Trout Talk

The Woolly Bugger ... more than just a streamer

A Woolly Bugger in the vise.
The most versatile pattern in fly fishing?

The good, old Woolly Bugger is likely the first fly those new to fly tying craft at the vise, and I don’t know any anglers who don’t have ‘Buggers in their fly boxes. In fact, I know anglers who have entire boxes dedicated solely to the tried-and-true streamer.

But the Woolly Bugger is so much more than a streamer, and anglers who understand how to best fish this fly will have more success with it. I love fishing ‘Buggers as the point fly under an indicator, particularly if it’s got some weight to it —often, I’ll wrap the hook shank in non-lead wire, or put on a heavy, tungsten bead so I know the fly will get down. In darker colors — from brown or olive to jet black — the fly is a serviceable imitation of a stonefly nymph, and its weight will help get a trailing nymph down into the strike zone, giving you more chances to hook trout. It’s also worth letting the ‘Bugger swing out after a nymph drift, where it’s prone to drawing vicious strikes.

I’ve also used ‘Buggers under indicators in still water — a weighted Woolly Bugger, lightly jigged in several feet below an indicator where leeches or worms are present can be a deadly pattern for cruising trout or bass. No doubt about it … the ‘Bugger is among the most versatile flies out there, and anglers should fish it more often, and in more ways.