly fishermen some of whom snub it because it lacks the class of more accurately imitative flies. This fly has the great virtue of being very easy to see in just about any combination of wave and light, and, in the evening the two wings of calf tail can be made out when other surface flies have melted into the darkness.”

The white wings are tied from calf tail and can be easily seen even when the light conditions are not so good.

The white wings are tied from calf tail and can be easily seen even when the light conditions are not so good.


David´s tying

David´s tying of the Royal Wulff