This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the Norm Wood Special TBT.

Two Norm Wood Specials |

I’ve fished the Norm Wood Special off and on for many years on the Lower Deschutes River, OR. It’s an effective fly for the Golden Stone hatch. For some reason, it’s always intrigued me, perhaps because of the “odd” color wing, a tangerine color calf tail wing.

Norm Wood was a fly fishing guide on the Deschutes River for 30 years. This is his “secret” pattern.

These two flies were purportedly tied by Norm Wood himself.

But let me start at the beginning.

I was in Boise, ID for the 2020 Western Idaho Fly Fishing Expo and met one of my RiverKeeper Flies subscribers. He and another friend asked which flies I planned to demonstrate at the Expo. I planned to tie several, but one of them was a Norm Wood Special. A moment passed and he said he knows someone who knew Norm Wood. After a couple minutes, he walked away and I could see him talking on his cell phone. I assumed he had a call to make. Turns out, he called his friend and asked if he could pass his name on to me.

And he did.

I returned home and called his friend Jim.

We had a pleasant conversation over the phone and he reminisced about fly fishing the Lower Deschutes and encounters with Norm.

He talked about seeing Norm’s Duckworth jet sled with “Stormin Normin” on side of the boat. How Norm would drop off clients and they walked through Jim’s camp.

Jim told me stories of fishing the Lower Deschutes in the early 1970’s. He would walk or ride a bike upstream from the mouth at the Columbia River to fish. Other trips were in drift boats from Mack’s Canyon to the confluence with the Columbia River. Blue jeans and tennis shoes were proper attire back in those days fishing the hatch.

The Norm Wood Special was one of the flies that was very effective for him.

Jim fished this fly during salmonfly season as well as for steelhead, at times swinging the fly to create a wake. Sometimes used a riffle hitch.

Jim happened to go to a garage sale several years ago when Norm was living in Parkrose, OR. He saw his boat and there were six flies for sale. They were the last six flies he had.

He graciously offered to mail a couple of flies for me to photograph. The images below are two of those six flies.

Norm Wood Special |
Norm Wood Special Close-up |

When I opened the package and looked at the flies for the first time, I was surprised to see the tangerine tail. I hadn’t seen that before. Jim expressed it was used to help float the fly.

What was unique about the Norm Wood Special was the tangerine calf tail wing. Here are his flies on a calf tail I purchased from The Deschutes Angler in Maupin, OR. I’d say they are a perfect match!

Norm Wood Special on Calf Tail |

It’s difficult to find the right color of calf tail. It’s said Norm had a special dye and that’s what made this fly so effective. Look for the color “Norm Wood” (there really is one). Some of those “Norm Wood” colors look more tan than tangerine. I bought my calf tails from The Deschutes Angler in Maupin, Oregon. Amy told me they had someone dye them special for the shop. If you purchase a calf tail or two from them, let them know I sent you!

Calf Tail - Norm Wood Special|

A couple of years ago, Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop owner John Smeraglio made a presentation about the Deschutes River to our Central Oregon Flyfishers club. He talked about the specific calf tail color and later sent an email with the recipe. If you have problems finding the right color of calf tail, you can find the dye recipe at the end of my Norm Wood Special fly pattern sheet. Click HERE.

When searching the Internet for information about the Norm Wood Special, I came across a blog post from Matt Mendes’ website entitled Spin the Handle. Click the link for more information about his experience with Norm.

Here is my version of the Norm Wood Special.

Norm Wood Special |

Enjoy…go fish!

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  1. Deschutes guide Bob Miester (? – it’s been a long time) tied a similar fly many years ago that had a fluoro hot orange thread base below the front palmered hackle; that led the way to Randall Kauffman’s Stimulator with a dubbed front section. I’m reminded of that fly when I look at the long thread head on the Norm original.
    I tie a Gold-wing Trude that may not be as good as the tangerine color; I’ll have to field-test them side-by-side in a couple of months.
    Thanks for the writeup on this old standard that still produces – and will out-produce a lot of what’s been marketed since.

    1. Chuck

      Thanks for leaving a Comment. Happy to hear I was able to bring back a few more good memories!

      PS – I did a quick edit for you…


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