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The Woolly Bugger

🕔Mon, Mar 21st, 2011


HOOK: 2x or3x long, size 2 to 14; with 6 through 10 being most common.

BODY: Yarn, chenille or dubbing.

HACKLE: Palmered, usually natural or died grizzly saddle tied in by tip.

TAIL: Marabou, often same color as the body. Added strands of Crystal Flash or Flashabou optional.


Some of the best color combinations include black/olive (as above), black/grizzly, all black, all brown, black and fluorescent blue. Some tie the Woolly Bugger without a lead wire underbody. In theory, a leadless Woolly Bugger will act differently in the water, giving the angler perhaps better control over the movement of the fly. This is in contrast to that which is tied with lead, which is said to act much like a jig in the water. An additional advantage to a weighted Woolly Bugger is the rate in which it will sink. Since the Woolly Bugger is often fished close to the bottom in lake fishing conditions, a weighted fly will descend to the "zone" more quickly.

The Woolly Bugger is perhaps one of, if not the most effective fly pattern in British Columbia. It has probably accounted for more big trout caught in streams and lakes than any other fly. With its pulsation motion (due to the Marabou and Grizzly Hackle), it is no wonder fish find this fly so attractive.

A Woolly Bugger can simulate many insects, including dragonfly nymphs, leeches, and crayfish. Whether or not fish recognize this fly as resembling a certain insect is not known, but one thing is for sure, fish can not resist it. This is probably why anglers associate fishing the Woolly Bugger with smashing strikes. I recommend a strong tippet.

The most common way to fish the Woolly Bugger in British Columbia's lakes, is to fish on the bottom with a full sink line. Often variations in the retrieve will elicit strikes. Short tugs of about 2 to 3 inches, or long slow pulls of about 8 to 12 inches, followed by a pause should be tried. The best thing about the Woolly Bugger is however, that it often will not matter how you manipulate the fly, fish just gravitate to it. Often, simply trolling the fly, either slowly or quickly is good enough for most fish.

Another effective method of fishing this fly in lake situations, is to fish it on shallow shoals and drop-offs, with either a slow sink line or a floating line. Strikes encountered in these conditions are often nothing short of explosive!

For some time now, Woolly Buggers have become one of the most popular flies used in catching Smallmouth Bass in British Columbia. A slow troll with a full sink line will elicit the correct response from the bass who often will strike it in reckless abandon.

The Woolly Bugger is equally as effective when fished in rivers and streams. Fished with a floating line, the fly is best positioned straight across stream and retrieved in short 6 inch pulls. Try using a sink tip line for those deeper sections of the river or stream.

The Woolly Bugger is by far the most versatile fly pattern in British Columbia. It can fool fish under so many conditions, no matter how it is fished. It is a must have for any freshwater angler in British Columbia.

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