The Isonychia Wiggle Emerger

Isonychia Wiggle Emerger
Isonychia Wiggle Emerger

Isonychia Wiggle Emerger

Hook: Fine wire Caddis or emerger hook size 14

Shank: Nymph-Head® Articulated Wiggle-Tail Shank™

Thread: 8/0 brown

Wiggle Tail Body: Brown/natural pheasant tail counter wrapped with fine gold wire.

Dubbing: Hare tron Brown

Body: Pheasant tail counter wrapped with fine gold wire

Stripe: UTC Ultra 140 denier in white (also used to connect the tail)

Pompadour: CDC oil puff in Dun (a fluorescent color can be used as well if you have trouble seeing your flies on the water as this is also doubling as an indicator)

I apologize for the wait on this pattern, as I had quite a few requests for it. I have also received numerous questions in regards to how to use the Wiggle Tail Shanks themselves. I have added that information into a separate section here. It will open in a new window so that you can continue with your pattern.

I had recently tied this pattern along with the Renegade during a fly tying demonstration for the Ridge & Valley TU chapter. It was awesome to hear how much fun tying along with this pattern was, since I have been told that hat it seems rather intimidating at first glance. So If you’ve had trouble in the past with articulated nymphs I hope you give this another try.

The Isonychia


The Isonychia is a decent sized mayfly that can be so numerous at times, and produces such action, that you aren’t even sure where to cast. There have been plenty of times at dusk where I see more trout taking emergers than I do the mayflies that are aimlessly drifting along the surface when this hatch is in full swing. Some trout will even come barreling out of the water to take them as they rise up trying to reach the top of the water column.

Isonychia Shuck
Isonychia Shuck

Many of them make it, and that evidence can be found strewn all around the river bank. Rocks where they had once climbed up to finish their transformation, are now littered with abandoned shucks.

The next time you’re in the middle of an Isonychia hatch; try to divert your eyes away from the far bank for a few seconds, and look down. Concentrate on what is right in front of you at your feet. If you stand still, gazing into the water as it swiftly passes, you will see the nymphs. They are almost breaking dancing as they head down river, and many of them wont make it to their final form.

Wiggle Emerger in water
Wiggle Emerger in water

That is where this pattern comes in handy and its for two main reasons. When dead drifted and tied just the way it is, it gives a little movement. A little extra attention grabber as it passes the eye of a hungry trout. Then after the fish have destroyed it to the point that your CDC bubble is ruined? Let it sink and swing it! It will wiggle and thrash around with those broken CDC fibers and continue to work.

Lets begin!

*If you aren’t familiar with using an articulated shank, or in this case, a smaller one for nymphs, please see a more in depth step-by-step here, at any time. It will open in a new window so that you can continue with your pattern.*

Measuring the Length of your Shank

When tying the wiggle tail, you want the PHYSICAL body of the finished shank itself, to be about the length of the hook shank. Since this is a curved hook you will measured before it begins to severely curve. Take a look at a finished shank below in comparison to the hook.

Example of the finished length in comparison to the hook.
Example of the finished length in comparison to the hook.

One way to do this is to lay them side by side and cover the excess of the wiggle shank with your finger.


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Once you have figured out the length needed, the excess can be hidden in your vise itself as you tie the tail, so as not to divert your eye to where it doesn’t need to be.

Place your shank in the vise, and position it so only whats needed is showing. Now you can tie on it as if it were a normal hook.

Adding your material


Tie in a few inches of fine gold wire and about 5 or 6 pheasant tail fibers, keeping the fiber tips pointed towards the back. Measure them just as you would for a pheasant tail nymph itself; about the length of the exposed shank, then tie them in.


Pull your pheasant tail fibers back and take then wraps forward, before stopping your thread behind the shanks eye.

Now you are going to counter-wrap the two materials up the shank.

If this looks funny its because I always counter-wrap the first material, TOWARDS me, then I tie second material away from me. I find it more manageable like this and holds better for me. Everyone has different techniques, so tie it in the way that is comfortable to you.


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However you do it, just wrap that pheasant tail up, then counter-wrap the wire. You can now add a small amount of dubbing to cover the waste ends, whip finish and cut your thread.


