Woolly Bugger Fly Step-by-Step

Woolly Bugger Fly Step-by-Step:

“The Woolly Bugger is so effective, it should be banned from some watersheds.”
Bill Hunter in Lefty Kreh’s “The Professionals’ Favorite Flies”

No fly tying blog would be complete without a Woolly Bugger tutorial. And no Woolly Bugger tutorial would be complete without the above quote. Though only created in the 1960s, this simple Palmer-Worm derivation is astoundingly effective and has long held “classic” fly status.

Owing its success to its ability to mimic countless prey items, the woolly bugger is often the first fly we learn to fish and the first fly we learn to tie. Originally tied to immitate a large Dobsonfly nymph (Hellgrammite), the pattern has since been deemed a worthy mimic of baitfish, sculpin, leeches, crayfish, damselflies and even a number of saltwater crustaceans.

Tied as shown, in olive with or without a beadhead, this pattern is a secret fish catching weapon that belongs in every angler’s fly box.

3-4x Long Streamer (size 2-10) 70 Denier (Olive)Materials Brass or Tungsten (sized to match)
Materials Olive Marabou over FlashMaterials Microchenille (Olive) Saddle Hackle (Olive)
Materials Gold Ultrawire (Small)

Step-by-Step Tying Instructions:

(Mobile Viewers: Click images to enlarge)

Tips and Tricks:

1. There’s no wrong way to fish a bugger

When it comes to tips and tricks, this could easily be the shortest or longest section I’ve written. The reason is…there’s no wrong way to fish a woolly bugger. Lake, pond, river, stream. Twitched, stripped, bounced, swung, dead drifted or even trolled. If fish are present, this pattern will likely catch them. Experiment with your retrieve, and you’ll eventually figure out what the fish want.

2. What else can I say, someone else already literally wrote the book now it!

For those looking to go down the rabbit hole of Woolly Bugger knowledge, check out Gary Soucie’s Woolly Wisdom. With 230+ pages devoted to Woolly Buggers, Woolly Worms and their variants, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more detailed look at these flies.

Proof of Concept

For all the time I spend on the water, I do not have a single recent image of a fish landed on a woolly bugger. To the best of my recollection, the last fish landed on the pattern was a stocker brown caught in late 2012.

My most vivid memory, however (and the one I most regret not having photo documentation of) was the unexpected Grass Carp that devoured a small yellow woolly worm as I stripped it just below the surface of a farm pond sometime in my youth. To this day, that is still the largest fish I’ve battled on a 5-wt.

Perhaps it’s time I take my own advice and keep a few Woolly Buggers stocked in my fly box.

Tight Lines, guys!


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