Fly Angler's OnLine "Fly of the Week #9"

Woolly Bugger

(October 27th - November 2nd, 1997)

Woolly Bugger

Thanks to Umpqua Feather Merchants, Glide, OR
for use permission.


Mustad 79580, TMC 300 sizes 4 -12, weighted.


Black, 6/0 (fluorescent green can also been used).

Lead Wire:

0.10 to 0.30 inch thickness.


Black Marabou, plus 3 strands of Krystal Flash for shine.


Black chenille.


Black, palmered.

"Old Reliable"

If I could choose only one pattern to fish here on Lake Taneycomo, (a tail-water part of the White River chain of lakes in Missouri) I would pick the woolly bugger. This one's almost a no-brainer.

Woolly buggers take large fish of all species and work in such a wide range of conditions, it could be coined "Fly of the Century." It seems to be a mix of a jig and woolly worm. The best thing about having a woolly tied to your leader is you almost can't fish it wrong.

I like to fish my woollies heavily weighted, but I have taken many fish with an un-weighted version. Since the woolly is a nymph or baitfish imitation, I tie it in a variety of colors and sizes.

Hook sizes 4-12 are necessary to cover a wide range of situations, and wrapping the hook with ten to twenty-four wraps of 0.10 to 0.30 lead wire will get the fly to sink quickly. Colors can be varied. I have found the most productive are olive, black, brown, peacock, and just about any combination of these.

This fly can be a great shad imitation, a perfect fake sculpin, or a suitable crawfish look-alike. I start with a black woolly in about 90% of my night-fishing trips, and work my way to lighter colors depending on how fish react.

I always tie in a large bushy marabou tail to give the undulating action that makes the woolly so effective. With the addition of Krystal Flash or another synthetic flash material, you can give your fly some sparkle, either on the body or just in the tail section.

I firmly believe that the beginning fly-tier should learn this fly first or second. Remember, woollies that look ugly to you look ugly to the fish - which can be a good thing. I caught a 7 pound rainbow on a half scud/half woolly "flymph" I made up in the first setting at my bench. It is now retired on my favorite fishing hat, where all my hand-tied creations that take large fish end up.

I better not catch any more big fish this Fall - that hat seems to have more flies on it, than my fly box has in it! -BS

Tying Instructions:

You can add as much lead as you can fit to this fly if you want. Using a section of .20 lead wire, wrap about 22 turns around the middle of the hook shank. Wrap thread onto hook covering the lead creating a step at the rear to attach your marabou tail.

Pull marabou tips with your fingertips to even them, never cut them straight with scissors. That ensures the proper breathing action of the marabou. Tie in the marabou.

Add 2 or 3 strands of flash to the top - or sides of the tail.

Tie in hackle at the tip of the feather. Make sure the feather is tied shiny side up, this will allow the fibers from the feather to splay around the fly, giving it a "buggy" appeal when wrapped forward.

Cut a 3 inch section of chenille and pull off about a half inch from the thread that holds the chenille together. Tie in the tip of chenille to the hook, right in past where you just tied the hackle feather.

Advance your thread to the front, to just about one hook-eye-length away from the eye. Wind chenille forward to the eye and bind down with your thread, making sure not to crowd the eye.

Attach your hackle pliers to the stem of the hackle and wind forward evenly spacing each wrap to the front of the fly. Whip finish and cement.

One word of advice, always fish your flies. This will not only get you on your road to saving money against store bought flies, but also justify the money you spent for your vise and all these materials. Good Fishing! -BS

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