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.