G. Loomis Rods

The Guide Line

Fishing the "Woolie" for Steelhead

An Interview with Skagit River Guide, John Koenig

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When did you first start fishing "Woolies, Yarnies, and Cheezy Poofs"?

First off before we get started here on what has become an integral part of my every day Steelheading arsenal I just want to set the record straight on "Yarnies". I've heard them called "Yarnies" on numerous occasions but think that most of the credit to their development and wide use should be given to our Canadian neighbors. I first stumbled accross them 14 years ago while fishing for Kings on the Vedder River with Dave Vedder and Clint Delargo. It was pretty much a spectator sport day for Dave and I as we watched Clint reel in King after King with his float rod and center-pin reel. When I asked Clint what he was using he simply responded with, "Wool"! I thought, "What the hell was Wool"? Especially with his Canadian pronunciation of the word... kinda' sounded like he said, "Wule"... or somthing to that effect. Upon close inspection of Clint's "Wool" it looked to me just like he was using a very large Glow-Bug that hadn't been trimmed down nice and neatly to more or less just be called a large Glow-Bug. Upon further conversation with Dave and Clint I discovered how widely used "Wool" was in the Canadian Anglers arsenal for all the anadromous species and decided I'd try it out back here at home and add it to my own arsenal. So, giving credit where credit is due, at least for this interview, why don't we call them "Woolies".

I'll explain the whole, "Cheezy-Poof" name we've been calling them for years next. After first being introduced to "Woolies" in BC 14 years ago I was all excited about trying them back here at home and tied up a bunch of them almost imediately when I got home from fishing with Dave and Clint... and there they sat for a couple of more years while I was still working on the development of "John's Jigs" and trying to perfect my float fishing with their use. I sold my jig company about the same time Side Drifting just started to take off down in Oregon and shortly after introduced to us here in WA by a few stellar Oregon guides up here slaying the Steelhead over on the Olympic Peninsula. My first introduction to Side Drifting was over on the Olympic Peninsula using cured roe, a single hook, and "Puff Ball" while using a fly-reel with mono and a spinning rod. It soon after progressed to a spinning reel and rod, using cured roe and stinger set-up using two size 4 hooks with a cheater between the two hooks. Side drifitng had definately found its way into my arsenal and to this day remains one of my favorite ways to fish. As deadly as side drifitng was using bait over on the Olympic Peninsula I still had to figure out somthing I could Side Drift with back here at home on the Sauk and Skagit during our Selective Fishery season and I still wasn't all that confident with the use of "Woolies" and instead tried side drifitng with Pink Worms and Gooey Bobs at first. Then one day running low on both I dusted off the many rolls of pre-tied "Woolies" or "Yarn Balls" as I first started calling them and decided to put them to use and started catching fish on them. One day while having a stellar day fishing them another angler happened to float by as we were releasing another Steelhead and asked what we were using. That day I was guiding good friend "Jeffro Bodean" and he responed to the angler with, "Cheezy-Poofs"! (From the show "South Park")... we laughed our arses off, and the name stuck. The word seemed to get out on the use of "Woolies" more or less down in Oregon and their popularity has been growing ever since.

What set of river conditions usually works best for Yarnies? (i.e. low and clear, etc.)

Any fishable river condition works well for Woolies! I tend to tie them in a variety of sizes from very small (about the size of a dime or even smaller) for low clear water conditions to large for higher colored water. (from the size of a quarter to that of a half dollar)

Are there any particular colors that work better than others?

I find that any of one's favorite "Corkie" or "Cheeter" color combo used on a particular river system works best, but I do believe there is somthing to the "Eye" color of the "Wooly" and making that stand out from the "Outside Color" that really sets off an agressive reaction from the fish.

Do you find a particular leader length to work best, and why?

I tend to go with a shorter leader length than I do when fishing bait and the reason being that when tied correctly the "Wooly" while being very close to neutrally bouyant, they tend to float up a bit when fished. When used while Side-Drifting I usually use about a 2 to 3 foot leader length. When fished under a float, using an in-line slinkie to get the Wooly down, I use about a 2 foot leader length. If drift fished from the bank I would have a variety of leader lengths set up from 2 to 5 feet so the Wooly could be presented to the fish in a variety of diferent holding water depths. Remember fish see up, not down!

What size hook and what brand of materials do you like for tying cheezy poofs?

Depends on the size of the Wooly I'm using for hook size, but most range from size 1 to 1/0. Some yarns are more bouyant than others and my Woolies range both in bouyancy and size according to the water I'm fishing, but I'd say the majority I tie up are done with "Glo Bug" yarn.

Do you use any scents with them if it's legal to do so?

Sure, when legal to do so! They hold scent extremely well and disperse it for an extended period of time as well. Usually only have to scent them up once with your favorite go to scent and they're good to go. One thing to remember about them and their ability to hold scent extremely well is that they are also holding your human scent. Its always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly before tying them up and try not to handle them to much while fishing them... especially in a Selective Fishery where no scent is allowed.

Whats the best day you've ever had fishing yarnies?

Can't pick out any particular day and call it the "best" day I've had while fishing them, but I have had many double digit days on Steelhead using them.

Why do you think they work so well?

I think the best quality of a correctly fished Wooly is that they are almost neutrally bouyant, giving them a very natural presentation in any water condition. Other great qualities of Woolies are that the color combinations are endless, they do hold scent very well when scent is allowed, they're a soft lure and fish tend to hang on to them, and being tied using yarn the fish teeth tend to get hung up in the yarn making for a far more distinguishable bite.


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