Trimming the Shank


Take the shank out of your vise, and look closely to find where the end of the fly is. Cut the excess shank with wire snips at the base of the fly. DO NOT use scissors, they will not work and you will ruin them.

Be sure to leave a little room at the end because you dont want to cut so close, that you snip the finished fly material off.

Finished wiggle shank.
Finished wiggle shank.

If you are going to be tying numerous flies in this fashion, you can streamline the process by tying all the tails first. This way you have them all ready to go for the hooks.

Getting that Iso to wiggle!

It’s time to create the wiggle! Grab your white UTC Ultra 140 denier and cut a few inches off of the spool. Position it at the base of your hook where it begins to turn under, and tie it in, but tie it down in the middle of the material. You want this white thread to double as a connection, and as a stripe; so be sure to leave a little room on both ends.

Cut a few inches of UTC 140 denier and tie it in, being sure to leave enough to create the stripe.
Thread the 140 through the eye of your shank.

Run the white thread through the eye of your shank.


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Bring the thread that you just placed through the eye, and hold it over the hook shank. Take one loose wrap to hold it in place. Pulling on the looped over white thread will tighten the grip on the shank. Do this just until you get it close to the shank, but not so close that it locks it in. You want it to move freely in the water.

Complete shank attached.
Complete shank attached.

Creating the body of your fly

Once you have the tail attached, pull both strands of white thread to the back and take one or two wraps to hold them in place.

Tie in a length of gold wire, and 5 or 6 strands of pheasant tail fibers at the base of the shank. This time you want the tips of the pheasant tail fibers pointing towards the hook eye, since we will be covering them up.


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Advance your thread forward, stopping about an eye length behind the eye.


The Stripe

Keep your bobbin thread in the same position, but bring both strands of white thread up for placement.
Proper placement of the center stripe.

If you were to simply bring the wire up and around the shank, the center-stripe would spin with it. One way to avoid this is to pull the stripe forward, take a wrap of wire, then tug on the stripe to re-align it. Do this with each wrap, all the way up the hook shank. When you reach the area behind the eye, you can tie it off and cut the excess.


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Take a few wraps to flatten our an area for the CDC Puff
Take a few wraps to flatten our an area for the CDC Puff

Creating the Pompadour.

CDC Puffs are a fun material to use, and depending on how you tie them in, they will create a bubble that traps air and helps your fly to float more so than if you only tied them in with the stem cut.


Take a few out of the package and examine them. Some may be thinner than others, so grab one that’s quite full for this fly.

Stem Base of the CDC Puff

Upon closer inspection you can see that these Puffs have a tiny stem at the base. Do not cut this off, we are going to use this to create the bubble. Hold the puff by the stem in one hand, and smooth it out with the fingers on the other. Then grab it by the fiber tips.

Smooth and ready to go!

Measuring the Pompadour


Hold your puff over the hook shank and measure it to about a hook-shank in length. Then re-position it over the tie in point, take one loose wrap, and then one tight one to secure it.


After you have taken a wrap to secure the puff, you will want to pull it back and take one more in front of it to prop it up and keep it off the eye.


Take a pinch of dubbing and apply it to the front of the CDC puff. You can now whip finish and cut your thread.

Finished Iso Wiggle Emerger

That’s it! Trimming some of the CDC that is hanging on the sides, is up to you. I prefer to leave it a little long.

Looks like a floating Pearl Onion!

Adding a drop of CDC oil inside the puff will also help to keep it afloat when fishing. I hope this tutorial has helped you experiment with a new material and please comment or contact me with any questions

Happy Tying!

4 Comments on “The Isonychia Wiggle Emerger

  1. Pingback: Material Talk: Articulated Wiggle Shanks – The•Quilted•Tyer

  2. Pingback: On The Vise Q & A: “How do I use the wiggle shanks?” – The•Quilted•Tyer

  3. Pingback: June 7th, 2017: Ridge & Valley TU Presentation – The•Quilted•Tyer

  4. Pingback: On My Vise: Isonychia Wiggle Emerger – The•Quilted•Tyer

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